Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Post 17: The end is near...

Me with "Puppy" outside
 of the Guggenheim
It's a very bittersweet feeling knowing that I will be home in three days.  I miss a lot of things from home, but I know that I will never be able to travel or experience the world in the way that I have this past semester again.  If I'm bored at home, I can't decide to just hop on a plane over the weekend and go to another country to experience an entirely new culture.  However, the U.S. is and probably always will be home to me.

I am looking forward to seeing my family and friends.  I'm also looking forward to a sense of routine and normalcy in my life.  My host mom treats me well, but it will be nice to choose what I eat, when I eat, and how much.  Vegetables sound delicious right now.  I realized last night that I haven't had a carrot since January.  I love carrots.  Vegetables are a rare thing and a lot of the food that my host mom makes me is fried, which is something that my stomach isn't used to.  I will definitely miss her though.  We have learned a lot about each other this past semester and have shared some great experiences.  We've bonded and she's treated me with kindness throughout the past four and a half months.
a typical street in Bilbao

It will be a little weird adjusting back to some aspects of home.  For example, it will be weird to receive texts or phone calls.  I have a phone here, but it's expensive and, along with the other students in my program, we usually have no minutes on our phones to even contact each other.  Other adjustments that I will have to make include: the current U.S. obsession with the song "Call Me Maybe" ( I don't understand it and am happy that the Europeans aren't into it), the saying "YOLO" that everyone at home seems to be using in their Facebook statuses (I just recently learned that it means "you only live once"), and speaking English to everyone.
the most expensive
condos in Bilbao

I've learned a lot about myself through my study abroad experience.  I know I will always hold a special place in my heart for Bilbao and will always remember this semester abroad as one of my best experiences in college.  I have gained an even greater appreciation for the U.S., but I am already trying to figure out when I can see more of Europe.

the park that I spend a lot of
time relaxing in next to the
Museo de Bellas Artes
I have taken three of my finals and will take my last final tomorrow afternoon (tomorrow morning in the U.S.).  It's a little tough to accept that I will no longer see some of the amazing people that I've met here every day anymore and that I might not ever be able to see some of them again.  We've been enjoying the time that we have left together and all promise to stay in touch.  Just last Friday, we all got together and celebrated the amazing semester that has brought us all together.

Bilbao has been amazing and I'm sure this summer will be great too.  I'll be living and working in Champaign.  I'll also be reconnecting with friends and getting in shape again.  I feel like I've made the most of my study abroad experience and have really learned a lot about myself as a result of it.  It is definitely going to be emotional getting on to the plane on Thusday, but I like to think of it as "see you later" and not "goodbye."

On that note, until next time..."¡Hasta luego!"

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Post 16: A trip to Portugal

The Marqués de Riscal vineyard's hotel
Last Tuesday was International Workers Day and, as a result, I had no classes.  To celebrate as the Spaniards do, I went to a local vineyard with my friend and her aunt and uncle.  We went to the Marqués de Riscal vineyard and learned all about the art of making wine.  The vineyard's hotel was designed by the same architect (Frank Gehry) as the Guggenheim in Bilbao and therefore looked very familiar.  I learned the proper way to taste wine, enjoyed a couple of tastings, and left the museum feeling much more cultured.  Plus, I felt like a good student for learning something on a day off of school.

On Friday, I embarked on my last trip before the big one back to the U.S.  I went to Lisbon, Portugal.  Before the trip, I didn't really know too much about Portugal, but I had heard from multiple people that Lisbon is definitely worth going to.

Just one of the many rooms with filled
wine barrels at Marqués de Riscal
After a long day of traveling (we had a 7 hour layover in Madrid because of an unfortunate flight change), we finally arrived in Lisbon.  We walked to the water and slowly made our way over to an Irish pub for dinner.  Yes, we went to an Irish pub.  As odd as it may seem, I've actually eaten or drank at an Irish pub in almost every country I've been to.  The Irish pubs always have great food and a fun atmosphere that reminds us of home.

On Saturday, we started off the day with a little shopping and eventually made our way onto the bus tour of Lisbon.  Through the bus tour we saw a lot of Lisbon and learned some interesting history in the process of it.

Lisbon, Portugal

Lisbon feels like a true vacation town, but the struggling economy is definitely more evident there than in any other place that I've visited.  Lisbon is still beautiful, but it is sad to see the economic struggle that the city is so obviously going through.

Before coming abroad, I knew that this semester would probably be my only chance to ever visit Portugal.  It just isn't a place that many people think of going to when they go to Europe, but I'm glad that I was able to experience it.  It was a good place to see, but it is unlikely that I will ever go back.

In other news, I will be returning to the U.S.A. in exactly 10 days.  I'm sure I will see all of you at the airport to welcome me home...

Until next time...¡Adios!