The Final Countdown

I was getting chocolate con churros with one of my friends here for the last time tonight, and she mentioned the fact that she will be back at home in 4 days.  Wow, I guess I don’t think it had really hit me yet because I will still be running around Europe for the next three weeks with my family…but the end is here.

I made it!!


I don’t know about anyone else, but I think I deserve some props for surviving in a foreign country by myself for the past 4 months! (Mom and Dad, maybe buy me an extra beer to celebrate???)

Before stepping foot on the airplane that would eventually take me to Madrid, my head was constantly filled with people’s stories about how wonderful their time studying abroad had been, how they were so jealous of me, and how they all knew that I was going to thrive and love my time here.   And yes, some parts of that are very true and I have some great memories with some really cool people here, but there are also a lot of things no one ever told me before I left so I thought I would share a few with you now…

  • It is amazing to see how the love and care of family and friends from home will continue to shine through and get you through the really rough days (because you will have them).
  • A best friend is the same no matter where you see them.
  • It is EXHAUSTING to try to think in another language all day and it is such a comfort to overhear people talking in English.
  • It is not easy.

Amazing pastries in Copenhagen!

  • Crying at the grocery store because you can’t find anything is okay. You’ll figure it out soon.

Cathedral en Santiago de Compostela 

  • Spend the 10 euros to buy a milkshake and french fries from Five Guys.  Comfort food is such a real and important thing.


  • Don’t be afraid to lean on others…we have all had very rough days but they are much easier with other people.
  • Be proud of yourself for the small accomplishments (like taking the Metro without getting lost).

There is a common stereotype that people will return from studying abroad enlightened, ready to leave America, and change the world. I know that as I return home and really have a chance to reflect on my time here, I may begin to feel many of those emotions.  But right now I can’t wait to get a back massage from my mom and talk to strangers in English!

Time to stop procrastinating and crank out my finals before Uncle John and Aunt Tarren arrive in a week! (p.s. I’ll finish adding my pictures to Facebook soon!)

Hasta Luego ❤


Sun set over St. Paul’s Cathedral in London 



The talk of the world

So I actually starting writing this post about a week ago and was going to make a joke about how whenever anyone in Spain finds out you are American, the first question you always get it “Hillary or Trump?”  Usually following this is some laughter about the fact that anyone would actually support Trump…expect for the fact that quickly became the reality of the world a week ago.  Now I usually just get the question of “Rachel, what is wrong with America and why did that happen?” to which I usually just have to shrug and say “I wish I knew….”

It has been interesting being on this side of the world during this time and being able to experience first hand the impact that the USA has throughout the world.  I was talking with my intercambio (someone you meet with to practice both Spanish and English), and she was so upset because she was finally getting close to having enough money to go visit the states, but it now very worried that she will not get a visa or would not be treated well upon arrival.  As Abigail said, “We will all be in Spain in January so we might as well accidentally miss our plane tickets home.”


Found the Mona Lisa!

On a happier note, in my ceramics class we are just beginning our final project which is making tea bowls.  Last week we had a lesson on the history of the tea bowl and how the symbolism and importance is much more than just a vessel to carry tea.  My professor ended by reading us a long poem about the bowl and I wanted to share an excerpt of it with y’all….

Para entrar en una relación armónica con la naturaleza y los cinco sentidos: (to enter into a harmonious relationship with nature and the five senses)

Oído…para escuchar el agua y disfrutar del silencio exterior (hearing…to listen to the water and to enjoy the outside silence)


Finally got to enjoy some fall colors!

Vista…para apreciar la belleza del entorno y de los objetos (sight…to appreciate the beauty of the surroundings and objects)


Luxembourg gardens in Paris 

Tacto…para valorar la calidad y textura de los objetos utilizados (touch…to value the quality and texture of the objects used)


Notre Dame 


Sacre Coeur 

Olfato…para apreciar los aromas del entorno y del propio te (smell…to appreciate the aromas of the surroundings and of the tea itself)



Catacombs – Paris

Gusto…para saborear el matcha verde (taste…to savour the green matcha)

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!







Just let me do some homework!

So I am currently in the midst of midterms here (which I guess might also coincide with the halfway point of my time in Spain?!?!) so decided it was time to take a weekend off from traveling and exploring and actually do some studying! However, I never thought it would do so hard to be a student here….


The self portraits we made in ceramics class on Tuesday 

I don’t enjoy doing homework in my room (because then I just want to take a nap!), so yesterday I decided to walk around and try to find a new cafe to work in. However after trying a few different, I learned that there was a rule that many don’t allow people to work on laptops during the weekend because “el fin de semana es divertido, no es para estudiar”.  (“The weekends are for fun and not for studying”). So today I decided to take a different approach and try to find and study at a public library, but I quickly learned that in order to use the Internet you need to have an library card which requires you to be a resident of Madrid. Luckily during the week, the library at my university is open but it is also closed on the weekends because no students live on campus.  I never thought I would be excited to do homework and study at the large and wonderful library at Rice!!!!

Anatomy lab this week 


Friday afternoon in lab when everyone was sick of working so we just talked about all the wonderful places I need to visit in Spain before I leave

On a happier note, I had a wonderful trip to San Sebastián with some friends last weekend to celebrate my 21st birthday.  We spent Saturday hiking up a mountain to get a beautiful view overlooking the city and then spent Sunday exploring the city and enjoying the beautiful beach.

Overlooking “la concha”



Birthday dinner! I did have a chicken one because seafood is not really my style.



These rocks are used to break up the waves and prevent them from flooding the streets.


Also, my host parents have started to laugh at some of my sarcastic humor, so I’m taking that as a big win that my Spanish is getting better!
I’m off to Barcelona next weekend with one of my best friends from Rice (he is studying in Copenhagen and coming to visit)!
Hasta Luego 🙂

The beautiful crystal palace in Parque Retiro

Dos semanas, dos paises, dos playas

After starting to get settled and more accustomed to the Spanish lifestyle, I decided to change things up a little bit and begin to explore the many places that surround me here in Madrid. Two Saturday’s ago, I hoped on a bus with the rest of the students in my program and we headed to Valencia! (I was just excited to finally get back on a beach!)


Post AMAZING castle breakfast 

It is about a 5 hour trip from Madrid to Valencia, but we stopped about halfway to have a fabulous, 7 course, breakfast in a an old castle.  I have never eaten so much bread and it was wonderful 🙂  Quickly after, everyone on the bus was fast asleep until we reached Valencia.  We spent some time exploring the city, including climbing 207 steep stairs to the top of a cathedral, but was so worth it for the views from the top!



View from the top of a Cathedral bell tower overlooking Valencia 


We quickly headed to the beach after and arrived just in time to get into the Mediterranean (!) and watch a beautiful sunset. The next day was spent at the aquarium which is the largest in Europe.


Cuidad de ciencias y artes in Valencia (where the aquarium was)


Got to experience paella for the first time with this view 🙂

Last weekend, some friends and I climbed aboard an all night train to Lisboa (Lisbon) Portugal. We were all very disappointed that they never check your passport while traveling within the EU, so we won’t be able to collect lots of stamps :(.  We arrived on Saturday morning and quickly made our way to the beach to take a wonderful nap (maybe the cheap overnight train was not the best idea..). The following day we  joined a free walking tour and then ended up exploring the old neighborhood, Alfama. Alfama is the only neighborhood in Lisbon that was not destroyed by an earthquake in 1755 because it was built on solid rock.  It is full of very narrow streets which prevents cars from being able to pass through this neighborhood and people reply solely on foot traffic to get around.


La playa en Lisboa (Atlantic Ocean)


Apparently we really enjoying climbing large towers to get good views of cities…


Taken from the top of Alfama (tallest/oldest part of Lisbon)


The tower of Belem (a suburb of Lisbon)


Pastel de Belem – a custard tart that was voted as the 14th best food in the world by Guardian Magazine!  It was delicious 🙂

After these two trips I quickly learned how exhausting it is to travel every weekend, so I am looking forward to a nice relaxing weekend in Madrid!




The Joys of Getting Lost

During our week of orientation and during various tours after, we were told many times that Madrid is a great city to just go exploring and get lost and see what happens. As I began to settle into my first week of classes and “normal life”, I thought the number of times that I would get lost would decrease.  However, just the opposite seems to be true so I thought I would share some of the good (and bad) “getting lost” experiences I have had so far…

  1. Trying to navigate the Madrid Metro (subway) for the first time and just getting off at random stops to go exploring. metro.png
  2. Exploring Sol (one of the most touristy parts of town) and seeing a huge line outside of a chocolateria, so having to stop and get my first chocolate con churros!IMG_4170.JPG
  3. Going shopping at a large Spanish supermarket and realizing my food vocabulary is very minimal.  I have also never seen so many types of ham in my life!!
  4. Realizing I accidentally got on the wrong bus to school which took students to the upper level classes at hospitals, not the undergraduate campus where my classes were located. Luckily the bus driver was very nice and drove me to the correct location after. img_4184
  5. Exploring some of the over 2000 rooms of the Palacio Real. img_4195
  6. Trying to find a post office and explaining to them that I needed envelopes and stamps to send a birthday card back to the United States.
  7. Sitting through my first anatomy class as my professor told us that yes this class was in English, but Anatomy is practically its own language. 3c068c816b3d05f613b7be2ff3cce1ca.jpg
  8. Hearing my host mom yell through the bathroom door that the hot water wasn’t working this morning right as I was about to begin a VERY frigid shower. img_4168
  9. Walking to El Museo de Reina Sofia (the home of Picasso’s famous Guernica) and finding this beautiful wall of vines. fullsizerender

    The Guernica (based off of the turmoil during the Spanish Civil War).

    Guess it’s time to try to get home without using Google Maps!



    P.S. Para uno de mis clases, necesito escribir sobre mi tiempo en Madrid.  Quiere leer, aquí es el enlace.


Soul Searching

On the first day of classes on Thursday, my Spanish professor started our classes by quoting, “to speak a different language is to possess another soul.”  So I have come to understand that this week, and the next 4 months here, will be a long extended quest to discover my new hidden soul!


I arrived without problems in Madrid on Monday and was quickly whisked away into a week full of orientations, tours, and the beginnings of life in Madrid.  This semester I will be taking an anatomy class at a local university (CEU San Pablo) and Spanish Language, Ceramics, and Spanish Art and Architecture with IES (the program I am studying with).  My host parents live in an apartment – near the Moncloa metro stop for those who are familiar with Madrid.  My host mom works for a dry cleaning company and my host dad helps to run a family shop (although I didn’t fully understand what kind!). They are both very nice, but confused why I go to bed so early (around midnight or 1am!).

On Saturday we went to tour the nearby city of Segovia. Segovia has many influences of both Gothic and Roman architecture.  It is also home to the Alcázar which sits high and mighty as the beginning of the city.  It was created as a fortress to protect the city and was built to resemble to bow of a ship.  It also served as the royal palace beginning with Queen Isabel and King Ferdinand when their marriage joined together the two previous regions of Spain.  Through their reigns and the ones that followed, Spain became one of the most powerful empires in the world.


The mighty Alazar de Segovia! (notice the boat shape…?)



Overlooking la Iglesia de la Vera Cruz from the Alcazar


The MAGNIFICENT cathedral from the plaza mayor de Segovia

We were also able to see the Roman aqueduct which was built to carry fresh water 14km from a mountain spring into the city so the people of Segovia were able to have fresh water. Along its route, it reaches heights of ~100 ft tall and is built entirely from stone. Quite amazing to see!!


Looking up at the aqueduct from the city.


That’s all for now as it’s time for Spanish class and a little more soul searching…

Besos ❤




I probably have too many clothes…

Rumor has it that in the next 72 hours I will have left the comforts of Glencoe St and find myself 5000 miles away in Madrid, Spain. I guess that would mean my visa is successful, I actually manage to finish packing, and my mom doesn’t cry too much at the airport!

I am a biology 10610561_841390289205203_4291459679506975469_nmajor about to begin my junior year of college at Rice University, but decided to change things up and spend the next 4 months exploring a new continent.  I am going to be living in Madrid and studying Spanish (and potentially a Biology class too). There are still many unknowns about how exactly I will occupy myself the next 4 months; however, as I know more I will make sure to pass that knowledge along to y’all as well!

So feel free to follow along on my journey here.  It may justIMG_4010 be a sassy description of my day to day life while trying to convince a whole new group of people that I DON’T actually like pizza, a collection of selfies with some interesting and potentially famous backgrounds, and I might even throw in a few deep insights I have about life (but no promises!!).

Ok, I better stop here because Abigail told me that long blog posts are boring and I have to keep mine short with lots of pictures to get her to read them.

Talk to you soon from España,


P.S. My address and email are in the contact tab above if you wanted them!