Student Blogger Kerianne Baylor from Marist College is studying abroad in Spain with Academic Programs International (API). In this post she shares with us the 5 experiences she’ll remember most about her time on the Iberian Peninsula. Read her charming tales, and then make your own memories by applying for a $2,500 scholarship to study abroad with API!
“Narrowing down my favorite memories to five is truly a task, but when I sat down to think of them, I realized that this handful of memorable moments were all made possible by Academic Programs International (API). Through API, I am studying abroad for an entire year in Madrid, Spain – I even petitioned to participate in this specific program. Sadly, I’m half way done with my academic year abroad; however, I already know it was more than worth it. This past semester has given me the opportunity to experience the world beyond my comfortable ‘bubble’ that I lived in up until last August. I was able to live with a Spanish family, learn a language I absolutely love, see places I had only seen in pictures and meet people that inspire who I am today – and yet I still have another semester!
On that note, I give you the 5 things I remember most while studying abroad with API:
Mi familia española. Landing in Spain was an adrenaline rush, but the one thing that would excite me even more was moving into my host family – and that was after I had met my roommate for the first time. I vividly remember the day during our API orientation that all the soon-to-be host mothers gathered in our hotel lobby to pick us up. My API Resident Director introduced me to Mati, a woman I’d live with for an entire year. Meeting her was enough to cause me to shriek from excitement, but then it got even better: I opened the door to my new room. I’m glad I had someone to share it with because both of our jaws simultaneously dropped. We were actually living with a Spanish family, living the next few months of our lives in Spain. That was the moment it hit me – it was really happening.
El Día de Acción de Gracias. Homesickness was never part of my vocabulary. I confidently went off to college and assured my parents that I would be just fine; I did the same as I bid farewell to them at the airport before my flight to Madrid. But something really pulls at your homesick heartstrings when you see your parents on your computer screen, thousands of miles away, talking about how much they miss you during the holidays, especially after they were devastated by nature’s wrath during Hurricane Sandy.
Thanksgiving was just another ‘normal’ day in Madrid. I went to class per usual, but after, API put together the most amazing Thanksgiving dinner Spaniards could do. The comforting dishes served during my family’s own dinner were prepared and placed across a beautiful table decorated by our Resident Directors. By arranging an event centered on American traditions –which I imagine is quite tough in Spain—I was reminded of home, which I desperately needed.
Cata de aceite de oliva. I fell in love with olive oil when I arrived in Madrid – I put it on everything. So when I was invited to an olive oil tasting by my API Resident Directors, I instantly said yes. It is much like a wine tasting, but olive oil is treated more delicately – you must smell it first before taking a tiny sip. The most interesting thing I learned, aside from the fact that there are over 260 types of olive oils, was about the tongue, yes the tongue. When you taste, your tongue taste buds pick up on different characteristics: sweetness at the tip of the tongue, bitterness at the back of the tongue and spice at the throat.
While smelling and tasting each extra virgin olive oil, we were asked to describe how it affected our senses. Picual was my favorite; it’s well known, easy to find in Spain, and the healthiest type deriving from the Andalusia region. After learning much more about olive oil, I now see why it was called liquid gold in the Middle Ages. Sampling a few types of Spanish olive oils gave me insight into one aspect of Spain’s gastronomy, and a very important one at that.
Viaje a París. There are few moments in my life that have brought me to tears – okay, I will admit I’m an emotional person because yes, I did cry during Finding Nemo, but it happens . . . right? I mean crying in a good way, of course. They’re the kind of tears that well up in your eyes from pure bliss: tears of joy. I have noticed this kind of happiness a handful of times this past semester abroad; one instance occurred while visiting Paris, France on an API excursion. I could even count the entire trip as a moment of pure bliss, but since we’re talking about a specific moment, I will gladly explain.
Climbing cobblestone steps of the winding streets of Montmartre led us to the basilique du Sacré-Coeur, the basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris that is situated atop a hill. Naturally we gathered wine, cheese, bread and fruit along the way with the grand idea of a picnic on the steps of the basilica – it truly was so French. The sun was shining bright while we enjoyed our Parisian picnic when a street performer began strumming a guitar and singing along to the same songs my dad plays at home. That right there was it for me; my emotions ran wild. I missed him, but I was just so purely happy in that moment, appreciating everything and everyone who helped me to get to where I am, or where I was for the sake of this memory: lounging on the steps of the Sacre-Coeur while enjoying a breathtaking view of Paris.
Flamenco en Sevilla. Before choosing Madrid, I looked into programs in Sevilla; I do not regret studying abroad in Madrid, but I was very excited to visit my second choice on another API excursion. I was enchanted by the Arabic influence, specifically the detailed tiling – Plaza de España was surreal.
Seeing a flamenco show was on my Spain bucket list; API helped me check it off when they brought us to, by far, my favorite Spanish cultural experience. Seating was arranged around the stage, up close and personal – so close, in fact, that I could feel the rhythm of the dancers’ feet, the sound of the singer’s voice and the beat of the guitar chords. The passion emanating in the room was one of a kind, truly inspirational and uplifting.
This past semester has given me much more than these five memories; I enjoyed every minute of being abroad and I am beyond anxious to return to Madrid. Here’s to making more unforgettable memories with API during my upcoming spring semester abroad.”
Want to make your own memories in Spain? Apply for a $2,500 Scholarship to study abroad in 1 of 17 destinations with API!