Hollis Mugford is a sixth semester Professional Music major at Berklee. She is a pop, R&B, and country singer from Virginia. Her passion for writing and travel have inspired her to share her experiences and thoughts with the Berklee community and beyond as she embarks on her first semester abroad in Valencia, Spain.
After all the waiting – after all of the anticipation – I am finally in Spain! We landed in Valencia around noon on Monday after a long seven hour flight into Frankfurt on which I sat next to the most pleasant couple heading back home to Manchester. Simply put, Valencia is everything and so much more than I ever expected it to be – beautiful little streets lined with outdoor cafés and spanish tiles and tapas that are always something completely new and delicious at every different place.
After getting settled in and unpacked at Galileo Galilei, we headed straight to the beach before the sun went down. The Mediterranean is so salty you just float weightlessly on top of the water, and the sand is so fine it feels like velvet beneath your feet. The beaches here are lined with palm trees and little restaurants that serve huge skillets of paella con mariscos and sweet sangria with fresh fruit til 1am. The beach is only about a ten minute walk away, essentially meaning that once school starts that’s where I will probably be procrastinating all of my time when I should be doing homework.
The residence hall is also so much more than most students probably ever expect their temporary living arrangements in a foreign country to be. The rooms are super spacious, clean, colorful, and bright. Each room has a private bathroom, huge closets, and a lovely little terrace that overlooks the mountains and little café downstairs. There is even a cleaning service for free twice a week which includes changing your sheets and even doing your personal laundry if you request it. The longer I am here, the more I am tempted extend my student visa to.. forever?
But maybe the most exciting part yet was finally getting to see the Berklee campus downtown. The Palau de les Arts is the most breathtaking architecture I’ve ever seen. Orientation is long and loaded with a ton of information but just the atmosphere of the campus is enough to pull me out of bed in the morning and go (jet lag and all).
The icing on top of the cake is how amazing everyone in our study abroad group is. I never have so quickly bonded with so many different people. It’s only been four days and I already know I have made some life long friends.
There only have been a few parts of being abroad in a foreign country that have really been a struggle and had I known some of these things before arriving I definitely would have been better off so I will pass these tid bits of information along to anyone planning on going abroad, specifically here to Valencia:
1. Exchange your money before you leave! Finding somewhere that will exchange your currency is hard and not having euros when you need them is harder. Definitely before leaving the states, have euros in hand.
2. Eggs are an all day food in Europe. Prepare yourself for having a fried or boiled egg in or on anything you might order, as it is seeming to be pretty customary to have eggs at any time of the day, not just breakfast.
3. Dinner starts no earlier than 9pm, and lunch is the biggest meal of the day. In the states, our meals progressively get larger in size by the hour, however in Spain you might have a café (coffee) and toast for breakfast, lunch will be a huge meal (traditionally paella or something like it) and can customarily take up to three hours, and dinner won’t even be a thought until 9 or 10 at night which could consist of some tapas and drinks.
4. Coffee in Spain is small. If you’re looking for your venti venti caramel macchiato or iced chai, you’ll find that troublesome. Coffee (café) is typically served no bigger than in a Dixie cup, and there are only few variations on how you can take it: Americano (with water), con leche (with milk), or solo (black).
5. There is the occasional McDonald’s or Starbucks – but if you’re traveling abroad to Spain, eating at any of these fast food joints is honestly embarrassing. Eat the local food and enjoy every little private restaurant – you (and your tummy) will be much happier!
This week has been so full of promise for a good semester. The people, the dorms, the campus, the scenery, and the overall energy here is so amazing. I truly don’t know if I will be able to leave.