A Glimpse of Life in Spain

This was the beach a short distance from my apartment, where I would go to watch the sunset and swim. The Mediterranean Sea was beautiful and warm, even at night. You could also find people hanging out on the beach with family and friends at all hours of the night.

This is the view from a rooftop restaurant where I would eat with my friends. The Gothic Quarter in Barcelona was my favorite part of the city because of the narrow cobblestone streets and cathedrals on every corner. Samsung’s choice of advertisement placement was also very interesting.

My friend and I enjoy the view from a popular hill in the city. This was the perfect spot for picnics and sunsets where you could see the whole city of Barcelona.

This is a “Castell,” or human tower, in a town near Barcelona. This is a Catalan tradition in which different teams compete or simply perform their different towers. People of all ages participate in this tradition, even young children who are the ones who climb to the very top.

My Experience

Ever since I was young, I knew that I wanted to study abroad while in college. I always thought it would be an amazing opportunity to live in a foreign country and experience a new culture. I made the decision to apply for a Spanish language program in Barcelona, Spain, for the summer of 2022, despite having no way to pay for the trip. I was too excited about living out my dream of studying abroad, and I did not think much about the price. When I got accepted into the program, I was ecstatic. However, the realization of not being able to afford the trip cast a shadow on my enthusiasm. Determined to go on this trip, I began applying for any study abroad scholarship I could find. During this time, I stumbled upon an email promoting the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship, and I hesitantly sent in my application. It was clear that the Gilman Scholarship was competitive, and I did not have much expectation of receiving it. After weeks of rejection letters from different scholarship committees, I began to lose hope, and my dream of studying abroad seemed to be slipping away. One afternoon, I felt exceptionally hopeless about the whole situation when I saw an email pop up from the Gilman organization. I held my breath as I logged into my account to see the status. An instant wave of relief and joy ran through me. I immediately called my mother and excitedly told her I had been awarded the Gilman scholarship, which covered nearly all of my study abroad trip! I will never forget the feeling of that day. I am forever grateful to the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program and its dedication to students who want to study abroad but do not have the financial resources. This award has inspired me to share with every student that traveling and learning are possible for everyone, no matter what your bank account looks like. Thanks to the support of the Gilman organization and their faith in me, I was able to have the best experience of my life in Spain!

Of course, I was nervous as I packed for my five weeks abroad, even more so as I boarded the plane. Doubts and fears rushed through me. Will I hate it there? Will I be alone? Will I even meet anyone? I was not very confident in my Spanish, and I was extremely afraid of living in a foreign country without my friends or family. I had heard of other people studying abroad, but you often only hear the good parts. I had no idea if other students felt the same way as me. However, the second I met the other people in my program, my nerves began to subside. Having a group of only ten other students there, we all instantly became best friends. Despite our extreme differences and being from all over the United States, we all loved being together because we knew that everyone was out of their comfort zone. My friends and I explored the city together, tried new foods, traveled to different towns, and stumbled through our Spanish together. I had never felt so close to a group of people so quickly, but we bonded so much because everything we did, we did together.

There were ups and downs of attending a school where none of my professors spoke English or the culture shock of an urban city in Europe. Yet, I fell in love with Barcelona. I loved their transportation system, how safe the city was, the cobblestone alleys, and endless tapas bars. I tried the best food of my life and swam in the warm Mediterranean Sea almost every day. I even became friends with my professors and classmates, which added to the difficulty of saying goodbye to Barcelona. Even though I came to Spain reassuring myself that it was only five weeks, I left Barcelona devastated that I couldn’t stay for the rest of the year. I made amazing relationships and memories in such a short amount of time, and I am so grateful for this opportunity. I want to encourage anyone and everyone to step outside of their comfort zone, even if it is scary sometimes. For me, this whole experience was possible because of the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship. Therefore, I want to share with others about this resource and show students that this incredible trip can become a reality for them too. 

About the Author

Kristan Krull is a senior at SDSU majoring in Psychology with a minor in Spanish. She is from San Luis Obispo, California, and loves to hike, swim, and travel. Kristan plans to graduate in December 2022 and begin graduate school in Fall 2023 to pursue a career as a Therapist. 

Differences Between Denmark and the USA

I have been studying abroad for more than a month this summer in Copenhagen, Denmark. During my time here, I have had amazing experiences that have left me with beautiful memories and have taught me a lot. For my first post, I would like to share the differences I found between Denmark and the USA regarding the time, weather, clothing, and transportation. These are things I personally experienced during my summer in Denmark; however, each person might experience something different. 


The time in which the sun rises and sets is different from what we are used to in San Diego. It starts to get dark at 10 pm, and it starts to get bright around 4 am. When I first arrived, I woke up at 5 am, thinking it was already 9 am, but when I checked my phone, it was so early, and it was hard to fall asleep again because it was so bright outside.


The weather in Denmark sometimes is a little crazy because it changes as time passes. In the morning, it might be cloudy, then it starts to rain for a couple of minutes, and then it is sunny. YES! It rains during the summer, and an umbrella is not the best choice to avoid getting wet. Most of the time, it is windy with or without rain. The wind is so strong that it makes it hard to bike fast. I would say a raincoat would be the best choice, especially if you bike to school like me. 


Coats and sweaters during the summer are very common. The summer here is cold, especially at night. Sometimes when it is warm, the weather is perfect weather to be at the beach, but it isn’t as hot as in San Diego. Long dresses are also typical because of the strong winds. I would not recommend wearing a short dress. 


My main form of transportation around the city is biking. I would say that it is the most common one since I have seen more bikes on the streets than cars. Also, I have not seen as many parking spaces for cars as in San Diego. Biking is one of the best experiences I have had. I can go anywhere anytime and feel safer riding my bike at night than waiting for the train. Many train stations are underground, and at night it could be a little scary if you ride by yourself. To ride the train and the bus, all you need is a card that you get at a machine located at the train station’s entrance. 

So Far

The last 4 weeks have been full of adventure and deliciousness! A big goal for me on this trip has been to eat as much delicious food as I can. I have definitely eaten a LOT of amazing food, yet there’s still so much to eat and do. I highly recommend all of the food and places I show below. So, if you’re in Seoul and want some recommendations, maybe some of these will catch your eye!


First Korean BBQ in South Korea. The staff cooked it for us, and it was really delicious with plenty of side dishes like lettuce, bean sprouts, 3 different types of kimchi (cabbage, chili, and chive kimchi), garlic and plenty of sauces.

A couple of pieces of bread I bought at a subway station vendor on my way home. The one on the right was a cream bread, and the one on the left I chose at random! It had a marmalade filling with, I believe, chestnuts and raisins. It was so large it took me a couple of sittings to actually finish it all, but it was definitely delicious as well. Both of them together cost me about 6,000 won.

Some friends and I visited a restaurant owned by Jin from BTS’s brother called Osseu Seiromusi, which specializes in Japanese cuisine. Specifically in seiromushi (せいろ蒸し) style dishes which is when dishes are steamed in a wooden, usually bamboo, box. It had a really nice atmosphere, and the food was absolutely delicious.

These are some of the dishes we ate at the restaurant. The vegetables were especially delicious after a week plus of eating mainly meats. Vegetables are quite expensive here, so having some steamed vegetables was really refreshing. The roasted sweet potatoes with butter were incredible and definitely a must-have!

A friend and I went to a bingsu cafe called Sul-bing near the university and got injeolmi bingsu(a Korean shaved ice dessert) and some honey butter toast they had. Both were amazing! The bingsu had layers of injeolmi powder, which is finely ground roasted soybean flour. This meant that the entire time we were eating, the flavor stayed and left us satisfied. The honey butter was also very delicious, and the roasted almonds added the perfect nutty flavor.

My roommate and I went to Hongdae, an area nicknamed after Hongik University that is always bustling with live performers busking, shops, clubs, bars, and more. We went to a vegan cafe called The Blue Bread and got their burgers which were also delicious. Though it didn’t taste much like any burger you might think of, and the patty wasn’t an attempt to recreate meat, it was very much so a bean patty, but I still really enjoyed it. There were some pickled onions inside that intensified the taste and made it delicious. I may not have liked it as much without them.

And then, the fried chicken! Fried chicken is a must in Korea. It’s in a different league of its own, and I had the chance to try different kinds at multiple places. The one above is from a chain branch called Kyochon Chicken. We were recommended the honey chicken, so we got that along with the soy garlic, original and yangnyeom chicken. My favorites were definitely the honey chicken and soy garlic, which are very popular for a reason. (Sorry for the meh quality picture, we were very hungry, so this is all I got before we dug in!)

More fried chicken at NooNaHolDak in Hongdae! This one is a bit different. It was bulgogi flavored and had rice cakes in the sauce with fries on the side. 

Some budae jjigae (Army stew) we ate near the Dongdaemun Design Plaza(DDP). A spicy stew that has a variety of hams and sausages, ramen noodles, beans, corn, and more. It may sound like a strange combination, but it really is a must-try if you ever have the opportunity!

A staple of Korean cuisine bossam (sliced pork boiled in spices). It’s typically eaten in a leafy wrap, often lettuce, napa cabbage, or perilla leaves, with a variety of ingredients inside. For example, raw garlic, kimchi, ssam-jang (a spicy paste), chilis, and much more.

Of course, you can’t miss out on cafes when in Seoul, and here’s one I went to! The first two are from a cafe called Geurim Cafe (그림카페), where everything looks like it came right out of a sketchbook. The drinks were great, and the triple chocolate cheesecake I had was even more delicious!

Another dish I highly enjoyed is actually one from an upon restaurant near my accommodations. This is the spicy chicken mayo rice bowl. It is a perfect, super filling dish that was also super convenient. The restaurant is 24 hours, and you can easily order from the kiosk that has an English option, which is perfect after almost 12 hours of classes and commuting. Ready quickly and only ₩6,500! A definite staple in my diet this past month.

Now a few of the places I’ve been!

Hongdae, so many things to do and see! Hongdae is very much one of the places that never sleeps in Seoul. You could go at 2 am and still find places to go. Definitely somewhere you can easily spend a lot of money on everything from clothing, accessories, street food, restaurants, clubs, photo booths, makeup stores, phone cases, etc. Definitely, a must-visit area in Seoul!

The Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP) is a beautiful piece of architecture in Seoul. It flows wonderfully and is easy to explore. Definitely many photo opportunities! We explored for about 5 hours and didn’t even have to go into the museums!

Super excited to continue eating and exploring South Korea! Until next time!

Summer in Seoul

Hello and welcome to my month-long adventure in South Korea!

Oh, what a long ride it’s been to get here. I’ve been trying to study abroad for many years, even before attending university. Getting here was a process, but it all became irrelevant once I arrived. I had made it! 18 hours of travel, and I’d landed in South Korea, my first international travel experience, and I did it alone. That in and of itself has honestly increased the confidence I have in myself by quite a lot, but being here these past three weeks, I think I’ve changed for the better, more than I have in a while. 

One of the first things I thought once I landed, after “Woah. I’m in a completely different country halfway across the world now,” was just “It is. So. Hot.” I was definitely not prepared for the humidity in Korea, and it doesn’t help that I arrived right at the beginning of the monsoon season…yes, right at the start of the weeks-long monsoon season. As you can imagine, the humidity has been very present and inescapable since I arrived. When I first arrived I was wearing not only a windbreaker jacket and a hoodie but also a long sleeve shirt. Mistakes were made. I did not look at the weather before coming, and that definitely made my first hours in Seoul an interesting combination of desperate fanning, sweating, and being lost. Disoriented was very much the word I would use to describe my first few hours in Korea. Starting in the airport, though, I learned that communication really is KEY. From getting to the right booth to picking up my Korean SIM card to finding the subway so I could get to my accommodations, I could not have done it without the help of many amazing airport employees. I discovered many kinks in the rough plan I had made to get to my accommodations, but the many sweet employees helped me get there. 

My second day in Korea went much smoother. I arrived late Saturday, June 25th, and my program began Monday, June 27th, so I only had one day to explore, but I definitely did. My friend who lives in Busan came to Seoul to hang out and help me get things I needed that Sunday. We went around my new neighborhood and ate some of the most delicious pajeon 파전 (Korean green onion pancake) I have ever had. It was my first meal in Korea, and I am very glad it was because it was huge and just the perfect amount of crunchy and savory. If you ever find yourself with the opportunity to eat a Korean pancake (jeon 전), I highly suggest you try it. There are many different types like seafood jeon and potato jeon, so there’s something for everyone. I also explored my neighborhood and took some pictures at a photobooth shop with my friend and roommate. All in all a fun, fulfilling day.

Monday came, and so did the beginning of classes. I’m taking 3 classes; each is 3 hours long, so I’m on campus from 8:30 am to 7 pm. My favorite class is hands down, my evening ceramic arts class. This ceramics class is one of the main things I wanted to do with the program and it has been amazing. The professors and student assistants have been wonderful, so patient, and helpful. Working with my hands has also been amazing; I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. It takes my mind off of anything else, and I can just focus on working with the clay to create something. Having to take the time and be patient with the clay and myself in learning has really helped ease some anxiety I had coming here. I’ve also learned to be more patient with myself because of this. I’m learning to do something I’ve never done before, so of course, I’m not amazing at it from the start! However, I have really learned to be more patient with myself and to see myself in a more positive light since coming to Korea.

An activity we went on, which is basically a field trip included with the program, was to a rail park where we peddled our way across the countryside of a mountainous area, ate dakgalbi (spicy stir-fried chicken), played a survival game with bb guns and drove ATVs by the river. The rail park and ATV ride were definitely the highlights of this day because I got to see some of the beautiful scenery Korea has, and simply being out in nature helped me to just exist in the moment and take it all in. Below are some pictures I took of the scenery.

Now I haven’t experienced a lot of culture shock since arriving, but one thing that was a definite shock was how sweet and/or buttery chips are here. I bought some garlic bread flavored chips expecting them to be well, garlicky, but when I ate them, they were very buttery. So buttery and sweet that I couldn’t eat more than a few pieces before needing to stop. The butter was so overpowering I didn’t taste any garlic. Similarly, I bought some nacho cheese-flavored Doritos, hoping they’d be more savory, but when I ate them, those too were sweet. I personally prefer savory and salty foods, especially in chips, so the fact that so many chips are sweet was really shocking. It honestly made me crave chips and snacks from the U.S. a lot more than I ever expected. 

This time in South Korea has not only helped me learn about the country and culture but also about myself. I’ve learned much more about myself these past few weeks in South Korea than I expected. I knew that this experience would help me grow as a person, and it truly has. I’ve discovered once again that the world is really just full of people, people whom I can communicate with regardless of language barriers. One day as I was heading back to my accommodations by myself, I was passing by this little bakery inside the subway station, and it smelt so delicious. Specifically, it smelt like glazed donuts, and I just had to have some. It smelt way too good to pass up, so I didn’t! I went up to the lady and asked her in broken Korean what flavor each bread was, how much they were, and I got a couple of bread pastries! It wasn’t nearly as intimidating as it first seemed. When I first arrived, my roommate and I went together to most places, but now I can easily go around by myself, and navigating using the subway is simple. I’ve learned that I am a lot more capable than I’ve given myself credit for, and it is a lot easier to simply do things now. I don’t have to quadruple-check with myself and others to be sure, I’ve definitely grown to trust myself more these past few weeks, and I’m looking forward to even more growth and experiences!

Back from Hong Kong, Feeling Like a Changed Person

It’s been a week since I’ve returned and wow are things different.

In these few lines of my last blog post, I would like to talk about how study abroad affected me as well as tell you a little more about Hong Kong. If you are thinking about studying abroad in Hong Kong or would just like to learn a lot more about it, I’d also want this to be your best resource.

First, here’s Hong Kong through my eyes.

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Practicing My Faith While Abroad

Today I rejoice in the first homily in Mexico that I could actually understand — it was about love being more important than power — and the first two Bible readings I was able to recognize during Mass. It was a neat outdoor church with a roof — una iglesia abierta, I was told — and we attributed the clarity of the priest’s voice to the absence of walls. It was a nice change from the other churches, whose roaring fans and echoes from the microphone were a recipe for frustration and not registering anything the priests or speakers had to say.

Before my trip, I had in my mind a specific pattern of practicing my religion while in Mexico. I would attend a Catholic university, so I would go to Mass everyday before class and I would check the Adoration and Confession schedules to try to make it to each at least once. Since Mexican towns have churches like a centipede has legs, I would have no problem finding Mass on Sunday, and my host family would take me.

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Some Reflections After Two Months in Madagascar

In less than two weeks, I’ll board a plane, spend a lot of hours in the air and arrive home in California. It’s strange to think about returning to the U.S. It’s my home country, yet it’s such a different world from here.

I believe that once you have an experience where you learn and grow and stretch yourself, you can never go back to being exactly the person you were before.

Continue reading “Some Reflections After Two Months in Madagascar”

Of Bad Days and Unexpected Culture Shocks

“Positivity all the time is kind of unrealistic,” said my friend while we were chatting about my experiences here in Mexico. I wholeheartedly agree. We are constantly told to maintain a positive attitude and be optimistic and that we will have a blast on study abroad. But we should remember that we are also human beings who have real emotions that should be addressed.

If I were to provide a bit of advice about study abroad, I would say to be honest with yourself. You are the most knowledgeable person about your own emotional state and needs. If you are having a bad day, acknowledge it. You don’t have to break down and cry if you don’t want to, but it’s not the end of the world if you do.

The truth is that bad days do happen — even in other countries.

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