I don't particularly enjoy feeling dumb, but when I do it feels like I'm having an awakening. 

You're probably really confused right now so I shall explain. 

In Hungary, you speak Hungarian. Duh, I know. In France you speak French, in Spain, you speak Spanish, out of the three languages two share an alphabet and are rooted in Latin. Can you guess which two? Hungarian is certainly not one of the two, so it made communicating in Hungarian difficult and unlike anything I have experience before. 

We used hand gestures, my cheat sheet, the words we learned from our tour guide and a map. We definitely were those three American's who stopped abruptly at corners and looked up at the street signs with squished faces that blatantly showed our confusion. 

Feeling helpless and a little tonta (dumb) was a good thing though because it made me realize how lucky I am to know English and Spanish, two dominant languages. I also realized how self-absorbed the United States can be when it comes to speaking English and having things catered to us. It's nice to know that no matter where I go English will be underneath the native languages word, but it's not nice at the same time because you aren't challenged or forced to speak a different language. While on this trip I realized just how grateful I am for knowing two different languages. When I heard Spanish in France, I was comforted. Same for when I was in Budapest. In fact, when I came back to Madrid and all I heard was Spanish, I felt myself give a sigh of relief because I was home. Home, in a place where I still have trouble communicating but know that me being self-conscious and feeling a little slow is a good thing because it means I care. 

So, the next time you're in a foreign country where you don't speak the language remember how thankful you are for knowing one in which a large population of the world is beginning to learn when they start grade school.  And once you realize you are thankful, take a step out of your comfort zone and try speaking their language. You never know how far you may get, that's what I do everyday here in Madrid. I guess I'm challenging you, world. 
 
Paris, France is a real life doll house.

Beautiful old buildings, delicately designed doors and ornate scaffolding. Monuments that are centuries old are placed along the sidewalks all while the new mixes well with the old. Paris could be one of my favorite places to travel, but the only thing missing was someone special to share it with. 

That sounds cliche, but many of us who traveled to the city of love felt the same way. You see a different type of beauty in Paris and you can't help but think that you want to share it with someone else that you see that same beauty in. 

Yes, I am an independent woman who can handle things on her own, but that doesn't mean I don't want to share a moment or two with someone special at the top of the Eiffel Tower, or walk through the halls of the Louvre and share interpretations. Now, don't think that got me down. Not having a soulmate to share my time in France didn't effect my level of extreme joy one bit. The pure exhilaration of being in the city was enough of a companionship for the 24 hours I was there. 

If you recall I had a to-do list for my adventure in Paris, but not everything went as planned due to the rainy weather, but I made the most of it. 

We arrived that morning in Paris around 9:00, met a taxi driver who sped along the streets but stopped abruptly for any woman who wished to cross the streets (what a gentleman), ate at a Moroccan restaurant (some what contradictory, I know) and then we dropped off the groups bags at their hostel. I was meeting my friend from home so I was the definition of a tourist and carried it with me. By 2:30 we were off to see the sights. 
Picture
Musée du Louvre, Paris.
First up Musée du Louvre
Anyone who knows me well enough knows that my father is a art enthusiast and former art teacher turned special education principal. (I still don't understand how one job progressed to another.) But somewhere along the way of him raising me, his affection and love for art wore off on me and now I find myself going to museums and art exhibits to clear my head and see the world from different perspectives. Naturally, when I arrived outside the Louvre, I was giddy. One student even laughed when I was unable to hold in my excitement and skipped a few times.

Picture
Pinching the top of one of three pyramids.
We walked along the outside and in the main courtyard (Cour Napoléon) and pinched the top of the Louvre Pyramid (Pyramide du Louvre), but we didn't have the time to squeeze in a grad tour of the inside. I could feel my dad's head shaking in disapproval, but all the more reason to come back and take him with me!

After the Louvre we walked along the Seine river and took in the breathtaking views. We knew we were missing out on Paris' hidden gems and the history of the city because of our short window of time, but we tried our best to stop at buildings we thought were important and figure out what their significance was. That sounds absolutely terrible, go to a famous city and decided what was more important to see and skip other parts, but we all justified it by telling ourselves we would be back one day. I'm crossing my fingers.

Picture
Notre-Dame Cathedral.
We walked along the Seine until we hit the Notre-Dame Cathedral, or Cathédrale Notre Dame de Paris, and boy was that beautiful.  As the former religious and social justice reporter for the Marquette Tribune, I find every house of worship to be fascinating. They are places that are central to a culture and tell you much about the history of a country and a population. Notre-Dame was not an exception, it was the rule. 

The beauty inside was moving, and the number of candles being lit by those who were worshiping and tourists was astounding. "Our lady," another name for the cathedral, took over 200 years to build, seeing completion in 1345.  That makes the cathedral  over 800 years old and to this day it is still used for Sunday mass by the Roman Catholic Church and is the seat of the Archbishop of Paris. With it's age, the church has seen it's share of positive and negative moments.

Picture
Rose window inside Notre-Dame.
•    In 1431, Henry VI of England was crowned King inside the cathedral.
•    1804 Napoleon was crowned Emperor inside the cathedral, and before saved Notre-Dame from demolition due to its state of disrepair.
•    In 1909 Joan of Arc was beatified in the cathedral by Pope Pius X. 
•    During World War II, France was afraid the Germans would destroy the newly installed stained glass windows, so the Church decided to remove them and were put back in after the war.
•    For more history visit Notre-Dame's historical website here.

After I processed the age and importance of the church and picked my jaw up from off the ground, we were off.

Picture
Angelina hot chocolate.
Next was hot chocolate, and not just any hot chocolate, Angelina's hot chocolate.

Angelina is a short walk from the Louvre and worth every bit of the 4,50 euro it cost for a cup of hot cocoa. The thick, dense chocolate is the richest form of deliciousness I have ever tasted. Piet Levy, a former coworker of mine at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, recommended the spot before I left Madrid and I can't thank him enough. Everyone moaned at the price but ten minutes later when our straws scratched the bottom and all that was left was the annoying suction sound, you didn't see a single frown, only smiles that symbolized our happy tummies and satisfied sweet tooth.

As we drank our to die for liquid candy, we walked toward the Eiffel Tower and along the way saw women who were the epitome of French. One woman had wavy hair tucked in a high pony wrapped with a bow, perfect makeup and red lipstick, a blazer and blouse paired with a high wasted skirt and heels with tights. Don't forget the gorgeous man her arm was wrapped around either. His dress pants, casual blazer, button down and loafers flattered her outfit. The couple made me swoon. Love was in the air, and I was in love … with my hot chocolate.

Picture
Eiffel Tower, Paris, France.
Shortly after, we ran into the Eiffel Tower

All I can say is that it is huge. I mean, I can say more than that but that was my first impression. It was strange to be at the foot of something you see so many times on television and in the movies. It's no lie to say I had to pinch myself. When we were in line to buy tickets to go up I couldn't believe I was seeing something that I always dreamed of. I think this was the moment that the fact I was in Paris hit me. My mother always dreamed of coming here and here I was, for 24 hours, and feeling guilty that I was there before her. So, I took it in just as she would have.

  • When we went up the elevator, I was afraid of the heights. Just like my mother.
  • When we got to the top, I took a lot of photos. Just like my mother.
  • When I tried to look over the side, I think I vomited a bit in my mouth. Possibly like my mother.

Picture
View of Paris from the top of Eiffel Tower.
It was a breathtaking view and experience that was worth the 7,50 euros (student discount, ka-ching!) After we descended the tower, we went and had our crepes and I joined my friend Milea from the United States for the night. The next morning two men from our group and I were off to Budapest, Hungary. Talk about a change in trips.

Overall, I really enjoyed Paris, France but it is expensive to travel. I spent approximately 40 euros on food, transportation and fees to get into places. Was it worth it? Yes, but if you're going to go there on a student budget search for deals and be efficient in where you eat, what you want to do and how you are going to travel within the city. Walking is your best bet if you want to save money on transportation or make sure you see a group of things in one area before you hop on the metro to other sights.

Did I complete my to-do list? Let's see:

To-do list:
1. Pinch the top of the Louvre  -- Check.
2. Eat cheese and crackers and drink wine in front of the Eiffel Tower for lunch -- Weather complications, next time.
3. Pinch the top of the Eiffel Tower and go to the top -- Sadly, no. Weather prohibited us from going to the top of the tower and from taking a photo of me pinching the top.
4. Go to Angelina and have the best hot chocolate in Paris -- My sweet tooth craves nothing more than another.
5. Eat a crepe with strawberries for a dear friend of mine -- Does Nutella count? Strawberries cost more...
6. Try not to drool while looking at all the extremely well dressed Parisians. -- That is just impossible.
7. Not be mad if I don't succeed at number six because it is a tall order. -- Not a bit upset, only jealous I can't pull off a bow in my hair.

 
Today, Friday September 28, the students in the Marquette en Madrid program received phone calls from the Office of International Education at Marquette University informing us that Eufemia Sanchez de la Calle, our program director and personally coined "fun mom," passed away in a car accident two nights ago. We all were on vacation in various countries and Europe when the accident occurred. 

Due to this accident and loss I will be returning to the blog come Sunday evening or Monday morning after all of my fellow students, faculty and I have processed what has occurred and are told the details of the event and how we as a group and program will be proceeding. 

Blogs regarding the experiences in Paris, France; Budapest, Hungary; and how strong a community can be, will be posted as soon as possible.  For now, please keep your thoughts and prayers with our beloved Femy's family. 

- Andrea 
 
Man, has it been hard being in class for two weeks straight. Time for a vacation.

Tonight marks the beginning of another journey here in Madrid. I will be traveling Europe for a week and on my itinerary is Paris, France; Budapest, Hungary; and one last destination that will be made on the fly. 

Sadly, I will only be in Paris for 24 hours, but those 24 hours will be made the most of as I plan on doing a high speed tour of the city and scratching a few things off my Paris to-do list. 

To-do list:
1. Pinch the top of the Louvre 
2. Eat cheese and crackers and drink wine in front of the Eiffel Tower for lunch
3. Pinch the top of the Eiffel Tower and go to the top 
4. Go to Angelina's and have the best chocolate in Paris
5. Eat a crepe with strawberries for a dear friend of mine
6. Try not to drool while looking at all the extremely well dressed Parisians. 
7. Not be mad if I don't succeed at number six because it is a tall order.
Picture
Pack pack, tin, all I have for the week
After completing my wish list I will be reuniting with a friend from high school who is studying abroad in Paris for the year. I hope to do some standard activities that locals partake in with her that evening and next morning. If there is one thing I have learned anything from studying abroad so far it's to work with what you have and if you know people who know the area, don't hesitate to ask. I would hope someone would ask me for advice on Madrid when they came, it's a complement of sorts. 

After Paris is a a two day stop in Budapest. Now, you may ask, why Budapest? Well, it has the beautiful State Opera House that also has very inexpensive tickets, the Hungarian Parliament building is massively gorgeous and the city just happens to look like a real life Hogwarts. Need it get any better? I think not. The two men who are accompanying me agree that these are valid reasons to go as well. 

Picture
List of Budapest sayings and destinations
For the three of us going to Budapest we are a little nervous about the language aspect.  We made a list of words and questions we will most likely have to ask. If all else fails we always can use our hands and just point at random things on a menu. We may feel a little unintelligent but I think that's a good thing to feel when you're in an unfamiliar place. It makes you appreciate and idolize those who come to a country not knowing any part of the language but succeed. I think of how hard it will be to ask where the bathroom is and get scared, I can't imagine finding a home and friendly faces. 

After our trip to Budapest will return to Madrid Thursday and decide where and what we would like to do. So far the choices are beach, a grape festival or relaxing around Madrid and exploring a bit more. I am up for any. 

All in all we are very excited and anxious to start traveling Europe. Some are going to Italy, some are going to Prague, while others are winging the whole week. That's too much spontaneity for me, one last minute jaunt is all I can handle. Baby steps. 

Ciao for now! 
- Andrea

 
Picture
Photo credit: Ryanair
We're college students who are studying abroad in Europe. By the time we come home our bank accounts will be crying themselves to sleep and we will be scraping the bottom of an empty well to pay for books. Naturally, with our desire to travel and determination to prevent this scenario from becoming reality we only saw one solution: book flights with Ryanair. Whoops. 

Ryanair, an Irish airline that operates throughout Europe, sells low-cost tickets that can't be beat by other airlines such as Easyjet, Air France and Iberia. However, lately the airline has seen some scrutiny after having several malfunctions including oxygen masks that failed to eject, loss of cabin pressure, failing to fill the plane's fuel tank efficiently and emergency landings over small technical malfunctions that the company refuses to expand upon. 

All in all, I think we made a great choice... 

I can't say that I am entirely surprised by how many issues Ryanair has had, but in all honesty, what airline doesn't have problems? We may not hear about issues other company's have because there is nothing that makes one extremely unique. What sets Ryanair apart from the others is its price and the probability of people who, like me, want to travel and not pay an arm and a leg. 

This isn't to say that I am not upset with the airline, I mean I would like to survive the three flights I have booked for this week, but there is nothing you can really do at this point except hope the company has increased its security like the news reports. I'm naturally an optimist if you couldn't tell. 

For those who are planning on studying abroad, don't be afraid of traveling on Ryanair and if you don't want to fly there are alternatives such as train or bus. 

Eight hours until flight one of three on Ryanair this week. Cross your fingers for a safe flight, but more for a fun time in Paris, France and Budapest, Hungary. 
 
Picture
Estadio Santiago Bernabeu, home of Real Madrid C.F.
It is two hours before the beginning of what was to be known as the match of the Champions League. White and blue flood the streets, chants echoe in the crowded metro, and the names Real Madrid and Manchester City are heard everywhere you turn. In the United States football is the game to watch, in Europe it is fútbol too, but the faster, lower scoring version with jersey's that flatter the figure more. Just saying. 

I have been to soccer games in the United States, a few Minnesota Thunder and University of Minnesota, Twin Cities games but they pale in comparison to this. Soccer players are not royalty in America like they are in Spain and across Europe. A stadium the size of Santiago Bernabeu wouldn't be filled to the brim on a Tuesday night at 8:45 p.m. Fans wouldn't take a personal days to travel to a game 2,027.3 kilometers away and they certainly wouldn't be told to stay in their seats until the home team fans have exited the stadium to avoid altercations either. This is the point in which a Minnesotan like myself would say, oofta. 
Picture
Now, for a baseball game it is acceptable to tailgate, but here there is no such thing, and even there was it would not be up to par for serious European fútbol fans. Bars are packed with people, money is thrown down like someone won the lottery, plastic cups and spilt beer cover the floors and outside the streets are crammed with fans talking dirt about the opposing team who just happens to have fans an arms length away. A few meanmugs and death glares are exchanged between opposing fans as their adrenaline is increasing, but no hand gestures. Yet. 

Crowds begin to swarm Santiago Bernabeu and the chant, typically heard from the stadiums bleachers, is loud and severely out of tune. Some things don't change no matter what country you're in. As we entered the stadium, encountering other American students and Englishmen who were appalled by our choice of team, you can't help but  feel one with all the other Madrid fans. 

As we approach our seats the crowd continues to chant as the players set up for kickoff.

Ale Real Madrid ale ale, 
Ale Real Madrid ale ale, 
Ale ale ale,
Ale ale ale,  
Ale Real Madrid ale! 
 
When you experience something that is so deeply rooted into a country's culture, you can't help but feel overwhelmed. My brain was doing overtime processing the fact that I was with such a diverse crowd at such an important game that was clearly mean for the passion of the masses. I was witnessing a level of passion I had only read about in "Among the Thugs" by Bill Bufford.
Picture
The crowd after Marcelo scored.
People sat, stood, screamed, together. Men and women yelled "joder" each time the ball missed the corner of the goal by what appeared to be inches. When Edin Dzeko of Manchester City scored the first goal between the 64th and 71st minute, two men in their early sixties along with a girl in her late teens lifted up their hands simultaneously and yelled a numerous expletives. Not even five minutes later Marcelo Vieira da Silva Júnior scored in rebuttal to Manchester. The same three jumped from their seats with the rest of the crowd and yelled, "Ya era hora," meaning it's about time. 

The race for the win continued and the fans didn't cut the players any slack as the teams were neck and neck until the last five minutes where Madrid scored two goals to take the lead from a tie. Packer fans can be opinionated and defensive but Real Madrid fans are opinionated, defensive and are really not in a good mood when their team is loosing. In Spain, if you say fútbol you're grilled about your favorite player and the latest game like as if you were being sworn into office. In the United States if you say soccer people think, why would you want to get hit in the head with a ball? My response, why would you want to be tackled by five men at once? 
 
Picture
Green tea Irene brought to my room.
There is a cold running around at school and within the Marquette group, naturally I have caught it. 

Today I woke up feeling absolutely terrible and as general habit I went to the bathroom to take some medicine but realized there was no medicine cabinet and that I wasn't at home in Minneapolis like I thought. I even I reached for the invisible medicine cabinet in my groggy state of mind, it was a smooth move. 

After realizing I had no Ibuprofen, and that I wasn't in Minnesota at all, I went back to my room and starfished my bed, facedown in the pillow. For those of you who don't know what starfishing is, it is when you spread your body like a star and fall onto your bed for maximum relaxation. It's highly recommended by doctors, and by doctors I mean me. 

After laying like a starfish for a few minutes and my throat and head continued to throb I realized I needed to sleep more and go to school a bit later than usual. In the U.S. I am used to bouncing back with the help of cough drops, an Ibuprofen and a cup of coffee but here it just doesn't cut it. I went to a farmacia and asked to purchase some medicine but because I was unsure as to what everything said on the label I was hesitant to buy it. I now realize I take Walgreens for granted. My señora didn't have any medicine so she offered me some tea when I got back from school and I anxiously waited for it at the counter in the kitchen on my stool. At that moment I didn't realize how much I missed having a mother figure around to make me feel better. 

The day has passed and it is now time for me to finish drinking my second cup of tea from Irene and catch some  beauty sleep. My mom even emailed me to tell me to go to bed. Amazing how far you can be away from home and still have a mother's presence, whether it's your real mom emailing you or your señora bringing you a cute tray with your tea and smiling to make you feel better. 
 
As I study for the three exams and two papers I have this week I can't help but get distracted. You check your Facebook, look at Twitter and see if Ted has posted anything funny lately, drink the tea your señora made you because you're sick, and then you wind up looking at memes

I don't know who created memes, how they became so popular or why I find them so amusing, but the other students and I have been studying all day and I decided to bring a little joy to them by posting a meme in our group page on the fact that you only live once, more commonly known in it's acronym form: YOLO

We all thought it was work a chuckle, hopefully you do too. 
Picture
Our group page with our study guide posts.
Picture
Our group page made a little more fun after a days hard work.
 
My professors here have to think there is something wrong with my face. The constant look of intense concentration and confusion coupled with one eyebrow raised is becoming my permanent look. I think I need to learn how to say, "I need a brain massage," to go along with a joke I told myself today, "Perdón mi cara," or "Pardon my face." (I'm funny guys, I know). I also have never tested the theory of cracking an egg on a sidewalk on a hot summer day, but I imagine it feels a little bit like my brain being fried after two straight hours of history, politics and art lectures in Spanish and then repeating for grammar and composition after a 30 minute break. 

A classmate of mine said it gets easier after a few weeks. You won't be so stressed to catch every detail of the lectures, your Spanish will improve and your ear will become acclimated to hearing Spanish rather than English. I'm sure this is completely true, but for now all I want is for my face to go back to normal and starfish my bed when I go take my siesta.

So, a few words of advice for those traveling abroad to a country where you aren't familiar with the language: 

A.) Don't worry about writing down all the notes, just listen for a bit and then write down what you remember. 
B.) Take deep breaths, you aren't the only one who doesn't understand, and don't be afraid to ask questions.
C.) Talk to your señoras - mine is a gabber and I love practicing my Spanish with her because she corrects me.
D.) Learn the fun way! Our group goes out to local places and learns local words and some have a class where they learn slang for part of it and then we all share!  
E.) Have fun. You're in a foreign country.
 
May 15, 2012 marked a special day for me, but more so for my brother and sister-in-law. Nolan William Anderson was born into the world at 2:52 p.m. and was a whopping 21.5 inches long. As an Anderson, we don't disclose what we weigh so you will have to guesstimate. The whole family could not have been happier.

Less than three months later on Sunday, September 9th, Mr. Nolan was baptized and I couldn't have felt sadder. I mean I was thrilled, some would say pumped, that he had a special day all to himself, but I was just disappointed that I didn't get to see the little guy get all dressed up in white and not have a clue in the world why water was being poured on him and who the heck that strange dude with a black and white collar was. I missed an important moment in Nolan's life and now I'm also missing out on Marquette's basketball season and fantasy football. Dang it! 

Studying abroad is, in a way, a sacrifice. You know you are going to miss birthdays, late night study dates in Raynor, the chatter of what ridiculous event happened the night before, the hype before a big game and the genuine feel of being on a campus that turned into your second home. 

Missing all those things is a debbie downer, but studying abroad is a sacrifice that only makes you a stronger, more independent individual. 

Here, in Madrid, you learn to navigate the metro, think about the places you want to travel to become richer in experience, and find out how to convert Euros to US dollars and then become extremely saddened by how bad the exchange rate is. There are countless things you learn that you never expected to, however, the most strengthening experience is finding out how life is on your own, away from the people you rely on most. In all honesty, at times it stinks a little. There are moments where nothing sounds better than a venting session with my mom or moments when I want to be back home with my friends to actually see the humorous stories unfold rather than just hear them. But the reality is that these feelings are seldom once you learn how to brush things off your shoulder, not look back, keep trucking and remember how you're making your own memories with new people. 

A professor and travel buddy of mine told me something really important while in India: you can't control what is out of your hands and what is unchangeable. I heard this over and over before but in India when dealing with technology fiascos and here where I am, for all intensive purposes, on my own it is finally sinking in. I've learned that you can't control everything and that it is actually enjoyable to fly by the seat of your pants. I don't miss being a control freak one bit. I have even been limiting the amount of time I spend with my planner. For those who don't know me well, that is a rather large step for me. Picture a collection of post-it notes and lists color coded for the importance of tasks along with several notes in the margin regarding upcoming deadlines, birthdays, anniversaries and more.  

In the United States I am a plane ride away from my friends or an apartment away from making a lifetime of memories, I'm a button away from a conversation with my mom but here I'm a metro stop away from hanging out with my brand spanking new friends and a room away from my señora who is watching a gameshow. I wouldn't trade one for another because I know there is a time in life where I will always be missing out on something and someone. 

Nolan and I have had some good moments. He won't remember them, but I always will. Jae Crowder also won't remember the time he gave me a high five either, but I will. Studying abroad is a sacrifice, but so is going to a school in Wisconsin away from my family. You just have to make the most out of every decision and moment you make. It's just how life works, so enjoy it while it lasts and don't dwell on what you may be missing out. Now, that's what I call a problem free philosophy.