Monday, November 25, 2013


It's been months on months of absence from this corner of the internet. Months of change, doubt, laughter, learning, and growth.

Obviously, I'm now stateside. Leaving Spain was hard. There was definitely a level of reverse-culture shock higher than anticipated. Three days after returning to the states, which was a 50+ hour process due to being unexpectedly stranded in Portugal (probably some of the scariest hours of my life, as I had no clue how I was ever going to get back to the US. And I spent the night in Amsterdam by myself), I found myself in the Capital of this great nation. I have never felt more patriotic. Going from being overseas for 10 weeks to then touring the great monuments and relearning the history of the USA for the first time since young childhood was an exhilarating whirlwind during which I often sporadically burst into song. Specifically, the national anthem. The weirdest adjustment of all was being in a city where I could understand everything that was being said. I kept overhearing people's conversations and understanding, without having to put conscious effort into comprehension. I cannot even articulate how strange it was to hear English everywhere around me, all the time.

However, that was all months ago. Since then, my life has been a complete blur, consisting of:
- Academia. I added a Linguistics major, have been taking tough, upper-level classes that are still just fascinating to me, and recently joined the Model UN team.
- Student Government. Being a part of SGA has been one of the toughest and most rewarding experiences in college and I wouldn't trade it for anything. Being able to work in this environment, with the most amazing team of people, continually inspires me.
- Relationships. Some of strengthened, some have weakened. Some have appeared, some have disappeared. The people I'm privileged to call my best friends are some of the greatest people I've ever known. They accept me no matter what, challenge me, laugh with me, cry with me. I thank God everyday for everyone He has so graciously placed in my life.
- Learning. Not just academically, but also more about how small I am and how big the world is. I'm learning to question the reasons and methods of things I've longtime held as right. There is so much happening beyond what I can see and experience, and whether it's in regards to things political, spiritual, academic, or anything else, I strive to be more knowledge and open-minded.
- Activity. I've been to numerous sporting events. I've run hundreds of miles, in the woods, on the streets, in new neighborhoods, and on old routes. I've memorized the drive to Indianapolis. I've broken rules. I've won an intramural soccer championship. I've served on multiple councils. I've helped execute events. I've been going at full speed ahead.

And, of course, I love showcasing the moments not able to be adequately put into words with a variety of pictures. Here is just a sample of Fall 2013:

Friday, August 2, 2013

(From a week ago- after a slight computer error!)

Well here I am, sitting within a week of leaving this beautiful, beautiful country. Moment of silence please.
I have not been so faithful posting, for which I apologize, but I've just been too busy soaking everything in!

If June was a month of acclimating myself to Spain and everything Spanish, then July has been a month not-so-much Spanish, but European. Confused? Allow me to explain.
In June, I lived with one other girl from my American University and our two host parents. I made a lot of Spanish friends, learned the language by leaps and bounds, and explored the customs of Spain as much as possible. Come July, I have become much more comfortable with the language, already have Spanish friends, and really feel like I'm living here. And due to my situations this month, the focus shifted to a broader, international experience. Which I love!
This month I've had a beautiful flatmate from Belgium, and another beautiful flatmate from Swizterland. Also, another girl from my university took the place of the previous one. So if you're doing the math, that adds up to two Spanish host parents with four 19-year-old girls. It's been SO fun! So I have spent many nights and weekends hanging out with them and the students from their language schools here in Valencia, where the common language is English and I always meet such a wide variety of people. The other night, we were sitting in a circle on the beach and I counted 12 countries present! All of sudden I know kids from every corner of Europe, including Czech Republic, Hungary, Russia, Poland, Turkey, Germany, Italy, France, UK, The Netherlands, and many more. I'm absolutely enamored by all the different cultures and backgrounds, but also the common bonds that everybody shares. And it floors me by how proficient everyone is in English, as it is everyone's second language (excepting me, the Australian, and the Brit, of course). This month has been great in reaffirming the international social science is the exact right major for me!

Besides meeting other students from all over the world, I've also been able to spend time with Spaniards this month, which really does wonders for my language ability. When I look back to my first week, I can't help but laugh. Then I was excited if I could hold a five minute conversation with my host parents. Now I can almost find a way to express anything I want to, though sometimes I still need the help of my lovely roommate Amanda. And when we watch the news everyday during la comida (lunch), I can understand so much more, provided that I put the energy of focusing in.

Now I have less than a week left here, and even though there are a few things I'm very excited to return to in the States (most especially AC!!), after having lived here 10 weeks, it is going to be immensely hard to say goodbye. But before that comes, I'm going to make the most of every moment I have left here!

Now it's time to go to the pool, as 90 degrees with no air conditioning and very little airflow can be a little insufferable. Also, I'd like to apologize for any incoherency that is all over this post - I'm not used to writing so much in

Friday, July 12, 2013

Yes, I'm still alive (for now)

Last Tuesday marked week number 6. WEEK NUMBER 6! I can't believe I've been here that long - there I some days that I still just can't stop grinning ear to ear. I absolutely love Spanish life.

Since we last met, I've had the privilege of traveling to Barcelona for a few days! Accompanied by five other excited girls, I embarked one Sunday afternoon, not quite sure what to expect, but ready for whatever was headed my way. After a beautiful coastal train ride (how European), we arrived at the hostel, which was one of my favorite aspects of the trip. Equipped with a communal kitchen, a large and open living area (complete with books in various languages, games, and a guitar), a garden (and hammock!), and several large dorms, the hostel was a wonderful place to relax after a couple long days, and also meet people from all over the world! I was able to talk with people from Canada, Australia, Portugal, South Africa, Argentina, and Uruguay! We spent a couple days taking walking tours, gazing in awe at the architectural gems scattered all over the city, not understanding any Catalan (a language completely separate from Spanish), thoroughly enjoying hostel life, and doing LOTS of people-watching. I achieved my goal of not getting pick-pocketed! All-in-all, it was a great few days of traveling to a different part of Spain, but it was also nice to come "home" to Valencia, where I know my way around, can communicate with the people, and can breathe easy with fewer tourists thronging up and down the streets!

Experiencing Spanish culture is best done with Spaniards. I've been able to make friends through my host parents, who have friends with kids my age that graciously take me around the city and refrain from laughing too hard at my attempts to keep up with Spanish. I've also been loving my church here in Valencia, which reminds me so much of my Baptist church back in the States. I just love singing the familiar songs, sporadic times of prayer, partaking of communion, listening to the message... all in Spanish! It's so cool how the same God is worshiped all across the globe. And finally, I just love meeting people through friends, on the streets, through my institute or any random connections. Speaking with Spaniards and learning to see life through their eyes has been my favorite aspect of living here!

There's so much more I could fill this post with, but seeing as how I am literally melting in the 90 degree heat everyday (with no air conditioning... I'm seriously questioning how much more of this I can stand), I need to sign off before I completely pass out!

Friday, June 28, 2013


Sunday marks the halfway point of my summer here. What is life?!

While that is a rhetorical question I like to often throw out in situations of disbelief, I could probably easily answer myself with a list of adjectives including things like chocolate-y, relaxing, and beautiful.

Have you been anxiously beside yourself wondering what my days look like? Well, probably not. But I'll tell you anyway.
The past few weeks have been a whirlwind of:
-morning classes, which are at times challenging yet I really enjoy
-afternoons spent at the beach, which involved lots of tanning, lots of girl talk, playing volleyball with people from all over the world (German people can be quite strange...), and some hardcore people-watching
-aimlessly wandering grocery stores, which can be both educational and dangerous to my waistline
-McDonald's, because believe it or not, that is my Spanish hangout. You can't go wrong with 1Euro espresso with ice cream, free wifi, and air conditioning!
-making Spanish friends, which is actually my favorite thing to do here. The people are so kind and so patient with my limited language ability!
-running in El Rio, which is absolutely GREAT and I'm going to miss so much when I return to the States (at some point in the far, far distant future)
-eating the amazing food my host family prepares us. From blood sausage (yeah, you can read that one again) to seafood to soups to quiche to tortilla de patata, I've had the privilege of tasting quite the array of Spanish foods!

And now, of course, I'll show you a glimpse of these past few weeks in pictures.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Getting Cultured

It's said that after two weeks of being in a foreign country, the "honeymoon" stage fades a little and culture shock sets in deeper. Well, Tuesday marked two weeks for me (crazy!), and I have to say I still haven't experienced much culture shock!
That being said, I'm definitely not in America anymore. Though obviously Spain and America share a lot of similarities, especially in the city, both being "westernized" and developed nations, there are some stark differences too. However, I'm loving finding these out and attempting to completely engross myself in the Spanish culture. Below is just a sampling of a few of the different customs I've noticed thus far -

Yep, I said it.
Whenever you meet someone here, before you even find out their name, they're kissing you on both cheeks. That is also the common greeting (and farewell) between friends. At first this startled me a little, but once I learned it was expected and common, I warmed up to it. Now I love it!

People here don't mess around when it comes to their espresso. This is definitely an area where I fit in well! However, I have never once seen a person carrying around a coffee mug or a to-go cup. It's customary to sit down and take espresso or cafe con leche at a "cafeteria," it's never something to be rushed around the city with. I've even seen a "walk-up" window/counter, where you walk up, down your shot of espresso, then keep going on with your day!

My host parents think I'm crazy if I go around the house barefoot. This has been an adjustment for me- I always got in trouble at home if I was wearing my shoes inside! But I'm getting better at remembering to always at least have flipflops on.

Meal Times:
I've experienced the customary European dinner time at like 10pm before, but here all the meal times are different. Also, there are five meals!
It's a little bit confusing, but breakfast is a smallish meal consisting mostly of coffee and some sort of toast (at least in my house). Then comes almuerzo (which literally means lunch in Hispanic countries, but not here), which is a snack taken mid-morning. Next is "la comida" (literally is translated as "food" but actually signifies a certain meal in Spain), which is the main meal of the day served between 2-3. There is often a merienda in the late afternoon  (another light snack), then cena sometime between 8 and 10. I still generally only eat three meals a day, but I actually like the pace of the day better in regards to eating!

Okay, everyone knows what this is. But seriously, shops, restaurants, and entire neighborhoods shut down between 2 and 5:30. It's great. (and then consequently people are out in the streets until 5am)

This is only a sampling of some of the cultural differences between life in the States and life here in Spain I've observed thus far, and it serves to simply further my understanding of how diverse and beautiful this world really is!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

El Rio

So now that I'm getting more accustomed to the city and Spanish life, I'm feeling a little more like I belong. In my head I sometimes even pretend I'm a native, or at least fully used to living here. Until I open my mouth, that is. Then it's game over. But I'm hoping (and praying and hoping and praying) the language will become more master-able for me.

However, I already have a favorite spot in the city, no question about that : El Rio.

There used to be a river than flowed through Valencia, basically like every other successful and historic city. However, for some reason unknown to me, the river was diverted around the city many years ago, leaving a long, wide, and now-empty riverbank. Instead of a river now, El Rio is actually a park that spans almost the entire city, full of beautiful trees, countless trails for pedestrians and bikes, several playgrounds, futbol fields, a couple skate parks, fountains, and little places perfect for picnicking, reading, or simply sitting.
I'm so privileged that half of my 50 minute walk each morning (and consequently the returning walk later in the day) is spent in this beautiful park.

I love it. 

I've never seen so many runners in my life- they're everywhere in El Rio, of all ages and sizes and abilities and paces. It's wonderful. And of course, I enjoy running in there too! There's so much to look at and take in that I forget that my legs hurt or my lungs are working overtime. Runner's paradise for sure.
Also, dogs. I've never seen so many dogs and they're all SO well behaved. They're rarely on leashes but yet are always at their owners' sides and following directions. Kind of makes me wonder what we're doing wrong in America when it comes to pet training.
And finally, El Rio is not only a wonderful place to enjoy God's natural creation in all the variances of trees and flowers, but is almost like a secret celebration of life and it's diversity. There are so many people, not in a crowded way, but in a pleasant way. I try to listen to the conversations of the older ladies strolling around me, or the moms running after their kids, or the men walking to work. It's full of life, people coming and going, and also people just simply enjoying their day. To me, it's the heartbeat of Valencia.

I could probably spend the majority of my two months just in El Rio, which is actually looking quite possible.

(One of the many bridges. Seriously how beautiful is this?)

(Hard to see, but this bridge is entirely covered in flowers!)

(This looks like a playground but is actually a gym! It's just outside and free for everyone to use, and actually works my arms, legs, and core really well when I stop during my runs. I love the idea of it, and I love using it!)

Friday, May 31, 2013

The First Week

How do I even begin to write this?!
I'm wrapping up my fourth day in Spain, and I can definitely tell you two things: I love Spain, and city life is very different than what I'm used to!

After an incredibly long 23 hours of traveling, I finally stepped onto the streets, where I was promptly greeted by the traditional kisses on both cheeks from my host parents! They are both beautiful Spanish people that speak absolutely no English. Jose and Rosa have three grown daughters and ten grandchildren, which they find great joy in talking about. One of their nietas (granddaughters) lives in the same apartment building as them, and excepting my sisters, I'm not sure if I've ever seen a cuter 5-year-old!

So far my days have been incredibly long, as I first battled slight jet-lag, and as walking 11+ miles everyday caught up with my poor feet. There is so much to see and to do and I need to continually remind myself that I have two whole months here- I don't need to pack everything right away! Adjusting to life in the city is different, as I've been walking so much, there's a lot of noise and people, and I spent my first few times out in the city wandering around lost. But each day I get better at navigating and hopefully blending in with the locals! Except my blonde hair... I stick out a little, as people like to comment on sometimes.

Oh right, and there's that little fact that nobody (okay, barely anybody) here speaks English. But my Spanish language abilities have improved so much in only a few days! The first day I barely spoke, as my lovely roommate can communicate much better than I can, but even with my fellow students from America I'm only talking in Spanish and it is forcing me to learn the necessary words very quickly. I can even talk quickly sometimes! It can be frustrating, especially because my host parents like to talk and explain things but I can't understand them very well. I'm hoping that will change soon!

There's so much more I could write about, but I have to stop somewhere, si?
Tomorrow I get to visit an ancient city from Roman times and experience a professional futbol game!

Adios Amigos!

(and a few pictures to leave you with)

Saturday, May 18, 2013

May 18, 2009

Also happening this summer is my family's move from central Michigan to central Indiana. Thankfully, I'll miss most of the work due to being gone, but I'm currently going through my room trying to part with all those mementos of life I've kept for upwards of 14 years here. Among the teeth I had pulled a decade ago (not kidding- can anyone tell me why I still have these?!), the piles of clothes that I would never again be caught dead in, and the dusty books yet to be read, I found a stack of my old notebooks and journals.
Out of curiosity, I flipped in one of them to this exact date, four years ago. And ironically, this is what I have recorded:

"May 18, 2009.
.... Before that, though, I'm going to get really good scholarships and go to a university. Probably a Christian one, in Michigan. I'm going to travel- a lot! Before I die, I'd love to go to every continent! I want to study abroad in college - In Europe. Maybe a few different places in Europe, actually. Ahhh I have such plans for my future.
Even though I'm excited for all these great plans, I'm scared - now. The thought of not living with my family really scares me - as a 15-year-old. I'm sure I'll be fine when it's time."

Funny how well my 15-year-old self knows my 19-year-old self.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Just another studying-abroad blog.

It is routinely said that every college student should consider traveling abroad at some point in their four years of undergrad. And far be it from me to disregard advice!

So here I am, 10 days away from embarking on an entirely new adventure of my own. And, sticking to the pattern of college-kids-studying-abroad, I will be documenting my time through the use of a blog. Throughout the past few years I've looked at countless blogs of students in different corners of the world, and knowing that it's my turn now is both exhilarating and somewhat unbelievable.

True, I'm not spending an entire semester in a foreign country (for I was unwilling to sacrifice one of my precious semesters at my beloved school, or forgo the student government position I hold), nor am I brand-new to traveling. I've been to Europe for a total of 11 weeks before in my life, visiting 8 different countries. I've flown by myself before, I've ordered breakfast in a different language, and I've taken enough pictures to fill up multiple albums. I won't be completely alone on this adventure either, as others from my university will be in the same city, one even in the same house. Yet these factors in no way discredit the 10 weeks of living in a brand-new foreign city, with a language far different from my native tongue, I am about to experience.

So I haven't even let yet, how can I already be on a fourth paragraph? Let me tell you- this summer has been long anticipated. I've spent years dreaming of living in a foreign city, I've spent months carefully building into my (slight) language ability, I've spent weeks going through my clothes trying to decide what to pack, and I've spent days going over every detail of what is about to come. I've never experienced such a level of nervous excitement. My whole self is currently an oxymoronic mix of being so excited I can hardly contain myself, and being so nervous I think of every horrible thing that could go wrong.
But it comfortingly boils down to one simple truth which really is all I need to remember:
I'm about to begin the summer of a lifetime.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

The Little Things

Well, Sophomore year is a wrap. Crazy how time flies - I'm halfway done with college!
So, probably like most people, transition can make me reflective. Going from studying and taking finals like none other last week, to suddenly having days at a time with nothing scheduled or demanded of me, I've been experiencing a culture shock of sorts. Hence, an even more conducive environment for reflection. Anyway, as I was thinking back over this past semester and all of the awesome things that happened, all the places I was able to go, all the events I was able to attend, and things along that nature, I came to a realization. Sure, I can look back at these past four months and pick out certain days and even weeks that were particularly memorable, like spring break in Florida or going to a concert, but that's not all I want to remember about this season of my college career.

See, for me, this semester wasn't just the big, memorable events. It was listening to Becca's "guilty pleasures" playlist every morning. It's was Mel's daily screaming, and becoming familiar with every root in the gorge. It was learning to be okay with taking selfies for Snapchat, and eating meals with a team I wasn't even on. It was coming back exhausted from work, smelling like coffee grounds. It was watching Iowa games, losing so many close ones. It was taking out the trash for roomchecks every Wednesday, and making 150+ pots of coffee in the mornings. It was sitting with the council every Friday for family chapel, and missing most of Mondays' and Wednesdays' due to having to leave and eat early. It was eating Louise's famous butter-and-Parmesan air-popped popcorn while laying on their shag rug, and taking almost every single one of my showers in the third shower on the left. It was talking to Mom on the phone for a few minutes every week, and stringing soft Christmas lights above my bed. It was chewing an obscene amount of spearmint gum, and never going a night without my fan on.
This semester was made up of the little things and the lovely people that make me love my life oh so dearly.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Two weeks left.
Two weeks left until two years left.
Two weeks left of friends.
Two weeks left of stress-induced hatred of academics.

Five weeks until.
Five weeks until a brand-new house, streets, university, city.
Five weeks until the beach.
Five weeks until life in an entirely new country, with an entirely different language.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Volume I

Today marks a milestone for me - I finished a journal!
Now, this may not seem like a huge deal, but trust me, it is. For the past thirteen years, I have owned dozens of pretty journals, notebooks, and diaries, starting them and losing interest after a few weeks. Or simply moving onto a new one with the beginning of a new year. But never completing one, filling every page.

Until now, that is.

And I've done it. This journal has been my companion for the past 17 months. It contains countless smiles, pain-filled questions, meaningful Bible verses, letters that will never be read, confused ramblings, elated recounts, homesick memories, prayers of thanksgiving, excited plans, friends of all sorts, anguished tears, and everything in-between. It's pages and pages and pages of me.

(now on to the next one, and all that it will soon hold)

Tuesday, February 19, 2013


The horrible thing about being young is you think you are invincible.

The beauty of being young is you think you are invincible.

Saturday, February 2, 2013


Trader Joe's is like it's own little bubble of happiness... as hippie as that sounds, stick with me here, though I may be high on chai seeds and fermented kombucha  (I promise neither of those actually contain mind-altering substances).

This morning was full of adult things. I mean sure, I guess I'm an adult, but I don't always like acting like one. Who wants to go spend a considerable amount of time at the bank? Who wants to drop two weeks of pay on a speeding ticket? Who even wants to get out of bed before noon on such a snowy Saturday?
See, even adults don't actually want to do those things.

So as I stepped up to those automatic doors, I was in need of a little relief. Thankfully, it came in the form of dark-chocolate almond-bark.

If you've never been to a Trader Joe's, you're really missing out. It's almost like a Kroger meets health food store, but yet you feel like you're on vacation while inside.
I'm really not that high-maintenance in any aspect of my life, including food. Honestly, I eat an apple with almost every meal and drink twice as much coffee as a normal person. Nothing crazy.
But when I go to Trader Joe's, my high-end, food-snob, health-conscious self materializes out of nowhere. It's all I can do to not run through the aisles gleefully pulling into my arms all things colorful, organic, and weird. My wonderful strange-food-loving friend and I carefully perused each section, cringing a little at the prices, but being more distracted by the incredible variety and interestingly odd foods. Oh, and the coffee selection... don't even get me started! After walking up and down, back and forth, through the dried fruits and past the dairy (or everything dairy-free) cooler, we finalized our choices and headed to the counter, where we were serviced by a very friendly, greasy-long-haired, and gauged hippie. Truly wonderful.

 In the end, we walked out $60 dollars and 45 minutes poorer. But it was so incredibly worth it.

(and of course, we drove the long way home with hippie music blasting. Check out Young Blood by Lynx- so good!)

Ps. for anyone out there on the world wide web who cares, this was my purchase list:
- Blue corn tortilla chips
- Guacamole hummus
- Thai vegetable Panang curry
- Multigran and Flaxseed water crackers
- Tintern cheese with chives and shallots
- sweetened and dried mango slices
- Fair-trade Honduran coffee
- Dark chocolate almond bark thins
- Sweet sesame seaweed
- Soynog (from nearby Olympia health foods)

Pretty successful day, I'd say.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013


This year was definitely an interesting one. 

Not quite as exciting as 2011 - it's a little hard to top traveling to 7 different countries, graduating high school, and moving off to college all in the same year. (Though in 2012 I did manage to cross five things off my bucket list, which carries its own share of excitement!)
 But all the same, this was a year of learning (sometimes even when I didn't want to), growth, traveling the country, wonderful people, and God's blessings. 
If I had to sum it up in three instagram pictures (not an easy task), it'd look like this:

Two more semesters at CU, a summer in Spain, a family move to Indiana, the last year of teenage-dom, and much, much more now awaits me in 2013 - I can't wait!