The Experience of A Lifetime

As I sit here in my room in Seville, Spain I keep asking myself where the time went. I have less than a week left here, and it is so bittersweet. I remember the day I was leaving from home in Massachusetts for Spain, I was a whirlwind of emotions. I was excited, scared, nervous, and not really sure what to expect. When my plane landed in Madrid I couldn’t believe I was starting my study abroad experience, now I can’t believe it is already time to head back home.

Dan Peltier '17I have had the time of my life this fall. Over the past two months I have been to eight different countries ranging from Italy to the completely exotic country of Morocco. As hard as it was coming here in the first place, it is going to be even harder to leave.

In the months of October and November I traveled almost every weekend. I visited some unforgettable places, and had some memorable experiences – both good and bad. Facing adversity – from language barriers, to having friends fall victim to pickpockets and food poisoning actually were important moments for me. I learned to deal better with adversity.

Things are bound to go wrong at some point. As awful as some of these things were I’m actually thankful that they happened. When something would go wrong I didn’t have the option to be able to pick up the phone and call someone I knew for help or advice. I was in a foreign country and we had to learn how to fix things on our own. Yes, some things were more serious than others but you still learn how to manage a situation and more importantly keep calm so you can think straight and problem solve.

In my time in Seville, I have come to make great friends from all around the world. That is probably one of the greatest rewards about my study abroad experience other than being able to travel. I made some great friends here that I know I will have for life. I also have a new appreciation for family.

I elected to live in a “homestay” with a Spanish family for the semester, and I am so glad I made this decision. My family has been absolutely amazing and I have come to love them like they are my family. My homestay dad Jaime has taught me so much about the culture of Spain and has showed and explained the Spanish culture to me in so many ways. My homestay mom Elo is absolutely amazing, I don’t know what I would’ve done without her in this experience. She really was like my mom away from home. She helped me to develop my Spanish speaking and listening abilities, and I can’t thank her enough for that.

I also have had the best little sister named Lucia. I have learned so much Spanish from talking to her and hanging out with her. In my real family back home in the states I don’t have sister but after spending the last three months with her I can say that I’m definitely going to miss having her around. Especially when she would just come to sit and talk with me in my room as I was doing homework. I am so thankful that I had such an amazing family to stay with.

If you ever have the chance to study abroad or just go abroad even just for a short period of time you have to take that opportunity. It has been truly amazing and probably the best decision of my life to do this. Exploring other countries, cultures, and meeting new people has truly been eye opening for me and definitely makes me reevaluate what I want out of my life. All I know is that one-day I will make my way back to Europe.

There is so much of the world I want to see, and I can’t wait to keep traveling.

Czechin’ out Prague

Over Halloween weekend, I spent my time in the awesome Eastern European city of Prague. Prague was my first time ever being in Eastern Europe and what a difference it was from being in Spain. First off the biggest and most noticeable difference for me was the weather.

In Sevilla, Spain I am used to 75 degree temperatures but when I got off the plane in Prague it was a brisk 40 degrees. The airport is near the outskirts of the city but it was very easy to navigate from the airport to the city center where our hostel was located. One wonderful thing about being Prague is how cheap everything was, the Euro has a very strong conversion rate their so we were able to stay at a very nice hostel for not as much money as it would have cost somewhere else in Europe.

Walking the streets of Prague I could see so many differences from Spain. The main thing that stood out to me was the architecture of the buildings. They were nothing like I have seen before in my travels. They were unique and there was great street art all over Prague that gave it a different charm. We walked all over the city since it was very easy to navigate by foot.

Everywhere we went we saw great examples of Gothic and medieval architecture. One of my favorite areas had to be the Old Town Square, home to the Astronomical Clock. Another cultural difference I got to experience was the food, which was my favorite part.

I had traditional Czech goulash which is a beef dish served with delicious bread dumplings. The deserts were just as good as the dinner, we had a bread pastry that reminded me of fried dough but it was round and hollow, and filled with Nutella… Absolutely heavenly!

Exploring Prague

It was mind blowing for me as I was walking through the city to think about how not too long ago the Czech Republic and Prague had been under the influence of communism, stuck behind the Iron Curtain of the Soviet Union. You would not think that today after a visit to Prague, it was a bustling city that has a unique culture of its own and is definitely a place that is worth a return trip to one day.

The Gothic architecture with gargoyles looking down at you from the rooftops, the great food, and some of the most delicious beer I have ever had, it’s hard not to see why this is such an amazing place. I definitely fell in love with this city and hope one day that I can return here to explore some more.

Photo Gallery: Exploring Prague

My North African Adventure

Over the past week, I spent six days in the northern African country of Morocco and what an experience it was. Never in my life have I felt such culture shock than I did for the past six days. I was able to participate in this trip through my program provider International Studies Abroad. They organized the whole trip, from the places we stayed to the places we visited. This was definitely the trip of a lifetime. We started off by crossing the Strait of Gibraltar on a ferry, we then spent a day in Fez which has one of the largest outdoor medinas in the world, then we traveled to the Sahara Desert where we spent two unforgettable days, and our final destination was a day in the city of Meknes. We had about two total days of travel time, but Morocco has some of the most breath taking scenery I have ever seen in my life.

In the Morocco desertWe started our trip by crossing the Strait of Gibraltar on a ferry; it was a clear morning so we were able to see Africa from Spain…Unreal! Once we arrived in Morocco we had about six to seven hours of bus rides ahead of us before we reached Fez, the first city on our trip. Traveling through Morocco was amazing. We started on the shore and worked our way up into the mountains, with some of the most beautiful views I have ever seen. We finally reached Fez after a long bus ride but it was worth it. We arrived in Fez with plenty of daylight left to explore the city.

A couple friends and I walked around some of the main avenues of the city and we ended up in a local tea shop. In Morocco one of the most popular drinks is Mint Tea. Here is where I had my first experience with the locals and it wasn’t what I expected. I met this man named Drez, he helped us order our mint teas because the owners of the shop didn’t understand English nor Spanish so we couldn’t have communicated with them if it hadn’t been for the help of Drez. After we had ordered our tea, instead of going back to the table with all my friends Drez invited me to sit with him and his life long best friend.

As I sat with Drez, he welcomed me to Morocco and gave me advice on where to go in the city. Drez was like a grandfather figure to me, he taught me how to bargain with the shop dealers in the medina, telling me never to pay them too much and not to be afraid to haggle the price down. After sitting and talking with Drez for about 30 minutes it was time for us to leave to get back to our hotel. This is when Drez told my friend Erica and I that we reminded him of his son and daughter, he wished the best for us in our experience of Morocco and he taught us a word. The word he taught us was “inshala” which means God willing in Arabic. He said to us that God willing one day our paths will cross again. Right away this set the tone for the rest of my trip.

The next we explored the medina of Fez, which is one of the largest outdoor markets in the world. The medina has about 1,600 alley ways if I remember correctly so it is very easy to get lost. At the medina I experienced so many new sights, sounds, and smells. It was so interesting to see how different everything was. There was every kind of shop you can imagine – from food, spices, clothes, turbans, rugs.

One thing that caught my eye when I was in the medina is how food is handled. The butchers just have meat out on the counters, that’s not covered or refrigerated. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing, that definitely made me realize that I was in a completely different world. Another thing that made me realize that I was in a completely new culture was when I heard the call to prayer while we were in the medina. Morocco is a Muslim country, so by the end of the trip we were used to hearing the call to prayer five times a day starting at sunrise and ending around sunset usually.

After exploring the medina we made our way to the desert. This was another six-hour bus ride, which was brutal on tiny mountain/desert roads. The bus could only take us so far into the desert. So we had to finish our journey into the desert in big 4×4 Land Rovers. We arrived at a Berber camp in the middle of the Sahara, where four giant tents were set up for about 100 of us.

It was incredible being in the desert, since there was no light pollution you could see the stars perfectly. My friends and I would just lie in dunes at night and look up at the stars, amazed by the views above us. Watching the sun rise in the desert was also an experience that I will never forget, it was really indescribable. A picture doesn’t do it justice.

One of the coolest things we did while in the Sahara was riding on camels. We looked like an old school camel caravan going through the desert.

The people that inhabit the Sahara are known as the Berbers, which means barbarian in Arabic. I met a lot of Berbers and they were incredible people. The main source of income for many in the area is working with tourists so many of the guys knew five to seven languages. This was mind blowing to me, I'm still trying to get a grip on my Spanish…I am barely bilingual but these guys could speak five-or-more different languages, with decent fluency.

After our stay in the desert we started to make our way back to Spain and spent one night in Meknes. Overall this trip definitely opened my eyes the most since I have been abroad.

I experienced a culture that is completely different from anything that I have ever experienced. It was my first time in what is considered a third world country, and I could see why it is labeled that way, but it was also frustrating because I could see the potential for Morocco as it develops. This was more than a trip for me, it has definitely affected me personally and has changed my outlook on a lot of things.

I suggest to anyone that if you have the chance to go to Morocco to take that chance, and while you’re there to take in every sight, smell, sound, and experience because you won’t realize it at that time but it will have an impact on you.

Photo Gallery: Exploring Morocco