Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Actividades de Seis Semanas

Hola Todos!

I´m so excited to be able share my experience with you all on this blog. Unfortunately, I´ve had a bit of an issue with internet connection for a while, so I haven´t been able to post as often I would like. I´ve missed good amount of time, but I´ll jump right in and share as much as I can!

I´ve been in Barcelona for six weeks now and I love it! We've seen so much, both with ISA and on our own.

On the very first day of the program, I met my family.  I was a bit overwhelmed with the fact that my host family doesn't speak any English, but they were extremely welcoming.  My host mother's name is Pepita and the father´s name is Juan. They are an older retired couple that live in a nice apartment in Grácia. I met Juan first and he showed me back to the apartment where I then met Pepita who helped me unpack and cooked me lunch. Later that night, I met my roommate, Haleigh, from Colorado. She´s very nice and, luckily, very good in Spanish. I never reaized how much I needed to improve my Spanish until I got here!

For the next couple of days we visited a lot on placed on an ISA tour bus. One of the first places we visited on an ISA tour bus was a mountain where you can see the entire city of Catalonia! We then rode the bus to the beach and took some beautiful pictures of the sunset.
Image  Image
ImageThat same week we visited the Gothic Area, The Cathedral, and The Segrada Familia.
The Segrada Famila is a beautiful church with so much history and such detailed architecture that  it´s not expected to be finished until 2026. Gaudí´s plan is breathtaking from the moment you walk in and all throughout the church!

When classes started, our time to explore the city became much more limited. We don´t have classes on Friday so this gives us a good weekend to go traveling. Of course we needed to become accustomed to the city first, but after two weekends in Barcelona, I chose to go to Morocco, Africa to vist my friend Ida. We visited Fez and the Medina, Casablanca, and spent the last nights in Meknes where she is also studying abroad with ISA!

During the weekends after that we traveled to couple cities in Spain with ISA. First we visited Gerona, a city about two hours north of Barcelona. This was such a beautiful mid-eval town. It was very quaint with a lovely scenery, nice stores, and friendly people. We also just visited Valencia, a city about four hours south of Barcelona. We chose to go at the right time because even though we´re in Barcelona´s winter season, it was 80 degrees there. Perfect weather for the beach. Along with the beach, we went the the Valencia Aquarium; the biggest aquarium in Europe!  

This is only a gist of the many things that have occurred over the course of these six weeks, but I have plenty more to go and I can´t wait to keep you all updated.

Hasta Luego!

Gabriell Smith

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Coming to terms with saying Good-bye

Good Morning Kansas City!
!Kansas City (sahba Alkahyr) صباح الخير

        It's been quite some time since the last time we have touched base! It's has currently been two weeks back in Morocco, after spending a five week break in Ethiopia. Some may not know where Ethiopia is located, it is in the far East, otherwise known as the Horn of Africa.

      Shortly after my last day of class, fall semester, I boarded a bus and headed to Casablanca Airport. On the way to the airport I had four hours to sort my thoughts and emotions of; frustrations, fear, anxiety, and excitement. This was the last time I would be seeing some many people for the rest of my life. Ending one chapter and starting another. The moment was bittersweet, a reminder of how innocent life has become. A reminder of how every moment in our lives our precious, how I mostly take it for granted. When we arrived to the airport, it was like the song "Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed". One by one we all started leaving, heading home understanding our relationships and lives will never be the same.
    It was more difficult than I could imagine, saying good-bye to these people I had only known for one semester, three months. I usually believe that, "fast friends are fake friends", but because of the circumstances we were all put into, we connected and bonded so quickly. Relating to all the sicknesses and roller coasters of emotions of growing up, graduating, getting engaged, etc. We all were forced into an uncomfortable position, and ISA says it best, "Your adventure begins at the end of your comfort zone". Never in my life would I have expected to make lifelong friends on this journey, but I can honestly say I have found more acceptance and understanding in my friends abroad, then I expected.
   After saying my personal good-byes and boarding the flight to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, I began to understand I am not at the end of my journey. I still have another six months before I reach the United States. The flight to Ethiopia was long, I had more time to accomplish some personal reflection on how I had changed as a person fall semester and how I would like to continue the consistency. I know, I know it sounds so cliche, the girl who studies abroad "finds herself", but studying abroad isn't about "finding yourself", it's about coming to terms with the person you are! Not trying to create an image or persona of someone you  want to be. You are faced with a lot of personal time and reflection. In that time you have to either A. accept yourself for who you are, and B. LOVE yourself enough to change.
       Our American youth often times confuses option B. We, my generation, needs to understand change is about love, not hate. You have to love yourself to open up and be honest with yourself. To move on to start CREATING the person you are to become, for the better. Ethiopia was a time for me to reflect on what I wanted to change in my life and change comes slow. I wasn't trying to jump into something I knew I couldn't finish. It was the first time seeing my mother and younger sister and five years. My largest and biggest step was to be open-minded, I often failed when I was blinded by frustration, but I kept trying to be consistent. My relationship with my mother isn't great so the five weeks I spent in Ethiopia was very difficult. I had to make a decision to say good-bye to the person I did not like to be and continue to work on that everyday. Talking to my aunts (who surprised me by coming to Ethiopia!!) they gave me understanding that I could never really run away things in life and it is better to face them full force. I had to say good-bye to the things I didn't want to be apart of my life anymore. After saying my good-byes to my sister and mother, which was extremely hard, I come back to Morocco.
    Feeling out of place with the new kids in ISA, I couldn't let go of the friendships I made last semester. I felt like I couldn't like go of the idea of my friendships, but I came to terms with understanding I didn't have to say good-bye forever with the memories of last semester, I just have to make some room for the ones to come this semester. "Seeing see you later" to the fear of misunderstanding, and hello to the opportunities for new friendships to grow.
     There is often times a misconception with Studying Abroad, people think they can show up to an unknown country, with people they don't know to create a new image of themselves. Studying abroad is not about "finding yourself" it is about coming to terms with the person you are and learning to be open-minded enough to accept others for there discrepancies. To understand something of yourself and the surrounding environment.

As many of you start to contemplate studying abroad, just realize that this is a personal journey you have to take for yourself. A semester, summer, or year of coming in touch with who you are, not who you want to imitate.

Keep in touch!
with peace ,مع السلام (maa' salama)

Ida Ethiopia Ayalew