Welcome to Barcelona

I have been in Barcelona for almost two weeks now. It has been an exciting an adventure to get to know this amazing city. Barcelona is a vibrant, wonderful place, filled with history, amazing food and a passionate sports culture.

The amount of historical places in Barcelona is actually astounding. One of my favorite places I visited so far was the Sagrada Familia. The Sagrada Familia is a Catholic church that has been under construction since building began in 1882. It was designed by Antoni Gaudi, a famous architect that is responsible for many famous landmarks in Barcelona. This work is still under construction and is expected to be finished in 2026.

Being able to see the Sagrada Familia, a building so centered in the rich history of Barcelona, was simply amazing. It was such a modern building, yet had so much historical value to it.

The food in Barcelona is definitely something to write home about as well. Little plates of food called tapas is the primary cuisine. Fried squid, patatas bravos, tomato bread and plates of jamon are just some of the delicacies in Barcelona. Personally, I like to stick with tomato bread and patatas bravos. I wouldn’t consider myself a picky eater, but I’m not necessarily trying to eat fried tentacles. Even if you aren’t a lover of Spanish food, you can find cuisine from all over the globe in Barcelona. I’ve been able to explore some pretty cool taco joints and Italian restaurants in this city.

The love for the Barcelona football club is quite astounding as well. It definitely plays an integral role in the pace and culture of the city. Some of the students in my study abroad group were able to witness one of these soccer games. People paid over 100 euros to see FC Barcelona play on their home field. Some paid reduced prices, but had to sit alone in a single seat. The response to the game was the same, that it was an incredible, energetic experience.

While I have not seen a game, I have been able to experience the impact FC Barcelona has on this city. Every souvenir shop sells jerseys and other memorabilia. The other day, I even saw a parade randomly appear in a street featuring some of the players. At first, I didn’t realize it was a parade and assumed a riot of some sort had broken out, considering the passionate reactions from people attending.

I love spending my time in Barcelona. While it is a big city, it still feels sleepier and smaller than one in the United States. The culture is so vibrant and different than anything I have experienced. I am excited for even more Barcelona adventures ahead and to immerse myself in this city!

The Countdown Begins

Hallo! Guten Morgen! Wie geht es Ihnen? These are some of the practically vital phrases I will be smashing into my brain because I just realized I have only one month before I will be on a plane to Berlin! If I forget everything else, the one phrase I cannot, under any circumstances forget is “Sprechen Sie Englisch?” And hopefully I will never have to use the phrase Ich habe mich verlaufen (I’m lost)!

If I could possibly forget about the myriad of responsibilities I have to accomplish before I begin my trip for even a second, my dad sure wouldn’t let me. Have you gotten your airplane tickets? Do you need international insurance? Does Sprint have service in Germany? Did you get your shots? Do you need to get shots to travel in Europe? Did you get your laptop fixed or are you taking the broken one with you to Berlin? Blah blah blah. Details, details. My mum says my dad is living this trip through me. I am just stoked that I managed to travel to Europe at a younger age than he did! I’ve always treasured the small victories in life.

UF in Berlin summer 2016. Always curious about photography, I decided to enrich my science and math-filled schedule with a subject I actually enjoyed. So I joined Professor Freeman’s Photojournalism class, and boy was that one of the best decisions I have ever made. His lectures were so interesting and inspiring. I found myself engaged during every minute, so when the day finally came for him to introduce his annual study abroad in Berlin trip, I couldn’t believe my luck. My heart started pounding and I knew I just had to go on this trip. I practically got on the floor and kissed my mum’s feet, begging her to allow me to go on this trip. My dad was already keen on the idea, but my mum was exceedingly harder to convince. And finally, either the planets were aligned or my mum was completely out of her mind, but she said “Yes”!

During this trip, my classmates and I will be immersed in a new culture. We will try out a new language, meet new people, and taste new cuisine. New new new. Yes, yes, no! Oh gosh, new food! I might be most afraid of the food. I eat a very plain diet of plain vegetables, plain meat, and plain fruit. So, pray for my stomach! My poor, weak stomach. Hopefully it can handle spätzle and Wiener Schnitzel. Fingers crossed.

Anyway, back to the reason for this sojourn. Our one requirement is that we produce a picture story after finding a subject to learn about and basically experience Berlin through his or her eyes! Hopefully, I can find a really inspiring subject who can integrate me into the culture and show me some hidden gems most tourists never see.

Danke. Thank you for traveling on this journey with me! More updates with awesome pictures soon to come!
Katelyn Irvin

Last Week in France

Hello everyone!

This is already my last week in France before heading back to America. I’m actually really excited to be going back home. I miss Florida so much…my friends and family, the beach, the sunshine, and just my life/routine in general. Now seeing things in hindsight, I take back what I said in the beginning on the semester when I said I wish I could have done the yearlong exchange. For me, 6 months was the perfect amount of time. However, I say that because I’m in my last year of school (I think I’ve said this a million times – it’s probably due to the excitement of finishing school and starting a new chapter of my life I imagine :P). So because of that, I have many things to organize in my life, such as preparing for graduation and other future career prospects. But if I were a junior still, I would definitely recommend doing the complete academic year abroad. Did I already mention that at Sciences Po it is mandatory to all students to spend the senior year abroad? I honestly think it should be like that everywhere. Studying abroad really helped me and changed me in many positive ways, but I will discuss that further in my last blog post next week after coming back home.

My plans for my last week in Reims are to relax, relax, and relax. Ah, il dolce far niente! ☺ I can’t believe I am done with all of my finals and other school works. I can’t believe my time at Sciences Po is ending. This was such a tough semester. I had a million things in mind to get done. What a relief that now I have finally some time for myself. Sadly, most of my good friends already left Reims to go back home – which is quite upsetting since now I’m all-alone. So I’m taking this time to reflect on everything that has happened this semester, catch up on my reading list (!!!) that I completely forwent halfway onwards during the semester due to a complete lack of time. And of course, during this last week I will have to be dealing with the not-so-much-fun stuff such as closing bank and electricity accounts, deep cleaning my room for the residence check out, and also sending all the household things I can’t bring with me to donation centers (I’ve seen some other exchange folks just throwing them away – come on guys, donate!!!) before heading back home.

So it is what it is. All good things come to an end. À bientôt France!

2 Phrases That Sum Up My First Week Abroad

1. ¿“Estás cansada?” (“Are you tired?”)

Yes. Sí.  I’m not just tired, I’m exhausted. Although I’m not naïve to jet lag and adjusting to a time schedule six hours ahead, nothing could have prepared me for the extreme exhaustion that only Spain can bring a person. Upon arrival, I, along with the other students, was full of coffee and adrenaline and the innate desire to explore an unknown city and a new culture. Immediately we started wandering the streets, passing skyscrapers and old buildings and immaculate parks. We walked and explored until our feet were sore, our breathing heavy, and it wasn’t long that sleep became a pesky necessity that took a backseat to the surrounding activities and attractions. I think I can speak for our entire study abroad group and say how on earth are we going to survive this? I guess the obvious answer would be to start prioritizing our wellbeing, but it’s not as easy as it seems when clubs don’t close until six in the morning and wakeup calls are a brief two hours later. It seems that all we can do is drink copious amounts of café and count down the days until siestas are added to our daily routine.

2. ¡Hola!”

How innocent that greeting was in the confines of the classroom when it was steadily followed by a simple “¿Cómo estás?” Unfortunately, as soon as I stepped off the plane in Madrid, that little word transformed into a catalyst for stuttering speech and wide eyes. The people of Madrid speak quickly and confidently, and I, the elitist Spanish student I thought I was, immediately forgot seven years of information and could hardly stammer a response. I knew Spain would put me in my place in terms of speaking ability, but I had a little more faith in my abilities before I was thrown into the lion pit to fend for myself. Maybe I’m exaggerating a little or maybe speaking Spanish in real situations in a really new city is downright terrifying. Either way, every time I receive an “hola” from a waiter or metro attendee or passerby, my heart flutters and I attempt to respond coherently, ignoring the stutters and constant corrections. No matter how fluently I think I sound, my words are usually responded to with an “English?” I must be pretty obvious. Either way, I remain undeterred from my intense desire to gain bilingualism and intercultural awareness; it may just require a little more time and a little more brain power than I had initially expected.

Counting Down the Days

Three. That’s the number I’m looking at right now. Just a simple Thursday, Friday and Saturday until I’m finally in Europe, but let me tell you, it isn’t as easy as one, two, three.

Before I leave there have been growing numbers of goodbye’s, many shopping trips and last-minute Amazon Prime orders. Getting prepared for a six-week trip out of the country isn’t something I’m familiar with, but what’s the worst that could happen? Even if I get to Florence and realize I forgot my retainer, I may have crooked teeth but I’ll be in one of the most beautiful cities in the world. That is okay with me.

That’s the general outlook I have about this experience. Live in the moment, take it all in, and don’t sweat the small stuff. Many people have told me that it will be tough to adjust to an entirely foreign culture. It’s easy to forget I will be surrounded by unfamiliar tongues and everything I need will be paid for by pieces of paper that previously served no purpose for me. But what’s easy to remember is that I’ll still be in one of the most beautiful cities in the world. That is okay with me.

Bottom line: I’m so excited that the anxieties that may come these last three days in America can’t phase me. So far I’ve read up on places to eat, reviewed my old art history notes (I knew they’d come in handy some day), and I’ve familiarized myself with with my apartment’s surroundings – thanks to trusty Google Earth. These next three days may be the longest I’ve ever met in my short life, but after I get through them I’ll get to meet one of the most beautiful cities in the world. That is more than okay with me.


The countdown to adventure begins…


Three days and I’ll be on an international flight to Moscow. It’ll be my first time flying across the Atlantic, and my first time abroad. Six months ago, the idea of being in another country was fascinating, and I did everything I had to do to be prepared for this journey: I got my very first passport; I applied for the Russian Program in Moscow with my university; I went through the process of scholarship applications; and finally, I got my visa. Each step I completed solidified the reality of my new venture; however, with every step the nervousness began to set in.

I realized that I won’t be surrounded by familiar life and familiar faces. I won’t be able to just hop into my car if I have someplace to go. What if I get lost in a foreign airport and miss my connecting flight? What if I get so homesick that I end up not enjoying my time abroad?

In spite of being terrified of these possible realities and the fact that I’ll probably feel lonely for awhile before I adjust, I find myself getting more excited, more anxious (in a good way), and more determined to take Moscow by storm.

Signing off. ✌


April showers bring…more May showers

I am starting to believe that Lyon can’t make a clear decision in regards to the weather. Sunny and high-sixties, or rainy and mid-forties. So instead of making said decision, Lyon just deems it okay to have both one day after the other, or lately, both types of weather patterns on the same day.

Now I was raised in the pacific northwest, so rain and I have a long history. I quite enjoy it actually, the whole singing-in-the-rain phenomena. But the Lyonnais seem to have another opinion. On the rainy days, it seems everyone stays inside–no one to be seen walking in Vieux Lyon or going to the supermarket. Yet the moment the sun comes out, everyone and their brother flock to the park. The differences I’ve seen are truly amazing–from one rainy Saturday counting approximately 10 other park-goers, to a sunny Monday that same week seeing thousands of people, to the point where you’d think you were mistakenly in Central Park.

Have you ever really stopped and thought about this? How intriguing it is that we let the weather affect our lives and emotions to this extent? Deciding that summer is our favorite season (because we know the sun will be out), when really our favorite season is autumn (we’re just too caught up in the fact that there might be some grey days intermingled). Or the fact that we change our plans, purely because there’s a chance of rain, and where ever we were deciding to go won’t be as pretty as the pictures on google images.

We all have been victim to this thought process. Even being here in France, I know many students are ready to leave, because they’re tired of the grey days in May. And it’s funny to me, because I sit there thinking, but you’re in France. You have ample amounts of time to soak up the warm weather and sunshine this summer. But how much longer do you have to live in France? Not to mention the fact that there have already been copious amounts of gorgeous days in Lyon, and there are more on their way. Lyon might not share the same saying we have about April showers, but they have so many other things that we don’t have back at home.

I think it comes down to a question of our perspective, and a question of our value. Growing up, always playing house hunter and wondering where I’d like to live in the world, my mother would tell me, “if you can love a place during its worst days, you’ll love it on its best days”. I think this is key–if you can travel somewhere, or visit some place when during its off-season, or during a day you don’t find particularly appealing, and still love it, than you can see the true beauty it holds. Because yes, you can wait till summer to go traveling so your photos are top-notch quality, but you’d be missing three other seasons. And many times, the authenticity of a place lies in the off-seasons.

Actually, some of my favorite days in Lyon have been when its rained. I’ve gone on walks around the town, and through the park, and seen so much more than I could have if it had been nice out. Many people forget the importance of this, the phenomena of seeing the world on a quiet day, finding things you wouldn’t otherwise find when surrounded by crowds. I just wish more people could become attuned to this practice.

So I’m telling you. Don’t let the weather forecast hold you back. Go for a walk in the rain on purpose. Visit your favorite vacation destination during off-season. Realize all the things you’ve missed because you were content to let the weather change your mind. And then repeat this, again and again. Life is too short to wait for the perfect weather or perfect day to go outside and enjoy the world around you. You’ll never truly have the same appreciation for the sunny days you crave until you know what other days may hold.


Jessica: Summer in Rio de Janeiro

Jessica Valdes is a University of Florida student studying abroad for Summer B 2016 in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil.  To learn more about her program, click here: UF in Rio – Language and Culture.


  • What is your year and academic concentration?
    I am a rising junior studying Political Science with a concentration in Latin American Studies and Portuguese.
  • Have you traveled abroad before? If so, where and for what purpose?
    I have had the experience of living in different countries. I was born and raised in the island of Cuba, and later I lived in Santiago, Chile with my family for three years. I have also visited Mexico and Panama.
  • Have you studied abroad before? If so, where and what did you study?
    I have never studied abroad before.
  • Where are you studying abroad and why did you choose to study there?
    I am studying abroad in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. I chose to study in Brazil because I believe Brazil is indeed the country of the future. Brazil´s economic power and vibrant culture has always captured my attention. I am invested in fully understanding the Brazilian culture and becoming fluent in Portuguese. As a future international law attorney, I will represent clients from all over Latin America and the Caribbean, especially from Brazil. Understanding the Brazilian culture and language will allow me to serve my clients better.
  • What are you most looking forward to during your study abroad program?
    I am looking forward to immersing myself in the Brazilian culture by enjoying the food, folklore and history of the country and its people. Of course, I am looking forward to seeing your typical tourist sites such as Christ the Redeemer, Ipanema Beach and living in the famous neighborhood of Copacabana. I also want to work hard in my classes so that I can better communicate and write in Portuguese.  Overall, I want to experience what it is like to live in the “cidade maravilhosa” or marvelous city of Rio de Janeiro.
  • What are some of your interests and hobbies?
    I am interested in International Relations, politics, the arts, traveling and foreign languages. As for my hobbies, I enjoy a trip to the beach or swimming in the pool, dancing, music and reading books and articles.

Home Sweet Home

Hello friends,

I have returned home from all of my travels.  I am amazed at what I accomplished this semester.  I completed four courses and an international internship.  I was also able to live and adjust to a culture very different from my own.  I learned how to truly live in the moment and experience events as they occur.

Since I was conveniently located in Europe, I was also able to travel to seven countries new to me: England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, France, Spain, and Italy.  I was also fortunate enough to be able to travel within different areas of some of these countries.  Each different area of a country has its own distinct culture.  I think that it is so beautiful being able to see how different the world is by experiencing it first-hand.  I loved my time abroad.  I learned so much more than I could have if I only visited London.  Instead, I had the opportunity to adapt and live the way a Londoner truly does.  I was able to form my own opinions about UK political matters (such as the upcoming EU referendum).

One of the greater takeaways from this journey is the ability I developed to reflect on my own culture.  I was able to view the way Americans are perceived from different parts of the world.  This knowledge will definitely help me when I work in international businesses in the future because I can adjust my behaviour to best reflect the receiving culture’s end.  For example, I would make sure not to speak as loudly if I were doing business with the U.K.  If I was working with co-workers from Italy, I would make sure to be a bit more physical than Americans are used to (maybe a hug instead of a handshake).

Everyone tells you that studying abroad is a once in a lifetime opportunity, and I could not agree more with them.  I had the time of my life while learning about new cultures, experiencing new foods, and living in the moment.  I did not think too far ahead into the future because that was usually when I would no longer be in Europe.

The past four months have been too amazing to even put into words.  Now that I have a passport, I am already planning my next adventure.  I believe that life is not meant to be lived in one small corner of the world.  We need to explore the world and meet people from different backgrounds.  This helps us develop as humans.  I learned so much just from experiencing instead of memorizing and reciting, like school often makes us do.  Studying abroad taught me how to truly want to live life.  I want to be active and not passive.

Things I have learned from studying abroad:

  1. I can survive in a large city
  2. Public transportation is easy to use once you get the hang of it. (Even if it is in a different language.)
  3. There is no such thing as a “must see” attraction (Some of the best memories I made are from accidentally finding something I loved. However, the Trevi fountain is quite incredible and is usually on “must see” lists.)
  4. It is okay to travel alone. (Traveling alone is freeing and you get to be selfish.  You get to do what you want to do and take as much time as you want.  This is what truly helps you develop independence.  I would definitely recommend trying this at least once.)
  5. I want to maintain the Spanish that I learned in high school. (Being able to read menus and order food is convenient but being able to understand a different language entirely is incredibly useful.)
  6. Strangers are very kind. (Not everything is like the Taken  Strangers can recommend the best food places to eat and help you try to figure out where you are going because European streets are hard to navigate.)
  7. Not everything goes according to plan (Adapt, Adjust, Acclimate.)
  8. Patience and Flexibility will get you much further.
  9. The world is too big of a place to worry about small things
  10. Everyone is different in their own ways (some which you will agree with and others that you do not particularly agree with- and this is okay)
  11. Do something that you are passionate about in life. (Some of the happiest people I met did not make much money, but did what they loved and they were content.)
  12. Chase your own dreams. (If you want to get something done or get somewhere, you can make it happen on your own.)
  13. Accept help. It does not make you weak.
  14. Learn first through observation, then participation.
  15. Smile more.


As Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes once said, “I’ve had the time of my life.”  Now it is time for me to move on and cherish the past.  It has definitely shaped the way I am going to view the present and future.  Study abroad if you get the opportunity; it’s so worth it.

Goodbye UFIC blog readers.


Jennifer Saporito

“Don’t get too close…”

The week before last was probably one of the most uneventful weeks. I was very responsible and wrote my papers before they were due, so I could have free time. On Saturday the 30th, Chris and I went this exhibit on 1916 at the National Museum, so I could write my last report on it, and with that, classes have ended, work has (technically ended), and we are free of responsibility. We arrived in London at about 8:30am on Sunday, and the first thing on our agenda was to try to find our AirBnB.  It took, literally, two hours. Of all the things, I think we most regret flying in to Stansted Airport. We had to take a bus for an hour to the tube, which we took for an hour, then walk to our Air BnB where we promptly got lost. We ended up having to be saved by the friend of the woman who owned the Air BnB; she picked us up and drove us to the flat. In the next three days, we saw as much as we could while spending the least amount that we could. Honestly, what financially killed us the most in London were transportation costs and the terrible exchange rate our USD got us. We were fortunate to get near perfect weather (it only rained on us in Bath). I couldn’t choose which was my favorite place: Stonehenge or the British Museum. Stonehenge is older than the pyramids, and the museum on the grounds there did an incredible job at explaining how it used to look, how we think it was made, and more. We were only in the British Museum for about a half an hour, but their pieces from Egypt were incredible. We got back very late on Tuesday night, and, on Wednesday, I went to the Wells for Zoe charity shop for a few hours. While there, I got to speak to a man from Somalia who used to volunteer there. He’s a refugee who came to Ireland, according to him, after Democratic elections in Somalia brought about a leader who was bought by the US government to cause cries of terrorism in his country with an overwhelming Muslim majority (99%). While I cannot attest to Somalia’s history, its a good example of the way much of the world views the US involvement in other countries. I spent the next few days running various errands until we got to the weekend .On Saturday, Chris and I went to a showing at the National Gallery of 10 sketches from Leonardo da Vinci’s private papers. We were not allowed to take pictures, but the sketches will stick with me for some time as they were all so unique. Yesterday, it was in the mid-60s and the sun was shining all day, so we went outside. Chris and I spent a few hours wandering Phoenix Park (one of the the biggest city parks in Europe). We saw the president’s house, a huge amount of deer, a dog enthusiast group, a gigantic cross dedicated to the pope, and the American Ambassador’s house. Here, we got another nod to the US government. Chris and I were just standing, looking at the building and chatting about how it had a mini-moat, security cameras, various men walking around giving you the eye, etc. I saw a man walk by the sidewalk in front of us and guessed, “Oh maybe can get that close.” Chris looked at me and pointed out, “Courtney that man has a gun, we definitely can’t go there.” I’m not sure if they heard us, but an African man and an Asian man stopped to take a picture in front of said building, and, as the Asian man posed in front of it, the African man says, “Don’t get too close, that’s the American embassy, they might shoot you!” Of course, I about fell over laughing because of how pertinent it was to the conversation that I was having with Chris about the levels of security the US government takes in comparison to other countries of the world. Unfortunately, it really is a statement that encapsulates what much of the world thinks of the US, despite many of its citizens feeling differently. I’m so afraid of what our future president will do to amplify or negate this opinion. On that note, we left to go find food. We got burritos and ate them in St. Stephen’s Green. The amount of green space there is in Dublin to just lounge around in is one of my favorite parts about the city. You could be in these places and hardly know that you’re in a place with hundreds of thousands of people. Our last stop was a walk at the beach, Sandymount. We’d been here a couple of times, but mostly when it was too dark or too cold to venture out. This time we tried to walk all the way out to shore before we realized that low tide was coming on, so we were literally chasing the water out. All in all, it was a relaxing, beautiful weekend.

Its the beginning of a new week, and now we have less than 20 days until I’ll have to be home .This is really my last full week of summer to do whatever I want in Ireland because we leave for Crete on Saturday, I have one weekend with Chris, and then my mother and sister get here to spend a week of vacation with me. A few months ago, I would have been excited to go home, but now I’m even more torn because of what I will be missing here. Knowing how busy life is going to be when I get back doesn’t help either, but I suppose the best thing is to just focus on the now.