<![CDATA[Spanish for a Year - Blog]]>Sun, 10 Jan 2016 16:15:47 -0500Weebly<![CDATA[Baby, it's 15°C Outside...?]]>Sat, 09 Jan 2016 19:17:03 GMThttp://apromiseinspain.weebly.com/blog/baby-its-15c-outside
     For those of you on the Fahrenheit system, like myself, that translates to roughly 59°F.  My Christmas was accompanied by warm sunshine, cardigans, crisp air and LOTS of coffee. As far as weather goes, it was perfect.
     There has been some inquiry as to how I passed my Christmas in Spain, so… I wrote this post. 
     I could talk for hours on end about all the different things that happened, however, that is boring and “ain’t nobody got time for that.” Therefore, I am going to do one better and give you lots of photos.
     The Christmas season officially begins in Alicante with Constitution Day on the 6th of December. After the death of Francisco Franco in 1975, Spain needed a new system of government. In 1978, a new constitution was approved (http://www.timeanddate.com/holidays/spain/constitution-day) and this is a day to commemorate that important day in Spanish history. There was a parade down the street from my apartment with elaborate costumes. Some have said this parade is the “Moors and Christians Parade,” however, other websites suggest that that parade is on a different day. So, to be honest, I cannot tell you the name of the parade. It was enjoyable none-the-less. 
     It felt like the whole city was dressed up for Christmas. There were lights everywhere. There was a man-made skating rink, a toboggan slide and Christmas markets left and right. I also got to check off a bucket-list item by trying chestnuts that were in fact roasted on an open fire… (aka my new favorite snack!).
     I have found that Christmas Eve is a bigger deal in Spain than Christmas Day. They open presents on this day, spend time with family and as is customary in Spain, enjoyed a large meal. This was very comforting to me as the same rule applies in my family traditions. My roommate’s family came to celebrate Christmas with us. So, I do not know how “Spanish” our celebration was, but it was a holiday well spent regardless. We toured them around our city and took them to some of our favorite food places. Many people have also inquired as to my relationship status while here in Spain. My answer? Yes, I’m in a very serious relationship with someone from Spain… His name is comida (Translation: food). Therefore, it was IMPERATIVE that Cami’s family met him! They too, fell in love. 
     After Christmas there was New Years Eve. All I have to say is…. oh my. It was an eventful evening to say the least passed with my Spanish friends. In the words of Forrest Gump, “And that’s all I have to say about that.”
     To conclude the Christmas festivities, we celebrated Tres Reyes or Tres Magos depending with whom you speak. This is a holiday which is more popular/important to Spanish culture than Christmas. It celebrates the three wise men who visited Jesus. On this day, everyone wakes up early to eat Roscón de Reyes (a ring-shaped cake that has a baby Jesus hidden in it), has family time and then gathers around another large meal (are you noticing a theme here?) where each member of the family is presented with a single present. From my understanding, this present is a gift from the wise men. For more information on this holiday you can read here: http://www.enforex.com/culture/reyes-magos.html. Cami and I elected to celebrate by doing absolutely NOTHING. By this point Anisha had arrived from the States and we were content to just be vegetables.
     And there you have it. This is by no means an all inclusive Christmas in Spain explanation, but it gives you an idea of everything that happened. And a very (LATE) Merry Christmas to you!
PS- If you wish to see more pictures of Christmas in Spain be sure to check out my pictures page. Unfortunately, my wifi connection is not strong enough to post videos. You will just have to wait for those!
<![CDATA[A Thanksgiving Post]]>Sun, 29 Nov 2015 23:42:32 GMThttp://apromiseinspain.weebly.com/blog/thanksgiving-post
     As I sit here in the dark with my “White Christmas” scented candle I cannot help but to take a moment and reflect. I am young, very young by some standards, but, I have lived a good life.  
     On a recent weekend, Cami and I went to Altea, Spain. It is a small coastal town about an hour and a half train ride north of us. It was beautiful. It had the Mediterranean sea, adorable boutiques and food like OH MY GOODNESS. But, it had something else that I had not expected, something I did not even realize I missed… quiet. I never saw how noisy my life in Alicante was until we went to Altea. I am a firm believer that quiet is good for every soul; a necessity for my soul.
     Tomorrow marks a day that we give thanks for all of the blessings in our lives; the big and small.  I am thankful for a great deal of things. I am thankful for this opportunity to live and study in Spain. I am thankful for the friends I have made here and the friends and family that support me back home. I am especially thankful for technology that makes the distance between us seem smaller on days when I just need my Mom. And, as the weather gets cooler, I am thankful for portable space heaters and hot water! 
​     But, I am also thankful for intangible things. I am thankful for dreams that fuel me onward through the difficult days when I’d rather just quit. I am thankful for memories of a childhood well spent, surrounded by people who loved me and thought I was the world. And, I am thankful for quiet moments that allow nostalgia to whisper these sweet memories, like a lullaby I once knew by heart. 

     Above all the tangible and intangible, I am thankful for a God who has allowed for all these things to pass. Without Him, I am nothing. With Him, I have everything.

     As the years have passed traditions have changed. My heart broke the first year we did not go camping at Fort De Soto for Thanksgiving. I felt like I was losing a part of me. Likewise, as other traditions were altered my heart sank more and more. But, I have realized it was not the places and traditions that I was clinging on to, it was the people that made them. As I get older, so do the people I love most in the world. Some have already moved on into the next life and they are so missed. 

     I guess what I am trying to say is, even with your differences, please remember to love the members of your family this holiday season. There are families that have been torn apart recently by war and death. There are people who have left their homelands in search for sanctuary, knowing they will never be able to return to their country; the place where they grew up and learned, and laughed, and loved and shared so many memories. 

     I will be celebrating the holidays in a country that is not my home. The people I love are over 4,000 miles away. I rejoice in the fact that I will be able to return home. I will be with them again, however, not till July. This fact makes me a little sad. My heart swells with joy in this sadness though, because, it is evidence of a life full of love. I am so truly grateful and humbled by all the people who have made my life. 
Happy Thanksgiving!
<![CDATA[The Power of Yes]]>Thu, 01 Oct 2015 15:29:04 GMThttp://apromiseinspain.weebly.com/blog/the-power-of-yes
Me eating Pulpo Gallego... Octupus
     If you are looking for one of my light, warm-n-fuzzy blog entries; this is not it. I might recommend the one with the many crazy photos of me. This entry, the one you are reading currently, is much deeper. I am going to lay out my raw emotions and deepest insecurity about studying abroad. My hope is that it might inspire someone else to live out their dreams. I’m also going to do something else that is VERY controversial and counter-culture… I am going to bring faith into it. GASP!
You’ll live.
     I figure I’ve posted the worlds most unflattering pictures of myself on the internet, VOLUNTARILY. What do I have to lose now?
      There is a lot that goes into deciding to study abroad for a year. There are money matters, classes, visas… oh and the fact that it’s a different continent!
But there was something even more daunting then all of that.
     It has been a dream of mine since my freshman year of high school to study abroad for a year. I had tried to study abroad several times previously to different countries and it never seemed right. Then, Spain kind of fell in to my lap and it all just worked out. Yes, there were road bumps, but nothing that prevented me from going. Something that was different about this opportunity to study abroad, was that I felt that God was leading me. For those of you who do not have a relationship with God, I know that that sounds weird, but it’s how I felt. For the first time, I felt a confirmation in my soul that I was supposed to go to Spain, for a year and this year was it. Every bump along the way was eliminated, further affirming my course.

    The month leading to my departure was an emotional one. There were many times I found myself sitting in my house sobbing to my mother. There is no one word to describe the joy and excitement I felt that I was going to Spain. But, with the power of saying yes to this one dream, I felt the burden of insecurity that I might be saying no to other dreams. My mother reassured me that I did not have to go if I didn’t want to. I knew though… there was no other option for me. I
had to go. 

    I knew there were some things I was going to miss out on by moving to Spain. One such example is Ben and Gracie’s wedding. I have followed their relationship since its beginnings. They are two of the most sincere, loving and God-fearing people I have ever met. When Ben finally popped the question, I think I was more excited than Gracie. Love won. When I learned I would be in Spain for the wedding, my heart broke. I literally cried. But, my love for God and His will in my life meant more, and I felt He wanted me in Spain. Ben and Gracie, if you are reading this, I love you and pray so much love and many blessings over your life together. We will celebrate when I return.

    I could accept the fact that there were major life events in others’ lives that I was going to miss while in Spain. I don’t want to say it was easy, because that is a lie, but it was tolerable. What I could not accept, however, was the fact that:

I thought I was going to miss major life events in MY life while in Spain.

​     Confession time. I dream to one day get married. That is normal. What is not normal, however, is the thought crossed my mind that by moving to Spain for a year, it would somehow prevent me from getting married in the future. I know. Even as I read those words to myself I feel silly. How moving to Europe for a year makes me ineligible to get married beats me, but that’s how my brain works.    

    I still don’t know what God has planned for me or my time here in Spain. I can tell you, however, that my life has permanently been changed by having spent only a month here. It is very difficult to explain, but I am going to try. 

    I have always been called a wise old-soul ever since I was a little girl. I can remember the exact moment when that became true. It was like I was hit with this deep-seeded knowing and understanding about the world around me. I just “got it.” I have had that same experience since coming to Spain. I know I am a different person. The things I understood and thought are different now. If I get on a plane tonight and return home, I will not be the same person as I was when I left. 
And that’s okay.
     I try to picture what it would be like to live in America again and to be perfectly honest, it’s weird. It’s as if a deep calm has washed over me. I think about the people I love at home and I know I still love them. When I return, they will talk to me about their lives and I cannot help but think that I will just smile. This experience has taken me places deeper with God, myself and the world around me. Maybe that was the point all along. But, I am so humbled to have had the power to say yes to this dream and not to have been held back by the fear of no to others. If I had one piece of advice for all of those with a dream it would be this; don’t wait. Don’t make all of your dreams contingent on others. Live the life you were called to, now. Who knows? Maybe previous desires will become obsolete. 
     I don’t claim to know much of anything, but I do know that God is moving. Always. I cannot wait to see what He has next. 

<![CDATA[A Lot Like Falling in Love]]>Fri, 25 Sep 2015 17:13:35 GMThttp://apromiseinspain.weebly.com/blog/a-lot-like-falling-in-love
     When first we met, it was not love at first sight. As is typical of my life, the attraction was more like a romantic comedy where Zoe Deschanel plays the socially awkward me.

     At first I was scared. I mean we don’t even speak the same language! Everything is different, literally everything… and I was so eager. I just wanted to be loved and to love SO BAD
     But every time I tried it seemed like I faced rejection. One can only face rejection so many times before they grow bitter. So I was a little bitter...

Then, something happened. I found “The One."
     In a moment, my heart went from bitter to something different. Something I had never experienced before. My heart raced, I had shortness of breath, my thoughts became obsessive. I thought to myself, could it be? Could this be… love? 

     Every misconception shrouded by my bitterness is beginning to transform. With every conversation I have on the street with someone, my heart softens a little more. With every new cultural nuance, every new friend and every new victory I cannot help but feel like my whole life is changing. And, it makes me smile. Not just externally, but internally. I smile to the deep places of my soul and I know… I love Spain.   

     I think every exchange student comes to this place. It does not happen right away. In fact, the opposite is true. At first I hated everything because, I felt rejected by a country. However, Spain and her people didn’t know me, how could they reject me? 

     I still have moments when I desperately miss home. I have times when all I want to do is pick up my dog, breathe her in and snuggle her against her will. There are mornings when I just want to give my mom a hug or watch Big Bang Theory with my Dad or share secrets with my sister. It is hard leaving a life and family you love. But, wow… it is breathtaking to get to know and love a whole new life and “family.” 
I love you Spain.
<![CDATA[Culture  R O C K E D...]]>Sat, 12 Sep 2015 13:23:50 GMThttp://apromiseinspain.weebly.com/blog/culture-r-o-c-k-e-d
     Originally, this entry was going to be called “My Life in a Suitcase (or 3).” It was going to even feature a dramatic picture with my luggage. However, I decided to take a different route for my first post in Spain.
     It has taken me a while to write this entry. Mostly because I have not wanted to. So many people have hoped and wished and dreamed this adventure for me. I have for myself too. And I wanted it to be everything they hoped and wished and dreamed for me… but…
it hasn’t been… at least not all of it. 
     Let’s a take a moment to talk about culture shock. It is real and it can happen to anyone. In fact it does happen for most people. Even the extremely independent, open-minded and well educated individuals (such as myself, of course). 
     Before I left for Spain I did a lot or research as far as the culture goes. I asked my professors from Spain a plethora of questions. I read forums, blogs, guidebooks; you name it, I read it. I thought I was ready. I truly believed that the hardest part of Spain for me was going to be the language and I had a pretty firm grasp on that (or so I thought!). Since being here, I have discovered that the language has been by far the EASIEST part. There are so many different cultural nuances. They are the things that have been ingrained in us since childhood, like how to act in a supermarket, how far to stand away to maintain personal space etc. The things we do instinctively. Our version of “common sense.” Well, I have learned that common sense is not so common and varies from culture to culture. 
     Since moving to Spain I have truly had FANTASTIC experiences, as you can see in the pictures hereBut, there have been some really dark moments for me too. I have had moments where I have broken down crying for no reason. Things that would never have phased me in the US, are the things I lie awake obsessing over at night. ‘Did that guy mean to give me such a nasty look? What did I do?’ and so on. I have had my moments where I think, ‘That’s it. I hate Spain. I shouldn’t have come here. I’m never leaving the Americas again.’ But then something will happen, a stranger will hold the door open and say, “Buenos Tardes,” or I’ll share a joke with the lady that makes the WORLD’S BEST CROISSANTS at the Mercado. It’s in these moments that I am reminded, ‘Actually, I kind of love Spain.’ 

     Needless to say, all of these experiences and all of this processing I have had to incur have made me feel a little (okay, A LOT) like an emotional crazy person! Since a picture is worth 1,000 words, I took a few that I feel quite adequately describe how I have been feeling. You’re welcome.

     For any international students reading this or anyone who has moved to a completely new place and is trying to adjust to a new culture; you are not alone. There are so many people feeling just like you. If you would like some more resources on how to adjust to a new culture and the symptoms of culture shock click here. Anyone with questions or just needs to talk to someone who understands what you're going through, contact me. For Alicante, Spain specific nuances you can read this blog post to learn the ins and outs. It gets easier. I have learned to laugh quite a bit. 

     And for the ones that are unsure about going, go. It IS worth it. Yes, there are days that SUCK. But, there are moments when a deep seeded sense of purpose, meaning and importance wells up inside of you that you cannot help but feel you are exactly where you are supposed to be. 

<![CDATA[An Unexpected Date]]>Thu, 13 Aug 2015 20:12:18 GMThttp://apromiseinspain.weebly.com/blog/an-unexpected-date
      The clock was ticking down. I’d just returned from Tallahassee with my apostille certificate. I had no appointment with the Spanish Embassy and the closest date I could get was the 29th of September. I was home doing the only thing a college student would do on a day off from work… 
...I was watching Netflix. 
     The week leading up to this Netflix date was disheartening at best. I had put in so much time, energy and money to get to Spain but, Spain seemed like a distant memory of what could have been. Of course, loved ones had been asking about Spain and how things were “coming along.” With every hopeful question my heart broke a little more. How could I tell them? How could I admit to them something I couldn’t even admit to myself; I might not be going to Spain? All the places yet to be seen, all the culture yet to be appreciated, all the people yet to be loved. 
      I am a person who loves unexpected adventures, but I refuse to live in limbo. Everything about Spain was limbo. I was there and I was here. The stress of uncertainty built up until the floors came crashing down. I had a break down and began to plan as if I were staying in the United States. I prayed constantly and finally said, “Okay God, you’ve broken down every wall but this one. If I don’t have an appointment date by August 14th, I’m pulling the plug on Spain.” This was what led to the date with Netflix.
     I love Netflix. I really do. It is a great tool for numbing the mind of reality which is exactly what I needed. So, it was the fifth of August. I was sitting in my pajamas watching Netflix and questioning every life decision; “who am I? What is the meaning of life? What do I want for lunch?” you know the really important things. All of a sudden my phone and computer began to sound off with emails. They were from the Spanish consulate, my advisor and my friend Camille with whom I had planned on going to Spain. From my advisor I learned I could hijack Camille’s appointment and join her, but the golden ticket was from the Spanish Consulate:
“Hi Julia,

I have an open sit for a visa application  appointment on Monday, August 10 at 9:00 at the consulate of Spain in Miami. Please let me know ASAP if you would like to take it – otherwise I can offer it to another urgent applicant.”

     I did the only reasonable thing… I began to weep. All the worry and doubt. All of my broken dreams were woven back together with one email. Up until this point I had denied my self the simple pleasure of wanting to go. If I had wanted it and it didn’t happen I knew I would be devastated. But little did I know, that the devastation would be realized at learning I would be going. I had been devastated, and now it was okay for me to openly hope. 
      I replied with a resounding “YES!” and the appointment was mine. 
(Click "here" to watch a video to learn about the appointment)
     I am one who believes everything happens exactly as it is supposed to. Would I have been okay if I didn’t go to Spain? Sure. However, I am elated that it looks like I’ll be going. I have found that many times in life things work out at the last second and if no,t then it was never mine to begin with. I am grateful for everyone that has supported me up until this point. I could not have done it without you. For those who are reading and thinking about studying abroad or are planning to studying abroad; remember to thank those around you. They are hoping and dreaming just as much for you as you are for yourself.
<![CDATA[3...2...1...FREAK OUT]]>Sun, 26 Jul 2015 19:24:15 GMThttp://apromiseinspain.weebly.com/blog/321freak-out     So, after the deadline passed to apply for study abroad programs and I received my letter of acceptance from Alicante, I learned what I had to accomplish in order to get a visa.
     Part of me is glad that I did not know all the requirements upfront because, I might have backed out of going to Spain. I have since learned that it is one of the hardest visas to acquire. Being accepted into the program was the easy part. Here is a basic rundown of what I’ve had to accomplish. Keep in mind these are the requirements specifically for SPAIN. You must check the requirements for your individual country. I recommend doing that as soon as you decide in which country you want to study.

1. Apply for background check, must be notarized. Get apostille certificate for background check (in Tallahassee).
2. Go to physician and get certificate of health signed, stamped and certified with apostle certificate.
3. Get both forms translated by an official translator.
4. Buy international health insurance with minimum $50,000 coverage. Have insurance company write you a letter proving you have coverage.
5. Find housing in Spain. Get a letter proving you have somewhere to live in Spain.
6. Prove you have enough money to not be a financial burden. (If you want to go for a year on a non-lucrative visa you have to have at least $70,000 in the bank before you go and $15,000 for every additional person in your family).
7. Fill out visa application. Make sure EVERYTHING is correct.
8. Get passport sized photos done (you need two).
9. Gather information about the study program.
10. Make an appointment with the Spanish embassy.
11. Meet with Spanish embassy (in Miami).
     Now, just to look at all of this, it does not seem like much. However, everything listed has a cost. Not to mention that there is a LOT of travel involved (Miami and Tallahassee). There is a lot of waiting for things to be mailed back to you. The appointments with the embassy have to be done 3-5 months in advanced (I learned of the requirements about two months in advanced). I am still waiting on my background check to be sent to me so I can drive to Tallahassee for the apostille certificate. I have to wait on the ONE translator in the area to translate my documents. And on top of all of that, I still don’t have an appointment with the embassy. I have emailed and called and checked the website every day. I am probably on the wall as “Most Annoying Person of the Year.” I will gladly claim that title if it will grant me a visa. Once I have completed the meeting, I have to wait four weeks for my visa to be mailed to me. I leave August 31st. It is crunch time. The real kicker is that it is possible that I will have done all of this and be denied a visa (it’s a small chance, but it still exists)!
     …Overall, I am doing okay. This whole experience has allowed me to live an in the moment, day to day, roll with the punches lifestyle. I am in limbo. At first, I was terrified, but now it is kind of exciting. Everyday is an adventure. I’m never sure what will happen. I could get a phone call asking me to go to Miami right this second. It’s all very James Bond.I have had to laugh at myself a lot. I look at the list of things I have left to do, then I remember all the things I have already done. I am a believer that if God wants me somewhere, I will get there as long as I do my part. 
      So, if you are planning to study abroad, or just thinking about it; be prepared. You too, will jump through loops and bounds to get to your country. After everything I’ve read, everyone I’ve talked to and everything I’ve prayed I know it will be worth it. This is the trip of a lifetime; the experience of a lifetime. Adventure is around the corner. Life is knocking. 
Are you going to answer? 

<![CDATA[Breathe]]>Fri, 24 Jul 2015 20:21:21 GMThttp://apromiseinspain.weebly.com/blog/breatheBreathe in... Breathe out... Breathe in... Breathe out... 
     With shaky hands I signed the form that committed me to uprooting my entire life, everything I have ever known and starting again in a foreign country. Spain, to be exact.
I have decided to spend a year studying abroad in Alicante.
     I am WAY beyond excited to have this opportunity. I will live in Spain for a year where I hope to perfect my Spanish and live a new culture. There is a lot to look forward to: food (lots and LOTS of it!), new friends, art, architecture... romantic adventures (hahaha, probably not!). My heart is beaming with joy!
With this excitement though, there is something else....
     I know this is something that I have to do. There is no other option for me. It is something I have dreamed about since my sophomore year of high school (five years ago for those that don't know me). I know that if I don't go, it will always be something that I look back on and wonder, 'what if.' 
     I have also been asking and have been asked a lot of questions. 'How will I pay for this?' 'Who is going to tuck Little Bear (my dog) in and ask her about her day?' 'What if somebody dies while I'm away?' 'What if I die while I'm away?' 'What if everyone forgets about me?' 'Is this really going to help me with my future?' 'What is my future?' 'What is my purpose in life?' And right before I'm about to throw up because of stress I remember...

'Just breathe, Promise. Inhale and exhale.'
     It makes me think of Jesus' disciples. I wonder if in the moment before they decided to follow, if they too had the same questions. Did they have to remind themselves to breathe? I wonder if Peter, before he stepped out of the boat on to the water, hesitated. Did the other disciples help him on to the water or did Peter step out completely alone? These are questions that the Bible doesn't answer. I hope to one day ask.
     So, while breathing, I am stepping out in faith. I do not know what will happen. I do not know the answer to many of my questions. I could sink to the bottom of the ocean and have it be the worst decision I've ever made. Or maybe, with God beside me, I will walk... on water.