The last hoorah!

December 12th, 2011 by mbuonopane

I’ve spent the past week exploring Geneva, a little of France, and Amsterdam. All I can say is Wow, it’s a big world out there. Colin Longhurst and I took a six hour bus ride to Madrid where we took a plane to Geneva. We decided to stay across the border in a little French town called Annemasse. Geneva is one the most expensive cities in the world, but it’s also one of the most beautiful. We figured staying in France would allow us to save a little money; as I’m sure you can imagine, finances have gotten tight since we’ve been here.  Regardless, we had an amazing and relaxing time.  A few highlights included The Natural History Museum, the WTO and the United Nations headquarters.  Actually, there are too many to list, everywhere had something cool!  Possibly my favorite part was looking up at basically any point and being surrounded by the Alps.  We spent quite some time walking around Lake Geneva.  Annemasse was a great place to stay even though it’s basically the opposite of a tourist town.  It was quiet and relaxed with affordable dining options.  One thing that struck me was the diversity of Geneva.  I have seen a very small amount of the globe, but I felt like I was in the midst of people from all different cultures and countries.  America is often referred to as a cultural melting pot, Geneva has a similar feel. 

The Alps!

Massive geese (Colin Longhurst shown for size proportion)

An animal exhibit at Geneva’s natural history museum

Just a typical day.

Not really sure why, but nearly every main street has some sort of road race.

Walking through the center of Geneva was a flashy display of luxury brands and expensive restaurants.  Unfortunately, Colin and I had no where near enough money to try much of the Swiss dining, but I’m still thrilled with what we saw and did.

Amsterdam-bound, once again notice the Alps

Fortunately, Amsterdam proved to be a little more affordable.  The food was good and not too expensive, and the sights were within our price range.  A group of us took a tour of Amsterdam’s sprawling system of canals, we took a really interesting tour of the Heineken factory and we even visited the the Van Gogh art museum.  All of these were really fun!  Amsterdam certainly is an interesting place, and whatever brought you, you’re bound to find it around nearly every corner!  That being said, the city may not be for the faint of heart.  You’ll find lots of international English speakers, but the city’s reputation often makes for an overwhelming (but of course exciting!) experience

We’ve found a lot of things in Europe, Colin and Kylie found each other

Wow, what a trip!  Now it’s on to final exams….  Thanks for reading!

Morocco

November 29th, 2011 by mbuonopane

So, a little late, but last weekend our program traveled to Morocco for the weekend. Simply. Amazing. From riding camels to learning what life is like in a village smaller than even the tiniest in Maine, it truly was an experience. Morocco is a captivating place. I was especially excited because I had absolutely no idea what the Arabic world was like.  We hopped a bus from Sevilla down to the coast, and took a ferry across the Mediterranean (Even as I write this I still can’t believe how amazing this weekend was from start to finish!)  From there, we headed to Tangiers to meet with an NGO which helps provide education and jobs to the homeless throughout the area.  Hearing about subjects such as the Arab Spring straight from the source really puts things in perspective, and makes you want to help.

This trip was priceless solely because I now know, first-hand, about the culture. I now know how hospitable, kind and funny Moroccans can be. Our host family was very happy to have us. In fact, there were even other Americans study abroad students staying there, so they gave us some inside information on studying in Morocco. It sounds quite different from what we’ve experienced in Sevilla!

Our host father is a doctor in Rabbat, so he was very popular around town. He gave us a walk through the market, and told us about himself and his family. I was a little apprehensive when I heard that we’d be visiting a Hammum, a traditional Arabic bathhouse. It ended up being one of the most fun things I’ve done thus far. Who would have thought having super hot water poured over you while scrubbing yourself raw would have been so fun! Camels have been my favorite animal ever since watching Planet Earth; finally riding one was a dream come true.

(I also got to ride this donkey, really random, but really cool!)

Chefchaouen was the last town we visited, and we spent one night there. If I ever come back to Morocco (scratch then, WHEN I come back) I’ll need to hike the mountains surrounding this town.  We spent the night in a quiet little hostel, but before resting up, we shopped all throughout the market and had a nice relaxing dinner.  Couldn’t have asked for a better night; this entire weekend blew my mind.  For a little of the scenery, check out the video below!

 

Classes thus far

October 25th, 2011 by mbuonopane

Contrary to popular belief, studying abroad in Sevilla actually does consist of some studying. While having projects and homework is normally an agonizing experience, in Spain I truly feel like I’m enriching my education. I have five classes here. Elementary Espanol, international finance, international marketing, global economy and my UNE online course, Statistics. Spanish has probably been my favorite simply because I really enjoy learning the language. I anticipate each class as it opens up my world a little more here. Conversations that I’ve wished I could have had in Spanish are now a possibility. Then there’s international finance. I love this class because I love investing and the stock market. This class focuses on those subjects, subjects which will no doubt help me one day (and possibly make me lots and lots of money!!). International marketing is enjoyable mostly because the teacher is one of the funniest men I’ve ever met. Dotting lectures with humor really helps in retaining the knowledge. Global economy is probably the most difficult because we cover a lot each class. Fortunately, the material is all very interesting and relevant to today. I’m glad I have the opportunity to take statistics because it’s one more class out of the way.

These are a few pictures of the campus. It’s not much bigger than UNE’s and the palm trees create a pretty nice atmosphere! Also, I’m not sure why but there is an abundance of cats across the campus…

CIEE and the Universidad Pable de Olavide also offer a number of extracurricular activities. Of course, I go to the gym three days a week following class. In addition, to save time, I complete most of my homework at the large library. The campus is fully equipped with wifi. CIEE offers many opportunities. For example, the writing center offered a free workshop on learning the subjunctive tense. There are many cultural, company and architectural visits. On Sunday, I’m going on another hiking trip!

Also, completely unrelated to classes. But I stumbled upon a massive protest taking place in the middle of Sevilla. I believe it was a protest of Spain’s economic issues.

Barcelona!

October 16th, 2011 by mbuonopane

This past weekend was my much anticipated weekend trip to Barcelona with friends from the group. Obviously, the highlight of the trip was sensation music festival, but the whole weekend blew my mind! After the somewhat tedious process of booking our flight, hostel and tickets, we had nothing to do but sit and wait for what would prove to be one of the best weekends of my life. Friday included getting lost for hours in the sprawling maze of scenery which is Barcelona. This city is much larger than Sevilla and has a more big city feel. In addition to this, many people there speak Catalan and English, as well as Spanish. I’m beginning to realize that Spain itself has many different cultures. Anyway, on Friday we finally found our way to Parque Geull, a huge art filled park situated on a peak in Barcelona.

At one point, several of us sat up on a wall. This offered a breathtaking view of the city.

That night we decided to visit a nightclub called Razzmataz. This disco is one of the best Barcelona has to offer, and any best of what Barcelona has to offer is bound to be pretty awesome! Being a Friday night, the entire club was packed with Spaniards, Americans and other Europeans. The first floor was a live rock concert. After seeing this I now have a vested interest in investigating Spanish rock. The second floor was an energetic rave, this would be just a taste of what we would find at Sensation. Off from this main room were several smaller dance scenes. All in all a pretty fun tonight, we made our way back to the hostel. We had a very long day ahead of us.

 

We started off the day by going out for brunch.  I was feeling a little homesick so I decided to go American and get eggs, toast and bacon.  However, as always I couldn’t escape one aspect of Spanish dining.  My coffee was possibly the strongest one I’d ever had!  Today we had planned on touring Sagrada Familia, a massive Cathedral constructed by architect Antonio Guadi.  If you’re ever in Barcelona I would recommend, no, I would insist that you come here.

Obviously the view was incredible from OUTSIDE, so naturally upon entering I thought my head would explode from the coolness of the architecture.  Guadi began construction on the cathedral in 1882, but modern architects have continued work on the monument.  We walked around taking in the scenery and listening to our audio tours. 

 

After soaking up some Spanish culture, we prepared for the main act, Sensation.  As we all dawned our white clothing and determined a schedule for the night, one could feel the anticipation in the air, not just from us but from the entire city of Barcelona.  We met at Plaza de Espana, and began our trek to the stadium.  In true Spanish fashion, we arrived one hour late to allow the festival some time to heat up.  We entered to the sound of pounding bass and cheers from the crowd.

I’ll let you get an idea of the time we had from this picture.  It goes without saying, we were not disappointed.  We ended our night exhausted but immensely thrilled at 7 Am.  The next day we slept it not out of choice, but out of necessity.  We decided to explore the shopping district of Las Ramblas, a goldmine of souvenirs, restaurants and monuments.  The end of the district merged with the beach.  Barcelona’s beaches have been rated some of the best in the world.  Honestly, I wasn’t even aware that Barcelona was on the coast until a friend recommended that I pack a bathing suit hahaha.  We sat on the beach and one of our friends even received a back massage from a nomadic masseuse.

 

 

We concluded the night with a nice dinner at Las Ramblas.  Our flight departed at 6 Am the next morning.  Beaten and battered we boarded a flight back to Sevilla.  Weekend = Success.

More photos available here: http://s1179.photobucket.com/albums/x382/mbuonopane1/

Conil, the Cathedral, and the future

October 7th, 2011 by mbuonopane

Hey everyone, earlier this week some friends and I made a trip to the famous Cathedral of Sevilla. As the largest Cathedral in Spain, it has earned itself quite a reputation, and there was no way I was going to miss an opportunity to pay it a visit. The view from outside the actual cathedral was extremely impressive, so obviously the view from the top of the tower was absolutely breathtaking.

In addition to this, last weekend I spent a night in the beach town of Conil, located next to Cadiz. The beach season has just about passed here in Sevilla, but we still spent the entire day enjoying the sun and swimming in the ocean. We spent the night exploring the town and trying out various restaurants and bars. Spanish culture has indeed abounded in these last few weeks!!

This weekend, I’ll be in Barcelona for a music festival which I’m immensely excited for. I like to consider it a vacation from a vacation, so to speak. I also have several travel plans for the future, including Morocco!! You may ask “Why do you travel so much Matt? If you loved Portugal so much then why didn’t you just study there instead?” Well, yes Portugal was beautiful, and everywhere I’ve been so far is as well. However, I can’t think of a more perfect place to return to and continue my studies than Sevilla. Thanks for reading guys, talk to you soon.

Also, I’ve uploaded another short video on Sevilla!  And more of my newly taken photos are available here.

http://s1179.photobucket.com/home/mbuonopane1

 

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