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10/05/2010

Vineyard Visit

The CIEE program offers many great activities while studying abroad here. There are water sport classes, cooking classes, dancing classes, trips to Granada, and trips to water parks (just to name a few). Also, keep your eyes and ears open for opportunities that come up around the city! I was able to see and even touch the World Cup trophy because it was traveling around Spain after the victory in South Africa (it took three and a half hours of waiting in line but it was worth it).

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For me, one of the most memorable activities I participated in was visiting a bodega (vineyard). We traveled by bus for about an hour and arrived in a very rural part of Spain, and to say the least it was beautiful! There were rolling hills, and of course, acres upon acres of grapes. When we entered we were provided a tour with one of the vineyard employees. The tour was extremely fun and interesting due to our tour guide. She was beyond friendly, very bright, and entertaining. In fact, she allowed everyone in our group to try different kinds of wine, and also allowed us to take one bottle of wine home for free for our home stay families! More importantly, she showed us the amount of work and time that goes into producing wine, and to say the least it was incredible to see. It was even more astounding to learn that there were only 5-6 employees at this relatively large vineyard! Overall, I will never forget visiting this vineyard. I think by visiting a vineyard I was really able to observe an important part of the culture of Spain, so in other words, if you study abroad in Alicante, visit the vineyard!! IMG_0280

Life in Alicante, Spain (Dorms.)

I have always wanted something different from life, and coming to Alicante was definitely what I needed.  I chose to live in the dorms because I felt confident it would really be a piece of cake since I speak spanish fluently, however, making friends here was really up to me. Spaniards don't usually come up to you and ask how you're doing... you really have to step up your game and make an effort to do this. I try to be the most social as I can be. Once I arrived at the dorms with the other students in my program I realized that only sitting with them and speaking english wasn't going to get me anywhere since I am studying here for the year I really had to make some friends... That is exactly what I did. I would sit with spaniards and to be honest it wasn't that hard at all, once you tell them you are from the States they want to talk to you. Either to ask about the culture which involves how fast food is so BIG in America and/or they just want to practice their english. 

You are assigned a "roommate" but you don't really share rooms, it's more like you share a little sink, microwave, and a mini fridge. I bonded with my roomie really fast, to the point where hangout and talk everyday, and you really learn a lot from each other... I know spanish from my parents but my spanish is completely different from Spain spanish so he helps me with stuff I don't know and I help him with his english.. it really is a win-win situation. 

 I am usually not a complainer at all but there are two things about the dorms that are not good at all!!! 

1: The food - It's not very good, they honestly repeat the same thing everyday and it is just not working out for them. 

2: You are kind of far from the actual city where the other students live with their host fams, so it gets annoying when they all go to the beach or out on a tuesday night because the buses stop running at 10:30pm and taxis are expensive if you don't split it between 2 or 3. 

Regardless, I do feel I have an advantage here in the dorms...

The people who live with host families have a harder time making more friends because they can only meet people in el barrio and it is a little harder to just walk up to complete stranger and say "Hola, que tal?" while in the dorms you can just go sit with someone who is eating alone in the cafeteria and the conversion will start instantly. 

overall, the dorms are a good idea, you make a lot of friends your age and you actually learn/practice  the spanish young people our age actually speak. 

Here's a pic. It is actually pretty comfortable... no complaints there.

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09/30/2010

First Impressions of Alicante, Spain

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    I have currently been studying abroad in Alicante, Spain for roughly a month now and this will be my first blog entry. In this blog entry I'm going to address my first impressions I had when I arrived in Alicante, Spain.

    Like every student who studies abroad, I was of course nervous but extremely excited to begin this adventure. I felt a little overwhelmed with having to rely on my spanish skills to communicate with the program directors and staff; they mean it when they say there won't be any english! At first, this seemed very demanding and intimidating, but with an open mind, the tenacity to try, and not being afraid of making mistakes, this program has already aided me in taking large strides in improving my spanish skills.

I think the main reason why I have already learned so much is due to the program staff here in Alicante. The CIEE program staff here is INCREDIBLE. Francisco, Manolo, Beatriz, Eva-Lena, Jennifer, and the various teachers are all extremely supportive. They realize what it's like to be a foreigner trying to fit in and will do anything to help. They are very patient, kind, and encouraging when it comes to the language barrier as well, so don't be embarrassed when you take a lot of time trying to form sentences in spanish! Not only are they supportive with helping you learn, but they are really fun! Take advantage of talking to them during orientation, they know a lot about the city and fun things to do.

As for the city itself, I have found that it is obviously very different from any city in the United States. To me, the city of Alicante seems very arabic, it may because of the architecture, the forever looming castle that looks over the city, the street layout, or just the heat, but it is not your stereotypical european city. Personally, I love this because by being in Alicante I don't feel as if I'm just another American studying abroad in Europe. Instead, I am located in a city that is completely different from the rest of Europe, so that just makes Alicante more special to me. Also, the city is incredibly gorgeous and in a perfect location. There are many fountains and statues scattered throughout the various neighborhoods and you are directly on the beach. Take advantage of the beach and all it's activities when you first arrive (if you are studying in the fall) because when it gets closer to winter things start to slow down in this area.

As for the weather be aware that it gets extremely hot here! Before studying abroad in Alicante, Spain I had been fortunate enough to travel to a lot of other places in the world including Kenya, Tanzania, Cuba, Peru, and other various countries. I can honestly say that I have never been to a hotter place before.... the first couple weeks here I had a lot of trouble sleeping because of the heat. I guess you could say that the heat makes the beach that much better, but for me the heat really got to me at first. Definitely drink a lot of water when you arrive and continue to do so, it will make your experience here much more enjoyable if you do.

Overall, to sum up my first impressions of the Liberal arts program here in Alicante I believe I really lucked out with picking Alicante. To be honest, I initially was attracted to Alicante just because of the beach, but in reality this city has so much to offer. It is small enough that you won't have trouble meeting and keeping spanish friends (because you will see them often either in el barrio or at the beach) but also large enough that you won't ever get bored or feel as if you have seen and experienced everything in Alicante. So ultimately, my first impressions of Alicante and the CIEE liberal arts program are great!