As I sit at the airport gate to head back to Gainesville for my sophomore year, I am flooded with thoughts and memories about my busy but special summer.
I knew this moment was approaching – but I just cannot believe where I am today vs. where I was a little over one year ago. (I was actually at the same airport, which is kind of funny.) One year ago, the excitement and anticipation to start my first year at the University of Florida was off the charts. Now, I am excited to return to my new home and start fresh once again – but I know the ropes, and I know what to expect (a little more, at least). I am returning to the Gator Nation feeling much different and having experienced much more than I did one year ago.
From passports to paella, libraries to linguine, Spain to Sandusky and everywhere in between – this has been a summer of the faraway and the familiar, of the new and old. I have created an alphabetical list of this summer’s adventures, memories, foods (of course) and a few words of wisdom sprinkled in for good measure. I hope you enjoy this as much as I enjoyed writing it!
A is for Ancient Rome, it’s not like home
I didn’t quite make it to Rome, but I did get to see this breathtaking Roman aqueduct in Segovia, Spain. The Aqueduct of Segovia is one of the best-preserved ancient structures in Spain and Portgual. Looking up at the manmade structure, which welcomes visitors and residents into the city center, I felt like I was traveling through time.
B is for Bad TV
I spent some time catching up on my favorite so-bad-but-so-good reality TV shows. (We all do it.) Brunch battles, dog weddings and disastrous dinner parties are just some of the “conflicts” that unfold on shows such as the Real Housewives of New York. (Bravo TV is the best/worst thing that ever happened to cable.)
C is for Catalonia
During my time abroad, the Catalonia region of Spain truly felt like my home away from home. Living in Barcelona, the capital of Catalonia, I learned about the Catalan language, culture and way of life. I also visited other cities in the region, including Girona and Figueres.
D is for
Don’t Do look down
From cable car rides to mountaintop heights, some of the best views are the ones that are hard to imagine until you are there in person – the ones that can’t be fully captured from behind a screen.
E is for Entença
Próxima Estaciòn: Entença. This Metro stop was the closest to my school building in Barcelona. The stairs, the location, the hectic rush-hour train cars and the zig-zag pattern on the platform all seem so familiar and vivid in my mind.
F is for the Follett House
During my community foundation internship, I spent many days at the Follett House Museum, a Greek Revival mansion built in 1837 in Sandusky, OH. I redesigned exhibits, learned about the history of my hometown and welcomed visitors into the historic space.
G is for Gelato
This pistachio gelato in Avignon, France, was basically the closest I came to having a summer love (and I’m pretty OK with it).
H is for Having the time of my life
Though I am no stranger to jumping into a new endeavor without knowing anyone, in all honesty, I was nervous about making friends when I was abroad. Little did I know that being randomly paired with five roommates in an unfamiliar apartment in Barcelona would result in an endless amount of laughs, hilarious scenarios, and most importantly, newfound friendships.
I is for Ina Garten
When I think of spending time at home, I can’t help but think of delicious food. (Thank you, Mom.) Some of my favorite recipes are from the one and only Ina Garten (better known as the Barefoot Contessa). We can all use a little bit of shrimp linguine (and maybe even some”good” vanilla extract) every now and then.
J is for Just like old times
As always, there were some fun days spent with my friends Anna and Mitchell. From singing really obnoxiously down the Cedar Point Chaussee to prank-calling Anna at her job (we tried, at least) and commentating every Olympic event, we never fail to make the most routine moments into something memorable.
K is for Kaleidoscope
La Sagrada Familia, one of the most famous cathedrals in the world, was just a few blocks from my apartment in Barcelona. (When else in my life will I get to say that!?) This architectural masterpiece is worth all the hype; the stained glass, monstrous ceilings and incredibly ornate detailing made me feel like I was walking through one giant optical illusion.
L is for L’Eixample
L’Eixample is the district in Barcelona where I lived during my study abroad trip. Home to some of the city’s most notable architectural and cultural landmarks, L’Eixample is known for its grid-style streets and long diagonal avenues. I loved experiencing life in a residential part of the city while still being close to vibrant, bustling areas.
M is for Making time for the things I love
No matter my schedule, I always try my best to make time for things that make me happy, such as writing, blogging and being creative (and feeding into my obsession with pens and paper).
N is for Never getting tired of the views
I could roam endlessly around a new city and stare at the buildings, the streets and the little details like clotheslines and balconies (and people walking their dogs). Pictured below is Girona, a city in Catalonia jam-packed with medieval history, picturesque views and melon-colored buildings. (Fun fact: The show Game of Thrones was filmed here!)
O is for Opportunity
Experiences such as living in a different country, traveling far from home and making an impact in your community are not to be taken for granted. Even if seizing an opportunity means making a tough decision or taking a leap of faith, you have to trust your instinct and know it will be worth it in the end.
P is for Perspective
It is always important to understand a story or an idea from a new point of view. Between pondering Dalí’s surrealist art in Figueres, Spain, (my mind still kind of hurts) to interacting with people of all walks of life during my library internship, the past few months have been filled with lots of new perspectives and ideas.
Q is for the Quirkiest bottle of ketchup I have ever seen
I realize this one is kind of a stretch – but look at this little bottle of ketchup! S’cute. (I’m not sure why, but my fingers look a little creepy in this picture.)
R is for Raisin Bread
Long story short: We ate too much of it. Read the full story here.
S is for the Sandusky Library
When I returned from my travels, the Sandusky Library quickly became my second home. Though I was surrounded by books, I didn’t do too much reading; I taught iMovie/GarageBand classes for kids and teens, answered questions of all sorts, helped adults use Facebook/the Internet for the first time, and learned a lot about my community and the important “behind the scenes” work that makes a nonprofit organization function to its fullest potential.
T is for Taking it all in
(Warning: this might sound a little Namaste-y.) In the midst of traveling, spending time with friends and being surrounded by nonstop action, it is always worthwhile to take a step back from the action and simply enjoy a moment for what it is.
U is for Unfiltered moments
Not every moment is as saturated, perfectly-lit or steady as we see on Facebook and Instagram; in fact, some of the best moments are the unpredictable ones that are a little off-centered and maybe not the most photogenic – the ones that catch us off guard (in a good way).
V is for Vineyard Vines (in real life)
I will never forget my day spent at Alta Alella Winery near Barcelona. Situated on the Mediterranean, Alta Alella specializes in creating organic, sulfite-free wines. I loved learning about the process of wine-making, the history of the company and the winery’s marketing strategy. This was simply one of the most beautiful places I have ever been.
W is for Words
…and music. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland featured a traveling exhibit from the Newseum in Washington, D.C. Both the Rock Hall and the Newseum are extremely interactive and feature amazing videos, activities and artifacts. (One of my favorite museum objects is Bon Jovi’s high school report card, which is on display at the Rock Hall. JBJ got a C in gym. Celebs: They’re just like us.)
X is for Xurros con Xocolate
When in Spain, one must indulge in churros con chocolate (spelled with an ‘X’ in Catalan). It’s hard to go wrong with churros, fried dough pastries doused in sugar – but when they are paired with a steaming hot mug of melted chocolate, the taste experience is unlike any other.
Y is for YouTube
I may not be the most professional YouTuber on the web (I don’t even think I can call myself a “YouTuber”), but creating little videos about my adventures is so much fun. I love matching songs to the feel of a place, time or event, and I have a blast putting my ideas together and documenting my memories beyond the diary pages.
Z is for Zzzzs
With lots of traveling comes different time zones, different schedules, jet-lag and the never-fading desire to nap. Whether it’s the window seat or the backseat, some of my best snoozes have happened in transit. Buenas noches.
It’s hard to believe, but here we go – onto Chapter Two of my college career! (I’m mentally preparing myself/my hair to return to the Florida humidity.)
Here’s to a summer to remember and many more good times to come,