La Vida Española – Granada Spring 2017 pt 2

As I approach the halfway point to my semester abroad I thought it would be fitting to write about the different places I have traveled to so far.  Being in Europe definitely has its benefits with having very easy access to a lot of different destinations.  In the past two months I have traveled to ten different cities in six different countries.

The first month I stayed in Spain got to explore Granada, Madrid and Ibiza!  I am so in love with my host city of Granada.  It is not as well known or as big of a city as Barcelona or Madrid but it has a lot of character being in southern Spain.  I was pleasantly surprised about the large Mediterranean influence in this part of Spain.  To be honest I never considered Spain a Mediterranean country until now having actually experienced the lifestyle.  I love the food, the people, and the culture.  Needless to say that traveling up to Madrid for a weekend was a very different experience.  I was interesting to see how similar it was to big cities in the United States.  The Americanization in Spain was also evident as you could walk down the main streets and see companies like Burger King, the Apple Store, and others.  I think a lot of big cities in Europe are similar with the current situation of globalization.  I had a completely different experience in Ibiza, where our AirBnB was in more of a residential area and the trip had more of an island and vacation feel.  With a much more relaxed and calm atmosphere it was a great weekend away in the first few weeks where we were able to cook our own food and watch movies in English.  Its the little things that you don’t realize that you will miss when you study abroad.  I’ve quickly learned that it is important to take time for yourself every now and then so you don’t become too overwhelmed with the new environment you’re living in.  This can also help with the homesickness.

After a month in Spain I felt it was due time to start seeing the rest of Europe.   My first real trip was one that I had been planning for a while to France for a friend on my program’s birthday.  We went to Bordeaux first to visit La Cité du Vin, which is an interactive museum dedicated solely to wine.  For the other half of the weekend we went to Paris which was amazing.  I was surprised at how much I enjoyed France because before coming to Europe I didn’t have a great desire to travel to France, I think mostly because I don’t understand the language.  But I had a great experience and it was definitely one of my favorite trips.

The next weekend I traveled to Rome, Italy which was also amazing.  Getting to see such iconic landmarks like the colosseum and going to the Vatican was unreal.  Also the food in Italy was unbelievable.  I learned that I actually like mushrooms while in Rome from trying my friend’s dinner.  I think that is one of the best parts of traveling is getting to try new things and discovering new parts of yourself.

The next week was our first course break so I traveled to the United Kingdom and Ireland.  The first stop was Manchester, England.  My younger brother is a very big soccer fan and watching soccer is something that my family always does together, so getting to tour the Manchester United stadium was a very cool experience for me.  The next stop was Edinburgh, Scotland which was probably my favorite from this trip.  I have to say that I was not expecting much from Scotland and that it definitely surprised me how much fun we had there.  There were lots of sights to see, but my favorite was climbing Arthur’s Seat which is a large hill on the outskirts of the city that gives you an amazing view of the city.  The last stop on the trip was Dublin, Ireland which was a lot of fun.  My favorite part of going to Ireland was taking a bus tour out to the Cliffs of Moher which were absolutely breathtaking.  That was definitely another moment where I realized how lucky I was to have this opportunity to travel around Europe.

As much as I have loved traveling these past few months I am glad to be able to stay in Granada this weekend to really enjoy time in my host city.  I think that sometimes, especially in Europe, students can get too caught up in wanting to travel everywhere and don’t really spend a lot of time experiencing all that their host city has to offer.  This being my first time in Europe I understand wanting to travel a lot, and I have certainly done my fair share of traveling these past two months, but it is important to find a good balance with this.

Overall, I am so grateful for this opportunity to get to see the world through studying abroad and I would highly recommend it to anyone considering it at UIUC.

Kelsey Wahlgren



La Vida Española – Granada Spring 2017

My name is Kelsey Wahlgren, I am a sophomore studying Food Science, and this semester I am studying abroad in Granada, Spain.  Just over a month ago I said goodbye to my life in Illinois and got on a plane headed to Spain.  I cannot even begin to describe all of the different emotions I was feeling.  I had never flown anywhere by myself before and my only mission was to make it to Malaga in one piece.  There were some bumps in the road during my journey: having to sit through an 8-hour flight, missing my connection in Paris and trying to figure out a new plan to get to my destination.  But in the end I made it safely to Spain and was able to meet the rest of my program that night.  The first week of orientation was a lot to take in at the time but it was also a lot of fun.  Getting to explore Granada as a program and learning about all of the different things that we were going to do this semester was a really great way to start off this trip.  We started classes the next week which was also very exciting.  All of the classes I am taking this semester are taught in Spanish and vary from culture classes about Spain or Arab countries to learning about art history and Spanish law.  Most of these classes I am taking to fulfill the remaining requirements of my Spanish minor at UIUC, and the others are gen eds or electives.  After a month of classes, I have to say that I am pleasantly surprised with my experience in this program.  All of my classes are very small, around 15 students, and they are really discussion geared so that we are able to participate more and practice our Spanish.  I have already learned so much about Spanish culture and all of the subject matters that we cover in class.  Going to this small language institute and taking the classes that I am has really been a very rewarding experience so far and I cannot wait for the rest of the semester to see what else I will learn and experience here in Granada.

Kelsey Wahlgren


First Time Abroad- Madrid, 2017

{Mallory Gorman, Junior in Agricultural Engineering, Semester study abroad in Madrid, Spain, Spring 2017}

Early this January, I headed to the airport with my parents to begin my semester long adventure! I had never left the country before, so I was feeling a whole bunch of emotions… excitement, nerves, and everything in between. I was going with nobody I knew, and I was going to be living with a host family. This trip brought many ‘firsts’ for me, but I knew it would end up being a good thing.

It has been almost exactly 1 month now, and I was right. This experience definitely is turning out to be a good thing. I am meeting so many new people, seeing so many amazing places, trying a crazy variety of foods, and learning more than I ever could in just a classroom.

I am taking 5 classes at the Universidad Pontificia Comillas ICAI, the engineering school. It’s really cool being at a different university, especially because this one is so different than UIUC. This school is very small, and it’s placed directly in the center of Madrid. It honestly feels like the exact opposite of UIUC. I can’t say that it’s better, and I can’t say that it’s worse. It’s just different. Also, living with a host family is giving me many opportunities to practice my Spanish skills. Immersion is definitely the key to learning a language.

As for traveling, as I said before, prior to this experience I had never left the USA. I now understand what people mean when they say they catch the ‘travel bug’. It’s a very real thing. So far I have traveled to Toledo, Spain, Berlin, Germany, and Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Canary Islands. Thinking of these 3 places as well as Madrid, each one has taught me something a little bit different. I am loving seeing different cultures and ways of life, and it’s teaching me a lot about my own culture.

If you are ever on the fence about whether to study abroad or not, I am here to tell you to do it. Make it happen. Start planning your school schedule early in advance so you can fit it in and start applying for scholarships. I’m not even halfway through, and I can already say that this experience will be one of my favorite college memories.