5 Things I Learned in Spain

5 Things I Learned in Spain

Traveling abroad was the best decision I've ever made.
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During my junior year of high school, I was blessed with the opportunity to take a trip to Spain and Morocco. I almost missed the opportunity thanks to my crippling separation anxiety and my fear of the unknown. Reluctantly, my mom got me to the airport and all the way to the security line. Once I was there, I broke down in tears saying that I refused to get on the plane. After some encouragement from my Spanish teachers, mom, best friend, and best friend's mom, I shakily got in line with an empty feeling in my chest. I was about to fly to a different continent with a bunch of people that I barely knew. I'd only had one or two sleepovers, and they still made me homesick. The moment the plane touched down in the beautiful city of Madrid, my life was changed for the better. Here are some of the things I learned:

1. Spanish people are EXTREMELY friendly.

As soon as we got off the plane, a native speaker tried conversing with me... in Spanish. I quickly learned that listening exercises are nowhere near the real thing. Luckily, the locals are very willing to work with you by slowing their speech or trying English.

2. It's really not that hard to make new friends.

I found a great group of friends that I had never talked to before our trip. One compliment can form a bond of common interests. It can lead to your newest roommate or a best friend to do your hair, makeup, and check out foreign boys with.

3. You're not going to like everyone.


You come in contact with a lot of people, you have to do a lot of different things, and you'll find yourself in a lot of different situations. You won't always like them. You just have to push through. Nothing is forever.


4. Just because the food is the country's specialty doesn't mean it's actually good.

You know your tastes better than anyone.

5. If you never face your fears, you're never going to grow.

Literally. My fear was riding a camel on the side of a Moroccan highway. I literally grew about seven feet, and it wasn't graceful or gradual at all.


In all seriousness, this trip was easily the best decision I've ever made. I wouldn't be half the person I am today if it weren't for this opportunity. I got the chance to practice a language I'd been learning for years, make new friends, experience two new cultures, and so much more. Getting out of your comfort zone isn't easy, but you'll be so grateful that you did.


Cover Image Credit: Alexis Lohm

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I Visited The "Shameless" Houses And Here's Why You Shouldn't

Glamorizing a less-than-ideal way to live.
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After five hours of driving, hearing the GPS say "Turn right onto South Homan Avenue" was a blessing. My eyes peeled to the side of the road, viciously looking for what I have been driving so long for, when finally, I see it: the house from Shameless.

Shameless is a hit TV show produced by Showtime. It takes place in modern-day Southside, Chicago. The plot, while straying at times, largely revolves around the Gallagher family and their continual struggle with (extreme) poverty. While a majority of the show is filmed offsite in a studio in Los Angeles, many outside scenes are filmed in Southside and the houses of the Gallagher's and side-characters are very much based on real houses.

We walked down the street, stopped in front of the two houses, took pictures and admired seeing the house in real life. It was a surreal experience and I felt out-of-place like I didn't belong there. As we prepared to leave (and see other spots from the show), a man came strolling down on his bicycle and asked how we were doing.

"Great! How are you?"

It fell silent as the man stopped in front of the Gallagher house, opened the gate, parked his bike and entered his home. We left a donation on his front porch, got back to the car and took off.

As we took the drive to downtown Chicago, something didn't sit right with me. While it was exciting to have this experience, I began to feel a sense of guilt or wrongdoing. After discussing it with my friends, I came to a sudden realization: No one should visit the "Gallagher" house.

The plot largely revolves the Gallagher family and their continual struggle with (extreme) poverty. It represents what Southside is like for so many residents. While TV shows always dramatize reality, I realized coming to this house was an exploitation of their conditions. It's entertaining to see Frank's shenanigans on TV, the emotional roller coasters characters endure and the outlandish things they have to do to survive. I didn't come here to help better their conditions, immerse myself in what their reality is or even for the donation I left: I came here for my entertainment.

Southside, Chicago is notoriously dangerous. The thefts, murders and other crimes committed on the show are not a far-fetched fantasy for many of the residents, it's a brutal reality. It's a scary way to live. Besides the Milkovich home, all the houses typically seen by tourists are occupied by homeowners. It's not a corporation or a small museum -- it's their actual property. I don't know how many visitors these homes get per day, week, month or year. Still, these homeowners have to see frequent visitors at any hour of the day, interfering with their lives. In my view, coming to their homes and taking pictures of them is a silent way of glamorizing the cycle of poverty. It's a silent way of saying we find joy in their almost unlivable conditions.

The conceit of the show is not the issue. TV shows have a way of romanticizing very negative things all the time. The issue at hand is that several visitors are privileged enough to live in a higher quality of life.

I myself experienced the desire and excitement to see the houses. I came for the experience but left with a lesson. I understand that tourism will continue to the homes of these individuals and I am aware that my grievances may not be shared with everyone -- however, I think it's important to take a step back and think about if this were your life. Would you want hundreds, potentially thousands, of people coming to your house? Would you want people to find entertainment in your lifestyle, good and bad?

I understand the experience, excitement, and fun the trip can be. While I recommend skipping the houses altogether and just head downtown, it's most important to remember to be respectful to those very individuals whose lives have been affected so deeply by Shameless.

Cover Image Credit: itsfilmedthere.com

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Everyone Should Visit Rome At Least Once In His Or Her Life

The atmosphere of the city truly makes you feel like you're in the middle of a movie set.

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I am writing this article while sitting on a bus heading from Rome to the airport to catch my flight to Paris and it has given me some time to reflect on my last few days here. After spending quite a bit of time here, I definitely think that If you get the opportunity to travel to Rome, you should do so, you will not regret it. You may be asking yourself, why is Rome so special and fantastic? Isn't it just home to the Colosseum, the Vatican, and some good Italian restaurants? The answer is no, Rome is so much more than that, it's fabulous cuisine, jaw-dropping architecture, fantastic attractions, and it truly makes you feel as if you've been transported back in time and are in the middle of history.

While in Rome, my family and I had the opportunity to visit both the famous Sistine Chapel and the Colosseum. Both of these incredible attractions made us feel as if we were really there, in Ancient Rome and in the presence of Michelangelo as he painted the ceiling of the chapel. In addition, the jaw-droppingly gorgeous architecture added to the beauty of the city. From the Trevi fountain to the capital building to the statues in the Vatican, every structure made me look up in absolute awe. Truthfully, it is well worth going to Rome just to see the beautiful architecture.

Furthermore, the atmosphere of the city truly makes you feel like you're in the middle of a movie set. Everything is so picturesque that you feel like it isn't even real like it's a facade. One day my family and I stopped to have a snack at this small restaurant that was situated on a quiet street and we all kept remarking at how it was so beautiful (and how the food was so good) and especially how it felt like we were on the set of a movie, with how picturesque and quiet it was. Simply put, the sights of Rome are breathtakingly beautiful! Everywhere you look you find more "hidden gems" that add more and more beauty to an already incredible city.

In addition to talking about all of the beautiful architecture, great attractions, and amazing atmosphere, how can one go to Rome and not talk about the food! The food in Rome in indescribably good. The pizza, while very different from what you typically find in a pizza place in the United States, is extremely fresh and delicious. The pasta was absolutely amazing and much thicker than what you would find in America. The vegetables were extremely fresh, especially the tomatoes which were very red and actually much sweeter than I anticipated.

Overall, from its architecture to its atmosphere to its attractions to its food, going to Rome was an incredible experience. And it was definitely an experience that I will never forget! I will definitely be back for another experience of a lifetime! Now it's on to Paris and then London. Ciao, for now, Rome, and Grazie (that's thank you in Italian) for everything.

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