Alicante, Spain robó mí corazón

Hello everybody!!

I cannot believe it’s taken so long for me to write this post, but its time that I finally tell you my favorite things about a city that is near and dear to my heart. In less than a week I leave this place that I’ve learned to call home with people who I’ve learned to call friends and family. 😭

Alicante is the absolute hidden gem of Spain. It’s an Mediterranean city on the coast of southeast side of Spain. The people are up-beat, the food is delicious, there are 11 warm months out the 12, and to top it all off its in close proximity to all the bigger cities such as Madrid, Barcelona and little bit aways from Sevilla.

From the moment I “moved” into the city, I knew it was one I could see myself coming back to to live in permanently ( and that’s not just because my host parents offered to adopt me). The warm sun from the Mediterranean sea hitting your window every morning makes you feel like everyday could be a productive day. Every day and every weekend I spent in Alicante I discovered more and more places and things I loved to take part in.

If you are coming to study abroad in Alicante or are considering it then YESS, GET EXCITED! it’s a wonderful city that you should take advantage of the opportunity to be apart of a great city in an even better country. ‼️ ( If you would like to know anything specific about Alicante please feel free to ask me) ‼️

  1. Santa Barbara Castle- There is this stupendous castle in the city of Alicante which tells a lot about the history of the local region. It is necessary to visit it because if you didn’t, its like you never even were in Alicante. 10/10 recommend if you want to see a killer sunrise or sunset, but its really always 10/10 anytime of the day.

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    Crazy hair day, but the Santa Barbara castle in the back!

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Sunset from Santa Barbara castle

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View during the day of the port from the Santa Barbara castle

2. La Explanada- One of the most well-known beautifully designed streets in Alicante. The street is filled with little shops, restaurants, and right next to the pier and the sea. 🌊

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La Explanada- a must see in Alicante

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Me on la explanada

3. THE BEACH- I feel like this is implied when I say a Mediterranean coastal city, but in the months of late August, September, and even until almost the first of November I continued going to the beach to swim, tan, or run along the coast. I love the beach so much and it’s one of the things I’ll miss the most.

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Playa San Juan- Alicante

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Mediterranean Sea 💕

4. El Barrio- “The neighborhood” is a very trendy, but antique place in Alicante with narrow streets full of interesting houses. Also, they are the foot of the castle! HOW COOL WOULD IT BE TO LIVE AT THE BOTTOM OF CASTLE OF Santa Barbara?!! 🙀🙀

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El Barrio at night

I could give up with at least a 100 more reasons why Alicante is one of the best places not only to study and work in, but also to live in.

No es adios Alicante, es hasta pronto.

Cira Nicole Buffington

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A Bonner Abroad- All about my service work

Hello beautiful people!!

As I sit here writing this blog I can’t help but think about this place that has become my second home. I have left a piece of my heart in almost every place I have visited and Alicante is no exception. I have completely immersed myself into the Spanish culture by studying at the university, tutoring kids in English as a job, and of course continuing to work for my scholarship; The Bonner Scholarship. 

As many of you know, back in the states I am a Bonner Scholar at Berry College. I am one of 80 students in the scholarship who do daily volunteer work at non-profit organizations in Rome, Georgia. We dedicate our time to help those in need through Mentoring, Companionship, Education, and Language Skills. 

Not only through Bonner have I gained a family, but unforgettable experiences giving back to several communities when the world has offered me so much. Being a Bonner has changed my life in the best way possible. It has a allowed me to attend the university worry-free of how to afford it, but more than that I have experienced some of the most interesting things, hardest things, and most of all met so many people that have impacted my life just as much as I have theirs. 

Coming to Spain to live for a short period of time has always been on my list of things I want to do and serving the community didn’t fall short on that list either. My challenge with serving abroad was finding a program that allowed me to work in a non-profit organization for an extensive time of more than two months. 

Thankfully with the help of my amazing program director Pepa we found a class that would serve for credits, but also give me the opportunity to serve in the Alicante community. 

After searching in the community for a place unlike anything I have worked in, I came upon Alinur. Alinur is a non-profit organization that serves people with intellectual disabilities. It doubles as a school and a residency for the people who choose to live there full time. 

At Alinur every day is a day to learn something new. The flexible schedule of going to school at Alinur allows them to explore the world we live in in the most creative way. As their motto goes ” Growing with Emotional Intelligence”. Emotional Intelligence or the capability to recognize our own and others feelings is the the lesson that the teachers and directors try to incorporate within every lesson whether the lesson focuses on nature, animals, or art. 

My responsibilities are never limited at Alinur, but rather I have been given so much responsibility in such a short period of time. I am so grateful for the chance to serve them through classes, hanging out with them, and just being a friend. 

My main responsibilities include assisting with dance class, serving as a chaperone when we go to the movie theater, reading books for story therapy, leading projects through a series of classes, and my favorite which is helping with occupational therapy at night. 

At 6pm, the people who only go to Alinur during the day for school head home and return the following day. There are 17 people who live there full-time other than the weekends when they also go home who continue to go to class for two hours. The classes are very interactive and there is really never a dull moment. So having class from 6-8 is never a problem from them. 

At 8pm, it’s time to shower and get ready for dinner. Martha and Julio are the occupational therapists who assist the people which their nightly routine and stay with them till breakfast at 8am. 

From the start, Martha and Julio gave me an amount of responsibility that you normally would receive after months of working at a place, but I think it tells a lot about the Spanish culture. That serving is serving. Martha told me on my first day ” We don’t get a lot of people like you who just come and serve. That tells a lot about your heart.” 

At night I am assigned 3 or 4 different people who I assist with their night- time routine. This consist of making sure they use the correct amount of shampoo, conditional, shower gel when they shower. Making sure their personal hygiene is good with using deodorant, having clean nails, brushing their teeth. We also make sure they prepare their clothes for the following day and that that day’s clothes are in the dirty laundry basket. 

When I’m at Alinur the hours fly by and when it’s time to leave the kids and I both protest. These months I’m spending at Alinur have been some of the moments I’ve had with the Bonner Scholarship because it’s outside of my normal community. 

Alinur is just what I wanted. A place unlike any I have ever served at. I just didn’t know that Alinur needed me as much as I needed it. I am ecstatic to continue forming relationships, teaching them some things, and learning things from them. 

When I think about the memories I have from Alinur and what I have yet to experience my heart grows and get overwhelmed with joy. I believe everybody should want to feel that. 

Te Quiero, Alinur 💕

Cira

 

Ciao Roma!

Ciao Everybody! 

I just returned from an incredible 4 day trip to the beautiful city of Rome, Italy. If you’ve every imagined a place full of your favorite pasta, pizza, gelato, and beautiful architecture, you were most likely picturing what actually is Rome. 

Traveling around Europe is relatively cheap, but to make this trip even cheaper we decided to fly out of Valencia, Spain. On October 31st, we took a Renfe train from Alicante to Valencia which is about a two hour bus ride. We decided to stay in an AirBnB for the night to get some rest and prepare ourselves to wake up at 3:30am to catch our flight at 6:45am. 

After a noisy night because of the neighbors, we packed up our belongings and took a taxi to get to the Airport. The flight was also two hours, so in total it took us 4 hours to get to Rome, Italy. We landed at 8:50am which was so exciting to have an entire day of exploring. 

A friend in my program who traveled to Rome with us has friends who are studying abroad like us, but in Rome. They were so kind to show us around part of the time we were visiting. 

To give you the best advice on traveling in Rome I’m going to share what my favorite sites were and the best things to eat.

First day in Rome (Nov 1): 

For starters, Rome is an enormous city that doesn’t have as reliable of a tram/ bus system as Alicante. Be ready to walk a lot on the old cobblestone stones that are beautiful, but also incredibly painful to your feet. 

On November 1st, we decided to take the opportunity to go see the Pope give his blessing because it was a Wednesday when we arrived. Every Wednesday in Vatican City the pope gives an Italian blessing from a window in the city. You will know that it is about to start, not only from the huge amount of people, but too by the red flag they put down off the side of the window. 

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Red flag showing the window where the Pope gives his blessing in Vatican City, Italy.

If for some reason you’re in Rome on a Wednesday I highly recommend taking the time to see the Pope speak. It’s a wonderful experience and will leave you in the Italian state of mind. 

Vatican City is considered its own place apart from Rome which is justifiable because there is so much to see and do. Known as the largest church in the entire world St.Peter’s Basilica is an absolute must-see! 

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Waiting outside in the square of Vatican City for the Pope to give his blessing.

Things you must go & see: 

  1. Trevi Fountain- This was actually one of my favorite sites to see in Rome, although it was in a little plaza in the middle of a neighborhood. I had always heard (even from my host mom who is Italian) to go to the Trevi fountain at night because it will be less crowed. Our first night in Rome, we took the trip to go see the fountain and it was completely packed at 10pm on a Wednesday night. I returned on Friday morning around 10am and it was still packed, but I was able to throw my 2 cents in (literally and figuratively) and take some great pictures. {Free}
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    Trevi Fountain at night! 

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    Trevi Fountain during the day!

    2. The colosseum, Roman Forum, and Palatine Hill- The Thursday of our trip we spent visiting three of the most important buildings in Rome. We bought our tickets  online in advance which allowed us to get into the colosseum much quicker. When you buy your colosseum ticket you also get entrance into the Roman forum and the palatine hill. The Roman Forum and Palatine hill are all around the same vicinity as the Colosseum. 

            http://www.coopculture.it/en/ticket_office.cfm <- website ti buy your colosseum ticket. { Price: 12,00 euros} 

The colosseum which is the old amphitheater in Rome was stunning as you entered and saw where the Romans used to have their battles. 

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Inside the colosseum 

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Outside of the colosseum 

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View of the colosseum from the Roman Forum

The Roman Forum and Palatine hill is the plaza where all the old ruins of the government buildings are located. Before it was the best location for meetings, elections, trials, but now it serves as a reminder of all of that with its incredible sculptures, buildings, and ruins. 

 

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Entrance to the Roman Forum

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The Roman Forum

3. Vatican Museums & The Sistine Chapel- If you enjoyed Vatican City and want to learn more about it’s history then I really recommend buying tickets to go see the Vatican Museums. Included in your ticket you will be able to see the Sistine Chapel. Each museum in the Vatican Museum was so different and intricately designed. This was perfect for the day we went because it was pouring rain outside and we didn’t regret spending two or more hours inside of a museum while in the beautiful city of Rome, Italy. 

https://biglietteriamusei.vatican.va/musei/tickets/do?action=booking&codiceTipoVisita=26&step=2 <- Website to buy Vatican Museums ticket {Reduced price for students: 7,00 euros} 

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Entrance to the Vatican Museum

4. The Spanish Steps- The 135 Spanish Steps are located in the Piazza of Spagna. They were built by a French diplomat in order to link the French church of  Trinità dei Monti to the Spanish square which used to be Spain’s territory.  The steps are the perfect place to go and walk up to the church at the very top and also sit and enjoyed the Piazza. The day we went to the Spanish steps there was an Italian band playing music. {Free}

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The Spanish Steps 

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Hanging out on the Spanish Steps

5. Find Piazzas- Piazzas or Plazas are on almost every corner of Rome. If you have nothing left to see or no more money to spend Piazzas are a great way to see some Roman Architecture and for free! We went to the Piazza of Popolo and saw a great view of the City! 

Things you must eat in Rome: 

  1. Pasta –Literally all styles of noodles and all different kinds of sauces. Just order everything. 
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Spaghetti

2. Sandwiches- Ham and Cheese, Tomato sauce and Cheese, just cheese. You name it and they probably have it. 

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The best ham & cheese sandwich ever

3. Gelato- It’s not too expensive & they have every flavor you could possibly think of. 

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Cookies & Vanilla Gelato

4. A MUST; PIZZA- it’s just part of the culture. 

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Pizza in Rome

My Roman holiday was a great, but long one filled with the most delicious food and the prettiest of sites. I’ll be excited to return to Italy and visit other cities! 

Thank you for reading, 

Cira Nicole Buffington 😋

 

 

Tips for Living with a Host Family!

If you had asked me to write this blog post a year ago, I wouldn’t been able too. After one bad experience in a different country with different circumstances I had almost completely avoided an experience in Spain that would be one of the main reasons why I love living here so much. I believed I could live independently and be fine which is true, but I now know that I wouldn’t have had the support system that every study abroad student needs.

On September 2nd, 2017, I began living with my Spanish family. I spent two hours that day lost in the apartment complex where they live because I didn’t have the correct floor. I was calling my sister who called my program director here in Spain to figure out why they weren’t there. After some panicking, I finally found where they lived.( Literally just two floors up from where I was sitting for two hours….)  I knocked on the door and the first thing they did was hug me and ask me if I was okay. They had been expecting me all morning and I arrived two hours later. These people didn’t even know anything about me and they genuinely cared enough.

They showed me my precious bedroom at the end of the hallway with a victoria secret look-a-like closet 😍 Then, we proceed to have our first meal together where I learned a little bit about all my family members. I was so excited to be with such an energetic, sarcastic family, but I also couldn’t keep my eyes open. They must have noticed it because they would say ” A tomar una siesta” ( To take a nap!). They didn’t have to tell me twice.

Almost two months from that date, I have learned so much with being with a host family that becomes like an additional real family. I have complied some tips to help people who are thinking about studying abroad, but are skeptical because it’s new and scary.

  1. Don’t be afraid to spend time with them, watch tv with them, sit on the balcony, etc. At first this may be awkward, but some of the best moments I’ve had with my host mom have been sitting on the balcony people watching or watching the tv show Pasapalabra with my host dad.

2.  If you like a food, tell them. If you don’t like a food, also tell them. I can’t stress this enough. Foreign people and grandmothers love to feed people until they can’t even see. It’s very appreciated when you like the food, but if you don’t like it I would tell them ASAP because if not they will continually serve it to you.

3. Ask for a “picnic” or a Tupper. Life can get pretty busy abroad and some days you may not make it in time for lunch. Asking for a packed lunch or a “picnic” will give you the chance to eat and not wait until 4-5pm. A picnic usually consists of a bocadillo (sub-sandwich) or just a regular sandwich. The whole month of September I had a picnic every other day because of my schedule and now I really can’t even look at a bocadillo. If you’re like me and can’t eat that everyday you can ask for a Tupper which is a Tupperware filled with food that you can heat up. 😋

4. Keep your space tidy. Again life is chaotic, but they have opened up their home to you so try to keep it clean. Many host families clean your room once a week so it’s important to acknowledge this and be respectful.

5. Have long conversations with your family members. Sometimes you just want to be in your room watching Netflix, but one day you decide to stick around and have a conversation about Spain’s Civil war with your host dad. I encourage taking the time to get to know your family and what they like and don’t like. I have learned so much about this world from my host dad. He claims he was a horrible student and hated school, but I couldn’t see that in a million years.

6. Staying in touch while traveling. If you decide to travel outside of the country you are studying in I highly recommend calling or sending a text to your host family stating that you made it and you’re okay. They care about you and want to make sure you’re safe!

My perception of living with a host family has completely changed and I am so happy I took this risk. I believe that this relationship will be one that will stick forever. I hope these tips are helpful for you!

Thank you for reading,

Cira Nicole Buffington

What’s it like living in Spain?- All about my Spanish Schedule

Hello Everybody! 

As October is now close to ending and I’m well into my daily routine here in Spain. I wanted to share with you my ” Spain Schedule”. Each country has their routine times on when to eat meals, go to the university, socialize with family and friends, sleep and siesta (my favorite part of the day), and go out.

I get asked a lot from family and friends back home ” How is it living in Spain”, “Are you having a blast”, ” Is it true that you eat dinner at 10pm”, and my personal favorite ” Do you really go to the university there?”

1)Living in Spain is wonderful. 10/10 recommend. 2) I have blast everyday, all day whether im in the university, at home, at the beach, or even in Mercadona ( the supermarket here) 3) yes, dinner is between 9-10pm 4) Yes, I go to the university everyday and learn a ton inside and outside the classroom. 

Living in Spain is a dream come true that I wish could be prolonged. Before my trip I was nervous to be living in a country where I knew little about their daily routine lives. After living here now for two months and half months I can say that the transition wasn’t super hard when you have an excellent environment where you can flourish in. 

I am living with an extraordinary host family. My host mom is Italian and my host dad is Spanish( Born in Madrid), but they met each other while living in Argentina. ‼️ Talk about relationships goals ‼️ Together they have lived in Argentina,Mexico, Venezuela, and now plan to stay in Alicante, Spain. 

My Spanish family have been an enormous part of my experience. My host dad fills my days with stories from every country, their political system, people who have influenced other parts of the country. Every night at dinner we could sit for hours upon hours and discuss the entire world if we had the time too. My host mom states that she ” believes in me more than I do in myself”. Every time I have an interview, an exam, a quiz, or a presentation, she gives me the most amazing pep-talks and hugs. My host sister who teaches pilates as her full-time job has opened up her heart to me and acts as if I was her blood sister. She reminds me a lot of my real sister, Alicia because she’s always willing to help me when needed and is hilarious even though I would never admit to it. All together this family has had my back, supported me, and bought me delicious chocolate from day one. They encourage siesta hour almost everyday, going for runs, and the days I don’t go for a run they encourage in indulging in ice-cream. 

My schedule here in Spain changes monthly depending on the difficulty of the courses I take. Now that October is finishing I will be using the months of November and December to tell you how my schedule is because it will be staying consistent. 

I will be taking Introduction to Spanish Literature with Professor Laura. I had professor Laura in September for conversation and it was genuinely one of my favorite college classes I have ever taken. The only other class I will be taking for these two months is Service Learning Course which is a volunteering class with a weekly blog plot. ( More to come in another blog over SLC). 

So, the time has now come to show you my schedule! On a daily basis this is what it would look like to work, be a student, and live in a foreign country. 

Schedule for November and December 

On my Mondays & Wednesday’s my schedule is the following: 

8:15am- My alarm goes off 🙃 , but I begin getting ready for school. Then, I eat breakfast which either consist of coffee, hot chocolate, or tea. I eat a piece of fruit and a slice of toast every day I just rotate the jams. 

8:50am- Very specific time I know. This is the time I have to be at the bus stop. only on two separate occasions have I had to run after a bus here. I guess the earlier bird does get the worm after all. 

9:30am-10:45- I have Introduction to Spanish Literature. I’m excited for this class to start so that I can share what I learn with you all. 

11:30am- I will return how to either 1) take a siesta, 2) exercise, 3) catch up on Netflix ( I recommend watching the Spanish tv show La Casa de Papel) 

Between 2-3pm- My host mom prepares here delicious food and we eat lunch! In Spain, it’s very typically to eat meals later in the day. Many people come home for lunch to enjoy this time with their family and eat peacefully. 

3:30pm- I walk to my service site/ job! 

4-9pm- I work at Alinur which is a school/ residency program for people with intellectual disabilities. 

10:30pm- After a long day I come home to take the best shower ever ( I say that after every shower) and I eat dinner! Compared to Lunch, dinner is a very light meal consisting of a broth soup and vegetables. 

Tuesday Schedule: 

On Tuesday’s I do not go to Alinur, but instead tutor two kids in English. 

Thursday’s and Friday’s I do not have work nor tutoring so I spend these days studying and exploring. On Friday’s we also don’t have class 😃🎊 

Important ‼️‼️‼️ In spain, La siesta is obligated. Siesta is normally after you eat lunch and according to my host dad is always necessary. They really don’t believe you can continue with your day unless you’re well rested. I just really love Spain. 

That’s my schedule in a nut shell for the months of November and December. I am shocked to see how fast these months are flying by, but my heart and head are so full and content with everything I’ve learned, seen, and eaten. I hope this helped you to see the differences in routine based on where you live. 

Thank you for reading, 

Cira Nicole Buffington 

 

 

 

Calpe- Costa Blanca

On October 1st, I hiked the Peñón de Ifach in Calpe on the Costa Blanca of Alicante, Spain. What’s a better way to celebrate being in Spain for a little over a month than hiking a huge rock? pretty much nothing!

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View of the Peñón de Ifach from afar

Calpe is another coastal town very close to Alicante. There are approximately 120 miles of Mediterranean coastline in the Alicante province, so taking a day trip almost every other weekend to another beautiful city is very easy and fun. Every city offers something different to that day’s adventure.

For this day’s adventure we took the city tram from Alicante to Benidorm, then from Benidorm we switched trams and headed to Calpe. Once again, like before when I visited Altea, we had to buy a separate ticket and couldn’t use our city bus cards because they do not function outside of the Alicante city limits. We bought the ticket before hand because it’s easier to have it without the public transport workers asking you where your ticket is. (Also, they can charge you additional euros if you don’t have the ticket you’re supposed too).

The duration of the entire trip was almost two hours with the round-trip price for the tram being 7,25 Euros.

Once we arrived to the tram station in Calpe it was a forty-three minute walk to the beginning of the hike. it was pretty much a hike to get to our actual hike. Talk about a warm up!!

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Welcome to Calpe!

The walk is pretty direct to get to the park of Calpe. You’ll know when you’re there by the loss of speech because of the beauty you can see from the hill that overlooks the port.

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Sign for the entrance of the park of the Peñón de Ifach 

The walk up to the very top takes about an hour and half to two hours depending on your pace and how much energy you have. It’s very steep, with very little flat trails to go along, and you walk along the mountain while holding onto a rope overlooking the ocean. Pretty incredibly terrifying.

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Took a little break to look at the beautiful ocean! 

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The group before the beginning of the hike! 

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The group on top of Peñón de Ifach

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My mom would just die if she saw this picture, but I saw an opportunity and took it ( Love you mom)

Once on the top, you will notice how extraordinary the view is which separates the city into two different parts forming two different beaches and almost two different towns. It makes you wonder how this town is so close to Alicante, but so different from one of the cities that I love so much.

The walk took our group about 2 hours, but it’s different for everybody. I would love to return to Calpe one day to hike the rock again and also visit the actual city and beaches.

My advice is grab your best hiking shoes, some water, pack a picnic to eat at the top of the rock and get on the next tram out to visit Calpe.

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Calpe, Costa Blanca

Thank you for reading,

Cira Nicole Buffington

Barcelona- The Catalonia region

Hello Everybody,

It’s been quite awhile since my last blog post, but between September finals and traveling to Barcelona I haven’t had much of a break to update you all on my wonderful experiences. From October 7th to October 9th, I visited Barcelona, Spain with 4 other friends. We took quite a risk going to Barcelona with the circumstances between Catalonia and Spain, but we took our chances and headed that way. (Also, some of the bus tickets were non-refundable). To get to Barcelona in the most costly and time efficient manner we used Renfe. Renfe is the high-speed train system within Spain.

* I highly recommend buying your ticket through the actual website(www.renfe.com),while also making sure you’re aware that promo deals are great, but are not refundable. *

We left Alicante at 8:00am and arrived in Barcelona at 1:30pm. After a very long train ride (with no wifi) we arrived in Barcelona and hit the ground running to make it in time to check into our hostel and go to Park Güell. 

Upon arrival to Barcelona we walked from the train station to our hostel which wasn’t a horribly long walk, but because Barcelona is a huge city ( especially compared to Alicante) we used public transportation. I love the public transport in other countries because it’s so cheap and allows you to save so much time getting from one place to another. Our group of five bought two tickets with 20 rides for leaving and arriving. We used them to get to Park Güell and La Sagrada Familia which were the farthest places from our hostel. Each single ticket for the tram is 2,15 Euros and can be bought with euros or card. 

We stayed in Be Sound Hostel for 17,50 Euros a night. The 17,50 included sheets, all kitchen supplies and appliances, lockers with scanners, air conditioning in the rooms ( whoa!!), and a terrance for socialization. I liked Be Sound Hostel because it was a very quiet hostel, but if you’re looking for something more upbeat it isn’t the place for you. 

Later on October 7th, after settling in our hostel we took the tram to Park Güell! From the tram to the park it was about a 15 minute walk, but there are escalators to help you climb the hill. ( Woo-hoo!!)

Park Güell is a public park in Barcelona which incredibly designed architecture. it was all created by Gaudí. Guadí basically created all of Barcelona and Park Güell is no exception.  I was amazed at how every piece fit perfectly and the colors stood out even while overlooking the entire city.

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The group at Park Güell

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Park Güell doesn’t take an enormous amount of time, but we had already purchased our tickets for a specific date and time to not have to worry about getting in. Park Güell is one of Barcelona’s most popular attractions, so buy your tickets in advance. A general ticket for entrance into the park is 7,00 Euros. 

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Park Güell

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On October 8th, we visited Castillo de Montjuïc on the hill of Montijuïc (that hill was so joke). After a brutal 40 minute walk and a no- complaining rule we made it to the castle! After hiking up the hill, we realized that there is a lift that takes you up and down the hill (price unknown). I personally enjoyed the walk up the hill because there is a little park along the way and we get to hike it like they did back in the day, right ?! 

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The castle of Montjuïc used to be a military fortress, but is now municipal building. The building is beautifully lined with grass growing on the side of it until reaching the main doors. On the lower level of the castle there are exhibitions to learn about Barcelona’s culture and the castles old history and purpose. While on the upper level you can go to the viewpoint to see the boat port and overlook the entire city.  

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Entrance to Castle of Montjuïc

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Upper Level of the castle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Group picture overlooking Barcelona!

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Barcelona’s Port

Later on October 8th, as we were on our way to the gothic quarter in Barcelona there was a peaceful protest for the unity of Spain and Catalonia. It was very interesting to witness this and be apart of a major moment happening in the country I’m currently living in. I think it’s very important to be aware of what’s going on around you even if you don’t necessarily live in that country, but for me to be this close and experience the things that we discuss in class, is a moment I’ll never forget.

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Peace protest for the unity of Spain and Catalonia

To finish, on Sunday we visited the Arc de Triomf and the Parc de la Ciutadella. Both were completely free!

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Arc de Triomf

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Parc de la Ciutadella

On our last day we tried to fit absolutely everything in before we departed from Barcelona later that evening. The biggest highlight of the day was visiting La Sagrada Familia. La Sagrada Familia is the unfinished Catholic Church in Barcelona constructed by Gaudí. ( This man was completely amazing)

We also bought our tickets in advance for La Sagrada Familia because it would have been impossible to get in. The price is 13,00 Euros with a student discount. It allows you to see everything inside and outside the church.

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La Sagrada Familia

 

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The inside of La Sagrada Familia

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Architecture of La Sagrada Familia

Lastly, we visited the gothic cathedral of Barcelona and the two more houses built by Gaudí. All entrances were free! For the Gaudí houses, there was no interest for us to see the insides, but I do believe there is a charge to enter.

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Gothic Catedral of Barcelona

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Inside of Gothic Cathedral

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Casa Batlló

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Overall, Barcelona is a trendy city with lots of activities and crazy, but beautiful buildings to see. I would definitely visit again possibly early in the summer as well to visit the beaches of Barcelona and the Picasso Museum.

Thank you for reading,

CNB

 

 

 

 

 

 

¡La Universidad de Alicante!

Hello Everyone! 

I really should be studying for my final exams which are on Friday, but instead I am finally deciding to blog about the University of Alicante. #Procrastination

My first day of school was September 4th, 2017 and now that it is September 27th I can officially say that I love going to the university here. 

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Obligatory first day of Junior year picture- Universidad de Alicante 

I am attending the University of Alicante (UA) during my stay in here in Spain to better my Spain Spanish and expand my cultural views through a series of different language, literature, and service courses.

Fun fact: University of Alicante used to be an airport in the 60’s!!

The month of September is known as a training month. Every International or study abroad student takes one grammar class depending on their level as well as a conversation class.  I am currently taking B2 grammar with Professora Marisol and 11 other students from all over the world, but we all speak Spanish. I am also taking conversation with Professora Laura and 6 other students. 

In my B2 grammar class we have done a lot of review so that the following month I can go onto a more challenging course. My conversation class is purely to make friends while talking about fun and interesting themes such as parties in Spain, school around the world, and the environment. I’m so lucky to have amazing Spanish professors who teach me all about their amazing cultures and encourage learning about others. I have learned more about Russian, Ukrainian, Korean, and Japanese culture through my conversation class in this one month then in my whole life living in the United States- absolutely incredible. 

My current schedule includes B2 class from 9am-12pm with a 10 minute break and Conversation from 12pm-1pm! 

So, what will I be doing in the months of October, November, and December? 

In October, I will be jumping from B2 to C1 grammar- Proficiency Level and I will also be taking Cultural Realities of Spain. Both courses will be incredibly exciting and interesting. 

I will also be beginning my Bonner service. This past year in the states for my Bonner Service I taught English as a Second Language and tutored kids after school at two different sites. In Spain, my Bonner service will be counted as a class called Service Learning Course (SLC). This coming up week I have my interview at my organization. I will keep everyone updated and explain what service I’ll be doing here in Spain. (: 

In November & December, I will be taking Introduction to Spanish Literature and continuing my Service Learning Course. 

It’s already been such a great learning experience and I’m looking forward to continuing this great semester. 

Now back to studying for Finals! 

Cira Nicole Buffington 

 

Traveling around Europe

Now that all my trips for 2017 are officially booked 🎉 I am so happy to share with everyone where I’ll be going, tips, and ways to make planning a trip while already abroad easier. 

Planning trips is such an amazing opportunity unlike any I’ve experienced. I had my first solo traveling experience when I was 18 and went to Mexico for a month, but this time around planning where I would be going, where I would be staying, and what I would be doing was all on me (with the help of some cool friends). 

So, to begin I am currently living in Alicante, Spain for 4 months or 101 days, but as of right now I might just stay forever. Some of the trips I have planned are through my program and consist of just weekend trips, but the adventures I have planned myself are 3 days long and others are 5-6 days. 

I consulted several websites to get the best deals while traveling through Europe. It always depended on where I was going for me to decided if it was better to take the train or a plane. Many times it was safer to go through the actual airlines website, but other times there was light in a dark place with other websites that compared prices. 

My favorite websites to buy plane tickets from include: 

  • https://www.kiwi.com -> Cheap flights from your origin to about anywhere you could imagine.  I have a lot of confidence in this website and I know a lot of people who study abroad do too. 
  • http://www.vueling.com/es -> Also has low cost tickets. This is an actual airline that flies everywhere out Spain. 
  • https://www.ryanair.com/gb/en/ -> Very important plane ticket website here in Spain. Trusted by many to being low cost and efficient. 
  • http://www.jetcost.es -> Jet Cost compares prices from 10+ airlines and finds the best deal. I have a little more anxiety buying tickets through companies who aren’t directly the airline, but I have read good things about them. 

My favorite websites to buy train tickets from include: 

  • http://www.renfe.com -> This is the official website for the train tickets. I have the utmost confidence in this website because it directly allows you to buy your ticket for the train without going through another website. Buying one of my tickets was a nightmare and I spent two hours trying to purchase it on another website when Renfe allowed me to do it in less than 10 minutes without problems. Trust Renfe!‼️‼️‼️ 

My favorite methods of payments for traveling, etc: 

  • Venmo -> All I can say is Venmo saves lives. It allows you to transfer money back and forth between people ( who you trust, obviously) without hassle. 
  • Cash -> cash is the easiest way to pay quickly and without problems while traveling abroad. ( I prefer my cards though) 

Now on to the fun part! Where will I be adventuring to this semester?  well, I have split it up by month to make it easier to follow. 

September (which is almost over): 

I wanted to dedicate the month of September to getting to know Spain better. I traveled to—-

Valencia, Spain 

Altea, Spain ( Costa Blanca) 

Torrevieja, Spain ( Close to Murcia) 

Playa de San Juan ( Costa Blanca) 

October 

Barcelona 

London

Norway

Poland 

November

Italy 

Granada

December

Ireland

Germany 

More than anything in life I recommend doing a solo trip ( I really want to do one around Spain), but going to places far away I recommend asking friends from a program or who you’ve met living in your town where they are thinking about traveling so you can adventure, but also be more careful having more company with you.

I am so excited to see what I learn in all these places & I will keep the updates coming. Please feel free to ask me anything about travel tips, etc.

Thank you for reading,

Cira Nicole Buffington 🌏🌍

 

 

Torrevieja- Where are the Pink Lakes?

Last night, I set my alarm for 5:55am because I had to meet four of my friends in the main plaza of Alicante on the morning of the 23rd at 6:45am. September 23rd (aka today) I woke up at 6:43am with a solid 2 minutes to spare to get dressed, get my lunch out of the fridge, brush my teeth, and make sure I had the bus tickets. It was the type of panic you have when you wake up late for school. Anyways, I had a rushed start to my day, but I was hopeful.

My friends from my program & I visited a town near Alicante called Torrevieja. It’s a very old town that is home to many Russians, Britains, and Italians. After a day of walking more than 22,000 steps and if I want to be completely honest there isn’t much to do in Torrevieja, especifically if you’re looking for the excitement that Altea offers (another coastal city). 

The main reason we wanted to go to Torrevieja was to see the Salinas. The Salinas are a lake in the city that are full of salt (such as a dead sea), but are pink. I’ve heard so many cool things about the Salinas, but not much about the quality of the town. Pink lakes, though? Am I right?? 😁

We arrived in Torrevieja bright and early at 8:00am and began exploring. We walked along the coast and then decided it was time to find the Salinas.

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Coast of Torrevieja

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Some of us from my program in Torrevieja

Using our GPS we discovered that the Salinas were a 45 minute walk from where we were at. With a lot of doubt in our minds, we began the walk. Along the way we did see some streets with cool art, but Torrevieja is not touristy at all.

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Picture in front of a colored wall in Torrevieja

Fast-forward to forty-five minutes later and one conversation with a Russian family that spoke absolutely no English or Spanish, we found what was to be the Salinas. There wasn’t much of a place to sit down due to the trash, but nevertheless we looked around and some people even soaked their hands in. We left pretty soon after finding the Salinas and did the forty-five minute hike back to civilization, enjoyed a cafe con leche, looked at some shops, and decided to hop on the next bus back to Alicante.

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Proof that I saw the Salinas

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The Salinas

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Main commercial street in Torrevieja

At the end of the day, I did see a pink lake so I can’t really complain. Also, when I got back home and took my 3 hour siesta I did some further research on my own and  have discovered that we possibly went into the wrong entrance of the Salinas and that’s why we didn’t see what we were expecting. 🙀

Torrevieja isn’t that cool of a town, but the Salinas are cool ( would have been cooler?) if you find the right entrance!

Bus ticket from Airport of Alicante to Torrevieja ( round-trip) was 14 Euros

Bus ticket from Alicante to the Airport was: 3.85 Euros (round-trip)

Thank you for reading!

Cira Nicole Buffington