Travels in Tarragona and Granada Spain

Traveling!!! It’s one of the most essential and exciting parts of studying abroad. Each trip presents loads of opportunities for seeing more of your host country and the world. During these first six weeks of my study abroad journey in Spain, I’ve done lots of traveling. Here are a couple of the cities I’ve visited in Spain:

Showing a view of the city of Tarragona. Taken from the top of a Roman circus. There are ruins in the foreground and modern buildings in the background.
A view of Tarragona from atop a Roman Circus, which dates back to the 1st century.

-Tarragona, a city of just over 100,000 people in the Cataluña region of Spain. An hour away from Barcelona, Tarragona is by no means a well-known city. Most people that I’ve talked with here in Alicante say they’ve never been to Tarragona but they have visited Barcelona multiple times.

However, there’s a lot to do and see in Tarragona. First of all, there are various Roman ruin sites that are spectacular (Tarragona gets its name from “Tarraco,” the ancient Roman city). With my flatmate from Japan, I went to a Roman circus, an amphitheater and an aqueduct. 

This photo showcases an illuminated tunnel in the Roman circus of Tarragona. The light emanates from the bottom of the tunnel walls.
An illuminated tunnel in Tarragona’s Roman circus.

Each ruin site possessed its own intrigue and unique features. The circus, built in the first century, featured illuminated tunnels that were breath-taking. Although the amphitheater didn’t have any tunnels for us to explore, it was just minutes away from the beach, which gave us a really nice panoramic view.

A view of the Roman amphitheater of Tarragona. A handful of tourists walk on the amphitheater. Gray clouds cover the sky. The ocean is in the background.
Even though it was a cloudy, Oregon-like day, we enjoyed the beautiful oceanfront views of Tarragona’s Roman amphitheater.

And then the aqueduct. By far my favorite of the ruin sites in Tarragona, the aqueduct is located just outside the city. We took a bus and then had to hike some nature trails to see the aqueduct, pero valió la pena (but it was worth the pain). Despite being built in the first century and no longer serving any aquatic purposes (the river is dried up), the aqueduct of Tarragona remains a very sturdy and symmetrical piece of Roman architecture.

The author is pictured beneath the arches of Tarragona's Roman aqueduct. The sky is blue and there are trees in the background.
Likely built during the reign of Caesar Augustus, the Roman aqueduct of Tarragona is a sight. Its symmetricality and enormity are mind-bending (I felt tiny).

Oh, and did I mention that we walked across the aqueduct? And that, yes, it was perfectly legal? Walking across a two-thousand year old aqueduct/bridge/whatever-you-wanna-call-it is one of the coolest things I’ve done abroad and in my life. 

The rails on top of the aqueduct are clay-colored. Down the middle is a narrow pathway. In the background is a forest of trees.
Walking atop the Tarragona aqueduct. Despite having been built nearly two thousand years ago, it remains structurally sound for tourists to walk on.

In Tarragona, my flatmate and I also visited a Gothic cathedral and the central market. Both were enormous and offered us glimpses into Catalonian culture and history. The cathedral featured impressive works of art from the Gothic and Renaissance eras. One of the most impressive features of the cathedral was a gigantic organ that stretched all the way to the ceiling. The outdoor garden was also delightful, with fountains full of turtles and koi fish to entertain us during a mask break.

The organ of the Tarragona is brown and accompanied by two paintings on the sides.
The organ of Tarragona’s cathedral is enormous! Some very wealthy folks must have paid for it…

Later that day, we visited the central market of Tarragona. In Spain, nearly every city has a central market with local food and vendors. The markets also tend to be of significant historical value, so they can be really good places to learn about the city. In the central market of Tarragona, there were lots of meat products and fresh produce, but I ended up buying a bag of candies. Apparently the candies weren’t from the region but they were delicious anyways.

The Central market of Tarragona, as viewed from outside. The windows are tinted black and the walls are brown. Has an arched design.
I bought some delicious candy at the central market of Tarragona.

-Granada, a city in the south of Spain that possesses a unique blend of Moorish and Andalusian features.  Last weekend, I visited Granada as part of my study abroad program’s itinerary. So, with 18 other Americans and our program director, I squeezed into a travel bus at 8am for a four hour ride–just the beginning of a non-stop trip that was fascinating but energy depleting.

A street in the Arabic shopping district of Granada. Traditional dresses and rugs are in the foreground. People are walking on the cobblestone street with tall buildings looming over them.
A street in Granada famous for its Arabic stores.

Fatigued and looking for rest, we arrived at our hotel. However, most of our rooms weren’t ready! So we had to scramble to store our belongings in the rooms that were open before heading to the Royal Chapel of Granada. 

The Royal Chapel of Granada from the outside. Blue skies and white clouds create a dreamy effect over the Chapel.
The Royal Chapel from the outside. No photos are allowed inside, but you can see the tombs of Spain’s most famous monarchs, Isabella and Ferdinand.

Things went more smoothly on our tour of the chapel. We were able to see lots of artwork (including original works of Botticelli) and even the tombs where King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella were buried hundreds of years ago. And outside the chapel, a woman was singing what appeared to be an Arabic hymn. The experience was surreal.

After visiting the chapel, we had a little down time, so I wandered around the Arabic shopping district. In the stores, I saw lots of lamps, earrings, necklaces and other shiny items from different parts of the Arabic world. I also stopped for some tea and a dessert at an Arabic tea shop. ¡Qué rico!

That night, most of the group went to see a flamenco show. I bought my ticket late, so I had to go solo to another show. While I was a bit bummed to not have any company, I soon discovered the joys of solo traveling. On my way to the flamenco show, I heard some music coming from the main plaza. And to my delight, lots of people were dancing there! So, I joined them for a bit before resuming my journey to the flamenco show. Considering all the spectacular things I experienced in Granada, my favorite was dancing with the community that night in the plaza. 

People sitting at tables enjoying a flamenco show. The light centers on the stage, where a man in dancing with a gold colored vest and guitarists are playing.
If you ever find yourself in Andalusia, go see a flamenco show!

And then the flamenco show! The one I attended was in a restaurant and man, was it intense! There was loud singing, powerful string strumming, fiery dancing and toe tapping, and by the end, one of the dancers was spraying the audience with his sweat. Thank goodness I wasn’t near the stage!

The author wearing a beige shirt and pants in front of the illuminated Alhambra during nighttime.
The Lookout Point of Saint Nicholas. La Alhambra and the city of Granada were beautiful from above.

After the show, I met up with one of my classmates at the Lookout Point of Saint Nicholas. From there, we were able to see La Alhambra illuminated and city lights. It was so beautiful, but by the time we got back to the hotel it was already Sunday and we were completely exhausted.

We woke up at 8am to eat breakfast and clear out our rooms. Then the highlight of our trip: La Alhambra. 

The author wearing a maroon jacket in front of an arched lookout point at La Alhambra. In the background is vegetation and a palace.
The views from La Alhambra are breathtaking.

Words cannot describe how perfectly beautiful La Alhambra is, but I’ll do my best: flowers, green shrubs, water fountains, views of Granada, Moorish palaces that were built hundreds of years ago. Our guide said that the water was an important symbol of life for the Moorish royals–a point made by the presence of water all around us. Gorgeous. And the garden,  the butterflies, the architectural designs, the views…Argh!!! Sometimes words are just insufficient so I’ll leave you with photos and sign off with that.

Red, yellow, and pink flowers at La Alhambra. Tall green shrubs in the background.
Although most of the gardens were installed in the 20th century, they are spectacular.
A square ceiling from the underside. Little yellow dots provide beautiful contrast with the brown of the ceiling.
The Sultan’s roof features impressive symmetry and lighting techniques.
A building's reflection in the blue waters of a rectangular fountain.
Water, a symbol of life for the Moors, is everywhere at La Alhambra.
A clay-colored and speckled pattern on an arched wall of La Alhambra
3 hours of La Alhambra was not enough. If you visit, don’t blink because you will miss lots of details!

Hasta luego,

David Magnello

 

A third of the way there!

I have officially been in my modules (classes) for one month and have been living on campus for two! It has taken a bit to get acclimated to the differences between Linfield and UoN.

Currently, I am enrolled in 3 modules which equal about 15 credits at Linfield. I am taking Introduction to Comparative Politics, Politics at University, and Democracy and its Critics. Each of these modules is laid out differently than any of Linfield’s classes. Two of my modules are lecture-seminar models and my other module is online self-directed.

A brick building with fall coloured trees infront.
The Law and Social Science building is the main building my lectures and seminars are held. IT has two main lecture halls, each holding a couple hundred students. It is also home to the School of Law and the School of Politics & IR.

The lecture-seminar model has taken some time to get used to. Instead of having a class where the professor teaches but also student engagement (questions, activities, presentations, etc.) is involved, we have lectures where professors just teach and seminars with someone different where student engagement happens. We also have weekly optional lecture engagement sessions where we can ask the convenor (not always the professor doing the lectures) questions related to the module. The online self-directed module is very similar to an OCE course at Linfield. I have weekly slides I go through with a few activities attached to them.

A large modern wooden structure with large modern windows on a lake.
Djanogly Learning Resource Centre is one of the libraries on Jubilee campus. Inside there are tons of study spaces and computers. This building is unique in that it has a single floor that spirals upwards to the top. It is on a lake, so no matter what window your are seated at, you can look out and see geese and swans swimming on the water.

In all of my modules, homework is not common. My final marks (grades) are based on either two papers or a paper and exam. Because these papers and exams are worth a big portion of our marks, we are given the prompts and dates in our syllabus at the beginning of the modules. This allows us, students, to start ahead of time and ask questions during our seminars and lecture engagement sessions.

View of the lake on the side of the Djanogly Learning Resource Centre. In the distance, an island is accessible for students to sit on and study
This is the lake that the Djanogly Learning Resource Centre is surrounded by. Throughout the day you can see geese and swans swimming on top of the water as you walk on by/ In the distance, there is an island where students can go to study or eat their meals.

Campus life is similar to Linfield but there are some key differences. At UoN, there are two types of halls, catered and non-catered. I live in a catered hall which means I have a dining room to eat breakfast & dinner on the weekends and brunch & dinner on the weekends. For lunch, I am given £25 pounds a week to use at any of the cafes, bars, and restaurants on University Park or Jubilee campuses. In all; the halls, we have a common/game room with a TV, a study room with a printer, and a TV room. My hall is a bit different than others because we have one of the four bars on campus. In the halls at Linfield, you are encouraged to decorate your door, leave it open, and socialise with your neighbours in the hall, but at UoN it is a bit different. We are not allowed to decorate our doors or necessarily leave them open. It is common for people to go to the pantries (sink kettle, microwave, and toaster) on their floor to socialise.

Modern building with stone stairs leading down to the entrance.
The Portland building is the home to the Student Union, Portland Printing, Portland Clothing, and a few restaurants. Students will get lunch and study inside or outside.

Outside of the halls, our Student Union and ResX team, similar to ResLife, puts on various events throughout the campus. So far they have done massages in halls, food catering, scavenger hunts, poster sales, pop-up thrift shops, movie nights, game nights, and other campus-wide socials. Most of these events are attended by freshers (first-year students) and not so much by the second and third years. Just like Linfield, food is a hot commodity at these events, especially Domino’s pizza. It is also pretty normal to see evening events with a bar because the majority of students are 18 years old, the legal drinking age in England. Across campus in the halls, they put on formal dinners each term where students dress up. They have the dining staff do a proper multi-course meal served with wine and other drinks. It is a fun time to get with your hall friends and enjoy a fancy meal together.

I only have a few months left here and so much more to explore and experience!

Signing off – Tanner

Learning About Learning

One of the biggest things I have been repeatedly surprised by during my time in Norway is not about any cultural norm or something I had to adjust to, but rather the content of my class, Fairytales and Creativity. It is a class in the education department, and since I am studying history and international relations, I found I am greatly under-prepared for the depth of some of the things we discuss. I do not know what I thought the class would be, maybe focusing more on history and culture.  But every week, I am surprised by how fairy tales and stories can benefit children and how they can be incorporated into a curriculum.

My favorite example is something called the Brotherhood activity. My class used Snow White as an example. The basic premise is that children complete the phrase “Snow White is like all those who….” with descriptors they think apply to the character. This could be as simple as inserting “ are lonely” or “deserve second chances”, but it can also be phrases like “have had to leave their home” or “have experienced the loss of a loved one”. By doing this, children are diving deeper into the story, and often pulling out subtle threads that are not necessarily the central plot or moral lesson. As well, when kids answer with phrases about grief, loss, abuse, or other difficult topics, the activity can often allow them to talk about their own experiences and emotions safely, because they are not talking about themselves. By talking about how Snow White lost her father or was forced to flee her home, children can openly discuss and process heavy topics that might otherwise be hard to face. Learning this activity absolutely blew my mind, but it made perfect sense how using a story to create a space where children can safely talk about complicated topics is useful for teachers to know.

This kind of eye-opening lesson genuinely happens to me every week, and even though I have no plans to become a teacher, I still feel empowered and better off for having learned these things.

Several students in a classroom reading a document on their phones
My classmates and I discussing how a fairytale we have pulled up on our phones can be used in a classroom.
A laptop, coffee cup, and water bottle on a classroom desk
My typical set up in class, taking notes and working on an essay for class.

Cady

Bergen in Fall

A lot of people might think the most ideal time to visit Bergen, Norway might be spring or summer, when hiking up to a view of the fjords isn’t accompanied by torrents of rain and the harbor is clear skies only. This would definitely make for better pictures, the kind you see on postcards, but I think Bergen in October is a truer Bergen. The second largest city in Norway, it is also one of the rainiest places in the world, which is the Bergen I experienced on my week off from classes when I took a small trip there.

Picture of Bryggen, a row of colorful houses along the Bergen waterfront
Bryggen, the colorful houses Bergen is known for

During the rare moments when the rain lightens up, or even pauses entirely, Bergen city center is a wonderfully cobble-stoned area to wander, full of the classic colorful houses Bergen is known for, including the historical site Bryggen. Additionally, a history fan like myself can even wander further up the harbor to see the Bergenhus Fortress, a historical fortress with roots in the 13th century.

Bergenhus Fortress, a stone fortress, against a cloudy grey sky
Bergenhus Fortress on a rainy day

What this grand amount of rain means is that there is no shortage of indoor ways to experience Bergen. The most obvious of them being the KODE museums— four art museums surrounding a large lake and quaint gazebo (also beautiful tourist attractions) that showcase some of the best Norwegian art has to offer. Two were open during my visit— the first an exhibit of Paul Cézanne hosted in a Renaissance Revival mansion and the second a whole gallery of famous Norwegian artists, most notably Edward Munch.

a green landscape painting by Paul Cézanne
Farm in Normandy by Paul Cézanne

My favorite way to pass the hours indoors, however, was the University of Bergen’s Cultural History Museum. To put it lightly, it is easy to get lost in there for hours. The collection is endless, from Viking-era jewelry to a glass replica of a Norwegian stave church to a modern-day collection about plastics in the ocean and Norwegian plastic consumption. Every floor and every room offers something new.

Cady West

Ah, the Little Differences Abroad!!!

In my last blog post, I talked about gratitude. And just to be clear, I’m still grateful to be able to study abroad in a country as beautiful and historically rich as Spain.

But with spending more time in a foreign country, you take notice of the little differences. While many of those little differences are exciting, oftentimes they can be confusing and stressful.

By talking about these little differences, I’m not trying to scare you out of studying abroad. Rather, my intent with this blog is to portray my experiences in the most authentic way possible. Part of that includes talking about the challenges that I face.

So in this blog post, I will be describing some of the little differences I’ve encountered here as a study abroad student, as well as some of the strategies I’ve used to navigate these sometimes challenging situations. I should also note that some of the little differences are enjoyable for me and that even if they aren’t, at least the experience will help me build up character and understand more about our planet.

The author, pictured in a beige stiped polo, doing a silly pose beneath a mushroom statue, which has a ladybug statue on top.
Alicante’s weird mushroom street. Talk about little differences!

Here are some of the little differences I’ve encountered thus far:

1. Spanish Hours: As with many other little differences that I list here, this one maybe isn’t so “little.” Let me explain: Many Spaniards wake up early, go to work, and then around noon take an hours-long break (la siesta). Then they finish work at night, eat dinner, watch TV or socialize, and go to bed late.

How has this impacted me? There have been times where I’ve gone to a store around siesta time only to find out that it’s closed until later. This happened my first week here, so I wasn’t able to buy a SIM card until day four…Which means that I didn’t have any internet on my phone (which is really hard when you’re trying to navigate a new city and can’t use Google Maps!!!).

Thankfully, my host family and classmates helped me navigate the city the first few days. And now I know to go to stores in the morning or late afternoon. Not around siesta time.

The author, pictured in a pink shirt and smiling, eating a vegetarian paella dish, which includes rice, mushrooms, green veggies, and red fruit.
Eating vegetarian paella on a night out in Tarragona with my Japanese flat mate. Most paella has meat, so it was a real treat for me to try the famed Spanish dish. It was rich with mushrooms, rice, veggies, herbs, and fruit.

2. Food: As I just mentioned, Spaniards eat dinner really late (9 or 10 pm). Also, they usually only eat three times a day, which means that you better eat a lot for each meal and hope that you don’t get cravings between meals.

 

In general, I enjoy the food here. My host family prepares most of my meals, but I also go out with friends to eat. My host family eats dinner at 9pm, so that was definitely an adjustment for me. I had to let my body adjust to the meal gap between lunch and dinner, which took some time. Even now, sometimes a craving will hit and I’ll buy my own snack.

 

 

3. Mechanical stuff: In Spain, things work differently than in the US. Some of the mechanical differences I’ve encountered include vending machines, electrical plugs (bring a plug adapter to Europe), keyboards, and so many more! Maybe it’s partly because I’m a mechanical klutz but things are definitely built differently here. Many other international students have described in agony to me their struggles with apartment keys. I encountered this problem the first time I tried entering my apartment and had to ring the doorbell because I couldn’t figure out how to open it. My host mom showed me again how to use the key and I haven’t had any problems since.

A European electrical outlet with two holes. Pictured on a white wall.
Wall outlet. Bring a couple plug adapters and charge adapters to Europe. You won’t be able to charge your precious devices without them!

Ah, but the keyboards! I’m still trying to adjust to the Spanish keyboard, which has a bunch of symbols that I don’t know how to use. I’m used to typing in Spanish on my own computer but I struggle when I have to use a desktop keyboard for my internship. Slowly but surely I’m getting better at using the Spanish keyboard. I only started my internship last week, so the keyboard is still a struggle.

I’m not even going to talk about the vending machines (I know how to use them now). Next little difference!

4. Cultural misunderstandings: Again, maybe not such a little difference but it happens often so I’m putting it on this list. Some of the cultural misunderstandings can be attributed to language. Spaniards talk really quickly, so sometimes it’s hard for me to understand them. Since I’m more used to Latino colloquialisms, some of the Spanish vocab (“alubias” instead of “frijoles” for “beans,” and “aseo” instead of “baño” for “bathroom”) were confusing at first. Visual cues and speaking Spanish constantly are some strategies I’ve used to adapt.

A hilarious language misunderstanding happened on my third day in Spain. I was eating lunch with my extended host family when someone asked me if I wanted some “keh-choop.” I looked at everyone with profound puzzlement as they repeated the word over and over again, trying to clue me in on the word. Then they showed me the bottle of ketchup. Keh-chup! Keh-choop! Same thing, just different pronunciations. How embarrassing!

Another point of cultural misunderstanding: In Spain, people can be quite intense and persistent. You might say no to something and they will continue to press you for approval. A couple of weekends ago, my host sister asked me if I wanted more dessert. I said no, but she kept pressing me. Not wanting more food is seen as a sign that you don’t like the food, so I had to tell her that I enjoyed the dessert but that I was full.

Being firm and direct with your communication is key in Spain, especially when you want or don’t want something. Many times, I’ve confused store clerks with indirect communication, making the transaction more tedious for both of us. So…the direct communication part is something I’m still working on.

5. History: Spain is rich with history! There are so many castles, monuments, and cathedrals to explore. I recently got back from vacation in Tarragona (a city near Barcelona) where I got to visit several Roman ruins. Next weekend, I’ll be going to Granada on a trip sponsored by our Alicante University program. And in Alicante, I’ve visited the Castle of Santa Barbara and two bomb shelters from the Spanish Civil War.

Showing the Castle of Santa Barbara from below. The castle sits atop a hill, with wispy white clouds and blue skies above. The foreground is green with vegetation.
The Castle of Santa Barbara in Alicante, pictured from below. We had a group trip to the castle on the first week of our program. There’s so much history everywhere in Spain!

The details from my trips will be the subject of my next blog post.

Hasta entonces (until then),

David Magnello

La Ciotat, France

La Ciotat 

La Ciotat, the birthplace of moving picture cinema… and Bocci Ball. On my second week here we took a group excursion with the entire school to the wonderful coastal not-so-sleepy retirement village of La Ciotat. Upon first sight, we thought La Ciotat appeared like a small beautiful city by the sea, but seemingly un-busy. With more young people opting to live in the big cities, France’s rural populations like La Ciotat are aging. However, when we arrived that morning at ten we found the city to be a veritable hub of activity. There were people swimming across the bay right past several large group water aerobic classes. On the boardwalk, there were all ages of electric scooters, bikes, and joggers making their way home from the market with groceries hung on each handlebar. And yes, there was an entire park filled with organized Bocci ballplayers. 

As we traversed the town, our guides pointed out several important places like the Eden Theater, where the Lumiere brothers showed the first-ever moving picture of a train entering the La Ciotat station. Having shown the first film ever to an audience means we saw the first and oldest movie theater in the world. Next, we saw the routine morning market and stopped by to get some lunch materials such as baguettes, cheeses, and fresh produce. 

The beach we swam at in La Ciotat. Calanque and Parc du Mugel (France)
The beach we swam at in La Ciotat. Calanque and Parc du Mugel (France)

After the market, we went up the coast a short way by bus and hiked out to this rocky beachfront. Although lacking in sandy beaches to lay on, it made up for it with several tall rock out-croppings to dive off. As someone from the rainy, freezing north-west coast jumping into relatively warm-salty crystal clear waters of the Mediterranean was almost as shocking as jumping into the 50 F (10 C) waters back in Oregon. The sea was so calm that we could see down to all the reflective gray fish swimming just meters below us. We spent our time cheering each other on as we dove from cliffs and exploring the inlet. 

 I am embarrassed to say that our very apparent American enthusiasm must have unfortunately overpowered the other more reserved French beach-goers where we swam that day. This is the case with almost anywhere we go as a large group, especially because many of the students don’t speak much French. The stark contrast of American English being spoken enthusiastically between one another is quite harsh on the ears when compared to the subtle tones of most French conversationalists.

It is not just the language though, during orientation we were told that the French are often less reserved in certain public settings where other countries’ social conventions would have them be more outgoing. Although, it is important to remember this distinction is only a generalized observation and not the rule. It is all part of the cultural exchange experience, where we gain perspective of our place in the world while understanding someone else’s. 

G

View of city La Ciotat from le Sémaphore du Bec de l'Aigle lookout point (France)
View of city La Ciotat from le Sémaphore du Bec de l’Aigle lookout point (France)                                                                                                                                                                                      On our way, our bus driver took us on a scenic route out of town up a winding road that led to a beautiful lookout where we could see several towns, beautiful mountains, and the horizon of the Mediterranean. 

Grace

 

 

 

“Locally Sourced” in the US Has Nothing on Austria

This week we’re going to do a very minor deep dive on a very special tradition over here in Austria that my colleagues and I had the special privilege of both witnessing and simply touring; a farm (Bauernhof). But farming is not so similar to the way we do it back home, where on average one of our typical farms encompasses roughly 444 acres, Austrian farms average maybe 55. The size and function of the farming caters to the luscious mountain sides we romanticize, the Bergbauernhof. This style of farming is placed on steep slopes that run into the mountains. But more fascinating is that of the Alm.

The alm is an area further up in the mountains that is mostly for hosting the livestock between May and September. As fall begins to set in; the families and others helping on the Bergbauernhof herd the animals back to the farm at the base. This is an incredible sight to see. Folks wearing traditional Trachten running alongside a herd of sheep or, if you’re lucky, cows. When they get all animals home, they hold festivities to celebrate both the survival of the animals and a good year. The ‘lucky’ reason I mentioned above, in light of the cows, is that they in particular wear a celebratory collar with a large bell at the end. This is where the Sound of Music actually (kind of) got Austria right: the hills are in fact alive with music. 

Cow with Traditional Collar and Bell
One of the cows that had just returned from the alm post-Almabtrieb (literally means: Alm down herd)
Farmers Herding Sheep Down from the Alm and back to the farm
A herd of sheep on their Almabtrieb that actually blocked off the road we were trying to drive up.

Festivities aside, another differing factor here is that of the care which goes into the production of everything that comes out of these farms. Austria’s regulations on food are actually quite strict but ensure the greatest quality. They produce meats, cheeses, eggs, schnapps, you name it; and with the official “AMA” stamp on the produce, you can literally trace an egg back to the coup it came from! The Bergbauernhof is also a strong attraction for tourism. Keep that in mind if you ever find yourself out here. After eating some of this food, you WILL NOT regret it.

Nicole and Chris with a hen on a Bauernhof
One of the many hens at Schmaranz posing for a quick photo shoot.
Eggs
Eggs with the codes one can use to trace where they came from.
Hermann with some eggs
AAIE Director, Hermann Weissgärber holding up a carton of eggs from Schmaranz, a Bauernhof we visited in the Gastein Valley.

Nights to Remeber

I officially moved into my term accommodation (housing) on September 15th, and every night since then has been filled with memories.

I have made new friends from all around the UK and some even around the world! Before Freshers and Induction Week started, a group of us from my hall decided to explore the Nottingham City Centre together. We had a blast hanging out and getting to know each other, even though we did get lost a few times because none of us are good with directions. After we explored the city centre, we noticed there was a mini golf course a tram stop right before ours. We decided to get off early and check it out. Turns out, we all suck at it but had fun doing it. Since then I have spent every night hanging out with people.

The Alchemist, a restaurant and cocktail bar. Gothic architecture with exposed brick.
The Alchemist, a restaurant and cocktail bar. The Alchemist brings the mythical and mysterious aspects of Nottingham to life through its creative cocktails and its darkly delicious dining.

These nights have been filled with exciting adventures exploring the city we are surrounded by. The first night of Freshers, they did a themed club night at Rock City, a popular club in the city centre. The theme that night was beach, and luckily as an Oregonian, I am always prepared for a beached themed event. I went with a couple of friends and we had a blast listening and dancing to music and just hanging out. 

After a fun time dancing, my friends and I caught a bus home. (Left to right: David, Jasmine, Tanner, Rory)
After a fun time dancing, my friends and I caught a bus home. (Left to right: David, Jasmine, Tanner, Rory)

Throughout that week there were various welcome fairs happening, and we went to each and every one of them. Following those fairs, there were events like movie nights and bingo hosted by the ResX team and the Student Union. These events lasted for two weeks, but the fun didn’t stop there.

Video of the Trent Building courtyard. The Trent Building is an academic building primarily used for the arts and social sciences.

Just last weekend a group of us who went mini golfing before and some other friends, went to an 18+ indoor mini golf course! We had a blast sipping on cocktails and beating each other on different holes. My personal favorite was the Mechanic themed hole where you had to get your golf ball through three consecutive loop-a-loops. By the end of the night, we were all laughing as we tried to fit all of us onto a throne made of golf clubs.

A night of mini golfing comes to end with 4 friends piling up on a golden throne made of golf clubs. (Left to right: Rory, Charlie, Tanner, Yoshi)

I can’t say I haven’t had a fun and exciting experience so far, and definitely can’t say it will stop. A couple of us are going to a drag show during reading week, a group of us are planning a road trip to Brighton, and finally we are planning on weekly movie nights watching classic titles (Like the Pitch Perfect trilogy). 

– Tanner Coulter

Grateful in Alicante, Spain

Gratitude.

On a windy afternoon, as I stroll along on the sand of Alicante’s Playa de San Juan, I can’t help but reflect on this past year and a half.  Lockdown-inducing pandemic? Check. Study abroad cancelled not once, but twice? Check. Natural disasters? Check. Political and social turmoil? As long as humans are around, absolutely.

Yet, in this moment I feel grateful. Many other feelings–contentment, sadness, joy, and anger–from this past year arise but gratitude is the one that sits at the forefront of my thoughts.

Showing the author at the beach with some other American students. They are standing on the sand with the sea and some people behind them.
At the Postiguet beach in Alicante with some other American students. This beach was a bit crowded but if you take the tram for 15 minutes you can get to the San Juan beach, which is much more quiet and picturesque.

Until I landed at the Madrid airport, I doubted whether I’d be able to study abroad this semester. During our five hour layover in Madrid, my Linfield peers and I breathed a sigh of relief not only because we knew for sure that we were going to study abroad but also because we got off that darn 11 hour flight.

Ahh, but gratitude! Gratitude, gratitude, gratitude. I must return to you, Gratitude! Otherwise, the people reading might get bored.

So let me tell you about what I’m grateful for here in Alicante. First of all, a wonderful host family. My host mother and her adult son, both of whom immigrated to Spain from Argentina about twenty years ago, are very kind and helpful. On Sundays, my host mother’s daughter, son-in-law, grandson, and their fluffy dog come visit. Last Sunday, we celebrated the quinceañera of one of their relatives in Argentina by filming a video in which we had music, balloons, and a special appearance by the grandson dressed as Harry Potter. It was so much fun!

Another thing I´m grateful for: delicious food. As a vegetarian, I was a bit worried about my options but my host family has been very accommodating. Honest communication is key! Telling your host family what foods you like and don´t like is essential, but it´s also important to try new foods. Here I´ve fallen in love with tortillas de patata, which more closely resemble potato sponge cake than the tortillas we eat in the Americas. My host brother says that tortillas de patata are a hot topic of debate among Spaniards, as about half of them prefer their tortillas with onion while the other half go “sin cebolla.” Personally, I like both so hopefully I can broker some peace while I´m here and add that to my resume.

There´s also a lot to do and explore here. Last week, we climbed the castle of Santa Barbara, which sits on a hill overlooking the city of Alicante. Built by Muslims in the 9th century, the castle of Santa Barbara has undergone a series of damages and renovations. On some of the walls, you can even see cannonballs wedged into the stone! Sadly, some of the modern aspects of the castle include satellite antennas, which provide signal to Alicante´s residents from atop the castle. Nonetheless, the view from the castle is spectacular and worth a photoshoot if you find yourself in Alicante.

View from atop the castle of Santa Barbara in Alicante, Spain at sunset. Captures  the sun setting amid clouds.
View from atop the castle of Santa Barbara in Alicante, Spain.

All of these events bring me back to gratitude. I´m so grateful to be able to study abroad this semester (and to be able to swim in ocean waters that won´t give me hypothermia!).

Hasta la próxima (until next time),

David Magnello