Days of Summer Video

The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon , for each day to have a new and different sun. – Into The Wild

3 months traveling around Europe is hard to put into words. For every single day I saw different sights, smelt strange smells, tasted food I couldn’t pronounce. Talked to strangers then these strangers became friends. Spent a lot of time alone, time with new friends, old friends and family. I challanged myself to do new things continuously and it was worth it. Heres a little video of just a few of the highlights from my trip.

Ryan Air – Friend or Foe

New Zealand is great, but one thing we lack is cheap airlines! We only have two domestic airline choices so as it goes in economics, with high demand and lack of competition, airplane tickets can basically cost you an arm and a leg. So when I got to Europe I felt like my arms and legs were perfectly safe when I realised I could get from Madrid to London for €19.99!!! The possible adventures were endless at these ridiculous prices.  If you think I’m exaggerating, I just took a screenshot to prove a point.  Screen Shot 2015-04-29 at 6.46.19 pm

RyanAir has clearly made a reputation for themselves for offering some of the cheapest flights around Europe and also for charging fees for everything. Apparently at one point they were considering charging to use the lavatory on the plane. I’ve seen posts that claim the Irish company don’t give a rats ass about customer satisfaction and go by a “Talk to the Hand” policy. So when I flew with RyanAir the first time from Madrid to Belgium I was actually a little nervous before the flight. (I’m never nervous before flying). 

I read and reread the fine print on the website, I double checked that my carry on back pack was within the size limits as I was not prepared to pay 50€ (more than the cost of the flight) to have it checked in. I printed off my boarding pass twice and kept one in my handbag and one in my back pack as I was also certainly not going to pay 15€ for a stupid piece of paper to be printed at the airport. If you know me, you’d realise that these are rather drastic measures I took as I usually; a) never read fine print on anything and b) rock up to that airport 10 minutes before last boarding call. Luckily I had no extra fines to pay! Yaaaay. The flight was on time, comfortable and I didn’t have to pay to use the loo. All in all, I got from Spain to Belgium in 2 hours for 35€.
Not too shabby.

Buuuut, my bargain flight quickly turned from “omg this is ridiculously cheap”, to “sorry how much for a shuttle?” The flight was at 6am in the morning, as at this time the flights are usually less expensive so I had to be at the airport by 5am at the latest. Unfortunately the metro/train system doesn’t open until 5. Add 5€ for the 4.35am shuttle from town to the Airport.
Great, landed in Belgium and we wanted to spend the one day we had there in Brussels, clearly. RyanAir only operates from Charleroi South Airport which guess what…is a 40 minute drive from Brussels. So, add a whopping 17€ shuttle ride one way from the airport to Brussels.
All together my 35€ flight actually cost me 74€.

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Stop the damn fees already!

This was the result of poor planning more than anything, but it showed me that a cheap air deals are cheap because of the early morning time slot and the far out airports.
I did miss the fantastic safety videos; leg room; the free water, cookie and sometimes even wine from domestic AirNZ flights. But essentially I got from A to B on an international flight and I got what I paid for. There is certainly a limit as to the amount I would pay for a flight with RyanAir and it’s worth doing some research into other modes of transport.
But hey, if you’re a struggling student that sits in class all day dreaming about the next trip to take, deal with it!
RyanAir and I are still hitting it off like old friends.

This video is certainly worth a watch, Hilarious

Spotlight on: Amseterdam and Brussels

Next stop/ prochain arrêt/ volgende halte/ nächster Halt Amsterdam and Brussels!

Brussels has 3 official languages; French, Dutch and German. At the main station we needed some directions so I went into the closest magazine store at the central train station and asked the lady if she spoke English. I naively thought she would, but alas I was out of luck there. Surprisingly though, we were able to have a conversation in Spanish. Who would have thought.
They speak different languages in different parts of Belgium, but most people know at least two plus English and maybe Spanish. It just blows my mind that people naturally grow up being exposed to and learning so many different languages that it is very rare for someone not to be multilingual. Especially when in New Zealand many people only speak English, and apparently, not very well.

I thought that only having a few hours in Brussels was not going to be enough time to see and do everything and feel the city. Maybe it was because I could feel myself getting the early signs of a massive fever, or the dismal weather, but 1 day in Brussels was more than enough for me.
The waffels = delicious.
The chocolate = even better.
The delirium beer bar = we needed more.
Other than that, I can’t say t much about the city. We were very unprepared and didn’t really plan on how to spend our time wisely which was certainly a mistake given the short time period. But I am usually very content with wandering around to get a feel of the city, but not this time. I’m sure if I maybe had a local to show me around I could definitely get more from the “capital of the European Union.”

Friday night we took a train from Brussels to the Hague! Three countries all in one day, talk about time efficient traveling. Nearly a two hour rather inexpensive train ride with the conductor reciting his speech in 4 different languages at each stop, we were greeted by a very kind friend of a friend who had agreed to host 5 wide eyed excited exchange students for the weekend. THANK YOU!
Hostels are great but there is just something about walking into the front door of a real homely home in the quaint little streets of the Hague. He took us out for Japanese dinner and I was one of the only ones that could actually handle the spice. The others without such a pallet for spice were drowning the poor noodles in soy sauce until they were swimming. He even gave us transport cards to use on the trams and busses. This made life so much easier!
After a slightly restless sleep and a fever well above what it should have been I was ready to take on Amsterdam!

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I loved Amsterdam. I would go back there in a heart beat. The ladies on their bicycles wizzing past  and looking oh so chic. Strolling along the long canals along side tall colourful houses and rocky little house boats.
We did several touristy things there and it was great.
1. The Heineken Museum: I really appreciated that the brand has been kept in the family for so many generations. Two beers and an extra beer for tasting were included in the museum ticket. It was actually a very interesting and interactive museum which was a nice change.
2. Anne Frank House: Very very long lines, and we all know why. A historic monument in the middle of the city is definitely worth a visit. Maybe get there as soon as it opens to avoid wasting time in line for an hour or so.
3. Canal cruise: Our little group had the boat to ourselves but it was a rather big boat for very few people. I was a fun and different way to see a lot of the city at once, but I think I would have liked a smaller boat where the driver.guide could have been more interactive instead of just listening to headphones.
4. The Iamsterdam sign: Classic, but you have to be pretty pushy to get a good photo, and you most likely will have some stranger posing next to you for a different camera.
5. Red Light District: We kind of just stumbled into this part on the last night and you’ve got to go. It is just ridiculous! Mostly tourists in the area but I don’t think I’ll see a scene like what I saw there again. Some creepy guys were hanging around and making stupid comments so I was glad to be there in a group and with a guy.
6. And of course, a “cafe”: Mellow yellow was our first one we tried, sharing a space cake that was ridiculously strong and delicious at the same time, and also some unground buds of weed. There was an actual menu with different types and everything! Having no idea what to get we randomly picked one, went into the smoky dungeons only soon to realise none of us knew what the hell we were doing. We got there in the end 😉

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The general feel of Amsterdam was definitely my cup of tea, Brussles not so much.
All in all though, a amazing trip with wonderful company!

What people don’t tell you about moving abroad

If studying abroad were easy, everyone would do it, right?

From your friends colourful Instagram pictures of relaxing scenes next to a tropical beach, or trying waffles in Belgium, or cute pictures of their new group of friends, they are only telling half of the story. Usually the good half. Lets be honest, who wants to see a picture of me stuck in an airport for 12 hours crying because I just had my bag stolen? Or me sitting in an aeroplane not able to keep even water down? Yea, didn’t think that would be much of a hit on social media.

When I said to people that in the summer of 2015 I would be packing up my things and moving to another country (for the second time) to study I usually got a generic response of
“Oh wow, that’s so cool!”
or
“You’re going to have the best time.”
or even,
“You’re so lucky!.”
Now I agree, it is cool and I will have good times and I certainly am lucky that I even have this opportunity but for those of you who are about to embark on the classic Kiwi Big OE study abroad adventure I think you should be aware that it’s no picnic!

1. Paperwork!

 

Passport and Visa Paperwork on Instagram                    Passport and Visa Application in Real Life

Am I running a small business? Did moving overseas become another school subject? Well with the amount of things to research, print, fill in, scan, send, sign, fix, ring, email, research, send again and pay it seems like it.

Beware, it can take a lot of time to sort out your life for moving overseas, especially if you will be there for more than six months or one semester. And it doesn’t stop once you get to the country either. Remember that once you arrive you will need to find a place to live, enrol in you courses at uni, get a residence certificate (volante de empadronamento) and an ID card (Numero de Identificacion de Extranjero).  Spaniards aren’t well known for getting things done promptly so the process of becoming a Spaniard is rather time consuming.
Top Tip: Get on to this ASAP. There are often many stages to getting a visa or an ID card and each of these steps can take several days if not weeks in themselves.The last thing you would want is to get held up at some customs boarder in a foreign country because you were to slow at printing, filling in, signing and sending. 

2. Say what?

Yes, Im a genius child and can learn several                The real struggles of learning a language
languages in the classroom while dressed in
a bow tie.

Before moving to Brazil I knew NOTHING of Portuguese. I then returned to New Zealand and studied Spanish for 2 years at university but guess what, learning a language in a classroom sucks! It probably just doesn’t suit my learning style but I feel like what I thought I had learnt actually had no relevance to speaking and holding a conversation in the real world. You learn so much about grammar rules and when to use the preterite vs the imperfect but you don’t learn simple things like “wow, that’s so cool.”

But spoiler alert: You have to try!
Take classes in Spanish, do your own study at home, watch movies in Spanish, read Harry Potter in Spanish, talk to Spanish people. Throwing myself in the deep end is definitely the best way to get a grip of a new language and I know that with a lot of practice and effort and hand gestures I will get to the top of Mt. Fluency. And like climbing a mountain, it is actually exhausting. It takes twice as much mental strength at school and usually twice as long. But don’t be afraid to be wrong. If you try and communicate in a new language people will understand that you are new and will guide you through one step at a time.  The worst thing (for me) would be to live in a foreign language and return only with English.
Top Tip: The phrase I have found most helpful is “Sorry, I don’t speak much _____, but…” I have learnt this in each language of the new country I visit as personally I think it is courteous to initiate conversation with someone in the language spoken in that country, but it shows that you don’t actually know the language therefore a little help is needed.

3. Getting sick sucks

(This one doesn’t deserve pictures)
As I write this I am lying in bed on the first rain Saturday afternoon Madrid has given me in two months not feeling at all like a box of fluffies because lucky me, I have food poisoning! And nothing makes you feel like a helpless little kid than sickness. Being sick while your mother is on the other side of the world is simply unfair. But boohoo, you’re in Spain! You’re on an exchange! You’re living the dream! Well as a 20 year old I am still allowed to wallow in self pity and want my mum to bring me medicine, a hot flannel and even a bucket.
Sickness seems to hit me more often over here than it did back in NZ. Last weekend I was in Amsterdam with some friends and I got a massive fever as we landed. Obviously I was not going to waste the weekend lying in a bed in the Netherlands. But my Instagram pics and Facebook posts only showed one side of the trip, not the fact that I could barely walk and was ahving hot flushes every half an hour!
Top Tip: Always chuck a couple of paracetamol or ibuprofen in your bag. You never know when these might just make your trip that much easier to handle!

4. It can be hard to make friends with locals

This will depend on where you go as my experiences in Brazil and Spain have been very different. In Brazil I lived in a very small town with only 2 other exchange students in the area at any one time. I lived with a family, I went to a small school where the English teacher didn’t even speak English. In this situation it was very easy to make friends with locals because I had no other choice. And I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.
Madrid on the other hand is literally 1000 times the size of my humble Brazilian town which basically puts me in a whole other world. There is a lot more English here and a lot more international students who are in the same boat as me. Naturally we migrate towards one another in a foreign situation. I spend a lot of my time with friends who are every nationality other then Spanish! Maybe I need to start smoking to integrate better with the local crowd at university as all they do between classes is stand in groups and puff away on cigarettes! Hmm, but maybe the health of my lungs isn’t worth risking.
Top Tip: Join clubs and activities outside of the university or exchange organisations. I have used an app called MeetUp where you can find groups of people interested n the same things as you with pre organised activities. I recently went hiking and I met Spaniards studying, German travellers, Hungarian app developers and many more interesting people!
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5. Life goes on at home without you
Moving to a new country requires a lot of sacrifices. You’ll miss holidays, birthdays, the BYO your friends have organised and your loved ones will miss your big events too. No matter how much you promised yourself and others you would talk all the time, its not the same with a screen in front of you. Your friends will make new friends. You’ll be on the outside of the new inside jokes. You’ll be missing from their pictures and they will be missing from yours. Life goes on back in that small town you called home whether you are there or not.
Top Tip: Don’t spend too much time being in a slump about what you’re missing out on back home. You’re family and true friends will be there when you get back and if they have cool new stories to tell you about their year, you better have some just as great stories to tell them.

I didn’t write this to put anyone off doing an exchange or packing up their things to move overseas. I am a realist when it comes to living and I think it is important to know that it’s not all fun and games. You will have to learn to be by yourself and do things by yourself and this can be lonely but an opportunity not to be missed. It’s not all that easy, but it’s worth everyone doing. All of these not so easy things just make the great things taste that much sweeter.

 

Spotlight on: Cadiz Carnival

Team NZ (f.t Lucy and Chris) decided we were in need of a bit of a party weekend. So where better to go than to one of the best known carnival celebrations in southern Spain – Cadiz! The city itself is actually one of the oldest continually inhabited cities in Spain dating back to approximately 1104BC. It has such an awesome vide about it and is clearly a typical Andalusian style place with some really lovely local people!

3 bus loads of international students embarked on an 8 hour journey from Madrid to the south on Friday and this was the first time I got to see a lot of the country side of Spain. Flat green lands filled with rows and rows of olive trees, (naturally as Spain is the worlds biggest producer of olive oil). Citylife Madrid hooked us up with accommodation at a resort about 30 minutes from the city with another company who also brought 3 bus loads of students. This was pretty awesome as it gave us opportunities to make friends with people from other universities, and even people who were here working internationally.

If you go to this carnival you’ve got to dress up. 95% of people there had some wicked costumes on, and those that didn’t looked out of place and kinda like they were having less fun! There are people drinking on the street and make shift bars everywhere. We ended up down some side street and in a little local bar to desperately use their bathroom, but ended up meeting some fantastic local people from Cadiz and Sevilla who gave us tips on here to go around Spain and at what time of the year. On the Saturday night there was a concert with some traditional flamenco performances and choir groups that looked like there were all dressed as pirates. We were only in Cadiz for one afternoon/night but if I were to go back I would love to hang around for a couple of days to see more of the action.

I also made a little video of our time there!

Lately

Recently I have been rather busy. Since going on my little trip to Toledo I have…

  • Moved into my flat! It’s a cosy 5 bedroom place in La Latina, just a quick 5 minute walk from the centre of the city. I live with a Spanish girl, a French girl and a brother and sister duo from Guatemala so the Spanish language is a bonus.

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  • Buying groceries. It may sound like a trivial thing and something that many parents (my Mum) complains about doing, but in another country this has been quiet an experience! There are no massive Pak’n Saves anywhere, only little city stores like a New World metro equivalent. The first shop took me so much longer than expected because the store is not set out how I am used to and half of the products I didn’t recognise. At least its cheap though!

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  • Going to university. Yes, whilst all ma pals are still having fun out in the summer sun in NZ I have started classes and even assignments already. It’s feels more like high school here as there are no massive lecture theatres so the class sizes are a lot smaller. I am taking two marketing courses and gender equality policies in English and Art History in Spanish which has been interesting. But I will start a Spanish language course next week which I am very excited for! My timetable is very odd though and I often don’t start classes until after 2pm and sometimes finish at 9pm. It’s been a bit difficult to shift my body clock to function later in the day.
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  • Finally of course I have been socialising! I kid you not, there is something on every single night of the week. From salsa mondays, beer pong tuesdays, cheap montaditos wednesdays, meet and speak thursdays, meet and taste fridays, pub crawls saturdays and markets on sundays, I am never without something to do. This does unfortunately come with spending money and drinking a bit too much beer…But ya gotta do, what ya gotta do.

 

Spotlight on: Toledo – “Imperial City”

Walking through this town is a like a walk through history. If you are ever in Madrid, the $5, 50 minute bus ride south to this magical town is definitely worth it!
Coming from New Zealand which was only discovered in 1642, Toledo is something almost incomprehensible.

The city has said to have been populated since the Bronze age, and was an important city for the Romans, then the Spanish Visigoths. It became an important Moorish city and is even know for the co-existence of Muslims, Christians and Jews under Islamic Arab rule. The city then succumbed to complete Christian rule and was the capital city of Andalusia, before that role moved to Madrid.

Driving into this amazing city honestly felt like we had entered a disney princess movie, surrounded by castles and towers and cathedrals all situated next to the biggest river on the Iberian peninsula. About 85,000 people populate this gem. There are narrow winding streets that are so old the cobbled stones are gradually slipping down the hills due to the amount of foot traffic over the years. There are even ancient Roman ruins of the Gigantic Visigothic style cathedrals hand built by Pedro Periz filled with art masterpieces from Greco and Giovanni Bellini, Francisco Goya, Raphael, Titian and Van Dyck.

This place has certainly turned into a massive tourist attraction so don’t go on Sundays if you want to avoid the crowds!

St Mary’s Cathedral of Toledo

Inside the Cathedral

 

Language Update

I am pleased to inform that I am not completely useless and reliant on English here in Spain! Also, so glad to say that spending two years worth of tuition money on Spanish classes at university hasn’t helped whole damn lot.
Anyway… immersing myself into Spanish has been 10 times easier than learning Portuguese was in Brazil, simply because I know more of the basics. But having Portuguese as a second language I have found can actually be both a blessing and a curse. You know how there is already a phenomenon known as Spanglish or Inglespañol, yep well I am creating a new phenomenon and I’mm calling it Españgese. A comprehensive combination of Portuguese and Spanish in which both parties can understand me even though I probably sound ridiculous.

Living in another language can be very mentally draining. We don’t even think about talking when we speak in our first language as it comes so naturally. But simply asking someone directions takes so much more mental energy as you are constantly processing what you have to say and what is being said to you. Then when you add one even two more languages into your daily routine it takes even more mental energy to cross between them.

I know that immersing yourself into a language is definitely the easiest way to learn therefore I am confident that everyday my vocabulary will grow and soon enough I won’t be translating to understand, I will simply be able to understand!

First Impressions of Madrid

So, I made it to Spain! Its been almost a week since I arrived and everything is going well. I’ve been living in a hostel so far which was the best move ever because since being here I have met about 10 other people who are studying at the same university as I am! So we have been organising courses together and of course drinking beer and getting tapas most nights.

The orientation activities have officially started as well, and I’m sorry Vic, but pick up your game. The amount of cool and crazy activities that are offered here is just incredible and I’m so excited to participate. The actual campus is about a 20 minute train ride away from the city itself, but the public transport is very reliable.

First Impressions

Moving to a new city in a new country is obviously exciting, but a little overwhelming. So in my few days spent here I have been exploring all day er day to get to know the place in which I will live for 1 year. Here’s a few things I have noticed:

1. It’s colder than I expected. Usually during the day its about 5 degrees but I’m useless and it feels like -5.
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2. The metro and trains are really easy to navigate which is great since I will be using them every day to get to uni and back. You pay 40 euros a month for a transport card which give you unlimited rides on any transport service.
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3. Ham, ham and more ham everywhere. You can’t escape it. There are special places that are a mix between butchers and a bar/restaurant call Museo de Jamon (Ham museum) where you can get you supply of ham and meat, the stop for a 70 cent beer and and 1 euro sandwich. Whaaaaat??
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4. Timing for everything is so different here. The sun doesn’t rise until about 8.30 at the moment so most shops open at 10 am. Also everything is just pushed back by about 2 hours.
NZ                                      SPAIN
Lunch; 12-2                         2-4
Dinner; 6-8                          9-11
Shop hours; 9-5                  10-11pm
Even appointments are made late in the afternoon eg. most of my flat viewings were after 6pm.
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5. Everyone is very passionate, about everything. They way people talk, the way they greet you, the way they are pushy in lines, the way they try and scam money from naive tourists, they way they protest on the street almost everyday. But yet somehow still very laid back people.
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P.s. I have a flat! I can’t move in until the 1st of February so more about that later.

Holla

Time to go

Classic first airport blog post coming up yo.
Firstly, I scored so well on my flight over to Bangkok with a spare seat beside me so was very please about that. And as I looked around on my flight there seemed to be so many people my age in the same boat (or plane) of solo traveling. It’s almost like solo travel in your twenties has almost become some right of passage among many people I know instead of what used to be marriage maybe.

But I realise that this isn’t something that should be taken for granted as there are many people who are never presented with these opportunities to travel the world, let alone leave their own country or even have enough to barely survive. I would not be able to have this experience if it weren’t for my parents, family and friends at home and scattered all around the world, and maybe luck?
So thanks guys 🙂

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