UW Exchange Program

Spice of Spanish Life!

Thursday, October 21st, 2010
Mexican Dinner Night with Jen and our International Friends

Mexican Dinner Night with Jen and our International Friends

Hey guys! My name is Alexa Parker and I am a junior studying Business and Spanish at the University of Washington. I am currently in Pamplona, Spain for fall semester studying at the Universidad of Navarra along with Jen Yeh, another student at the Foster School. Having this opportunity to explore Spain and Europe has been amazing and I am sad that my time here is halfway over.

The University of Navarra has an extensive international program that makes meeting people and getting integrated into the University so easy. At first this University seems unorganized with figuring out class schedules and registration but I promise that everything does work out, it just happens a little slower than in the United States. I am living with a Spanish girl and I seriously recommend rooming with native Spanish speakers if you have the chance. With meeting all of the international students, it is very easy to speak English most of the time, but my roommate forces me to practice my Spanish.

Pamplona is in the northeast of Spain right on the French border, which means it is relatively close to the rest of Western Europe. The town itself is pretty and quaint but small, at least compared to Seattle. If you are interested in traveling I would advise you to take some weekend trips, which are easy and not terribly expensive if you can go through the budget airlines. So far I have made it to San Sebastian and Valencia in Spain, as well as London and Bordeaux and have booked trips to Barcelona, Geneva, Berlin, Lisbon and Rome. It’s so crazy to think that two months ago I was sitting in Seattle never having been out of the United States in my life. Hasta luego!


Tuesday, April 28th, 2009

jenniferaus.jpgG’day! My name is Jennifer Ta, and I’m a senior at UW studying Marketing and Psychology. I am currently studying abroad at Macquarie University in the wonderful– Sydney, Australia!

All I can say about my study abroad experience so far, is that—it has been amazing! I really wish that I started earlier. The people here are extremely friendly and the university caters really well to study abroad and exchange students. Getting to Australia took a while, but the university arranged for a driver to come pick me up at the airport and whisk me away to my dorm.

img_1994.JPGMacquarie University has a buddy program that pairs study abroad students with a local student that has studied or wants to study abroad in your country (for me, it was the U.S.). Through the buddy program, I met a girl from Arizona with the same buddy and we ended up being on the same flight. I had a couple days to spare before orientation and we both did a pre-orientation trip together up to the Blue Mountains. It was a really great way of meeting people from my school and from places all over the world.

Living in the dorms is a great way of meeting people, I’ve been there for about a month now and I’m still getting to know people! The dorms (residential colleges) aren’t anything fabulous, but they provide 3-squared meals a day—which is great for me because I can’t cook. There’s always something to do which is the greatest part.

Studying has become one of the hardest things to do, but people here take their studying really seriously. The library’s always packed. In any case, I should probably get back to doing that myself. In the meantime, enjoy some of the pictures I’ve taken.

A deeper look at Madrid

Saturday, March 28th, 2009

ben2.jpgMadrid is one of the most happening cities on Earth when it comes to nightlife. It has more bars per capita than any European city, with plenty of clubs, late-night munchies spots, and a vibe that satisfies all ages. Take for example the seven story Kapital club, which plays a different genre on each floor, accompanying a gigantic rocket engine that intermittently blasts sweaty dancers with mist on the main dance floor. Madrid’s Joy Eslava, and many others, make it easy for students to get in free. All in all, Madrid clubs are unlike any clubs I’ve experienced in Seattle or San Francisco, and prices are reasonable if you do not plan on buying a drink. Also noteworthy to mention was the very efficient, economical Madrid Metro, which I used all the time.

ben1.jpgThe food opportunities in Madrid are mouth watering. Madrid, although land-locked, has the second highest consumption of seafood in the world, after Japan. It is famous for its Bacalao (cod) tapas, croquettes, and so much more. The La Rioja region in Spain offers exceptional, economical wine and Extremadura to the southwest provides jamoñ ibérico, the finest ham in the world. A typical late night or early morning treat is chocolate con churros (chocolate with churros), which surprisingly hasn’t caught on in the U.S. The truth is that one has to spend a little extra to be able to seek out and experience the truly inventive cuisine Spain has to offer. Within close proximity to San Sabastian and Barcelona, arguably the two most progressive culinary epicenters, Madrid holds its own and delights foodies if they are willing to pay. I only make this point because many of my friends felt that the Madrileño cuisine was not good (fried, nothing too interesting, not lots of options). This is completely false as I witnessed in disbelief many of my friends consistently opting for the cheap food that was boring and unoriginal.

Just as food is critical in getting to know about another culture, so is the opportunity to live with a native speaker. In my case, I lived with a single Argentinean man in his early thirties. This was unlike the housing situations of my friends, who lived with Spaniards. The difference was that Madrileños are concerned with confianza, or trust, and if they wanted to have a friend stay the night, they would have to get permission beforehand. In my case, my Argentinean host was indifferent to who I had over to the house. I found it interesting that most all of the socializing between Spaniards occurs outside on the street, in the cafes, in bars, and the home was mainly used for family and get-togethers with close friends. I lived in a spacious studio apartment, and most all of my fellow CIEE program mates were satisfied with their living situations.

Sevilla and the Seattleite

Monday, November 10th, 2008

4.JPGIt’s mid-November in Sevilla and I’m still wearing short sleeved t-shirts and catching rays. What a strange feeling for a Seattleite!

I’ve been in Sevilla since the beginning of September and my time here is coming to an end very shortly in December. When I first got here, it felt just like Christmas everyday – discovering new things, eating interesting foods not known to Americans, walking down streets that crisscross in downtown ending up walking in circles and getting lost… All the fun we had! The best part I think was meeting the group of people that I would be spending time with for the next four months and exploring together. There was an aura of hope and excitement in the air!

1.jpgNow that we’re past the mid-point of the study abroad experience, I can reflect and say that those same sentiments that I had when I first stepped off the plane and asked for directions in Spanish still are with me – it’s so incredible to be in a foreign country and actually get by with the language and different customs! The everyday challenges are something that I really like, although I do admit there are times when meanings are lost in translation and you feel ridiculous when trying to describe exactly what it is that you want to say. The customs are different, too. I eat dinner with my family here around 10 pm at night, and I think that’s the hardest to get used to. The eating habits here are very different from ours at home, so for the first few days I was a little frustrated by the long hours in between meals, but then I learned how to manage that.

The classes I take are all in Spanish and while the concepts may not be too difficult, the language barrier is there – although the amount of Spanish that I’ve learned is tremendous – especially the conversational stuff! The program offers “intercambios” for each student, so I have one Spanish friend that I hang out with and talk to who wants to learn English, so we talk in English for a bit and then move to Spanish. It’s definitely way easier to hold a conversation now, and it’s become so much easier to just meet Spaniards and make friends!

The traveling has also been great – I’ve visited places that I never thought I would go and (more…)

My last post

Monday, May 26th, 2008

This was my last week in Granada. I will be flying home shortly and have just finished my finals; it is such a bittersweet feeling. On one hand I am very excited to get home and see all my friends and family but I will really miss the friends and life I have come to know.

This weekend I took a road trip to the north of Spain with friends from Granada. We rented a car on Thursday and returned to Granada on Sunday afternoon. It was quite an adventure because only one of my friends was confident driving a stick shift. Once she was tired we weren’t really sure who was going to drive. I had driven one a few times before so I was the lucky one. Unfortunately and inevitably I stalled at the first few tollbooths (pretty embarrassing) and they had to reopen the gates but I quickly learned, and we were on our way.

San Sebastian is such a beautiful city. The architecture and layout of the streets reminds me a lot of Paris. The feel of it is quite different though because it is right on the water with a clean and soft-sanded beach. Lush mountains also surrounded the city. The food there was so delicious, we had pinchos for just about every meal. Pinchos are slices of bread with your choice of topping that can include meat, fish (my favorite), cheese and/or vegetables.

The next day we drove to Bilbao for our last stop. We stayed in the old, most beautiful part of town. The buildings were much like those of San Sebastian. We visited a beautiful three-storied market. It seemed like the fresh produce; meat and seafood went on forever. I have seen more beautiful markets but nothing on this scale. The Guggenheim museum was really interesting. It gave you more art history than other museums, which I really enjoyed. There was a lot to read and hear about so we spent a great deal of time there.

The next morning we took the long drive home; this time in daylight. I really enjoyed seeing the countryside. Being in a city for so long its great to get out into the countryside. The olive farms are really beautiful, we stopped to taste a raw olive…not a good idea, I don’t recommend it. We made it back to Granada safe and sound.

Done with finals and heading home in a couple of days, this will be my last blog. Thanks so much for reading. I have really enjoyed my experience and feel incredibly lucky to have had this opportunity.


Friday, May 2nd, 2008

This weekend I took a trip to the country of Morocco. We went with a group called StudyTravel and I highly recommend this because it was much cheaper and faster than traveling alone. We got to visit three cities in three days; it was a jam-packed weekend.

eliz2.JPGWe started our journey in Malaga where we met with the group. Once there we drove to Algeciras to take the ferry down to Cetua. Cetua is still run by Spain so we had no problems there but once we drove from Cetua to Tétouan the border was packed. We spent a good two hours trying to get across the border. The driving there is insane, it looks like there is going to be an accident any second. Finally, we crossed the border and made it to Tétouan where we took a bus tour of the city and went to our hotel. The cities instantly look different once you cross the border because Morocco is a Muslim country so all the signs are in Arabic. They also used to be run my France so the only other language on the signs is French. This would make it very difficult to get around without a guide. The nice thing about it being so close to Spain is that most people speak Spanish. Once at the hotel we had a traditional Moroccan dinner of meat, vegetables and couscous and went to bed exhausted after a full day of traveling.

The next morning we got up early and headed to the city of Tanger. This city is quite a bit smaller than Tétouan. First, we went into the small center of the city, which is a market. It is gated off so that only people on foot can get though. At some points only one person at a time could walk along the passageways. People of Tanger like to get their food fresh every day so the market is open 7 days a week and they have everything to make their traditional food: huge bags of spices, the freshest produce and very fresh chicken (in fact, they kill it there on site). After this we went and saw where the Atlantic and Mediterranean oceans meet. The view was spectacular but I only wish there hadn’t been such a down pour or we would have been able to enjoy it longer. We also got to take a camel ride a long the way. We headed back to the hotel again for some R&R because we had to get up pretty early the next morning.

eliz1.JPGOn our final day we headed to Chechaouén. It is a very small city way up in the mountains. Our tour of the city was breath taking. Their neighborhoods are all painted one shade of blue or another; there are also magnificent views of the countryside below from almost anywhere in the city. The center of town is the cathedral and a bunch of cafes where the locals all sit and drink tea. Its something you need to see for yourself but I really hope to return someday. I am so glad I took that trip it was a last minute thing for me but sometimes those turn out to be the best.

Primavera en España

Thursday, April 10th, 2008

It has been six weeks since my last post, and I have been very busy as always. I have done many things and gone on several adventures since my last update. Everything is going well and there is definitely never a dull moment here. School is going very well. I am still learning many things in class and outside of class. I wrote my last post just before going to Ronda with my friends Oli and Fabien. It is said that Ronda is one of the most beautiful cities in Spain and I would have to say, it certainly is. It is a lush green oasis in the middle of a very brown and yellow Andalusia. It is an ancient Arabic style town situated on top of an enormous cliff over a green farm valley. There is a beautiful old stone bridge connecting the new and old parts of the city over a very narrow but deep river gorge. It is also the birthplace of the modern bullfight. While we were there we took a tour of the famous Plaza de Toros (bullring) – it was very cool to see. We also tried to take a hike through the valley but as usual, we got lost. After avoiding several killer dogs, crossing a live railway and walking along a main highway we decided we had too much fun and headed back to town. But the weather was excellent and the scenery even more so. We spent most of our time just relaxing, which wasn’t difficult to do. All in all, a very successful trip.

After returning from that trip I just stayed in Granada for a few weeks anxiously awaiting the arrival of Emily (my girlfriend)! I managed to stay fairly busy with school, tapas, siestas, playing soccer, watching soccer, and hanging out with friends. One day a few of us went to the beach (an hour away by bus), which was a lot of fun. The week before Easter is a very big holiday week in Spain – they call it Semana Santa (Holy Week). Which, for me meant “No school all week!” and “it’s impossible to buy anything because everything is closed.” It was a very interesting time. Every day they have religious processions throughout the city, which are basically just parades with marching bands, people wearing traditional costumes carrying candles, and men carrying giant altars from various churches. Each day and each procession is supposed to tell the story of the passion, death, and resurrection of Christ. I watched a few of them during the week and got trapped by a few others as I was trying to walk somewhere else. The most exciting thing for me during the week of Semana Santa (besides March Madness beginning) was Emily’s arrival! She came in on the Wednesday of that week. Although one day that weekend we took a day trip to the Alpujarras in the Sierra Nevada. Since I had been there before we were able to successfully navigate the trail that Oli and I got lost on back in October. The weather was very nice and we had a nice time. But this trip was just a warm-up for bigger things to come. It has been very fun to show Emily some of my favorite spots around the city. I have even discovered some new things and places that I hadn’t known about before. She has been madrid-el-rastro.jpgenjoying herself very much and she is even learning some Spanish – both from me and from our Rosetta Stone computer program.

The last weekend in March and Emily’s second weekend in Spain was our three day trip to Madrid! Prior to this I had only ever seen the airport and the bus station in Madrid, which doesn’t say a whole lot for the city itself. (more…)

Spring Break

Tuesday, April 1st, 2008

Just returned form a two week Spring Break. I was so luck to be able to visit 5 cities in such a short amount of time. First I was off to London for three days. I chose to see Les Miserables and Wicked while there and I am so glad, they were wonderful productions. The second day I was there I walked through the whole city and did some major site seeing but didn’t have much time to go into any of the more popular sites or museums. I did however get to see the Tate Modern. I did a quick walk through; wish I could have stayed longer because it was very impressive. The next day we went to an Arsenal Game at night. The energy of the passionate fans was indescribable. I wish soccer was as popular in the states as it is in Europe; in my opinion it’s as fun to watch as college football. 

eliz.JPGThe next day we took off for Dublin just in time for St. Patrick’s Day. Though it’s a religious holiday in Ireland there was quite the festival in Dublin. We were lucky enough to have a hotel on the route of the parade so we watched it from the roof. It was a beautiful day, definitely a St. Patrick’s day I will never forget. We spent the next day meeting up with friends from Dublin and exploring the city. For our final full day we took the train down the coast and saw some beautiful towns along the water. It was great to get a change of pace and see the countryside after having been in cities for so long.

From Dublin we were off to Paris. We were very lucky to find an apartment for only 100 euros (more…)


Wednesday, March 12th, 2008

This past weekend I attended a one day overnight trip to Seville (North of Granada) with my program. The city was over run with flowers that filled the air with the most amazing smells. We were fortunate the weather was absolutely perfect eliz1.JPGbecause most of the things to do in Seville were outside. I quickly came to the conclusion, that if I had to pick another city to study in it would definitely be Seville.

The first day we had a small bus tour of the city and went to Alcazar and Plaza de España. The Plaza de España is a modern semi-circular building centered around a beautiful fountain. There is a tiled alcove for each province of Spain. The Alcazar is kind of like the Alhambra here in Granada, there are gardens that seem to go on forever. It made me excited to see the eliz2.JPGAlhambra when all the plants are in full bloom. The architecture and history surrounding it is very interesting and our guide really held our attention.

The second day we started with a tour of Real Maestranza, the plaza del toros. It is the oldest bull-fighting ring in Spain. We discuss the traditions of bullfighting in my culture class a lot, so it was interesting to finally see a ring, especially such an important one. It was a beautiful day out so after our tour we had lunch on the river.

We spent the rest of the day wondering the streets. We saw the cathedral and the Girlada, both very intricate buildings, I could have looked at them for hours. We had to catch the bus at 5 to get home, we were all exhausted from walking the entire day so it was perfect timing. Hopefully I will get to go back to Seville, it’s a truly beautiful city, and I have so much more to explore.

Class in Bologna and weekend in Venice

Thursday, March 6th, 2008

Early Wednesday morning our class left for Bologna pronounced “boloɲa” which is a large University town. As a class we were required to create a lesson plan and do presentations on Bologna while we were there. We had a creative lesson plan, presented some history on the town and planned a field trip to Grom’s gelato shop which is said to have the best gelato in town. We went to lunch at a restaurant that our concierge recommended and were welcomed warmly and directed to the second floor of the restaurant which provided a private atmosphere. We took turns deciding what the restaurant had previously served as because there was an abundance of red and lamps which led some to think it had been an Asian restaurant. At the same time there were some metal handrails around holes in the floor and an eccentric wall texture which alluded to a potential club scene. One of the girls eventually called our waiter over to bring menus to us and he came bearing just two for our group of 15. Though we tried to make the best of the shortage of menus we eventually caved in andcec1.JPG requested two more. In the end we had a good first meal in Bologna and looked forward to our next couple of days walking around the University area, visiting Modena, the Ferrari Museum and the Porticos of San Luca which encompassed a 3 mile long stretch up a hill and over 660 arches.

After our class ended in Bologna, many of us continued on to Venice to spend the weekend. Venice was an even bigger tourist attraction than Florence (more…)