Spain Study Abroad Update No. I

¡Hola desde España!

If you didn’t already know, I am spending the next 5 months in Málaga, Spain! I arrived the first week of August and have decided that I will be posting study abroad updates every two weeks. Make sure you are subscribed for email updates so that you don’t miss them! These posts are going to be very long but feel free to skim and enjoy the photos!

This semester I am staying in a homestay with a lovely elderly Spanish couple and their dog in a gorgeous house with a view of the ocean. I have to climb 9 very large flights of stairs to get there, but hopefully, that will keep me in shape after consuming endless tapas every day! The home has a pool, a nice patio and a garden with tons of flowers and pear trees. I have a room and a bathroom all to myself and I am the family’s only host student! They have so graciously welcomed me into their home with open arms, and have made the transition very easy. Although it has gone very smoothly, it has definitely been an adjustment to life back home in San Diego. I have loved it so far but I think I just need to give it a little more time for it to really feel like home.

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On one of the first nights here, we had a big dinner at an ocean front restaurant called El Balneario with all of our host families where we ate lots of traditional Malagueñan food. The specialties include grilled sardines on a stick, fried anchovies, croquettes, cheese, and lots and lots and LOTS of sangria. No one actually calls it sangria though, its called “tinto de verano” which basically translates to summer wine. I really like Spanish food and am not that picky, but it would be really tough to live in Málaga if you aren’t a seafood fan. 

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There are tons of little bars and restaurants right on the beach which are called “chirringuitas” and thats where my friends and I have been hanging out. Drinks are super cheap which is amazing, but getting used to the new schedule here has been hard. In a typical day, you would eat a small breakfast in the morning, a massssssive lunch at around 1:30/2:00 p.m., take a siesta, then have a coffee and go about your day until you eat dinner around 9/10/11 p.m. It’s kind of weird to see little kids sitting down for dinner with their parents at 10:30 p.m. at night because you’d never see that in the U.S. but the Spaniards live a totally different way of life. I still haven’t wandered into El Centro for nights out because my friends and I all wanted to be sure that we could find our way back home on the bus at 5 in the morning! But that will come soon enough. 

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My second week in Spain consisted of a trip to the north where my student group visited the cities of Santo Domingo de Silos, Burgos, Peñafiel, Valladolid, Villacreces, León, Gijón, Burela, and Santiago de Compostela. We had a little bit of a hiccup when our flight got cancelled, but our program director loaded us on a bus and we drove from Málaga to Santo Domingo de Silos. Although it wasn’t ideal, it was actually very cool to see how the scenery changed so much from the South to the North.

In Santo Domingo de Silos we stayed a convent which had been renovated into a hotel which was very cool. That night we ate dinner and then all laid out on a soccer field and got to watch tons of shooting stars fly across the sky. It has been one of my favorite parts of the trip so far. We all crack each other up and I physically could not stop laughing that night! It made me feel really good about our group, considering we will be together for so long.

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The next day we headed to a few of the many monasteries and cathedrals which we would see on our trip and made our way by bus to Burgos. I think Burgos was my favorite stop of the week. The cathedral was outrageously ornate and was one of the most intricate pieces of architecture I’ve ever seen. We ate super well in Burgos, and had so much fun watching the Madrid v. Barcelona game that night!

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After leaving Burgos, went wine tasting at bodega Protos and then drove to the town of Peñafiel where we were supposed to go see a castle and do some sightseeing. However, we spontaneously ran into a bull fight in the middle of the plaza in town. We all were so confused why there was absolutely no one on the streets, and then as we continued walking we heard music and saw the bull fighting ring for the celebration of La Asunción de la Virgen. It was such an adrenaline rush because the bulls were so unpredictable, and everyone had such high energy. If this wasn’t being submersed in Spanish culture, I don’t know what is.

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In Valladolid we visited The Museo Nacional de San Gregorio, which is the national sculpture museum. It was an incredibly well done museum and housed tons of sculptures of religious figures. I definitely wouldn’t want to be in there at night because it would seriously creep me out. We also did a very long walking tour through the city with our guide Paco, and then headed to Villacreces which is an abandoned ghost town. It was so eery! It had been abandoned in the 1980s after all of its residents had moved to bigger cities to find work.

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We then drove to León where we saw another gorgeous cathedral full of stained glass windows. We also got to see one of the few Gaudi buildings designed outside of Catalonia, which looked like a medieval castle. In León we went on one of our many nighttime walks and ended up at a rooftop bar with a gorgeous view of the city!

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After León we traveled to Gijón which was another one of my favorites. It reminded me so much of La Jolla! We strolled on the beach boardwalk, then walked to a park which had incredible views of the city. In Gijón we had lunch at a restaurant called Tierra Astur Espichas which was amazing. Gijón is known for its hard cider, so the restaurant had thousands of bottles of the cider hanging from the ceiling, and each table was inside of a massive barrel! We ate so much food that I thought I was going to have to be carried out of the restaurant. If you ever find yourself in Gijón, you have to have a meal here!

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The next day we went to Burela, which I wasn’t a very big fan of. However, staying here allowed us to visit As Catedrais beach. You have to have a reservation to even get onto the beach itself, but I totally understood why once we got there. The rock formations and natural arches were as beautiful as the cathedrals we saw in the cities. It’s places like these which I wish my family could have gotten to come see with me because it was so magical. The water was crystal clear, the rocks were works of art and I already can’t wait to go back someday.

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Finally, we ended our trip in Santiago de Compostela. This city is the historical end of the El Camino hike through northern Spain, and it is full of beautiful old buildings and small winding streets. It was inspiring to see the pilgrims who had taken months of their lives to hike the trail finish outside of the cathedral and then get to go hug the statue of Santiago. I would love to come back do it one day. This city was the perfect place to end our own little “camino.” The last day we had perfect weather, so we spent the afternoon in a park with a few bottles of wine and enjoyed each others company.

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I am now home and very happy to be back in Málaga, but I loved getting to explore the other side of the country. I am still in disbelief that I will be here until the end of December. I am so incredibly lucky to be able to be here. See you all in two weeks with another update!

With all my love & muchisimos besos desde España,

Alejandra

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