No Better Way to End the Season than in the Heartland!

Sunset in the Heartland

I finished up my last official recruiting week on the road in my beloved state of Illinois. It was so nice to wrap the season up by staying with one of my best friends, visiting schools where everyone is extra friendly, and spending time in Chicago, which is one of my all time favorite cities. I knew it was going to be a great week when I was awarded a bright red Fiat 500 again! This car brings me a sense of sleekness and sophistication that my 9 year old Maxima just can’t provide. haha.

It’s a beauty!

Cities Visited: Rock Island, Chicago, Champaign

Schools Visited: Augustana College, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Lewis University, Western Illinois University ( Skype Call)

Meals Cooked for Me: 1 amazing tofu curry dish by Miss Katie Bingeman. She also allowed me to consume about an entire jar of Nutella throughout my 3 night stay with her

Other Highlights from the Trip:

I drove across the entire state from Rock Island to Chicago and caught one of the most amazing sunsets I’ve ever seen in my life. I love driving at dusk.

I was able to talk to 2 future applicants from Lewis University who seemed really enthusiastic about going on our program to Alicante, Spain.

I was able to find street parking in Chicago without any major glitches. Although a random guy had the pleasure of watching me successfully parallel park after 4 attempts

I enjoyed my favorite cupcake place in the world- Molly’s.

I was able to enjoy the comforts of home by staying at the adorable studio of my dear friend, Katie Bingeman.. We also had dinner at her place with an old friend from growing up, John McGarity.

Hostess with the Mostest!! ( Katie Bingeman)

I ended my week by eating breakfast at this cute breakfast chain called Orange with a Peel, and it’s literally the most amazing coffee I have ever tasted in my entire life. They literally roast the coffee in orange peels.

It was refreshing to get on the plane to come home and know that after 14 weeks of being on the road for the spring, that I can now finally enjoy some time at home.

Trip to DC

I’ve gotten a little behind on updating you guys on my travels, so I need to go back a few weeks. After my trip to Spain, I suffered from some serious jetlag,but luckily had only scheduled 1 trip to Chattanooga, Tennessee for the end of that week. I spent the following week in Florida( Tampa, Deland, and Orlando)  and was able to spend some time with my grandparents, aunt and uncle, and cousin Morgan. I just love the weather in Florida and have decided that I would like to retire in the Tampa Bay area in 40 years or so.

I spent the next week in the DC area, and I was so excited to see the cherry blossom trees, but they bloomed early this year gosh darn and I missed them. I have included highlights from my trip to DC below:

 Cities Visited: Washington, DC;Baltimore,MD;Fredericksburg,VA

 Parking Tickets: 1

 Parking Garage Incidents: 1

~ I stayed with my friend Sheenum who was a lovely hostess and lives in the best neighorhood in the city- DuPont Circle

~ I ate scrumptious food while I was there including Vietnamese, Ethiopian, homemade Italian food from Sheenum’s uncle, and I walked 2 miles to find my well deserved Baked and Wired cupcake.I chose the Texas Sheetcake one, and was not the least bit disappointed.

~ Everyone in DC seems to walk with a purpose and I was so bothered by how quickly everyone runs down the escalators to catch the metro. It’s like the whole city has a meeting to catch.

~ My friend Michaela explored the regentrified Eastern Market neighborhood with me on Sunday, and it has one of the coolest outdoor markets I’ve ever been to( antiques, jewely, vintage photos, furniture, food, etc)– . It reminded me of the weekend markets in Buenos Aires.

~ The parking situation is a cluster in DC and I managed to get a parking ticket as well as  had a minor incident with the rental car in a parking garage…. I would not recommend parking in this city unless you have a special permit.

~ It is so intriguing to try to guess where people are from in DC.They really could be from anywhere in the world. The person I asked for directions for in the Metro had a French accent, for example.

~I would like to give a shout out to the Sheraton hotel in Towson, Maryland because they had free cocktail and hors d’oeuvre hour for guest appreciation. It’s every Tuesday night in case you’re in the area.

~I visited George Washington University( where I’m more than likely going to grad school in the fall) to meet with some professors and current students. Keep this on the DL for now, as I still haven’t told my employer.

~This trip was originially intended for work, but I took full advantage of  my time there to explore neighborhoods, meet with staff at GWU, and to feel out DC to see if it’s where my next stop is going to be. ( I’ll go into more detail once I have confirmation on some pending details)

Stay posted for my next blog on America’s Heartland!!

My Trip in Retrospect: Part 1- Group Site Visit

Hello my dear ones! I feel like it has been quite some time since I have kept you posted on my travels, and to be honest, I attempted to update my blog abroad, but of course my tablet froze in my hotel room and I lost all of my work. That was a minor mishap compared to some other events on the trip….  So my memory isn’t quite as vivid as it was when I was actually in Spain and Portugal, but I will do my best to recapture some highlights of my spectacular vacation abroad. I am already thinking of ways to get myself back to Spain, and I’ve been home a week. That should reflect how wonderful my experience was:

Week #1- Group Site Visit for Work – Seville, Spain and Alicante, Spain

From the moment I arrived in Sevilla, Spain, I knew it was going to be a charmed trip. It was 80 degrees  and sunny on the day I got there, and my first cab driver was already throwing out “piropos”  to me within my first 5 minutes in the city .Piropos are basically flirtatious lines that Spanish men say to women to be  flirtatious, and  they are not considered to be inappropriate, although some American  women aren’t accustomed to men commenting on their eyes, their beauty, etc. Sevilla is such a charming place filled with rich history, beautiful architecture, winding cobblestone streets, and hidden bars and cafes  all throughout the city. I  talk about the city all the time for work, but to actually experience it for myself takes on an entirely new meaning for me. There are beautiful plazas, parks, orangetrees lining the sidewalk, horses in carriages waiting to take tourists  on a stroll,and it really is one of the most romantic places I’ve ever been to in my life.

I arrived a day before the group participants did, so I had a  chance to explore the city and walk around for a day with one of my coworkers. Once the group site visit started, I really had very little free time.  We had a packed schedule filled with classroom visits, tours of The University of Sevilla, flamenco shows, tapas, tapas, and more tapas, internship visits, Q & A sessions, cultural visits around the  city, etc.The group was wonderful and everyone was so social and easy going. It was wonderful for me to finally meet our staff in Spain as well, as I had only known them  through email correspondence before. We spent 3 days in Sevilla and then we flew to Alicante, Spain for the 2nd part of the site visit. I have to say that coordinating a group of adults is not as easy as  it would seem. We had a very wandering group, and I almost lost 2 people  in the  airport and had to get security to call their names over the loud speaker, I had to personally wake people up in the mornings who slept in past their alarms, and we also left someone behind on a cultural tour and almost drove off in the bus without him. It was strange being the “mom” of the  group when I was actually the youngest one there. I can only imagine the stress level involved with leading a group of students on a study abroad trip.

We arrived to Alicante, Spain for the second part of the site visit, and it is on the Mediterranean coast, so it has a very different feel from Sevilla. It is a beautiful, modern, beach city that is about a third of the  size of Sevilla. It is part of the Costa Blanca ( White Coast), and it receives more sunlight than any other coast in Spain.There is a beautiful pedestrian street along the water known as ” La Esplanada” that is lined with palm trees and with lovely shops and restaurants. Some of the views here are incredible as there is a castle on the top of a hill where you can overlook the entire city. We also did a wine tasting of local wines in the region, and it was some delicious vino I must say. Alicante also makes “Valor” chocolate, which is some of the best chocolate I’ve ever eaten in my entire life.  Our office is much smaller in Alicante, and we actually only have 2 staff members here, but I met both of them, and they were amazing and the students had such wonderful thing to say about them. We held a Q & A session with current students on the program, and each and every one of them spoke so highly of their experience in Alicante, and of Pepa, our Resident Director there. I was so proud to see the students so content and learning so much on our programs. It made me want to come back and be a student again. We ate so much here, and the last night we ate at this boating club  overlooking the water. It was  gorgeous. I have included some fun facts about Alicante and Seville  below for you:

Facts:

Our  center in Sevilla is a converted house  from 1918 that is filled with intricate and beautiful  tile design

Dan Brown, author of Angels and Demons and DaVinci Code, was  actually a student at our center back in the 1980’s

La Catedral in Sevilla  is the oldest gothic cathedral in the world

Christopher Columbus’s remains are held  in the Cathedral in Sevilla

Plaza de España was where parts of Star Wars and  Lawrence of Arabia were filmed

Flamenco dancing originated in Sevilla

People  in Alicante speak Valenciano, which is another dialect of Spanish

The Romans named Alicante “Lucentum,” which means “City of Light”

Alicante is a very popular tourist destination for Spaniards in the summertime because of its beautiful beaches

* Stay tuned for Part 2 which is my vacation portion of the trip with Jamie and Steph!!

Holiday in Spain…. and Portugal

Hola queridos! Today marks the day where I go back to where all it began for me….. España. I will be going for work as well as well as pleasure, and I’m so thrilled to have been given the opportunity by my company for this trip.My purpose in going is to accompany a site visit that we host every year for Spanish faculty members and study abroad administration from US universities who are interested in working with us.  We show them our facilities, wine and dine them, take them on cultural visits, and let them observe classrooms, homestays, internships, etc. I’m basically along for the ride.

I remember my first trip to Spain that I took with my highschool Spanish class for Spring Break back in 2001. I was enamored by the sights and people of Spain, and I was determined that I would improve my Spanish and get back there someday. I returned to study abroad with UGA 4 years later in a litte town called Cadiz, Spain on the southern coast, and I fell in love with the country again. I also met one of my best friends, Jamie Kyle, who will be meeting up with me on this trip and we will go back to that lovely little town to try to reemerge the memories from those carefree college summer days.  I also want to ask that you to keep Steph in your thoughts as she is a trooper and is coming to Spain for her first time even though she tore her ACL earlier this week. We’ll take good care of her of course. I feel so blessed to have a job that allows and encourages traveling abroad, and I am ready to soak in every minute of it. I will be visiting Seville,Spain for a week because that is where my company is based out of and where we started our first study abroad program. I will then move to the Mediterranean coast to a smaller city called Alicante, Spain where I will explore our other study abroad program there. I’m meeting up with Steph and Jamie in Valencia, Spain where we’ll make our way down to Portugal, which I’m ecstatic about since I’ve never been. I’ll keep you all posted with my blog, and I’d like to give a shout out to Miss Katie Bingeman to wish her a very happy birthday tomorrow! Hasta pronto!!

March 3rd-7th- Seville, Spain

March 7th-10th- Alicante, Spain

March 10th-12- Valencia, Spain

March 13th-15th- Cadiz, Spain

March 15th-18th- Lisbon, Portugal

March 18th-19th- Madrid, Spain

Week 6: Virginia is for Lovers AND Snow!!!

Doubletree Hotel- Richmond, VA

State Visited: Virginia

Cities Visited: Richmond, Blacksburg, Harrisonburg, Charlottesville, Williamsburg, Newport News ( 5 day period)

Miles Driven: 635

Highlights from the Week

1) It started snowing on my flight to Richmond, VA which was actually pretty terrifying. There were 4 inches of snow on the ground when we landed, and I had to drive on the dark, snowy roads to get to my hotel.

2) Thank goodness I stayed at a Doubletree because A)It was 2 miles from the airport B) they serve you warm walnut chocolate chip cookies upon your arrival C) They had a restaurant so I could order dinner without having to drive my car back out  in the blizzardy snow.

3) I met a professor at Virginia Tech who leads a group of students on El Camino de Santiago,  every summer which is a pilgrimage that people from all over the world take through Spain and something that is on my bucket list to do in this lifetime.

4) University of Virginia is a gorgeous school, but it has an air of intimidation about it that makes me feel uneasy.

5) I made a spontaneous decision to stop through Williamsburg on my way to Newport News, VA because I had no idea it was on the way. I stayed at the nicest Hampton Inn I’ve ever stayed at, and I got a King Suite which made it even better.

6) Williamsburg was an enchanting place to me when I was 8 years old, and  I have fond memories of taking a trip there with my family when I was younger. Unfortunately, when you’re 28 years old, and roaming through the little colonial place alone on a random Thursday afternoon after work, it doesn’t have the same magical feel to it. Plus, it was pretty touristy. I still think it’s a great place to take kids though.

7) I ordered one entree to go at this random Chinese restaurant one night this week, and the lady asked me if she should put 2 sets of silverware and 2 plates in the bag? I answered Yes, without even a thought. I didn’t feel like explaining why I was eating alone in Williamsburg.

8) I bought a bottle of wine at KMart, yes, I did.

9) I also ate Taco Bell one night this week- I make really poor food decisions when I’m alone all week

10) Virginia is the most scenic state to drive through with the breathtaking Blue Ridge Mountains as the backdrop. It is one of the most beautiful parts of the country, and I don’t mind driving for hours at a time through the state.

11) I would like to give a shout out to Steph for visiting her favorite state. Can you say Virginia, Steph? Repeat after me… 😉

12) It’s always nice to come home to Atlanta and to be welcomed back by the Park n Ride drivers. They are so darn friendly, and it makes me proud of my city. Especially since I overheard a woman on my flight to Richmond refer to us as “The Armpit”. Ummmm- the heart of the south is more like it lady.

13) Just as an FYI, I am giving up Facebook for Lent. I need to take a little break from being incessantly connected to everyone else at every second of the day.

14) 5 days until SPAIN!!!!

 

 

BAMA

This week I will be in good ole Bama-  Birmingham, Auburn, and Montgomery. I had such a peaceful drive into town this evening as it was dusk when  I arrived into Birmingham, and I think the sky is at its prettiest at this time of day.  I always enjoy being in Alabama  as the staff members at the schools I work with are some of the friendliest among my regions. I love visiting Auburn especially because the town is adorable and they have my favorite hotel conference center with an all you can eat pasta bar. I will coincidentally be there on Valentine’s day, so you can bet I will be loading up on the carbs and vino. haha. I’m also happy to be stopping in to see a good friend of mine from highschool in Montgomery. It’s always  comforting to have friends who can host you on your travels, as staying at Hampton Inns and Spring Hill Suites can become a bit sterile and monotonous. So thank you to everyone who has hosted up their home to me on the road. It makes the weeks that much bearable. Cheers to a new week and all the surprises that it holds.

South Carolina Week- Spartanburg, Clemson

Gooooo Tigers!!

This week started off well because my sweet and edgy Fiat that I rented a few weeks back was returned to me. I decided to name the sleek back lil car Tina as she has been my road buddy for the 2nd time. This week hasn’t been too stressful so far.  I have spent 2 of my days in Spartanburg, SC though, and I must say that this is one of my least favorite cities. I always feel slightly depressed while being here.  To counter that though, I was in Clemson today and last nite, and I attended the Clemson vs. Maryland basketball game with some other providers and the study abroad office. It was a close game, and the Tigers almost won. These Clemson people are a spirited bunch. I also had the pleasure of eating a homemade milkshake from Clemson’s dairy.  It definitely wins the award for best icecream  at a college campus.  I’m pretty excited because for once, I am coming home on a Thursday. Sure beats last Friday when I arrived home at 11 pm. More to come when I’m in good ole Bama next week!