¡Vale! ¡Gracias, Madrid!

During my time in Madrid, I thought to myself, “Why do I need to study abroad?”

As a kinesiology major, international experience is not something I thought I would need. However, during my experience with International Volunteer HQ (IVHQ), I was able to answer my own question.

I brought a camera and a journal with me to record my experiences each day. Being able to reflect on day-to-day adventures, I found that I grew knowledgeable about Spanish culture and even myself. So let me take you through some pictures of my wonderful experience in Madrid, Spain.

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The World of Food in Tokyo

食べ物、食品、食堂、レストラン。

All of these words have one thing in common; they are all related to food. Food is an important part of any culture, so it seems appropriate to discuss my experience with the food here in Japan.

My last supper in America was leftover food I had from The Cheesecake Factory. Eleven and a half hours later, my world of food had changed completely.

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In Colombia, Eating My Way to Peru

Warm welcome from the Cálico Cat Café in a district within the large city of Bogota, Colombia called Chapinero. Chapinero is an urban neighborhood flooded with academic youth and artist. In fact, one of the more influential artists in my life, sculptor Doris Salcedo resides in this charming town.

As I sit and enjoy a delicious Mochameowlatte and the chilly weather here in Bogota (very different from the heat I’ve been experiencing living abroad in Costa Rica), I am reflecting and sharing with you all of the delicious tastes I’ve had these few days. I have started and ended this trip to Colombia at the Cálico Cat Café, a café and restaurant that houses cats in need upstairs. They allow the public to enjoy the company of these kitties as well as adopt them if it’s in your interest. I love a good coffee shop but one that offers something beyond a polite buzz is even better.

The great taste at my first stop in Colombia set the bar high for my taste buds — and not once on this trip was I disappointed.

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The Experience

I write this on Feb. 23. I’ve officially been here for more than a month. That’s more than a month of school, more than a month of being around the people, more than a month of getting used to the area.

It’s enough time to reflect on what I have been through since I arrived here in mid January. It’s enough time to really understand what it’s like to live here, to realize what I miss (and maybe don’t miss) from back home in California. The daily life, the night life, the food, whatever it is. I feel like I have a pretty good grasp on the whole experience right now. And I’m going to share that with you.

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Supermarché 101

CLINK! I stare at the carts at the supermarché, or French supermarket, reusable bag in hand perplexed as to why the cart I’m grabbing won’t move. It’s only when a French man sidesteps me and grabs a rolling cart that I see the coin slot to unlock the American-sized chariot I’m used to. Following his lead, I take a rolling cart and marvel at the rows ahead, as I ready myself to experience the cultural feast.

While I can only speak to the French experience, I am sure that grocery shopping is the fastest way to find the art de vivre, or art of life, of your study abroad host city. For my first week, I went to our supermarché almost every day, each time learning more about the local customs and finding new tips I wish I would have had to start off. So, here are some cultural differences and tips for surviving the French supermarket.

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PROST! German drinking culture, explained

Ask anyone what comes to mind when they think of Germany, and their response will likely be “lederhosen,” “pretzels” or “beer.” These three concepts have a pretty specific tie to Bavaria’s Oktoberfest, and Germans from just about every other state would be the first to correct you. However, beer in Germany has a long and exciting history, and has evolved into its own culture-within-the-culture.

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