imberlykay's Travel Journals

imberlykay

  • 25 years old
  • From Illinois, United States
  • Currently in Buenos Aires, Argentina

My First Trip to Europe: Study Abroad in Barcelona, Spain

I will be writing here for family and friends to follow me, read about my experiences, and view photos that I will be taking while abroad.

because sometimes reading about a place in a book is satisfying enough..

Spain Barcelona, Spain  |  Dec 09, 2012
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Highlights

  • Red Square

  • Moscow, Russia

 pictures are up! 

Well, I'm back from Russia and I'm glad I went but that was probably one of the worst traveling experiences I've ever had- that being said I'm sure you're all very excited to hear about it =P

I'm really glad I went because I was so excited and went through a lot of trouble to get there but let me tell you Russia is not my cup of tea. It's extremely rare that I don't adapt in any given place and I have enjoyed everywhere I've been until now, so something must be up...right?....Russia is different to say the least. Maybe three days was not enough time to properly judge the country, and one day I think I'd like to go back but as soon as I got there I wanted to go back to Barcelona (not the first time this has happened, it really is a curse). I was Barcelona homesick but I really just wanted to get the hell outta Russia to be honest. Before we left Barcelona things were rocky, which could have been a sign. My friend and I had plans to meet at a metro stop in Barcelona at 11:45 on Wednesday to head to the airport for our 2:20 or so flight. I had assumed that we would be taking the train that goes from Barna to the airport but after my friend arrived at the meeting point almost an hour late, he seemed undecided. Never let men plan anything. By then I was a little annoyed because I would have liked to sleep a little longer but was still super excited to go to Moscow. As soon as he got to the metro we headed to the bus stop but it drove away as soon as we walked up to the door. Our next plan was to take the train, but we realized that the next one wouldn't leave for another half hour and we didn't walk to risk missing our first flight (we realized this after getting to the platform). Our next plan was to take the metro to the last stop of one of the lines that was closest to the airport. So by then I wasted a metro ride and was not happy..we arrived to the last stop of the metro and had to take a taxi the rest of the way which was more unnecessary money spent due to poor planning.

We finally made it to the airport and everything went smoothly there with security and all that fun stuff. The flight to Germany was fine and I got to read a decent amount of pages in the book I'm reading right now (which also happens to do with Russia) so that was nice . We landed in Germany and had almost 5 hours to kill so we decided to catch a train into whatever town looked promising for food. Going through customs I actually had to show my Spanish residency card since my visa is expired, so that was SUPER cool :) Anyway, we weren't successful in finding anywhere to eat because we got off the train on the outskirts of Munich since we didn't have enough time to go to the city. We decided to eat at the airport, and I got what looked to be a popular dish- an over sized hotdog drenched in semi-spicy bbq/ketchup, sprinkled with curry. It wasn't bad, but wasn't what I was craving (bratwurst). We finally boarded our connecting flight and I became really excited again. The flight wasn't bad, and I got to read more, and by the time we landed in Russia it was a great feeling to finally be there. We got in at 3:30, and the airport wasn't hard to navigate but the staff employees weren't very helpful so we had to look up directions to our hostel on the internet. I also realized that my Spanish phone didn't get service in Russia, something that sounds so stupid right now because of course it wouldn't...but at the time I was kind of panicking.

Since we landed so early (3:30), we had to wait around because the next train didn't leave until 6:00 (something that would have been nice to know before we scanned our tickets to realize the train station was outside and it was -7 degrees Celsius). We hopped the fence to get back inside, and knew that it would be problematic down the road but it all worked out. Around 5:45 we headed back to the train and of course our tickets wouldn't scan. The women standing by the machines brought me over to another machine and scanned my ticket, which showed a credit of 0. Luckily I bought my ticket ridiculously early before the very first train, and with a few pointing gestures I think she understood that we went to the train way too early and went back inside because it was freezing, and let us through.

We took the train which was around a 40 minute ride with no stops so that was easy enough. We made it into Moscow and transferred to the metro, which was easily to navigate thanks to the color coordination. I obviously don't read or speak a lick of Russian and was told everyone spoke English there which was a complete lie! We made it to the metro stop closest to our hostel according to the website but ended up walking miles in the complete opposite direction. We resorted to a really shady taxi which was way overpriced but at least we would get to our hostel (or so we thought). After the taxi dropped us off and we walked around trying to find the hostel, we realized that we used the wrong address. I double checked the piece of paper and saw that we confused the hostel's address with the address of the office of the hostel's company. So, yeah, that was really good news. By then I was ready to go back to the airport and fly back to Barna, but we continued on. We took another overpriced shady taxi to the next address, the correct address, or so we thought. This time the taxi driver didn't even know where he was going and so he dropped us off where he thought it was. Turns out again that the address was incorrect, but this time it wasn't our fault. The address on the piece of paper was printed out from my visa application paperwork, but didn't match the address from the hostel's website which we would discover later in a cafe with WIFI. By then I REALLY REALLY just wanted to fly back to Barna. I was not excited to be in Russia at all anymore. In the cafe with WIFI we were able to use Google maps and it ACTUALLY worked. By the time we got to the hostel it was around 10 or 11am..

The day that we left I started feeling like I was coming down with a cold and with everything that happened, I became more sick (of course because we were outside in -7 weather) and went straight to bed without even fully making it. I woke up later at 7pm feeling even more sick. Sergio wanted to get food to cook at the hostel and said he would pick me up some medicine so I stayed and rested. While he was out I talked to some of the other roommates and everyone seemed to be really nice, but then I started to get really worried because he had been gone for almost 3 hours and I had no way of reaching him. Of course I had the worst thoughts... He finally came back so I was relieved, and we ate a little and I was feeling better after taking some cold meds. I knew I wouldn't be able to fall asleep since I slept all day but I just hoped that Friday would be a much better day.

It turned out to be a great day, in fact. Although we slept in a bit we had a pretty productive day. As soon as we woke up we got ready and headed out to the Red Square, which was about a 15 minute walk from our hostel. When we first got there it was still daytime and by the time we left it was night, and it was really cool to be able to see it in two different lights. I was speechless when I first saw it, and it was everything I was waiting to see and more. Seeing everything in the Red Square made everything worth it up until that point. What made it even better was that the whole square was decorated for the Christmas season, and there was an ice-skating rink in the middle along with cute little booths selling Christmas trinkets. It was so beautiful and it really made me feel at home. Of course Spain is decorated for the season but Russia had the cold weather and snow that I know and love. I took some pictures and then we went into the mall which is also inside the square. We planned to eat at a restaurant recommended to us by a friend from the hostel but couldn't find it so we walked around a bit. Being in the mall was like being in the movie Elf, and it was breathtaking. It was like nothing I'd ever seen.

After leaving the square we bought some food to take back to the hostel to make for dinner. Friday night at the hostel was something that I can't explain in one word. It was the first time I'd ever stayed in a hostel, and I have to say that I probably got really lucky. I have never met so many interesting and genuinely kind people in one place. I stayed in a 16-person mixed room which was dorm-style, and I'm really glad I made that decision. I met people from Russia, Syria, Columbia, Brazil, Tajikistan, Taiwan, London, Germany, and California. Everybody had such an interesting story and the majority spoke at least two languages. I would talk to people in English or Spanish, while others spoke in Russian/English/Spanish and even Arabic. It was such an amazing thing to find other people which such a passion for language. I only hung out with these people for a few days but it felt like we'd known each other for a lot longer. We shared a living room and a kitchen, and it felt like a big family. I seriously geeked out when I got to try honey brought from Uzbekistan by someone from Taiwan. Who else can say that?? And who can say they've had a snowball fight with a few Russian friends where instead of cowboys vs. indians it was Americans vs. the Soviets? I think you get the idea of how much I appreciated seeing a country which a history like Russia's, especially after the paper I wrote.

Saturday was also another good day, and it was our last day. We hung out with everyone again and went out on the town again. I introduced the crew to Circle of Death, which a really fun game that is normally played with beer but since we were in Russia we used vodka. Everyone had a great time and I was beginning to feel like I didn't want to leave. I'm glad that I'll be able to keep in touch with some of the friends that I made, but I already miss the sense of community.

Well, that's pretty much it I suppose. Hanging out in Russia for a few days, living off of orange juice, really bad pasta, and chocolate was something I'm really glad I can say I've done. Like I said I think I would like to go back in a few years but with someone that speaks Russian fluently and when I have more time to do. A few days wasn't enough. I would like to go back for a week and a half, maybe. Although I'm sure I wouldn't be able to handle it for that long. Russian culture is just so different. I'm convinced that the people in Moscow are not fans of Americans or outsiders for that matter. This morning on the way to the aiport I went up to a window to ask how far the airport was. Walking up to the window I made eye contact with the lady behind the window and upon reaching the window she directed her attention to her screen. I stood there for five minutes in awe of how rude she was. And that pretty much somes up my experience with the people in Moscow. Many more stories like that one but you get the idea..

Now all I have to look forward to is finals, and flying back home Friday for Christmas break. I'm very excited to see everyone and then come back for the next semester.

I hope you guys are doing well and as always, love and miss you

Kimberlyxoxo

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