Category Archives: school

past, present and future.

FINALLY, some new material. It has taken me probably 3 weeks to get this blog fully up and running, just an example of stubborn I’ve been about creating one in the first place.  But let’s face it, an aspiring travel journalist with nothing to share is hardly an aspiring travel journalist at all.  So that’s where this comes in, providing YOU, my future employers (?) (?) (?), my past friends and lovers, my long-time family, etc. with the annals of what exactly I’m getting into this semester.

The first few weeks back (post-European Christmas adventure, post-visit from Mom) were a hard adjustment, but things seem to be falling into place. New friends, new classes (Mass Media, Don Quijote, Civilization and Culture, and Linguistics, to be exact), new activities.  Also, new internships! I just found out that I’ll be working for Valencia’s fútbol (soccer) team doing some translations for their website.  This might prove difficult considering I know very little about soccer (who am I kidding: all sports), let alone its lexicon in English or Spanish.  Pues, vamos a ver…

I will say this about the newness of this semester: with the new crop of students we (the old guard) have been rejuvenated and are on the quest for the lesser-known, alternative places/activities around the city.  This search has led us to many interesting experiences, including the following:

  • taking a day-trip to Sagunto, the old Roman trade city north of Valencia, only to find it completely closed, a crisis we responded to by going on a hike all around the castle.

    Sagunto from above

  • Mexi[can food] Night in a somewhat forgotten part of town
  • the Madhatter’s Tea Party, to which showed up a crop of Spanish Lolita’s, a fashion style that is not only creepy but totally not in accordance with the Alice in Wonderland theme
  • a paella cooking class which began with me almost fainting at the sight and sound of rabbit and chicken being prepared (read: hacked apart violently) and ended with me chowing down on some delicious conejo

On top of these isolated events, I’ve picked up some new routines as well.  Starting with a 2 times a week pilates class, which is not only a stretch physically but mentally considering the language barrier.  I’m also still teaching English to Gonzalo, the adorable 7-year old who lives down the street.  Since winter break he has really come out of his shell, making a once-frustrating weekly appointment into something I look forward to.  Plus, this has given me some indication that I am not as horrible with children as I thought, and that he might actually like me!  A revelation for this child-phobic twenty-something.

So now we’ve covered the past, the present, and onto the future: our first long vacation is Fallas in mid-March, during which of course we’ll all be staying in town for our first Fallas experience.  But in April we’re given 2 weeks (thank you, Catholic holidays!) for travel and time off from school, during which I hope to be in Istanbul and the Grecian Isles (I just love the sound of that).  Obviously it’s still far off, and plans always change, but it’s still something to look forward to.

All in all, things are good in Valencia (how can you complain about a place where there’s 60 degree weather when you know your house is buried ankle-deep in snow and cold and gloom and doom?)


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Filed under schmoozing, school, spring semester, travel, Valencia

getting to know you

la escuela

My luck so far in this country has been almost unbelievably good.  This week classes started, and it is safe to say I have one of the best schedules I’ve ever had in college, and some of the most interesting classes.  My schedule reads as follows: 20th Century Spanish History, Modern Art, Conversation with a focus on Spanish Cinema, and Translation.  As far as times go, I’ve got nothing before 11am (some days I don’t go until 12:30pm) and afternoon classes which allow me on some days to be done at 3:30, and others 7pm (leaving me just enough time to get tapas with friends before going home for dinner).  Let’s not forget, also, that I don’t have Friday classes.  I’m also REALLY excited to learn about all of these subjects, and so far class discussions have been filled with lots of cultural conversation that may not pertain to the day’s topic, but are fascinating nonetheless; never before have I been in an art class that in 30 minutes can go from Romanticism to Jung and Plato and then finally to instructions on how to buy, prepare and eat eels.  And hearing about my professor’s grandmother and her death in one of Franco’s concentration camps gave me goosebumps.  Plus class size is TINY compared to UVA, with my largest class having 15 kids (since there’s about 45 of us in the program all together). All in all, I’m really pleased.  Should be a good academic year.

una falla

una falla

Apart from classes, the program provides various extracurricular activities that I’ve signed up for.  One being a service learning internship that places students in fields of study to get a better sense of career life here.  For example, some students can sit in with a child psychologist once a week and observe their work with patients and in the office, while others can help artists build the enormous falles (floats, essentially) that will be paraded around the city for Valencia’s biggest holiday (Les falles).

As far as my interests go, I requested to be placed either in an internship with a publishing house (which would be PERFECT since I’m looking towards getting into that field after graduation) or an online magazine where I’d be editing translations (also good, since I’m also ultimately hoping to be a literary translator).  I find out about where I’ll be next week, so cross your fingers!  Seeing as how I was the first one to turn the sheet in (I practically sprinted to the front desk after the interest meeting to do so), I should get something I like.  The second extracurricular I started was an intercambio (exchange) with a local university student.  His name is Diego, and we were matched up according to similar interests and we meet once a week to speak in both Spanish and English.  We met for the first time last night and it went well; really friendly, and ended up inviting me out with all his friends, allowing me to get some real time with Spanish people my age!, which was a totally new experience.  It’s safe to say I didn’t really dominate any conversation, but I really enjoyed seeing what kids my age here do for fun.  Needless to say there are some cultural norms that are the same everywhere.

The UVA kids continue to be fun, and I’m enjoying getting to meet new people.  This week we celebrated a week in Valencia (my second, actually) by all going out to supper together.  Hilarious, actually, because we ordered paella, which NO ONE in Spain eats after 2pm; it is a LUNCH dish.

mmmm, paella!

Suppers here are lo más light and consist of many different little courses.  So I can only imagine what the waiters and chefs were thinking when they had to whip up an enormous portion (to give you the idea of the size of the platter: 1 of the skillets of paella filled 7 plates) of it so late in the day.  I also spent the week planning a few trips with the kids in the group, and I am officially going to Italy (Rome and Florence) for our first break in October.  SO EXCITED.  Also managed to get both plane tickets for less than 100 euro, and now all my friend and I have to do is find some hole-in-the-wall hostels for the week and we’re set.  Also looking forward to winter break, when I’ll be headed to (if all goes well) Morocco and Egypt with the other 3 students that are here for a full year.  Again, pretty excited.  It truly is easier and cheaper to get around in Europe, and I’ve got the time, so why not?

Other than that it’s been a normal week, and it’s starting to feel a lot like home; well, I’m getting my routine for the semester figured out.  On all other fronts it’s totally different and I love it. But isn’t that why I came?

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Filed under school, travel, Valencia