The Long Way ‘Round

Good news, guys: I made it!! To Spain, at least. Before we finally headed to Seville to start classes,  ISA hosted our orientation and a few tours through Madrid and Toledo. Four days later, I’ve officially moved in to my way-nicer-than-expected Residencia! Let’s rewind for a second though and talk about the parts of this beautiful country that I got to visit on the way down.

Arriving in Madrid solo was intimidating to say the least. Once I cleared customs and picked up my luggage though, I was quickly brought into the group of around 50 other students that arrived before me. Any nerves I had soon gave way to the excitement of finally being here. After months of planning and packing, we were finally doing it! And then I crashed. As in a 5 hour nap… oops. Thanks, jet lag. The good news is I woke up just in time to go to a delicious dinner with new friends, and was well rested for the next day’s walking tour of the city. Beautiful is an understatement. Because our program directors had coordinated earlier in the week, we skipped the lines at all the best museums and saw every impressive painting and sculpture our hearts desired. After a quick visit to the palace and some delicious tapas, we had just enough free time at the end of the day to sneak off to Parque del Buen Retiro and rent a row boat for sunset! Navigating the metro home was even a breeze. Madrid, we love you.

makin' a splash

A post shared by Lauren Barnard (@uf_lauren) on

As with all other good things, this leg of our trip came to an end much too quickly. Just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, we arrived in Toledo. Did you know that Toledo is the religious capital of Spain? To be fair, I didn’t either. But we learned that very fast, via our tour guide who looked strikingly similar to Zac Efron.

The way three religions (Christianity, Judaism, and Islam) meet within the walls of old town is truly stunning. Spain is definitely a country rich in religious history, and it was interesting to note how poignant the effects of the Inquisition are so many years later. We were able to visit the revived Jewish Quarter, where families whose ancestors fled persecution hundreds of years ago have returned to synagogues long ago abandoned. Sadly, our hotel was outside the walls of old town and all too soon we were back on the bus headed away from this incredible place.

Later that night, it was time for our academic orientation and I was bombarded with the fact that no, we were not only here to travel and get tanned. After a short bus ride yesterday and a crash course in navigating Seville, we’re here! Classes start on Monday, but for now I plan to enjoy this free weekend in my new home.




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