The time has come! I have finally settled into the new place I will call home for the semester. After another long night in Madrid and one more endless bus ride, our USAC group pulled up to la Plaza de Luceros only to meet our landlords and new host families. I told myself that I would study all my Spanish notes from previous years before I left, but that never happened. I resorted to deciphering lyrics by Michel Teló, Belanova, Fonseca and Juanes. This was my only practice of Spanish before I met my host family.
So after every study abroad student’s luggage was pulled off of the bus, I was the very last student to meet my new fam. I exchanged “besos” with Pilar and Sandra, a custom in Spain when meeting or greeting someone. They helped carry some of my luggage to the apartment, and I tried to start and grasp my surroundings because on my first day back from class I was nearly lost! I definitely am happy with my family and it helps to have two people in the household, especially when I can’t fully understand something they both are able to explain it to me. Pilar works for a little gift, wedding and homemaker shop in downtown Alicante, and Sandra works as a dentist’s assistant nearby. Part of my new little family is three English Cocker Spaniels – Carla, Lola and Luna.
I take the train to class everyday, which is a lot faster than the bus line and it’s a five-minute walk from my apartment. At the Universidad de Alicante, I am taking composition, conversation and Spanish for business classes as well as Spanish cuisine, dancing and sailing. The university is much bigger than Mount Union, and approximately around 25,000 students. It also was previously an airbase but has updated with modern architecture and features many palm, orange and pomegranate trees. I can’t wait until it gets a little warmer here!
The thing Alicante is most known for is the Castillo de Santa Barbara, one of the largest medieval fortresses in all of Europe. The castle covers the complete summit of the Benacantil Mountain and was originally built by the Moors in the 10th century, influenced much by the nearby continent of Africa. The castle received its name from the conquest of King Alfonse the Wise that took place on December 4, 1248 – Saint Barbara’s day. The castle seems to be the highlight and main point of interest in Alicante, with great 360-degree views! There is also La Explanada, a hallmark and symbol of tourism in the city of Alicante. The mosaic tiles stretch for many blocks aside the Mediterranean port and are home to many street vendors and crowds. Fútbol is one of the biggest things in Spain and Alicante has a team called Hércules CF. The team is in the Segunda Division but hope to return to La Liga after this season, where well known teams like Real Madrid and Barcelona play. I was fortunate to experience my first professional soccer match between Hércules and SD Huesca, where Samuel and Tote netted a goal a piece to give the home team a victory.
One last highlight of Alicante would have to be my favorite restaurant thus far: Cervecería 100 Montaditos. This chain serves many drinks, salads and appetizers, but is know for its 100 different types of bocadillos (smaller sandwiches). Although I absolutely love the home cooked meals from Pilar, Wednesday nights are certainly ones I look forward to since everything on the menu is only 1 euro. Yes, everything! My friends and I definitely took advantage of this deal, and plan to almost every Wednesday. We ate a lot of tasty food for only about 6 euro ($8). As you can see, Alicante is already treating me well, and like the Olsen Twins, Spain is acting like my Holiday in the Sun.