Ready to Travel! (Almost)

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Ready to Travel! (Almost)

The last time I left the country, Wendy Wu: Homecoming Warrior had just aired on the Disney Channel. For those of you who may not be well-versed on your DCOM history, that came out in June 2006! I just finished second grade.

Comparison

The last time I was abroad (after 2nd grade) vs. this past semester at Temple. I… don’t look that different.

What’s been keeping me from leaving The US? Maybe it was a lack of opportunity, but then again, maybe I didn’t seek any opportunity because – I’ll admit – I’ve been terrified of traveling. Coming to Temple, I told myself, “John, you’re gonna be petrified just going to college, you think you’re gonna go to college and then leave the country?” At orientation when studying abroad was brought up, I told myself, “nope, not for me.” So, how did I end up with a plane ticket to Madrid, preparing to study abroad in Oviedo, Spain this summer?

Well, some fateful events overlapped perfectly during the spring of my freshman year to create the ultimate epiphany: not only did I really want to go abroad, but I could. Talking with an honors advisor, I expressed my disappointment at not continuing learning Spanish due to my packed class schedule. Then I first heard of Oviedo, as she explained that I could add a Spanish minor by studying abroad during the summer. Next, a guest speaker for the American Marketing Association around that time told us, “this is one of the only times in your life you’ll have the chance to study and live in another country.” Huh, a good way of putting it. But there was still the worry of money, and my parents would certainly be concerned about the cost. However, they blew me away with overwhelming support. Luckily, my dad pointed out, I had a merit stipend to use, and Temple offered additional help if necessary. Flash forward a few months, I got accepted to study in Oviedo!

The next steps have been a whirlwind.

Since getting my passport earlier this year, I’ve been trying to get as much info as I can about where I’m headed. I emailed my Spanish teacher from high school, a priest from Spain, funnily enough. I searched the web relentlessly. I even “Google Earth-ed” the different places I’d be visiting. Through my research I found out we’ll be in Madrid during the very first parts of their pride festival. Maybe we’ll be able to see how Pride looks halfway across the globe!

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My brand new passport and Spanish versions of my favorite books I’m using to practice!

Next, my friend Amanda and I bought plane tickets together, after some frantic searching on sites like Student Universe, Expedia, and the like. (Tip: do some comparing; there are savings everywhere.) It was an exercise in adulting. Also, though we quite literally clicked “purchase ticket” at the same time, hers went through, but mine didn’t. That was the most frantic minute of my life, but we got our plane ride together–thankfully!

Now I’m trying to polish my Spanish, prepare myself for meeting my host family, and ascertain what exactly I’ll need for when I finally leave the country again at the end of June. I had no clue that Europe uses different outlets than The States; I still need to get a converter! I’ve got a some more work to do.

I’m a little nervous of course, but totally excited! Stay tuned–the next time I update will be from Spain! I can’t wait to share my experience with you all!

!Hasta luego!

– John

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Processing the Oviedo Adventure

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Processing the Oviedo Adventure

How strange it is to be writing this last post from my home in Pennsylvania. The semester officially ended 3 weeks ago on May 18th, but I only just returned home yesterday evening.

Truthfully, I haven’t quite processed that our time in Oviedo has come and gone. Last night when I went to sleep in my own bed for the first time in months, I awoke in the middle of the night to check my phone and thought I was in Spain. Today when I took a jet lag-induced nap, it happened again. Although I am physically back in the United States, I know it will take some time to mentally feel here, too.

The final week in Oviedo couldn’t have been more bittersweet. Everyone tried hard to balance their time between studying for finals, packing, and cherishing final moments with friends and host families. I felt an urgency that had been growing all semester— time was running out, and I needed to make the most of it.

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Cherishing final moments with friends

Many students on the program flew home a day or so after it ended, and I received incessant texts and Snapchats from friends describing how strange it was to be back. I personally would be staying a bit longer to hike some of El Camino and to visit Greece with a friend, and for me, staying a little extra was just what I needed to truly say goodbye. It’s funny how that works— some were ready for home as soon as they finished their last final, and others, like me, decided to extend our time just a bit longer.

There are many wonderful things about returning home, but some difficulties as well. The thing I am struggling with most is the realization that I just spent so much energy building a completely new life, and now it’s gone. The memories, lessons, and friendships will live on, but it’s sad to think that we will never all be in that same circumstance again. Many of my new friends go to different schools, and we all wonder when we’ll see each other again. But if one thing is comforting, it’s knowing that it’s definitely a “when” we meet again, and not an “if.”

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A view out the window on my flight home…

It’s cliche to say that I’ve changed, but I know that in many ways, I have. I think in the end, it’s impossible not to grow when you do something that puts you so outside of your comfort zone. This summer, I hope to be able to process how exactly I’ve grown and to acknowledge everything that shaped me this semester.

I want to share just a bit of advice that I and some of the other Temple students came up with as our semester came to a close. Hopefully, it can be of use to anyone planning to study in Oviedo in the future!

  1. “Make an effort to make Spanish friends or friends who don’t speak English”- Nikki
  2. “Make an effort to read and watch TV in Spanish”- Max
  3. “Be as proactive as possible at the beginning with planning out big trips for the semester”- Dylan
  4. “Bring sunscreen and motion sickness medicine to Picos de Europa”- Kaitlyn
  5. “Check Oviedo Facebook Groups for language Tandem partners. I didn’t get a tandem until February, and I feel like I could have learned more if I found one earlier”- Joe
  6. “I wish I had traveled more within all the beautiful places in Asturias”- Chris
  7.  “Don’t pack too much, I brought too many things!”- Jess
  8.  “Pack for all seasons… Oviedo sees it all”- Jess

And a few from me…

  1. Go to the Erasmus student events… it’s a great way to make new friends!
  2. Get an Erasmus student card, because it gets you discounts on things like bus tickets, Ryan Air Flights, and more!
  3. Keep a journal (even though it can seem like a chore) and take lots of photos. You won’t regret it!
  4. Allow yourself to let go of attachments back home and truly build a life for yourself abroad. If you go all in, there’s no way you won’t have the time of your life.

Well, it looks like it’s time to sign off from the Temple Spain Blog. What an absolutely life changing time. Thanks for an amazing 5 months, Temple Spain!

Recap: Temple in Spain Spring 2018

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Our semester in Oviedo has come to a bittersweet close. Looking back, great memories and lasting friendships were made. Check out some highlights of our city and the semester below:

DSC_1480A throwback to orientation in Madrid at the beginning of the program.

DSC_2264The famous Estatua de Mafalda in San Francisco Park.

DSC_2660Oviedo’s famous Church of Santa María del Naranco.

DSC_2771The legendary Monumento al Sagrado Corazón de Jesús on top of Oviedo’s Monte Naranco mountain.

DSC_2971The scenic and beloved Parque de Invierno.

DSC_3038Students taking in a beautiful evening at Parque de Invierno.

DSC_3625Students hard at work in program director Jaime Duran’s Spanish class.

DSC_9844Jaime taking some photos of students at the Picos de Europe national park.

DSC_9940Students taking in beautiful scenery by the Bufones de Pría.

IMG_2255.jpgA beautiful pop-up market and festival by the Cathedral center in Oviedo.

Spring Semester Winding Down in Oviedo

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With just two short weeks left in Oviedo, here are some photos of us students making the best of our remaining time studying abroad:

DSC_0083Getting ready to take down the biggest cachopo that Tierra Astur has to offer!

DSC_0090Getting in some last chess matches before returning home.

DSC_0094Finishing up the semester strong and studiously!

DSC_0106Celebrating our last weeks with a nice dinner out.

DSC_0146There’s always time to get in some matches of Egyptian Rat Screw on Ruta de los Vinos.

DSC_4266The lobby of Oviedo’s Museo Bellas Artes de Oviedo, the town’s free art museum.

DSC_4271One of the many cool rooms inside of the museum.DSC_4435Some of the cool architecture in downtown Oviedo.

DSC_4470A bright sunset beginning.

DSC_7700A gorgeous sunset in full effect.

Processing the Final Week

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I’ve always heard that the adjustment phase of study abroad is the hardest part. The homesickness, the feelings of alienation, the starting completely new. It’s true– it definitely was a challenge. But you know what I think might be harder? Saying goodbye.

It sounds like a total cliché, but I truly don’t know where the time has gone. I don’t want to believe that today marks the beginning of our last week here in Oviedo. Wasn’t it just yesterday that we clambered out of the bus to meet our host families?

 

The hardest part of this week will be letting go of all of the attachments I’ve made here. When you travel somewhere new and have no grounding whatsoever, it seems that you’re almost forced to form new, strong bonds. I have become attached to my relationship with my host mom– a wonderful and selfless lady who stops at nothing to make sure I’m comfortable, and who always takes time to tell me stories, listen to my stories, and teach me about her world. I have become attached to my friendships here. Not only have I grown closer to friends at Temple, but I eventually came to be very close with students studying here from other schools. Our group of friends is my reality now, and imagining returning to school next year without all of them is heartbreaking. And I am also attached, in some way, to this city. It took me a while to become truly fond of it, but as the semester draws to a close, I can safely say that I wouldn’t have wanted to study in any other city in Spain. Oviedo is big enough that you’re never quite done exploring it, but small enough that I truly feel I have come to know it over these past few months. There is something so charming about my favorite cafe spots, the beautiful parks, the cathedral, the cobblestone streets of the old city… alright, I’m going to stop before I need a tissue box.

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Enjoying final moments with friends at the Parque de San Francisco

I haven’t started packing yet, and I probably won’t until it’s almost too late. I love my room here and the personal space I’ve created for myself. My clothes are strewn around in the closet and my books across my desk as if I expect to live here for many more weeks. Maybe I’m in a bit of a denial stage.

Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely can’t wait to see my home, family, and friends again in Pennsylvania. But it’s a bittersweet time. Luckily for me, I’ve extended my trip a bit and will be doing some extra traveling after the semester officially ends on May 19th. This is pretty standard, and I know several other students who are doing the same. But although I won’t be leaving Europe for 3 more weeks, I’ll still be saying goodbye to Oviedo in 5 short days. I guess nothing good lasts forever, right?

It’s time to soak in the final days here, to enjoy the final meals with my host mom, to celebrate with friends, and to give thanks to my professors. It’s been real, Oviedo ❤

 

 

 

 

 

 

Picos de Europa Weekend Trip

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This past weekend, we traveled to the Picos de Europa National Park for our last group excursion of the semester. Check out some photos from our weekend:

1The Temple in Spain Spring 2018 squad!

2Students chillin’ with one of the sweet neighborhood pups in Asiego.

3Students checking out the Santo Toribio de Liébana monastery in Asturias.

4Students posing in front of some lovely forest and mountains.

5A group of cows hanging out in the sunny May weather.

6Students petting some friendly and majestic horses.

7The sun peaking out over the mountains in Potes.

8Students enjoying the Asturian bufones.

9Students posing with the Temple flag in front of a gorgeous Picos de Europa landscape.

10The beautiful mountains of Picos de Europa.

 

A Final Group Excursion

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A Final Group Excursion

This past weekend, we were lucky enough to travel as a group to several destinations in Asturias and the nearby autonomous region of Cantabria. Our last Temple excursions were those we went on while in Madrid for our program orientation, so it was quite meaningful to travel all together once more before the program wraps up. Jaime had been telling us about this trip all semester, and I honestly can’t believe that it already has somehow come and gone. For me, that’s a true marker that the semester is nearly over.

As we boarded a small bus at 9am on Saturday and embarked on our journey, I put my headphones in and watched the landscape roll by. I’ve always loved listening to music and gazing out windows on trips, and on this specific occasion, there was something extremely nostalgic about it. I thought back to our first bus rides together in Madrid, and how our group has gone from complete strangers to a family bonded by circumstance. Our bus brought us high into the mountains, and eventually I closed my eyes, fending off motion sickness as the roads grew windier and windier.

After about an hour and a half we reached our first destination, Cabrales. This was possibly the best stop on the trip, because it was all about cheese. This little town produces some of the most amazing cheese in the world, and we spent the afternoon touring around the village and mountain meadows discussing the history of the region and its cheesemaking. I was a little afraid of sampling it when I found out it was aged in caves, but decided to try it in the end. It was some of the strongest but most scrumptious cheese I have ever tasted. We tasted it along with locally harvested honey and fresh Asturian corn cakes, and finished off our lunch with other rustic Asturian specialities like Bacalao (a type of fish) and Morcilla (blood sausage).

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Touring Cabrales

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Cheese and Honey!

Minds full of cheese facts and bellies full of delicious Asturian food, we all piled back on the bus to head to the town of Potes for the night. Here we were able to decompress and explore, recharging for the day to come. On Sunday we had the opportunity to explore the cliffs of Bufones de Pría and tour through the Caves of Tito Bustillo, home of some of the oldest and best preserved cave paintings in all of Europe. I could barely wrap my head around what I was learning- apparently the oldest of the paintings there is around 40,000 years old.

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Exploring Potes

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Hiking the Cliffs of Bufones de Pría

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The Entrance to the Caves of Tito Bustillo

On our drive back to Oviedo we stopped at a breathtaking overlook called Mirador del Pito. I sat silently and looked out over the mountains and the sea, trying to soak in the moment as much as I could. “I’m going to miss my life here,” I thought.

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Mirador del Pito

It was a beautiful weekend of closure, and I’m grateful that we still have one more weekend left here in Oviedo. We are entering our second to last week, and the reality of the end is hitting me.

How time flies! Check back in for some final posts about the end of the semester 🙂

 

 

A Beautiful 5 Days in Portugal

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Here are some photos of our awesome adventures in Portugal. We visited various neighborhoods in Lisbon, plus Cascais and Sintra, a pair of gorgeous nearby coastal towns.

DSC_7824Emma & Hannah posing for a photo in Lisbon.

DSC_7914Chris & Max exploring the back streets of Lisbon.

DSC_7973Emma taking a quick break after doing lots of climbing.

DSC_8093Lisbon in all of its colorful beauty.

DSC_8343A neighborhood park on a sunny Lisbon afternoon.

DSC_8467Students having lunch by the shore in beautiful Cascais.

DSC_8726Students exploring the magical cliffs of Boca do Inferno! (Can you spot them?)

DSC_8881The vibrant beach of Cascais in the late afternoon.

DSC_9335A breathtaking view of Sintra from atop the Pena Palace.

DSC_9484Hannah and Max enjoying the fun ride down from the castle in a tuktuk.

Classes at La Casa de Las Lenguas

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Classes at La Casa de Las Lenguas

It’s so hard to believe that our time here in Spain is wrapping up! There are always a million things I could write about here, but one big part of our experience in Oviedo that I haven’t talked much about yet (and definitely should!) is our classes at the Casa de Las Lenguas, or the “house of languages.” The Casa is situated on the University of Oviedo’s humanities campus, and is a center dedicated to teaching Spanish to international students. As Temple students, we all had the opportunity to sign up for 5 classes there this semester.

All students are placed in the appropriate class level after an entry exam, so this way, classes are specially tailored to each student’s needs. Although we have not been taking classes side by side with Spanish students, we’ve had the opportunity to have classmates from China and many parts of Europe. Most of us are also side by side with lots of other Temple students, which made the adjustment to learning in a new environment much easier!

I’ve gotten to take a variety of great classes this semester, and was able to hone different language skills in each one. I enrolled in an Oral Expression class, a Translation class, a Spanish Culture class, a Directed Readings class, and a Literature class. Other options included Spanish for Business and History of Art in Spain.

The Directed Readings class was with Jaime, so this offered a way to stay connected with a Temple professor and familiar teaching styles while abroad. In this class we’ve discussed extensive history and literature periods in Spain, as well as reading a variety of short stories, poetry, and watching movies to supplement the material. Most recently we watched “Ay Carmela,” a movie that gave historical context to one of our readings written during the Spanish civil war.

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Students watching “Ay Carmela” in Directed Readings

Our oral expression class is filled with conversation and public speaking. We’ve had the opportunity to simulate celebrity interviews, radio shows, and finally, a fashion talk show! This class is definitely one of my favorites since I’m someone who loves to chat and perform!

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Oral Expression

The culture class has given a wide view of the regions, customs, and traditions of Spain. As we finish up the semester, we all get to choose a topic of interest and present it to the class.

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Sophomore Woayoarm presenting in Sociedad y Cultura

Another favorite of mine is our translation class. We’ve worked hard all semester translating English texts to Spanish, and this has been one of the best opportunities I’ve had to hone my grammar skills and general command of the Spanish language!

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Students hard at work in Translation class

My final class, literature, has offered a detailed look into some of the greatest works in Spain’s literature history, including El Cid, La Celestina, and Don Quijote. I wouldn’t want to walk away from studying in Spain without taking a class like this!

The end of the semester is a whirlwind of final projects, presentations, and exams. However, the professors here do a great job of making sure we also have time for learning and experiencing new things outside of the classroom. Studying here has been a perfect combination of focused classroom learning and external real world practice, and I’ll definitely be sad to leave my home here in a few weeks.

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Me and one of my great professors!

But it’s not over yet! Stay tuned for more updates as the program winds down.

 

 

Oviedo in April & a Trip To Llanes

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Oviedo in April & a Trip To Llanes

This past week consisted of soaking up the beautiful spring weather, catching a Real Oviedo football match, and a day trip to nearby Llanes. Check it out:

photo 1A beautiful sunset at Campus de El Milán where we have our classes.

photo 2Senior Max enjoying some bright sunshine during an afternoon chess outing.

photo 3Another gorgeous sunset shot right around the corner from my homestay.

photo 4More sunsets! This time outside of the Real Oviedo soccer stadium before the team faced off with Valladolid.

photo 5Inside the stadium as Real Oviedo and Valladolid square off.

photo 6Students having a stroll through the cute streets in nearby Llanes.

photo 7Students out exploring in Llanes. Check out that fog!

photo 8Chris and Woayorm hanging out on the famous Cubes of Memory.

photo 9Llanes’ famous Cubes of Memory, massive concrete cubes covered in various inviting designs.

photo 10Students enjoying a foggy but peaceful afternoon by the cubes.