Working at the Univeristy of Cádiz

I’m so greatful for having the amazing opportunity to intership in Spain. I have enjoyed so much observing the teachers who are amazing at what they do. It is also amazing seeing all the different students working so hard to learn and showing much appreciation for having the oportunity to come here to learn Spanish. The staff at the school is also very friendly and welcoming, really make me feel like I actually work there.

Aside from that I loved the excursion to the winery at Santa Maria as I was at the place where the Santa Maria ship sailed out to the new world. I have never imagined I would ever be where everything started for us latin Americans. I feel lucky to be able here. The wine was exquisite too! I’m very thankful to my teacher for facilitating this amazing once in a lifetime oportunity to experience Spain in such depth.

20160728_181450 20160728_183319 20160728_181610

Cádiz on a Saturday

Before coming to Spain I never realized how much 4.67 square miles had to offer. Cádiz may be small but it is full of life and has something for everyone. As fun as it is to see different places in Spain, I thoroughly enjoyed spending this Saturday adventuring around the city. Jen, my roommate, and I made a nice day out of shopping for gifts for family and trying out a new restaurant.


Our host family lived on Calle Arboli, right off of the Plaza de Flores. Everyday we were able to walk through this beautiful plaza and smell all the fresh flowers picked for sale. Once at the plaza we turn right onto Calle Columela, this street is definitely a great place to start if you’re looking for all the trendy clothes, shoes, and home decor. Today we stopped into Kiko, Mango, Zara, Sfera, and a few more to get some last minute sale deals while the “rebajas” were still going on. Throughout the month of July almost all shops do their summer blowout sales so we really lucked out on timing of the trip.

IMG_4108There are so many plazas in Cadiz and by now, surprisingly, I am very familiar with most of them. My favorite plazas to stop through were Plaza de La Catedral, Plaza de Flores, Plaza Candelaría, Plaza Mina, and Plaza de San Antonio. Plaza de La Catedral certainly held a special place in my heart since that was where we spent a lot of our time hanging out and doing work. The Cathedral steps are a great place to stop and relax and eat some helado. Plaza Mina has several restaurants that were worth taking the time for good tapas. Today we stopped in to the Mediterranean restaurant and had “Gambas Al Ajillo” which is shrimp in a garlic wine sauce. It is so good we needed extra bread just to soak up all the oil. At the end of the day, exploring any of these plazas will be worth the time for a new and fun experience. IMG_4442

IMG_4337It is certainly smart to end a good night at the Mercado Central. The Mercado is right off the Plaza de Flores so once again this is very convenient for our location. During the day time, from about 9 to 2, the market is entirely open with seafood and vegetable vendors in the center. At night, one side is open from 8-12 for evening snacks and fun. Here is where you will find the most amazing sushi around. I am an avid sushi eater so I made sure to locate this place. It is called Gadisushi and it is worth the time to stop by. The fish is so fresh and makes for a great evening treat. What could be better than surrounding yourself with friends and food?

Spanish Architecture

The architecture in Spain is very interesting. So far I have visited multiple cities and landmarks and each has its own type of interesting designs. First many of the streets of Cadiz and other cities are very narrow. This allows the streets to be cool during the morning and evening as well as trapping wind and creating a breeze in the street. This type of intuition when building has amazed me especially in a city like Cadiz that is so old. Another thing I have noticed is many streets with arches or cathedrals and places of worship that use semi circular or arches in the building design. For example yesterday I visited the Oratorio de la Santa Cueva which used in the prayer room semi circular arches and other features to make the room echo as well as give the small worship space a more compact feeling. Many other structures use this type of design in different forms to achieve different things. I have just been so amazed by the intricate designs of every building, place of worship, and street while also remembering that much of what I am seeing has remained the same since it was built many years before. The dedication and detail take to create the littlest of things is amazing. Today we visited El Puerto de Santa Maria and while we were on the tour we were told that the altar displayed in the castle was used in a church and was created by a prison inmate that had worked for 7 years to complete it. The altar was designed and placed inside the church with gargoyles designed into the altar to help fend off the evil spirits. Even though it was built by someone who was not a well known person of the time being a prison inmate, I believe this piece could stand up to any of the other pieces of art I have already seen. The way a place or city was designed in the past is almost like a piece of art and it was before all the modern advances of our time. This showed me that even with all the new technologies we have today that could reproduce any thing you see, I think these buildings and pieces of art of the earlier time are amazing because they took a persons desire, drive and determination as well as many years. Now we can produce anything of that caliber in much less time, but giving your whole heart and desire to the work is what makes it special.

Today we visited El Puerto de Santa Maria and the Bodega. The Bodega was very interesting because we saw how the wine was stored and saw many prized wines. Also we learned about the history of the wines that we saw and how they were aged. The most interesting part for me was learning about the aging process and how the wines are made. Later we learned some more history about El Puerto de Santa Maria and saw the Castle of San Marcos. It was very informative learning about the intricate details of how the castle was used and seeing the preserved relics of past eras. We finished the tour by sampling the wines. They all had different tastes but I personally liked the sweeter ones better.

The arches of the oratorio create an echo.

The arches of the oratorio create an echo.

The markings of the top row describes the period of time and ruler of Spain and the bottom describes the awards won.

The markings of the top row describes the period of time and ruler of Spain and the bottom describes the awards won.


The Altar created by a prison inmate.

The Altar created by a prison inmate.


Classes in Spain

Taking a class in Spain are incredibly different from taking a class in the U.S. The argument could be made that most of the differences stem from taking an intensive summer class, but from the way my professors talk about their past classes, we seem to be experiencing the normal way of education in Spain. We have two Professors, Alberto and Ines. We have Alberto for the first two hours of the morning, then an half hour break, after we have Ines for another two hours.

The way the Professors present themselves is far different than I’ve seen before. Granted, we do have an incredibly small class, but nonetheless. They are friendly and kind, always willing to detour the conversations, but silently keeping track of time in their heads. Alberto told us on the first time that he specifically sets time aside to get off track and converse about random things. Ines once gave us an assignment that consisted of all of us sending her our baby pictures then everyone guess who’s who.

This seems to be a trend in classes about languages in general: being able to converse and speak the language is just as important as the grammar. The only linguistic experience I have is three years of Latin in high school, where it was all grammar. Latin is a dead language, so occasionally we would attempt to read ancient texts, but being able to hold a conversation was no even on our “to do” list.

The grading system in Spain is also very different. There’s much less pressure on getting good grades and just learning for the exam. We have nothing graded except our final on the second to last day of the course. The European grading system in general is also much gentler, I believe, but I do not know the exact differences. Unfortunately, I would not know this blessing because we’re still graded by the UMass Lowell grading system here. From what Ines has told us, they have a scale from 1-10. Any final grade above a 5 is passing, and below is a suspension. Getting a 7 or 8 is really good here, and only one or two people receive 9s.

The first time Alberto gave us an exercise to see where we were, we all worriedly inquired if it was graded (it wasn’t). The first time Alberto gave us homework, I spent hours on the simple assignment, trying to Google and check with the other girls in the class and see what they got because I didn’t want me getting an answer wrong on the homework to negatively affect my grade. Spoiler alert: the homework was not graded and just for us to learn, I got way more out of the second homework assignment when I just did it based on what I knew and made mistakes. The first time Alberto did a small quiz with us (once again, not graded), I allowed myself to get some answers incorrect, and when I did, I inquired about why they were not correct until I understood. I felt no shame or disapproval from being confused. The next quiz, I did not make any of the same mistakes.

I’ve always been extremely concerned about grades, needing a certain GPA for one thing, another higher GPA for something else, and a competitive GPA for a third thing. I can calculate my current grade and hat grades I need to get whatever for a final grade blindfolded at this point. But, with this far more laid back style of learning, focused less on memorization and testing and more on understanding and actual comprehension.

I’ve learned more in these weeks than I have years in the US. I miss a lot of things about home, but, sadly, I think I prefer the Spanish university. Also, the view from my classroom looks like something from a movie. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to it.

image image

Cadiz and Tapas

Cadiz is an amazing, beautiful and exciting place.  It is hard to believe our time here is almost half over.   There is a very different feel  to daily life in cadiz.  There are always people on the streets but there is not the same rapid pace that is felt back in Boston.  When I walk thru the plaza by the Cathedral or plaza de San Antonio, de Flores or de Espana you see people everywhere engrossed in conversation and very few people focused on their phones, laptops or electric devices.  There is so much to see here, so much history to learn. Venturing out on my own I felt very safe here.  I have become lost a couple of times and while trying to read the map people have approached me to help me find my way or were more than happy to offer directions when asked.

What stands out for me in Cadiz is the Cathedral which is magnificent with its carved marble and wood, pipe organs and overall grandeur.   The audio tour provided an opportunity to move at ones own pace while absorbing the great detail.   I did miss one interesting exhibit in the catacombs.  I was glad Prof. Matz was present to suggest another look.
The next is the doors on the homes of cadiz.  They are not the standardized doors of homes we often see but each is different with detail and story to tell.  Some have the iron gates on the doors, others with a unique door handle  (look closely a couple have hands) or door knockers others with different designs or carved wood.
I loved the town of Vejer de la Frontera.  The winding cobblestone streets and white buildings perfectly matched the clean and quiet serenity of the old town.  We stood on the tower and were able to look across the sea to see Africa.  An old city filled with history but different than Cadiz.
Tonight was our cooking class and lesson on gastronomy! Amazing tapas, sangria and conversacion!  In addition to learning to prepare tapas we were treated to a presentation by Allie, Steph and Jonathan on the history of tapas, the important foods that are the foundation of Spanish tapas and were the best fresh markets are located.  Overall another great night in Cadiz!
IMG_1765 IMG_1833 IMG_1826 IMG_1825 IMG_1824 IMG_1820 IMG_1819 IMG_1770 IMG_1769 IMG_1768

Cadiz is home!

I have been in Cadiz for 2 weeks now and I love it. It is such an enchanting place where I feel at home. It is a small city with much to do and see. I love how I could go out anywhere is the city and I feel safe. I mean the locals are out on the streets at 3am just haning out as if was 2 in the afternoon. The lifestyle in Cadiz is very attractive because it is much more relaxed than any other place I have ever been to. The people here do work but they seem much less stressed out and that is something I would like to learn to do.

The food is amazing here! Lots of sea food that is fresh and delicious; and the portions are just right (I love tapas). It is also reasonable in price. I love how I can go out at night and find so many nice places to eat at being such a small city. Like the local market which is my favorite place to go eat at night. It opens in the morning until 5pm then opens back up at 8:30pm and has all these small food places where people gather at to eat and socialize, the food is fresh all the time. At first I was reluctant about coming to a small city because in most small cities like this back in the states, everything closes very early, much certainly the local markets, but not in Cadiz! This makes the stay even much more enjoyable.

I love the resemblance of how the city was built has with my home country. Between the structure of the buidlings and the plazas, it takes me back to when I was growing up in Dominican Rep. This was the first aspect of the city that made me feel like home since I got here. Also, the people are very welcoming and just overall nice! The school is lovely and the teachers are definitely memorable in a very positive way. So far I have enjoyed both my class and the cultural experience here. It is making not want to go back.


Gallegan food from the local market.


Calle ancha.


Gallegan food place at the local market.


Vejer de la Frontera, Baelo Claudia, Tarifa!


20,256 steps, 9.1 miles, 122 floors, 3 cities, and 1 fun group. I never thought wearing a Fitbit all over Spain could be so entertaining. With all the walking here, everyday has been a competition to see how many steps we can take. Today was an exceptionally fun day because we got to see so much more of Spain beyond our lovely city of Cádiz. Our first stop was at Vejer de la Frontera where we definitely gained the most flights up, followed by Baelo Claudia, walking through ancient ruins, and ending with a lovely walk along the Mediterranean sea in Tarifa.



Vejer de la Frontera is a hilltop town sprinkled with churches, convents, and intriguing architecture. We had a lovely tour guide show us unique aspects of the town, from ancient archways to watch posts, where many had kept a look out for pirates.



Baelo Claudia showcased ancient ruins overlooking the Mediterranean sea, a view I will never forget. You can see the Roman influences in the architecture from the basilica to the theater. It wasn’t until this visit that I truly noticed how much of an influence the Romans had on Spanish culture and history.



The group carried on to Tarifa where we were able to explore as we wanted. We had an amazing lunch, did a bit of shopping, and finally were able to dip our toes into the Mediterranean. The color of the sea was like no other, looking out to the coast of Africa, crystal clear. These are the experiences you cannot learn in a textbook.


We live, eat, and breathe Spain. Living in the culture is definitely the best way to learn a new language. I spend my days talking with professors and locals in the language, I eat the food, I walk the streets, and now I even think in Spanish. It is certainly a warming feeling to have everyone around you willing to help you learn as well. The people of Spain are so welcoming and excited to be a part of the learning process. I wouldn’t trade this experience for the world.



Crazy Cadiz

So far I have been in Cadiz for the first 4 days of the second session. This city is very small but if you don’t know where you are going you can get lost easily and end up along the ocean but miles from where you need to be. This was my experience on the first day when I arrived in Cadiz. I spent many hours looking for the university and then getting lost. Although Cadiz I much more than that it is a very pretty city with a very lively culture and the people are very kind. The classes are very accommodating to all students and ability levels and I have not felt rushed or overwhelmed by my teachers. During the first day of classes I was given a tour of the city. This included La Plaza de San Antonio, La Plaza de Mina, La Plaza De Las Flores, and many other places this tour showed me how diverse and culturally significant this city is and how the style of the city varies every few blocks. During my second day I learned about the history of the Spanish languages. It interested me a lot how the different languages were all contained into their own perspective regions. Another very interesting part was that some of the oldest languages in Spain have no known roots. I have also seen the el Museo de La Catedral, La Catedral, and El Torre de Reloj. These places were so fascinating and each had its own unique parts. All of the catholic artifacts and pristinely created pieces were amazing to see on display in El Museo de La Catedral. The most impressive part of La Catedral was that each chapel had its own distinct characteristics and they were so intricately designed. It was fun to take pictures and see the city from above when we climbed to the top of El Torre de Reloj. Also while we were up in the tower we the bells ring. Although it was very loud the experience of being in a bell tower when the bells rang was a very unique one. I learned about the history of the flamenco and how the flamenco is different from the flamenco in other Spanish cities. The flamenco of Cadiz has a different rythmn to reflect the passion and attitudes of the people of Cadiz. It also has a unique sound with parts originating from Arab music. I learned the history of Spain and its long history of inhabitance and discrimination of religious groups. The interesting part to me is how the majority religion of Spain has changed multiple times in its history and now the cultures can mix well together with all religions.

IMG_0538 IMG_0551