Thursday, January 26, 2017

A symbolic arrival for a final semester

My name is Rachel Ann Cimera. I am senior at Bloomsburg University. My final semester of my undergraduate career will be in China as an exchange student. Why China and how did I get to doing that? Originally, I was not from Bloomsburg University. I was a transfer student that graduated from Northampton Community College prior to coming to Bloomsburg. I graduated with an associate’s degree in secondary education. I graduated at the same time as my younger brother and identical twin sister from Northampton Community College before we moved onto our own separate four year schools.

At Northampton Community College there was no program in Chinese, but they did offer Chinese courses, which further ignited my passion for Chinese language besides teaching English as a second language online in my spare time to non-native language speakers. I came to Bloomsburg with a defined Chinese major program with a requirement to study abroad for degree completion. I tutored French language during my high school years. Foreign languages were always an interest of mine, but it just bloomed to be something more and more as time went on.

At Northampton Community College, I was part of four different organizations before transferring to Bloomsburg University. I was the Vice President of Phi Theta Kappa, Tau Gamma chapter of the International Honors society, the President of the American Sign Language Club, Treasurer of the Honors Club, and a strong contributing member and cofounder of the Ban the Bottle ad hoc committee before becoming the Vice President of the Chinese Club and the Vice President of the Bloomsburg University Linguistics League at Bloomsburg.

I was an international mentor at Bloomsburg University this past fall semester. I also worked at the Olive Garden as a hostess in Bloomsburg this past fall. I will finally land in China on Feb. 10. I believe it will be an adventure of a life time and a dream come true for myself as a Chinese major. I am very excited to be studying in Beijing for the spring semester at Beijing Normal University. I will miss my large family without a doubt along with all the great friends that I have made over the years. It is bitter, yet sweet; however, I will be able to gain so much more while abroad. I will have a chance to fully immerse myself completely in a different culture and language from that of my own, while completing a major in Chinese and a minor in political science for my bachelor’s degree.

Chinese New Year

My arrival will be after one of the major holidays in China, the Chinese New Year also known as the Spring Festival. The Spring Festival is a time where a long time off is typically given to everyone from work as well as from school. Everyone tries to go home, if possible. Usually quite a travel rush with a high traffic load! This happens during what is called the春运 Chunyun period, which occurs 15 days prior to the Lunar New Year. Common expressions to say around the New Year are 恭喜发财 gongxi facai, 大吉大利 daji dali and 新年快乐 xinnian kuaile. Gongxi facai wishes someone to have a prosperous new year. Daji dali wishes people to gain lots of luck and profit where as xinnian kuaile just wishes for a happy new year. Xinnian kuaile is commonly said around the time of the western solar New Year where 春节快乐 chunjie kuaile is said around the Chinese New Year because it celebrates the coming of the new spring. Fortunately for all of the Rooster born individuals, their year, 2017 has come.

During the Chinese New Year, families are reunited. Red envelopes filled with money called 红包 hongbao are given at this time of year. Setting off firecrackers is also common. Buildings are decorated with red lanterns and sayings on red paper. Red is deemed as a lucky color in China.

Lots of 饺子 jiaozi (dumplings) are made as well as many other scrumptious foods like 鱼yu (fish), 春卷 (chunjuan) spring rolls, and 汤圆Tangyuan (sweet rice balls). Watching of the CCTV’s New Year Gala is also a usual habit for the Chinese New Year. The Chinese New Year is a very happy time of year.

I may miss the Chinese New Year celebration, but I will be landing one day before the Lantern Festival, Feb. 11. The Lantern Festival will be a symbol for me as a bright future as I take steps towards finishing my degree. After completing my degree, I want to obtain a master’s degree or higher with the desire to become a Chinese professor in the United States eventually down the road after gaining real world experience with Chinese language application and culture. I will be in China for several months which will ultimately be beneficial to immerse myself in everything that is China. I look forward to embarking on my journey outside of the United States of America for the very first time in my life.

— Rachel Ann Cimera #HuskyUnleashed #HuskyAbroad

Rachel Ann Cimera is a senior Chinese major with a minor in political science who is spending her final semester as a undergraduate this spring studying abroad at the renowned Beijing Normal University, a public research university located in China with strong emphasis on basic disciplines of humanities and sciences.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Happy New Year!

Day 6, Dec. 31, 2016

Today is New Year’s Eve, however nothing is really different in our town. A few of us wanted to try something new today, so we decided on Paintball! I was terrified of getting hurt. Anyway, it was kind of fun, and I didn’t get shot! After playing paintball, we walked the town of Heredia. We found this cute little shop where I bought a ton of souvenirs for my family and myself.

After shopping, Alyssa and I stopped at Taco Bell; surprisingly, the food was really good and actually tasted better than the US version of Taco Bell. After eating, Alyssa and I walked approximately 1.5 miles away. So I definitely got my exercise in for the day. After Mama Tica gets home from mass, we are going over to her daughters. Then, we might go over to our friend Anh’s house for a party!

Some more cultural aspects: As I was walking today, I noticed that a lot of the streets didn’t have road names or signs, so it was kind of difficult to get around without using Google Maps.

Another thing I noticed today and have learned about Spanish-related cultures: Ticos don’t care about time. We were supposed to go paint-balling at 10, but they didn’t even pick us up until 11!

Day 7, Jan. 1, 2017

We ended up going over to Mama Tica’s daughter’s house and staying there until 1:30 a.m. It was so much fun getting to meet her family. They were so welcoming. We ate dinner around 10 p.m. which is the latest I have ever eaten dinner, but it was delicious. We had chicken and beef tortillas. Today, we are going back over for lunch.

We ended up staying at Mama Tica’s, and her daughters and granddaughters came over. We ate a lot of meat, drank some wine, and talked. It was a nice day to just relax after getting home so late last night. After eating, I got together with Alison, and we did our group project.

It was kind of weird to not eat pork and sauerkraut today, but I wouldn’t change it for anything!

Day 8, Jan. 2, 2017

It has been one week already in Costa Rica! We didn’t do too much today. However, I did take my first Uber with a few friends to San Jose. While in San Jose, we toured an artisan market. It was pretty neat to see all the things that the ticans make.

Cultural aspects: I have noticed lately, the traffic lights are different. Rather than a solid green light, they have arrows addressing the ways the car is allowed to go. Also, before a light turns yellow then red, the green light will blink a few times, warning the drivers that they should speed up to make the light (just kidding).

Another thing that is a little bizarre, is the solicitation of cars to sell items in the middle of the street (I wonder how many people have died trying to do that). It is super dangerous because the drivers are crazy!

Day 9, Jan. 3, 2017

I am finally beginning to understand what La Profe is saying in class! Minor victory. Anyway, we aren’t doing much today because we have such a heavily filled week of activities to come. However, Amy and I made a cute little gift for Mama Tica. We will be giving it to her upon our departure. As of now, I am trying to begin studying for the final next week. Hopefully, I will get to participate in a Zumba class tonight!

Mama Tica is seriously one of the best people I have ever met. She is so full of heart and soul. She is always telling us to love ourselves no matter what anyone else things.

At dinner almost every night, we sit around the table just talking about life in general. This woman is so philosophical. She loves life. It is a great energy to feel and to have passed onto us. She actually just sent me a video as I was beginning to write this post.

It was one of those videos where a person takes a glass and puts an object like golf balls in it and asks if it is full, and everyone usually responds with a yes. Then the person continues to fill the jar with pebbles, sand, and a liquid. This all represents life. The big items represent the things closest to you (i.e. friends, family, career), and all the smaller objects are things that can weigh you down if you dwell on them. You wouldn’t fill the bottle with sand first because nothing else would fit. I am learning so many great life philosophies from Mama Tica. LOVE LIFE, PURA VIDA!

— Kylie Goodling #HuskyUnleashed #HuskyAbroad

Kylie Goodling is a senior speech language pathology major, Spanish and linguistics minor, and ESL certification student spending this winter studying abroad in Heredia, Costa Rica. Through SOL, she is studying Latin American culture and civilization while living with host mom Cecilia.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

No pasa nada ... it's okay

This week I have gone to La Capilla Real (Royal Chapel), Granada Cathedral, a food tasting class, another city nearby called Malaga, and celebrated Three Kings Day.

The Granada Cathedral and La Capilla Real were huge and absolutely beautiful. The Granada Cathedral took over 200 years to build and was ordered to be built by the Catholic monarchs that had conquered the city! La Capilla Real had many interesting paintings and possessions of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella including their crowns and the most expensive painting in Granada. La Capilla Real also houses the tombs of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella which we got to view. There are no pictures allowed inside here, so unfortunately I can't show any of the beauty of La Capilla Real.

I went to a delicious food tasting class. The Mediterranean diet here is much different from the diet back in Pennsylvania. Olive oil is essential in everything they eat here, and I mean everything! Breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert! If you have a fruit salad for dessert why would you not add olive oil! Everything I have tasted in Spain so far has been absolutely delicious and even at my own host family all the food I eat is homemade and delicious.

Three Kings Day is a holiday on Jan. 6 here in Spain. It is the celebration of the gifts given by the three kings to the baby Jesus. The night before Three Kings Day there is a huge parade. They have amazingly decorated floats throwing candy everywhere with fireworks going off in the background. Many people are out lining the streets to the point where it's impossible to move!

People then go out to restaurants for tapas and to celebrate the holiday. The next morning my roommate and I awoke to the banging of pots and pans together to wake everyone in the house.Presents are hidden all over the house with riddles "brought by the three kings". Everyone has a lot of fun trying to find their presents and eating all the chocolate money dispersed throughout the house!

On Saturday my roommate, Mikayla, my friend, Simona and I went to the nearby city of Malaga. Malaga is a beautiful city along the coast. It was quite an experience to get there by bus. We had run into a small mishap when there were only two tickets left, and there was three of us. We got to use our Spanish to change tickets and ended up waiting a couple hours for the next bus so we could all ride together. The bus ride there gave me the opportunity to see the beautiful mountainous countryside.

There were thousands of olive trees and many sheep! We took a boat out on the water while we were in Malaga to see all the amazing views from the water. A bus took us around the whole city and we got to see incredible views of Malaga.

The temperature there is also much warmer so many people are out walking in their shorts and t-shirts while on the beach. On the way home from Malaga I had the luck of sitting next to someone from France, studying here in Spain! I got to practice my Spanish for two hours with someone who was near my level and learn all about France!

Three Kings Day was an amazing experience in Spain. There is so much fun to be had in Granada during the holiday season! In general, the Spaniards here in Granada seem to take life a little slower and enjoy every bit of it.

One of the sayings that people always seem to repeat here is "No pasa nada." In English this translates to no need to worry (just relax). Everything seems to be a bit more relaxed here and for a city it feels like a quaint little town with friendly faces everywhere.

— Racquel Kreischer #HuskyUnleashed #HuskyAbroad

Racquel Kreischer is a senior engineering major spending this winter break studying abroad in Granada, Spain. Through the Instituto Mediterráneo Sol Granada she is studying Spanish while living with a Spanish family learning up-close about Spainards lives, language and culture.

Celebrating the New Year!

With only four weeks here I'm trying to make the most of my time. I can finally comprehend what everyone around me is speaking, so I have gotten more adventurous in visiting areas nearby.

This Wednesday our study abroad group went to the traditional Arabic Baths here in Granada. There are Arabic Baths here in the city that are a monument that people can visit, but they are not used by the public. Traditionally, the Arabic Baths were used by the Romans here in the city. The Arabic Baths that I visited are different pools that are hot, cold, and warm. You can hop around to different pools at your choosing and drink hot mint tea while relaxing. During the Arabic bath experience you get a massage and lay on a hot stone afterwards. One of the only rules in the Arabic baths is that there is to be no talking. They are supposed to be a completely relaxing experience.

This Thursday I went to the Alhambra which is one of Spain's most visited attractions. The Alhambra is a huge palace which is more like a city within its confined walls. It takes hours to go through the whole palace.

We had a guide that led us around much of the palace and it took three hours only stopping briefly to view the sights and learn some of the Alhambra's history. The pictures of it do not do the Alhambra justice. It is beyond beautiful and took over 250 years to complete! There are Arabic scriptures carved into the walls and ceilings everywhere! Much of the walls are covered with tile or scripture. The ceilings are extremely high and detailed. It amazed me how advanced these people were in science, math, and astronomy, hundreds and hundreds of years ago!

I had gone shopping around Granada this weekend with a few friends and found many unique, homemade things to buy! Of course, while out shopping we couldn't resist buying some gelato for a midday snack! Everyone is out shopping right now because of the holiday season and exchanging of gifts on Jan. 6 (Three Kings Day).

New Years in Granada was very fun! There are so many fiestas and people celebrating the New Year! In Spain there is a tradition that at midnight everyone has to eat 12 grapes quickly for 12 months of good luck in the next year. I spent New Year's with my host family eating a large dinner that we had helped to prepare all day.

After dinner the table was moved and the whole family danced to a variety of music until 1 a.m. My roommate and I then went to the city hall square to see a large concert in the streets that were closed down and dance until late in the morning. New Year’s here is different from the United States, but very fun with many people celebrating in the streets. In addition, almost all stores closed on New Year’s Eve and remained closed New Year’s Day.

The city of Granada is so beautiful, especially during December and January! There are Christmas lights hung up everywhere you look in the city! A large fake Christmas tree is put up and a large statue of Papa Noel. There are small shops set up all over squares and random music being played all around. The spirit of the holiday season in Spain is certainly unique and I would recommend anyone to come visit Granada around the holidays!

Hasta luego until next week!

— Racquel Kreischer #HuskyUnleashed #HuskyAbroad

Racquel Kreischer is a senior engineering major spending this winter break studying abroad in Granada, Spain. Through the Instituto Mediterráneo Sol Granada she is studying Spanish while living with a Spanish family learning up-close about Spainards lives, language and culture.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Adorable just like Mama Tica!

Day 1, Dec. 26, 2016

Left for Newark airport at 2:45 a.m. Of course, upon arrival, my suitcase was 3 pounds over, so I had to fix that, and squeezed by at a close-call 49.5 pounds! Departed for Fort Lauderdale around 6 a.m. Then, departed from Fort Lauderdale to Costa Rica. Landed around 1:45 p.m. (which is actually 2:45 p.m. because they are an hour behind due to not observing day light savings time). Couldn’t find the SOL people and was bombarded by Taxi Drivers. Eventually found Angie. Amy, myself, and another #SOLmate were quickly put into a car to be taken to our host families. The driving in CR is similar to NYC. Almost crashed a few times. We eventually made it to a neighborhood called Mira Flores. We met our Mama Tica (host mom) Cecilia. She was so excited to meet us. She made us a banner in our room saying “bienvenidas Amy and Kylie,” which means welcome. The house is adorable just like Mama Tica! Mama Tica made us sandwiches for lunch that afternoon, but before lunch Amy and I gave her our gifts. Mine was a thirty one bag embroidered with teaching icons and her name (courtesy of Brenda’s Embroidery) and a Bloomsburg pen and sticker. After lunch, Mama Tica took us for a walk to our Universidad that we are studying at this break. Then, we walked across a long cat walk to the mall (Paseo de las Flores). She took us around the stores, naming different items in Spanish, then we walked back home. She made us a delicious dinner (chuletas de cuerdo, broccoli y arroz). During dinner, we met one of her daughters, 2 grandsons, and her neighbor. After dinner, I wanted to get a shower. I had some mishaps with the shower and the hot water so that was interesting. After my shower, I went to sleep because I was exhausted from traveling all day.

Day 2, Dec. 27, 2016

Today, I was woken by a train around 5:50 a.m. but luckily I fell back asleep. We woke up to a delicious breakfast ((huevos, pan, jamon, plantanos fritos, plantanos y manzanas) where I tried plantains for the first time (Not really a fan). We started school at 8 a.m. I am taking a class about Latin American culture and civilization. There are about 12 of us in the SOL program right now. I met a lot of cool people! At this moment, I am pretty overwhelmed with all the Spanish, and I am having a hard time comprehending what others are saying and even speaking myself, but hopefully with time that will change. For class, we mostly went over the syllabus, expectations, etc. (the usual first day stuff). Our teacher is super passionate and caring. The teaching style is a little different than the US. The teacher is sitting relaxed in the front of the room, kind of close to the first row of students. She touches your head, holds your hands, calls you sweet nicknames like mi amor. During the break, we got our official student ID cards. After class, we had orientation and sat our by the football field. Let me tell you how nice it is to have the warm sun beating down on you, wearing sandals and a tank top in December!

For orientation, we were assigned a scavenger hunt. We had to find the office depot to make copies of our passports and to exchange our US dollars for Colones (the exchange rate is approximately 548,00). The conversion is actually kind of hard to understand so thankfully there is an app that can do it for me! After completing the scavenger hunt, the #SOLmates roamed the mall, looking at souvenirs, and trying to figure out how much everything costs. After that, we split up by neighborhood and went our separate ways. Tonight we had a variety of different foods (pork loins with gravy-like salsa that had mushrooms and black pepper, white rice with seasoning, yuca [super delicious and nutritious, pictured on the left with Mama Tica], and creamed spinach soup which had about 5 different vegetables in it, but I didn’t catch everything she was saying). We sat out on the porch tonight to eat. It was very tranquil. Everyone passing by said hi, whether our Mama Tica knew them or not [and let me tell you, she knows just about everyone]. Today was interesting with the public aspect of being immersed in the culture, but it was culturally eye-opening. It was different to see the way the people interacted with foreigners like myself and fellow students, some nice, some not so nice, just interesting. Also, Mama Tica gave Amy and I a very inspirational speech and a quote to live by. The gist was saying to love yourself, enjoy yourself, love life, etc. PURA VIDA! But she kept saying “yo me amo” which means I love myself. She said we all have eyes, noses, arms, etc. and we are all equal so just love yourself, nothing else matters. It is very inspirational because I went on this trip to not only finish my Spanish minor and be immersed in the language and culture, but also for myself as a reward for my hard work in school, work, and play.

Day 3, Dec. 28, 2016

Today, we woke up to yet another delicious breakfast. (see picture) Amy and I met Nikki and walked to class. During class, we learned about the different theories of the continents’ movement throughout time. I am definitely still trying to get a hang of the speed of the professor’s speech. After class, we took a bus (CRAZY DRIVING!!) to the city of Heredia. It was a quaint little town, full of people. Our assignment was to find different, unusual fruits in a supermarket. That was interesting because there were so many different stands of fruits, and everyone person I asked said they didn’t have mine (of course, no one had my fruit!) After buying the fruit, we walked through town to the oldest church, built in 1797. It was the center of town, so there were many people around. After touring the church, we continued our way through the town to a café, where we were given a choice of a fruit smoothie or cold cappacino (I don’t like coffee, so of course, I chose the smoothie). We sat around the tables and tried each unusual fruit. I did not like most of them, because some smelled like trash, had a mushy or super crunchy texture, or had a bitter, sour taste. (see below for different fruits and pastries). After fruits, we tried 3 different pastries, and then, we were left to our the city in groups. My group got ice cream at a popular shop across the street. Then, since it was pushing time to get dark, we headed for the bus stop, stopping along the way to look at shoes and jewelry. Then, we got on the bus, shared photos of past experiences with each other, and talked about home life. After we got off the bus, we walked through the mall in hopes of finding souvenirs, still no luck. Tomorrow will hopefully be exciting. Our group is planning on going to the ruins nearby. Stay tuned!!

Day 4, Dec 29, 2016

Today I started off the day with a bowl of granola and fruit. I tried papya for the time. Let’s just say I was not a fan. Amy and I met Nikki and walked to class. Today was a little easier to understand as we begun talking about human evolution. After class, 10 of us went off to explore. Our first stop was San Jose, CR. It is huge! We had to find the bus stop to get to our final destination of the Cartago ruins. I saw a guy playing music with recyclables and he was amazing! Eventually, we found the bus stop and took it almost an hour to Cartago. Our friend Kendra met a lady and her son on the bus that spoke some English. So, they helped us to get to the Basilica. The Basilica was a huge, beautiful church full of people. On the side was the area for purification (see photos). People wash their faces in the water to purify themselves of sins. We talked with the lady and I asked her to tell us the story of the indian and the woman behind the gate (in Spanish). Then, we watched her son, Patrick (actually is a freshman in college in Missouri) wash not just his face but his entire head, long locks and all.

After visiting the Basilica, our group headed the other way towards the ruins. Along the way we stopped and ate quesadillas. The ruins were decorated beautifully with flowers all over the landscape. After we visited the ruins, Amy and I bought Mama Tica flowers as we headed for the train station. Throughout the city, I saw prostitutes and pimps, sleeping dogs (literally just laying along the road), and had an funny experience at a chicken shop. A friend ordered ice cream and received onion rings instead, and another friend that ordered ice cream received orange tea. Needless to say, I don’t think they are the best at ordering ice cream. We took the bus back to our town and had a connection along the way. It took almost two hours. I thought I was going to barf! We eventually arrived back home, walked Clement and Nikki home, and ate dinner. I don’t really know what I ate, but it was delicious! It was sort of like a lasagna without noodles, and zucchini on the side. We talked with Mama Tica for about an hour. Now, I am off to an early night’s rest because we go white water rafting tomorrow and have to be up at 5:15 a.m. Sweet dreams everyone!

Day 5, Dec. 30, 2016

Today started off at 5:50 a.m. We met at the University and took a bus to a town called Limon about 3 hours away. The ride was miserable. I got so nauseous. When we arrived in Limon, we began the adventure of the day: White water rafting! It was absolutely amazing. We rafted down the Rio Pacuare. Our tour guide’s name was Juan. He was hysterically funny, but made us feel completely safe at the same time. First, we picked a team name: Team Rapids. Then, he gave us all the commands we needed to know to keep us safe throughout our journey. My favorite call was Oh Mierta! (you’ll have to figure out what that means for yourself ) The trip was 29 kilometers, approximately 3.5 hours, and had beautiful scenery (stay tuned for pictures) At times it was really scary; we lost 2 people off our raft. Luckily, it was a safe area. However, during a class 3 rapid, a girl fell off the raft in front of us. Thankfully, our team cameto her rescue before she got sucked into the class 4 rapid. All in all, the trip was so much fun!

Some interesting cultural aspects

  • Ticos do not follow road signs or stop lights (they will go directly through a red light or stop sign without even looking or giving a care in the world. They also drive really face and in the middle of two lanes. The roads are also really bumpy which doesn’t make the rides any easier.
  • When using the toilet, you are NOT allowed to throw toilet paper in the toilet, it must be thrown into the trashcan.
  • When showering, the hot water is produced by an adapting shower head with heating coils, so the water isn’t very hot, and there isn’t a lot of pressure.
  • Ticos always wear shoes around the house.
  • The money is called a colon. The exchange rate is about 550. So, 2,000 colones is approximately $4 in USD.
  • I have also noticed with our Mama Tica, she always makes the shape of a flower on our breakfast foods (i.e. Pancakes), and she always has the neatest presentation of foods on the plate.
  • Instead of de nada (you’re welcome), ticos use con gusto (with pleasure).
— Kylie Goodling #HuskyUnleashed #HuskyAbroad

Kylie Goodling is a senior speech language pathology major, Spanish and linguistics minor, and ESL certification student spending this winter studying abroad in Heredia, Costa Rica. Through SOL, she is studying Latin American culture and civilization while living with host mom Cecilia.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Hola, Papa Noel

My first week in Granada, Spain has been amazing! Arriving in Granada I landed at a very small airport with my program director waiting for me. I am living with a host family here with a roommate from Texas. I have classes five days a week that help me to learn Spanish. During a short break in classes each day I am able to go to a busy cafe that serves chocolate and churros!

After classes I walk home and have lunch with my host family. Then, embark on a new adventure in the city. The food is very different here and living with a family helps me truly see what Spain culture is really like.

There is a medium sized breakfast at 8 a.m., a large lunch at 2 p.m., and a light dinner at 9:30 p.m.! When going out tapas and sangria are a very common thing to eat. Tapas are delicious and can be found at almost any bar! They are different everywhere and usually involve some sort of topping on a piece of bread. I have met many new people in my classes. Including people from Italy, Korea, Spain, and the United States. We are all trying to learn Spanish, so we have a language in common to speak in.

After my classes each day I go with a group of students to see the beautiful sights in the city. Spain has so many amazing things to visit! There are thousands of beautiful places to see in Granada alone.

The mountains lie in the background of the city and the beach is only a mere two hours away! Orange trees line the narrow streets with cafes dispersed everywhere. It was a shock being immersed into Spanish with my host family and classes speaking only Spanish, but in the span of a week I have caught on quickly! Everything is in Spanish, tours, conversations with my host family, eating at restaurants, so it is very important to learn quickly.

  • Monday — I went to a part of the city called the Albayzin. Albayzin was extremely beautiful! There were amazing views of the Alahambra (which I will visit next week) and narrow streets with motorbikes zooming everywhere. Almost all the streets are designed with small rocks laid one by one and narrow streets to keep people shaded on hot days. The houses are all extremely white and this part of the city has many historical elements.
  • Wednesday — I went on a graffiti tour and ate at a traditional Arabic tea house. The graffiti here adds color to the city and nearby white houses. All the food here is amazing and the art and scenery are even better!
  • Thursday — I went on a Bellenes tour! All around the city there are large tents set up with beautiful nativity scenes celebrating the Christmas holiday that people walk through. There are over fifty Bellenes in the city and they all compete for different prizes awarded by the city.
  • Friday — I went to El Parque de las Ciencias. It is a large science museum with an aquarium, various animals, and science information. On Friday night we went to tapas for dinner at 10 p.m. In Granada it is not unusual to eat dinner at 9:30 pm and go to bed around 1:00 am. There is usually a siesta between 2 to 5 p.m. where you can nap and many places are closed during this time.

Studying in Granada during the holiday season is very exciting! There are many different parades and fiestas going on. For Christmas Eve there is a large family party with a lot of food, wine, and conversations. Exchanging of presents doesn't happen until Three King’s Day, however Papa Noel (Santa) comes Christmas Eve to give gifts for the children.

There is so much to do in the beautiful city of Granada and living with a family makes studying here even more exciting. I know where all the best places to go and things to do here are located. I’m only at the beginning of my second week, but I can’t wait to do more exploring throughout this beautiful city.

— Racquel Kreischer #HuskyUnleashed #HuskyAbroad

Racquel Kreischer is a senior engineering major spending this winter break studying abroad in Granada, Spain. Through the Instituto Mediterráneo Sol Granada she is studying Spanish while living with a Spanish family learning up-close about Spainards lives, language and culture.