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Tag Archives: Study Abroad

Hi everyone!

I know it’s been a while since my last post, but let me fill you in! After saying goodbye to my incredible host family, some amazing friends and the most beautiful city, I traveled for over 27 hours to get home to the United States. It was certainly a roller coaster of emotions. By the time I stepped off the plane in Boston, made it through customs, grabbed my bags and made it out to arrivals where my loving family and friends waited for me—I was too delusional to realize that I was finally home. Let’s just say I woke up the next morning, very confused at where I was.

coming home

But now, it has been over two weeks, and I’ve come to terms with the fact that my study abroad experience is over. (However, I know this is not the end of my traveling adventures). Everyone seems to be asking me how it feels to be home. In all honesty, it’s amazing, but definitely a mix of emotions. Although I am back with all my favorite people once again, it was sad to leave a place that grew to become a second home.

What is Reverse Culture Shock?

Now, before we left Sevilla, our study abroad program warned us about “Reverse Culture Shock”. Although I’d like to say I didn’t go through culture shock when I first arrived in Spain, I did. And although I’d like to say “Reverse culture shock” doesn’t exist—it does. It’s very difficult to explain exactly what this is, or what it feels like, but I’m going to try to give you a taste of what it was to me.

Basically reverse culture shock is the feeling that you are a stranger in your own home. When someone explained this to me, I didn’t quite understand what they meant so let me try to paint a picture for you.

For almost two days, I struggled to find light-switches in my house. It doesn’t seem like a big deal, but it gets annoying very quickly. My stomach had a hard time readjusting to American food (maybe because it’s less fresh and more processed than in Spain, but it wasn’t the easiest transition). I wanted to say “gracias” instead of “thank you”, or “perdon” instead of “excuse me” to people. I had to tell myself to speak in English. I even got overwhelmed when I went out to eat for the first time, because of the number of choices on the menu and how frequently the waiter came to check on us. Driving was exhausting and strange to get used to again. I was waking up at 5:00am, wide awake, and falling asleep at 9:00pm. I missed the friends I saw every day in Spain, especially my roommate Kayla. That is what reverse culture shock was for me. Now that I am through with the confusing adjusting phase, I am faced with missing study abroad and traveling.

I am relieved to be home, but there is no doubt I will go through waves of sadness as I talk about my experience and show people pictures of my trips. But I believe that is natural. I miss the sunshine of Sevilla and being able to walk anywhere. I miss sitting by the river and watching the sunset. I miss having futbol (soccer) be the only sport they show on TV in bars and restaurants. I miss telling my host Mom about my day at dinner. I miss being able to legally have a glass of sangria with a meal. I miss jet-setting off to a new country each weekend I miss my host brother making fun of us. But, most of all, I miss the culture and relaxed atmosphere of Spain. It was hard not to enjoy life while abroad, and I will certainly miss that.

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Getting over Reverse Culture Shock

“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened” -Dr. Seuss

Even though a lot about first coming home is tiring and stressful…it passed quickly. I was able to get over the frustration of “reverse culture shock” by spending time doing the things I missed while being away, like hanging with my family and friends. There are so many things that make me happy about being home. I am relieved to eat American food and take a shower in my house, where the temperature of the water stays the same. I can walk into a store and understand (mostly) everything strangers are talking about around me. I can go out to dinner with my boyfriend instead of having “skype dates”. I can watch TV in English, without bad voice-overs on American movies and shows. I can go into a grocery store and have choice (probably too much choice). My milk is stored in the fridge instead of the cabinet. I can wear sweatpants out in public without being judged. I can hang out with my Mom whenever. I can text/call my friends without worrying about a time difference…The list goes on.

The important thing about getting over reverse culture shock is to realize how blessed you were to have the experience of studying abroad in the first place. You can look at your home country through new, well-traveled eyes. You appreciate the presence of your family and friends much more.

The best thing you can do when coming home after an extended period away, is to realize that you can and will most likely go through “reverse culture shock”. Being aware of this will help you to quickly overcome it. Surround yourself with loved ones and keep busy. Attempt to get back into a normal routine as fast as possible. When you’re ready, make a photo book of your time abroad. Try not to dwell on the fact that this adventure is over, but look at it the beginning of many more adventures! xoxo

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“Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can se the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.” -Terry Pratchett 


Hey guys!

So you’ve all been following along on my study abroad journey, following me from country to country, enjoying a culture and history lesson…but what about all the stuff you didn’t see?? You might be wondering what I was doing when I wasn’t jetting off to Paris and London! Well, I decided to do a little fun post, so maybe this will help answer that question. (P.S. This might be my favorite post yet!!)

(P.S. Speaking of questions, don’t forget to send some in to me for my blog post! Any question you might have about my study abroad experience…can be tough questions, silly ones, whatever you have on your minds! Send them to Amanda.sharon4@gmail.com or comment on any post! I hope to hear from you guys!)

 

Study Abroad: Behind the Scenes Edition!

What did I occupy my time with during the weeks and (few) weekends I was in Seville?? Well to begin…I had classes. Yes, that’s right, there’s actually “studying” involved in study abroad. Monday and Wednesday I sat through 8 hours of class, but I had all other days off, so it worked out! In all honesty, I rarely had a lot of work to do…some exercises for my Spanish class, a short reading and maybe a brief paper here and there, but nothing compared to what school is like back home! So if I wasn’t in class…or doing homework…then what??

Let’s see…while in Sevilla I spent my time hanging with my host family and friends as much as possible. And what do Spanish people do when they’re together? Eat and drink of course! And when I wasn’t doing those things with my family or friends, I was napping……in preparation to do those things later! Sounds crazy, but it’s true! The culture here is very laid back. Life here is more centered on family, friends and community! Everyone takes their time eating…they don’t mind walking slow…and stopping for a drink at a bar during your lunch break is perfectly acceptable!

But enough talk…let’s get to the good stuff: pictures!!

Here’s a little behind the scenes look at my time abroad…

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Drinking sangria by the Rio Guadalquivir…my favorite hobby in Sevilla!

(Just kidding Mom, studying is my favorite hobby)

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Going out with the girls!!

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Questioning (daily) what I was eating for lunch…

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P.S. That is blood sausage in my soup & yes I tried it.

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Watching Spanish Wheel of Fortune.

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Getting maps drawn for us by our (very caring) host Mom on how to get to the Post Office.

(Believe it or not we followed this map and found it.

So if you got a post card, you have this map to thank)

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Eating pastries.

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And Churros con chocolate.

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And Tapas.

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And more drinking.

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Going to “Mi Barrio” (a local bar) on Saturday nights with our host family!

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Listening to Luis sing Sevilliano and flamenquito music at Mi Barrio.

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Hanging with our host Mom & friends.

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Eating Cien Monteditos (my favorite place) every Monday after a long day of classes.

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Buying cheap (but really good) wine at the grocery store.

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Bringing Spice Girls karaoke to Spain.

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Drinking green beer on St. Patrick’s Day.

(Which I didn’t know Spanish people even celebrated…)

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Eating Chocolate Kebab at 1:00 am during Semana Santa.

(because the city literally doesn’t sleep that entire week)

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Getting overly excited about chocolate kebab at 1:00am.

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Teaching our Spanish friends American drinking games.

(Except we had to play with Sangria)

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Going to a barbeque at our friend’s apartment.

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Watching the sunset from the roof of the apartment.

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Soaking up the beautiful Sevillian weather.

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Going to a neon party.

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Complete with face paint, confetti & dancing.

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Laughing.

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& loving.

That’s what I was doing these past three months when I wasn’t jet-setting off each weekend.

I was eating, drinking, dancing, laughing & most importantly loving

Loving my friends, my host family & everything this beautiful city has to offer me for the past 3 months.

I am so grateful for this opportunity to live abroad and meet some of the most incredible people! My host family feels like real family to me and I love them so much, and will certainly miss them. I feel like I’ve known the friends I made here my entire life. Sevilla is a home to me now, and I can’t wait to return one day soon. This city has seen some good days, some bad, and even some crazy —but it has never let me down.

 xoxo


Hey everyone!!

As my time abroad in Sevilla draws to an end, I want to open up about my experience and answer any questions you might have about my journey!! I can talk about anything you’re interested in really… culture shock, adjustment, traveling, personal experiences, high’s & lows…I’m up for whatever!

If you have any questions about my trip that you would like me to answer in my next blog post, please either comment on this post or send me an e-mail at Amanda.sharon4@gmail.com ! I would love to hear from you guys!! Let me know what you are most curious about, so I can be sure to cover it in my next post!!

xoxo


Hey everyone! Here is my post about travel tips for Paris! This is based on my own personal experience of the city and what I enjoyed the most!! I hope it helps if you are planning to visit anytime soon!! Enjoy!

Bonjour PARIS

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Transportation:

  • The metro in Paris is a little difficult to navigate at first, but after a couple trips it becomes much simpler.
  • A one way ticket on the metro is 1.70 Euro, but I advise you to purchase a book of 10 tickets for 13.70 if you plan on being in the City for a couple of days!
  • The bus system, I assume is similar but I did not travel via bus while in Paris. I found the metro to be very quick and sufficient.
  • If you are flying Ryan Air and landing in Beauvais Airport, they have an airport shuttle that takes you to Paris. You can purchase your tickets after arriving at the airport, but to catch the first bus after your flight it is a good idea to have your tickets purchased and printed already. Here is the link to do that. Beauvais Shuttle

Must See:

  • The Eiffel Tower. Whether or not you make the journey to the top, it is impossible to not-see the Eiffel Tower when in Paris (literally-because you can see it from all over the City!). It is just as beautiful as you would imagine, and even more beautiful at night (if that’s even possible). Each evening, on the hour, there is a 5 minute light show where the Eiffel Tower sparkles and lights up the city! It is a must see! For a great view of the light show, get off the metro stop Trocadero!

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  • The Louvre. Possibly one of the largest and most famous museums ever! Home to the Mona Lisa and Venus de Milo. If you have enough time, definitely make a stop at the Louvre. For students with an ID, entrance is free!! I recommend using side doors to enter the Louvre, rather than the main entrance under the glass pyramid. The wait can be rather long for the main entrance! If you can find a side entrance, you should be able to sneak right in without any hassle! For information on purchasing your tickets in advance, see this link. The Louvre However, if you are a student, don’t buy you’re tickets in advance because you will be able to get in for free! Just remember, the Louvre is closed on Tuesdays! Also, if you go later at night, around 6pm, it won’t be as crowded!

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  • The Arc de Triomphe. It is possible to go to the top of the Arc de Triomphe, but like many things, we did not have the time to do so. It costs 5 Euros for students and 8 Euros for adults. For information on times, see this link. Arc de Triomphe

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  • Montemarte/Sacre Coeur. This area is a really beautiful place in Paris. Not only does it have an incredible view of the city but it was the home of many famous artists and is where you can find Moulin Rouge! It is worth the trek up all the stairs to get to the top, trust me!!

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  • Luxembourg Gardens. Truly beautiful, especially in the Spring when everything is in full bloom! Grab a baguette and take a stroll around!!

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  • Notre Dame. This is actually the number one tourist attraction in Paris. Why? Because it is free to enter the Cathedral, where everything else costs money, including going inside the Eiffel Tower! Definitely worth checking out Notre Dame, it is truly beautiful!!

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  • Lock Bridge. Just take a quick stroll across the Lock Bridge before heading to the Louvre for the day! It’s beautiful to see all the locks of people young and old in love on the bridge!! It also has a great view of the Seine!

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  • Champs-Elysees. Best shopping in all of Paris? Hold on to your wallets ladies!

Must Try:

  • Macaroon. This is my number one recommendation when visiting Paris. Ya, ya you can get fancy and try the snails, but don’t leave the city without having a macaroon, or two…or ten. They are so delicious!! Possibly one of my new favorite deserts! Of course, none will probably be as good until I return to Paris again!
  • Crepe. They have little crepe stands and cafes all over the city! It’s a very yummy afternoon treat to have when walking around the city!! I recommend nutella with strawberries! (But you can also get more dinner-like crepes filled with meat and cheese as well!)
  • Baguette. As stereotypical a baguette may seem to be, it’s true–the French love their baguettes! Everywhere you look, people were carrying large loaves of bread home with them!
  • Croissant/Pastry. Any croissant or pastry you have in Paris is bound to be delicious!
  • Wine. Again, Duhhhh.

macaroon niles and me

Extra Notes:

  • I recommend taking advantage of the free walking tour of the city offered by Sandeman! They also offer a tour of Versailles and Montmartre as well, but we only did the actual city tour! At the end of the tour, they ask that you tip your tour guide what you felt the value of your tour was! All the guides are very informed of the city and very fun!! I learned more about the history of Paris on this 2 hour walking tour than I ever knew before! For information about meeting locations and times, please see this link. Sandeman’s Walking Tour
  • Another important safety thing to note about Paris, is that red lights do not always mean stop for Parisians. Be very careful when crossing the street, even if the green flashing light is advising you to cross, check both ways just to be safe!!

Ratings:

Cleanliness: * * * *

  • Paris gets four stars for cleanliness. Although many people say that Paris is a dirty city, I found it to be pretty clean! It was very beautiful and the streets were not messy! I’m not sure what parts of Paris those people are visiting, but the parts I saw were clean and nice!!

Safety: * * *

  • Paris gets three stars for safety. I’m not sure if the movie Taken has any influence on my rating for safety of Paris, but the city seemed relatively safe. I never truly felt unease, but I was a little nervous heading out at night! As long as you are aware of your surroundings, and stay in the nice areas of the city, you should have nothing to worry about!

Transportation: * * *

  • Paris gets three stars for transportation. The metro is a little confusing at first and difficult to navigate. Occasionally, the metro would stop, or the lights would go out, which is not really what you want when taking a subway somewhere! The prices were reasonable however.

Food: * * * *

  • Paris gets four stars for food. It is a city known for it’s delicious food, and it did not disappoint at all. Although I am more in favor of it’s famous deserts, rather than its meals, I was pleased with everything I ate while visiting! Please, do yourself a favor and try a macaroon when visiting!!!

Friendliness of People: * *

  • Paris gets two stars for friendliness. Many people asked me when I returned from Paris if any French were hostile towards me because I was American. I actually did not find anyone to be particularly rude to me because I was foreign. Unlike Rome and London however, Parisians do not go out of their way to make you feel welcome or to truly help you. Nonetheless, I was expecting it to be a lot worse, so I was pleased with what I found.

Overall Cost of Visiting the City: * * *

  • Paris gets three stars for overall cost. Like any capital city, it was pretty expensive when it came to meals and shopping. However, it is doable on a budget! Don’t forget your student ID to get discounts and into the Louvre for free!

Hostel Rating: * * * * *

  • We stayed at St. Christopher’s Inn Hostel on the Canal. There is also another St. Christopher’s that is in the Montmartre region of Paris. We were very pleased with our stay! Breakfast was included each morning and the bathrooms and rooms were very clean. We stayed in a room meant for 12 girls, and each bed had a curtain you could shut when you went to sleep and a little light for reading! It might not have been the cheapest place we could have stayed in Paris, but it was safe and clean, and many of our friends had recommended it to us! Definitely worth the extra money! St. Christopher’s Inn Hostel

Days Needed to See the City: 1 Week

  • Paris is a beautiful city with a lot to offer! Take the time to enjoy everything and spend a week there! If you are a study abroad student, you can get most of the main attractions accomplished in about 3 full days, though it is an exhausting trip! I would prefer a week in Paris so I could have time to take a day and travel to Versailles and spend more time exploring the Louvre!

 

eiffel tower light show

 I fell in love with Paris the moment I arrived! I understand why it is a place where artists and writers go to live, and lovers go to vacation! It is a beautiful city, filled with surprises around every corner! I loved adventuring through the streets of Paris, and was lucky enough to meet up with a friend from school who showed us around! It was a great trip and I will be going back to Paris again soon, that’s for sure!! xoxo


Hello everyone! Like promised, here is a post on my travel tips regarding London! It’s an amazing city, and definitely worth visiting!! But before you do–check out some of these tips!

Keep calm and visit LONDON…

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Transportation:

  • The Underground (also called the Tube) is London’s metro system! It is very easy to navigate but relatively expensive. For a one way ticket on a bus/metro it is a little over 2 pounds.
  • I recommend purchasing a metro/bus day pass for 8 pounds! One way trips add up quickly, and since London is such a large city, you are going to want to take advantage of the day pass!
  • The busses are also relatively easy to navigate, but the Tube is much quicker/simpler in my opinion!
  • If you are flying Ryan Air and landing in Standsted, I recommend using Terravision bus (just like I mentioned in Rome) because it is very reliable, and there are busses every half hour or so! http://www.terravision.eu/london.html
  • I do not recommend Easy Bus! Since we missed the last bus at 1:00am because our flight landed late, we had to sleep in the airport. They also made us re-purchase a ticket to catch the 4:30am bus! Terravision is you’re best/cheapest option to get into the city, and the busses run much more frequently!

Must See:

  • Big Ben/ Parliament. When most people think of London, they envision Big Ben. You must snap a quintessential picture by the phone booth in front of Big Ben!

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  • The London Eye. Although I did not venture for a trip on the actual London Eye, I did snap some pictures and view it’s beauty from a distance. For those interested in actually taking the trip, it costs around 20 Pounds and I heard the wait is very long. I would consider buying your tickets online, ahead of time, to avoid the lines! London Eye Tickets

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  • Buckingham Palace. Besides taking a few pictures in front of Buckingham Palace, and admiring it’s beauty, the only other thing we did was watch the changing of the guards.  It’s best to arrive early, about half hour-45 minutes before in order to get a good spot! For information about dates/times check here: Changing of the Guard

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  • Abbey Road. For any Beatle’s fans, take the time to head out of the bustling city on a bus for about 15 minutes to find yourself in the quiet area of Westminster. Abbey Road studios is right next door to the famous crosswalk. If you can avoid getting hit by a car, have a friend snap a picture of you crossing!! (Just note, there are multiple Abbey Road bus stops to get off at–we made the mistake of getting off the bus too early and had to walk almost a half a mile up the road to find the studio and crosswalk!)

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  • Westminster Abbey. Although we actually did not go inside, it’s a beautiful church and I recommend taking the time to go in! (It’s where Princess Kate and Prince William were married!!) For information about prices and times, check out this link. Westminster Abbey

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  • St. Paul’s Cathedral. The beautiful cathedral where Princess Diana married Prince Charles. Definitely worth a visit inside (although we also did not have the time)  St. Paul’s Cathedral Tickets

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  • Tower Bridge. Many people think this is London Bridge, but it’s not! However, it is an image that comes to mind when you think of London, especially thanks to the last summer Olympics where the rings were hung from!

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  • Piccadilly Circus. This is sort of like London’s own version of Times Square. Worth checking out for sure!

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  • Covent Gardens. This area was recommended by a friend who studies abroad in London. It has really cute places to eat and a lot of great outdoor markets to shop at! It’s the perfect place to find hand-made goodies to bring home for friends and family!

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  • Millennium Bridge. This is a pedestrian bridge that crosses the Thames! You might recognize it from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I.

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  • King’s Cross Station. Also for Harry Potter lovers, home to Platform 9 3/4! Where you can take an awesome picture before you board the Hogwarts Express!

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  • Camden Town. This is actually the area Kayla and I stayed in when we visited London! It’s really a hidden gem! It has cute restaurants, pubs and markets to shop at! I recommend going to Poppies for lunch or dinner (home to the best fish & chips in London!!). Also, if you’re interested in grabbing a beer, check out “The World’s End”.

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  • Museums. Great news, all museums in London are free to the public! So if you’re a museum lover like myself, and have the time, go check some out!!

Must Try:

  • Fish & Chips. Go to Poppies in Camden Town!!!!!!
  • Beer. London is known for having pubs all over the city!!

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Extra Notes:

  • London is an amazing place but is very expensive. When you consider the Pound to US dollar, or Euro exchange rate it can make you a little nauseous, especially if you are on a budget like me! Try not to think too much into the prices, but be cautious of you’re spending! 20 pounds is really more like $40!

Ratings:

Cleanliness: * * * *

  • London gets four stars for cleanliness. Similar to most large cities, you can’t help but feel dirty touching the handle on the metro or walking along the street! However, when you consider the size of London, it’s cleanliness is very impressive. (I couldn’t imagine New York City ever being that clean!)

Safety: * * * * *

  • London gets five stars for safety. I felt very comfortable and at ease in London. It could be due in part to that fact that I understood what everyone was talking about around me, but it seemed like a very safe atmosphere. Some police officers were not even carrying guns! This definitely made me feel at ease!

Transportation: * * *

  • London gets three stars for transportation. Although the transportation system is very easy to figure out, it is very pricey! If you are not careful, the price of metro and bus tickets can add up quickly! For those who live/study in London, transportation costs can be a big hassle. I highly recommend getting a day pass when visiting!

Food: * * *

  • London gets three stars for food. I had great meals at all the places I ate, but I give it only three stars because it was very similar to home for me. There were no particular foods that I felt inclined to try other than the fish. In comparison to Rome and Paris, London food is significantly less impressive.

Friendliness of People: * * * * *

  • London gets five stars for friendliness. Maybe it was the comfort that everyone spoke my native language, but it seemed to me that every person was willing to point me in the right direction when looking for help. The people who worked at the metro stations were always available to ask questions on which stop will get you closer to where you want to be, etc. In my opinion, the people of London were very friendly!

Overall Cost of Visiting the City: *

  • London gets one star for the overall cost of visiting. As a college student on a budget, the exchange rate to the pound is enough to make you cry! Just realize that when planning a trip to London, things are going to be almost twice as expensive as you would expect in the states, and relatively more expensive than those places that use the Euro. Although a price of coffee might look the same to you, remember that it is in pounds! London, however, can be done on a budget if you’re aware of the high exchange rate!

Days Needed to See the City: 1 Week

  • You definitely need at least a week in London to enjoy all it has to offer! Our two days in London were spent frantically running all over the City to see everything quickly! To have a more relaxed time in London, and be able to actually go up on the London Eye, visit some of the cathedrals and museums–take a week! If you’re a college student like me who’s studying abroad, you can make due with a weekend, but rest up–because it’s going to be a crazy trip!!

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London is an amazing city!! After spending over a month and a half in a Spanish speaking country, it felt almost as if I was home again being surrounded by English speakers and American-like-food. I also was able to see one of my best friend’s from home, which was awesome! I really want to visit London again, next time for more than just two days!! It is a huge city, with so much to offer! The farther you go off the beaten path, the cooler the city gets!

Again, let me know if you have any questions about London!! Hope you guys get the chance to go someday, if you haven’t already! It’s an incredible city!! xoxo


Hello everyone!!

So I wanted to share some of the things I have learned through my own travels, with you! Since Rome was my first big trip, I will begin there! At the end of each of these “travel tip” posts, I will rate each trip on various things!! (Based on my opinions and personal experience!)

So here are some tips for when you’re in ROMA…

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Transportation:

  • You can buy bus/metro tickets at metro stations or at green newspaper stands located throughout the city
  • It costs 1.50 Euro for one Metro/Bus ride
  • I recommend investing in a Day pass or a 3-Day pass (depending on the amount of time you are staying in Rome) because it saves you a lot of money! A day pass is 6 Euro and gives you unlimited access to bus/metro for the day! A 3-day ticket is 16.50 Euro and gives you the same unlimited access for three days!
  • I preferred the bus system over the metro. The busses seemed to get you to better locations and you were able to see more of the city that way!
  • Also, if you are flying Ryan Air and landing at Chiampiano, I recommend taking the Terravision bus into the city. It costs 4 Euros one way and takes you right to Termini Station. From there, you can easily catch a bus or walk to wherever you are staying! (You can also purchase a Terravision bus ticket for you’re return to the airport as well, for 4 Euros). I recommend booking online to get the times you want to arrive and return…just make sure you are able to print your tickets before you leave! http://www.terravision.eu/rome_ciampino/ciampino_price_timetable.html

Must See:

  • The Colosseum & Roman Forum. It costs 12 Euros for one time entrance to the Colosseum and the Roman Forum. The pass lasts two days, so we were able to see the Colosseum one day and the Roman Forum another. Unfortunately, if you are not a member of the European Union, there are no discounts for students! However, going inside the Colosseum and exploring the Roman Forum are something you must do when visiting the eternal city!

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  • St. Peter’s Basilica. Whether Catholic or not, Vatican City is a sight to be seen. The architecture is incredible and the Basilica is beautiful. Even if the line to enter St. Peter’s seems to stretch on forever…trust me and wait in it! It goes by a lot quicker than you think! Security at the Vatican has it down to a science, and the line moves fast! We were hesitant to wait, but it was certainly worth it! It costs 5 Euros to walk to the top of St. Peter’s and 7 Euros to take the elevator. Depending on how ambitious you are determines which route you take. However, if you are crunched for time, or do not like waiting-you might want to walk! There is only one elevator, so the wait takes a long time! Also, I believe walking the 500 steps is definitely an experience! You feel very accomplished when you get to the top! (But please note, that the elevator does not take you directly to the top. You still have to climb some narrow stairs- if you are claustrophobic it might not be the best idea for you to go!) However, the view is incredible!! It was one of my favorite things in Rome and definitely worth the trek!

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  • The Trevi Fountain. Visiting this fountain is free if you are just checking it out, however, a wish will cost you some change! It is crucial that you face away from the fountain, with the water towards your back, and toss the coin over your shoulder as you make a wish. I am not sure the story behind it, but I know that people come from all over the world to make wishes in the Trevi Fountain! They say if you toss a coin in, you will return to Rome again one day! (I hope that’s true). The good news about spending money on some wishes, is that the coins are collected out of the Fountain and the money is donated to the Red Cross!! Such a great cause to make a wish for! A tip for visiting the Trevi Fountain is to go earlier in the morning to avoid the crowds! (That will allow you to make your wish in peace and snap a few good pictures!)

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  • Vatican City. Although I discussed St. Peter’s Basilica already, which is located in Vatican City, I wanted to note something else! If you are in Rome on a Wednesday, you should definitely go to Vatican City in the morning! The Pope does a general audience with the people at 10:00 am on Wednesdays if he is in the City (in nice weather, it is held outside in the square, if not, inside the Basilica). I recommend arriving early for a good spot! He drives around in the Pope mobile before addressing the audience, so you might have the chance to see him up close and wave hello!! It’s a very awesome experience!

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  • Vatican Museum. Now, if you are not a museum person, this probably isn’t for you. You might be better off exploring the streets of Rome, shopping or visiting more ruins! However, I enjoy museums a great deal and recommend this one! We originally were going to the museum to see the Sistine Chapel, painted by Michelangelo. However, we ended up spending 2 hours seeing all the other statues, art and ruins they had in the museum! It is certainly a huge collection and is worth setting some time aside to see. The full entrance to the museum is 16 Euro, but for a student is 8 Euro, so bring your ID!

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Must Try:

  • Gelato. That is my #1 recommendation for you. Although you can find gelato in almost all of Europe, the Italians are the masters! They have so many different flavors, that change with the seasons! I only got gelato once while in Italy, and it might be one of my few regrets!! Try a new flavor each day if you can! (Trust me, it’s that good!)
  • Pizza. Of course you have to try a pizza when in Italy!!! In all honesty, I ate an entire pizza in one sitting while visiting Rome! However, to my credit, the crust of the pizza is a lot thinner than what we are used to in the States.
  • Wine. DUHHH.
  • Panini. Had a Panini for lunch and it was delicioso! Perfect mid-afternoon meal!
  • Cannoli. Sad to say, I did not get my hands on a cannoli while visiting Rome but I wish I did!! Let me know how it is if you try one!
  • Chocolate. Now this may seem strange but grab a bar of Italian made chocolate at a grocery store or little market before you leave! I have been trying chocolate in each country I visit, and the Italians know how to do chocolate! Very rich!!

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Extra Notes:

  • Be very careful when crossing the streets in Rome! Unlike many other large European cities, not all crosswalks have a little green/red man directing you when it is safe to cross. Most streets it is a free-for-all, so be cautious! Cars will buzz around you as you attempt to cross the street! By best suggestion is to follow locals as they cross, or cross in large groups! Cars will eventually be forced to stop! Just be aware that Roman drivers can be aggressive and crossing the street is a lot more difficult than you would expect!
  • Take Bus 64 to get you to Vatican City! (Use the side entrances to Vatican City rather than the front–you will get in much more quickly, and possibly snag a better spot to see the Pope if it is a Wednesday! Bus 64 takes you right outside Vatican City, and a quick 2 minute walk will bring you to the side entrance!)

Rating:

Cleanliness: * *

  • Rome gets two stars for cleanliness. Although the city is filled with many historical sights to visit, the city itself was dirty and not as impressive as you would think the capital of a country should be.

Safety: * *

  • Rome gets two stars for safety. There were police all over the city, carrying large guns, patrolling the streets and stopping many random people. For one day, two helicopters were flying very low and circling the city. Maybe this was simply a rare occurrence, but for the days we were in Rome I did not feel very safe and constantly felt like something was going on that I did  not know about.

Transportation: * * * *

  • Rome gets four stars for transportation. Mainly I am referring to the bus system, but both the metro and bus were relatively cheap. The day pass is the best investment. The bus system is also very easy to figure out. If you have questions on which bus to take, ask your hostel or hotel and the people should know which one is right for where you want to go!

Food: * * * * *

  • Rome gets five stars for food. (Did you expect anything less?? I mean, I am Italian you know!) Everything I ordered and tried was delicious! The Romans pride themselves on being known for their great food, and they do not disappoint! Although some meals can be pricey, it is worth it! (However, you can find cheaper places if you search back roads like we did–food is still amazing, just not at the high cost a restaurant on a main road might charge you!)

Friendliness of People: * * * * *

  • Rome gets five stars for friendliness. Romans, or Italians in general, were very, very friendly. It seemed that just the way they talked, with their expressive sounding language and hand motions that they were always excited about everything! They were  willing to point you in the right direction or small talk with you in restaurants. I really enjoyed the company of the Italians.

Overall Cost of Visiting the City: * * *

  • Rome gets three stars for overall cost. Although transportation and cost of staying in a hostel were relatively cheap, food and entrance to tourist places were not. I think I spent the most money in Rome, not from shopping, but rather from cost of food and tourist attractions. It is doable on a budget however!

Hostel Rating: * * * * *

  • Hostel Mosaic (where we stayed in Rome) gets 5 stars. The people at the front desk were always very helpful at directions and answering questions. There was a complimentary breakfast included each morning and the rooms/bathrooms were very clean! I could not have been happier with my stay at Hostel Mosaic, and recommend it to anyone traveling to Rome. It is in a good location and the prices are very reasonable. If I remember correctly we paid 14 Euro a night to stay here, but since Rome has a 2 euro a night tourist-tax, it turned out to be around 16 euros! http://www.hostelmosaic.com/rome/

Days needed to see the City: 4 days

  • Although Rome has a lot to offer, you really only need to stay for 4 full days to see all the main sites. We were only there for 3 full days and managed to squeeze everything we wanted to do in, so it is do-able in less! For a more relaxed paced stay, 4-5 days would be perfect!

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It is evident that Rome is a very international city, filled with tourists from all over. Of course, that is the case in many country’s capitals! I’ve heard from others that Rome is the least of what Italy has to offer, and if that is the case, then I am very excited to go back one day and visit other cities, such as Florence, Venice, Milan and Tuscany. My trip to Rome however was definitely a holy pilgrimage, in more than just the religious sense. I traveled to the city that I had been learning about in school for years now. My humanities and history classes came alive right before my eyes. For any history nerd like myself, Rome is a must see!

If you have any questions about planning a trip to Rome, feel free to reach out to me! xoxo


Hi everyone!!

As you probably know by now, Sevilla is a very old city, filled with many traditions! Spring is huge for Sevillianos because it means 3 very important things: Bull fighting season begins, Semana Santa (or Holy Week) and Feria! Unfortunately, I will not be here for Feria since my program ends a few days before it begins, and I will not be going to any bull fights.

However, something I did take full part of was the craziness of Semana Santa here in Seville! It begins on Palm Sunday: “Domingo de los Ramos” and ends on Easter! Although Spain is predominantly Catholic, these festivities are less about religion and more about tradition!! (This tradition is over 600 years old!!)

It is very difficult for someone to understand the true madness of Semana Santa unless they experience it for themselves.

What exactly makes Holy Week so big in Sevilla? The Processions.

What do I mean exactly? Basically, there are different “brotherhoods” (hermandades) associated with different churches that process through the streets in their color garb, holding crosses and candles. Usually a marching band will lead the procession. At the very end, there is a “Paso”. There is no word in English for these things (one might be able to call them a religious float). They are very old…and priceless!

About a week or so before Semana Santa, you can go into the various churches throughout the city to see the Pasos on display before they process through the city! Here are two that we were able to see in Triana (where we live).

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These Pasos are carried by 30-50 men, who are all in formation underneath it. They are hidden by a curtain around the bottom of the Paso, so only their feet are visible. This gives the illusion that this is floating down the street, to the beat of the marching bands drums. These Pasos can weigh more than 11,000 pounds. The men underneath carry it on their necks/shoulders. They rotate who is underneath every 10 minutes or so.

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Men who just finished carrying a Paso.

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A Paso being carried in front of the University of Sevilla, our school!!

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Some members of the brotherhood walk barefoot, to honor Christ. These men/women are called “Nazarenos”. The ones that carry the cross do not wear a pointed cap like the others.

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The pointed hats are called “capirotes”. Although this seems very eerie to an American, it is very traditional for Spaniards. During the day, some children will process with their mothers/fathers and wear miniature outfits of these.

Like I said before, the brotherhoods come in many different colors, including all white. Although in the United States we associate this look with the Klu Klux Klan, the nazarenos were around much longer than the KKK! Although I must admit, it was very difficult when I first saw the all white ones!

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Purple “capirotes” as far as the eye can see! Some processions can take almost two hours to see in its entirety!!

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Palm’s decorating balconies in honor of Semana Santa.

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Chairs in “El Centro” for people to watch the processions from!

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A procession crossing the Triana bridge into “El Centro”. The Pasos are taken from their church and paraded through the streets to the Cathedral, and then back to their church again!

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These processions go from around 1pm-3am. Families and children stay up all night to watch them! They truly are incredible to see!

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On the evening of Holy Thursday into Good Friday is the most famous night. Processions go all through the night, until 11am the following day! This is known as “La Madruga”. Most of the night processions are silent, and people will wear black on Holy Thursday and Good Friday to mourn the death of Jesus. It is to symbolize a funeral for Jesus.

The traditional dress for women on these days is called “La Mantilla”. This consists of a black dress and a black veil. Men will wear suits, as if attending a funeral. It is very beautiful to see.

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I did not want to actually take a picture of the women, so this image is from Google! It was so hot here in Sevilla on Thursday, yet everyone was still in dress clothes and black! The processions continue on Friday evening, which is when we headed out to see them!

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The audience will go silent as the Paso passes by them, and then applaud after it has gone by. It’s very interesting to see. There are no marching bands following these silent processions.

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So beautiful!!!

I am fascinated by tradition and culture. Semana Santa was one of the most amazing things I have ever experienced! Although it is very tiring, due to the sometimes crowded and long processions–they are worth seeing! I must admit that by the end of this week I was not too pleased having roads blocked off by processions. It feels as though the entire city shuts down for this week, which makes it difficult to get to certain areas!

Yesterday was the last day of big processions, and today is a day meant for relaxing. This will be the first Easter I will be away from my family. I miss them a lot, but I will be seeing them in 11 short days!

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It is going to be very difficult to leave such an incredible city, filled with beauty, tradition and life! Happy Semana Santa everyone, and Happy Easter!

xoxo