August 10, 2019

Ariel Zach – Spain Global Immersion Blog

Ariel Zach – Spain Global Immersion Blog
Ariel Zach, an international business major with a focus on marketing from Stanton, Nebraska, is studying abroad and completing an internship in Barcelona, Spain, all summer.
Ariel Zach, an international business major from Stanton, Nebraska, will travel abroad to study and complete an internship May 10 to August 4 in Barcelona, Spain, through a UNL faculty-led program at the Institute for American Universities. Ariel chose the program in Spain because she grew up appreciating the Spanish language and culture. She looks forward to experiencing both, then visiting Morocco before her senior year at Nebraska Business begins.

Ir y Venir (“To Come And To Go”) – August 5, 2019
 
Ariel starts the 3.5-mile trek up to Montserrat, a prominent mountain range that is said to resemble the fingers of God.
Ariel starts the 3.5-mile trek up to Montserrat, a prominent mountain range that is said to resemble the fingers of God..
Back in May, I received a banner to take with me to Barcelona this summer that says “Start Something.” (If you scroll down to previous photos in this blog, you’ll see it!) I don’t know why it took this College of Business slogan to be placed in my hands to grasp its power and significance.
 
We students are the epitome of what it means. We determine its meaning. I’ve titled this last blog post “To Come And To Go,” because we Nebraska Business students started something transformational by investing in studying abroad and not limiting ourselves. The College of Business strives for us to look beyond, as we all should do. We are meant to examine our values, step out of our comfort zones and consider new perspectives. Though it is our time to go home, we have more to start as we share the recent tools and different outlooks gained on business and life.
 
Here is where I stand with the goals I set for myself before traveling over the Atlantic:
 
For my classes, knowing they would be graded as “pass/no pass” didn’t stop me from realizing how much more I could learn if I put in the effort to apply the knowledge. I found this easier by staying present in my classes so the content would follow me as I walked through Barcelona.

For my internship, balancing hours was a feat, adapting to cultural norms and in a government group without a permanent space. Working with quantum technology, I grew to understand a deeper purpose: allowing for economic and legal prosperity to make Barcelona more marketable for those working in its many technological fields.
 
In Spain, I’ve learned how to understand getting things done over making things perfect. This is why you make rough drafts, so you have something to improve. With the freedom my group was given in our internship, our work required a lot of reassessment where we each had to take a step back. It showed me how to give unguided work my best effort while understanding that my best work, at that moment, could later still be refined. This is why I chose to ask for a three-week internship extension: There is no perfection, only increased development.

For my experience,I wrote in a journal every day for the first month-and-a-half, which I would recommend any traveler do. Staying up late to create memories and experiences with other people is definitely not something I will regret. I found myself seeking out the details of Spain. I’ve learned the value of exploring every day and plan to utilize journaling more in my day-to-day life, as it is a beautiful form of recollection.
 
For my Spanish, I learned how to confidently order my own food. It’s not enough to know “can I have?” True growth comes from knowing how to respond in Spanish to things like “hi, how are you?,” “cream on your coffee?,” “hot or cold?,” “anything else?,” “would you like a bag with that?,” and “to stay or to go?” As our grocer began to realize us Americans were sticking around for a while, he also warmed up to practicing his English with us.
 
I look forward to the next mountain, or hill, I have to climb, striving with more confidence and knowledge than ever. I encourage you to reach out if you want to talk about anything I’ve shared these past three months or you desire to study abroad. Adiós!

After Test, WeFiesta, Then Siesta – July 31, 2019
 
Nebraska’s 12-week students enjoy appreciation snacks from IAU after their final Spanish test.
Nebraska’s 12-week students enjoy appreciation snacks from IAU after their final Spanish test.
It is pretty impressive that we are all smiling in this photo after finishing the listening and oral portions of our Spanish test. All of us took a beginner Spanish class together, so things were very basic but still very challenging for us. Part of the speaking portion on our test was to share what items we would need and why on a trip to the mountains. Living in Barcelona for nine weeks before taking the Spanish course, we had picked up basic words and phrases, but our grammar definitely needed work.
 
Before coming to Spain, I refreshed myself on what I remembered from Spanish class in high school. What I didn’t think, though, was that I might be freshening up on some of the wrong things. For example, we know that different places in the United States have different English terms for the same things. I grew up calling pop “pop” and not “soda” or “Coke.” I didn’t think I would get some weird looks in Spain when saying “anaranjado” for the color orange as I had learned. Here, it is most common to simply say “naranja” for both the color and the fruit.
 
I learned much more than how to say orange, though, as we had class three hours a day, four days a week. It really helped to have a small group of students who could use each other’s brains as resources. Our teacher spoke to us mostly in Spanish, and sometimes we pieced together directions based off who understood which words. Nonetheless, our brains were definitely put to the test for our last weeks in Barcelona. Gaining this extra knowledge of a new language is something we all appreciated, so it surprised us when the Barcelona IAU director threw us an appreciation farewell party with different types of authentic cuisine, such as chorizo, jamón (dried, cured ham) and empanadas.
 
Cinema a la Fresca – July 25, 2019
 
Crowds gather at Gala Monjuïc before the “Into the Wild” movie begins.
Crowds gather at Gala Monjuïc before the “Into the Wild” movie begins.
As I was exploring one night, I ran into an event at Monjuïc and decided to research what it was. The event I encountered was an open-air cinema called Gala Montjuïc. I haven’t been to any outdoor movies like this in the United States, but my guess is that it would be equivalent to the few still-standing drive-in movie theaters we possess. This open-air cinema atop Montjuïc has been a popular hit for Barcelona locals since about 2003, even with it being quite the commitment to attend with its unusual placement.
 
Montjuïc is a mountain by the sea in Barcelona that hosts the Castle of Montjuïc, an old military fortress, at the top. Outside of the old fortress is where many come to watch movies and escape everyday life. Intrigued by how popular of an event it seemed to be when I first spotted it motivated me to gather a group for a future show! They use the phrase “Cinema a la Fresca” to describe the event. Sala Montjuïc strives to promote diversity, which explains why they have such a variety of movies, including those originally spoken in Polish, English, Spanish, etc. Often if the movie is in Spanish, it will have English subtitles and if the movie is in English or any other language, it will have Spanish subtitles.
 
We lucked out and picked a movie in English, however, it was cool to know we still could have understood if the movie wasn’t in English. The Spanish subtitles offer a neat way to practice Spanish as the words would roll across the screen. I occasionally knew enough to follow along in Spanish (cheers to my beginner Spanish class for aiding in that). It could be a good way to keep practicing and learning Spanish outside the classroom when I come home!
 
Granada and Sevilla, Spain –– July 18, 2019
 
Ariel stands atop Torre del Cubo at the Alhambra. White houses are a characteristic of the Albaicín Arabic quarters in Granada.
Ariel stands atop Torre del Cubo at the Alhambra. White houses are a characteristic of the Albaicín Arabic quarters in Granada.
Two places I wanted to see in Spain were three hours apart, so I opted for the most financially friendly route that let me see both in one weekend. Flights in Europe aren’t too expensive. Rather than paying for 100 euros twice, though, I thought it would be more thrilling to try something new and check out different European transportation methods. It was both exciting and nerve-racking to take a 15-hour overnight bus to Granada. When it was light out, I witnessed vineyards and what looked like olive tree farms. A lot of olive oil comes from Spain, but few know this since most of the packaging and labeling is done in countries like Italy.
 
After arriving at the Granada bus station, I took the metro into town as a local would and explored from there. My first stop was at Hammam Al Ándalus. From what I was told, the site dates back to the 13th century. Hammam Al Ándalus showcases how the Arab baths were traditionally used in healing and purification. You can experience the hot, cold and warm baths, massages, steam rooms and hot stones. It was pretty relaxing, I attest.
 
Exploring the Sierra Nevada Mountains was also on my list. No, a trip to California wasn’t necessary; Granada has a mountain range with the same name. Sitting close to Africa, the Saharan sand blows to cover the Sierra Nevada. One undetermined piece of information: some guides would tell me Granada was named after a pomegranate, but others called that a myth.
 
Then I arranged a “BlaBlaCar” for the 3-hour journey to Sevilla. A friend of mine shared the European inside scoop about the BlaBlaCar being their innovative way to carpool. Drivers post on the site where they are going, when and how much it will cost for a seat in their car. Riders like me search for where they want to go and find a driver. Catching this ride cost me a whopping 10 euros. I opted for a quicker route back to Barcelona from Sevilla by catching a quick 1.5-hour plane ride.
 
It Takes Two to Tango – July 16, 2019
 
Nebraska Business students Quan and Ariel go over the basics of tango.
Nebraska Business students Quan and Ariel go over the basics of tango.
Dance is an integral part of Barcelona as the city embraces all the arts. Arguably, there are dances more attributed to Spain, such as the fandango or flamenco. However, I found classes for tango first! A majority of the people coming to these classes are female, coming to learn new footwork. After lessons, the floor opens and the actual dancing begins, and husbands come in for lessons from their wives.
 
My past involvement in dance and chorus made following a tempo and mimicking movements relatively comfortable for me to do. However, the language barrier hindered my ability to keep up. Tango lessons remind me of a three-legged stool to balance: you need knowledge of tempo, ability to act on the tempo and an understanding of what is being asked by the instructor. If one of these things is lacking, the chair gets wobbly. Not understanding instructions fully made my theoretical chair a little wobbly. My Spanish fluency is limited to talking about what I like, where I am from, what I do and what I want to eat. Directions regarding music is not within that realm.
 
Being persistent and having a good attitude is essential. Catalans are known for being timid around “tourists” because they want to save their culture and traditions. This is very fair and understandable. However, the answer as a visitor is never to go once and not come back. When something is tough, you keep at it. The ladies in the class warmed up after seeing me return to class several times, showing my desire to learn. Tango was uncomfortable and challenging, but I gained a better understanding of the Spanish culture by intentionally placing myself in local, Spanish-speaking lessons rather than English-speaking lessons.

Adiós Amigas – July 14, 2019
 
Emme, Ariel, Jessica and Emily rest between packing up to leave Barcelona.
Emme, Ariel, Jessica and Emily rest between packing up to leave Barcelona.
One thing I enjoy doing is looking back at my previous blog posts to see how far I have come and where the time has taken me. Looking at all my adventures and findings, I am shocked at how quickly nine weeks flew by. This doesn’t yet mean “goodbye Barcelona” for me, but it does mean it for a group of friends I gained on this trip who chose the nine-week or six-week options.
 
Reflecting on the goals I set for myself before I arrived, none had to do with my interactions with others attending this study abroad. To me now, this seems a little foolish! When we all first arrived in Barcelona, we were astounded to find out we didn’t know each other well, even though we were all business students. We had orientations ahead of time, but it’s different when you finally put faces to the names of each of those who will share new experiences with you.
 
I initially thought I would be so engrossed in the culture and my studies that there wouldn’t be time for anything else. I didn’t realize spending time with other people actually engrossed me in the culture the most. It is cultural here to sacrifice time for one another in a slower-paced environment. In the Spanish business environment, it is essential to build bonds and create relationships before any negotiation is made, for example.
 
Each girl I lived with taught me so much as we created relationships over time; we were very different from one another, and experiencing Barcelona was different for each of us. Not only could we experience Barcelona from our own eyes, but we could also experience the city secondhand through each other. Studying abroad allowed a different bond between us Nebraska students that cannot be replicated at home.
 
Quantum Technology: Strategic Plan 2020-2030 – July 11, 2019
 
Sara, Kennedy, Emme and Ariel prepare to give their final presentation in their internship.
Sara, Kennedy, Emme and Ariel prepare to give their final presentation in their internship.
After nine weeks of research, I can share that quantum technology is much more than just an Avenger’s phenomenon, like I wrote about earlier. These past weeks, my colleagues and I spent countless hours reading academic articles, blogs (that may or may not have been true), websites and watching TED Talks. We also spent time venturing around Barcelona’s Cuántica Exhibition at CCCB, the Center for Contemporary Culture and interviewing key players like Alfonso Rubio-Manzanares, president of Barcelonaqbit.
 
After visiting the Cuántica Exhibition, I had a massive headache. I had researched for a week or two beforehand, and everything I thought I understood, the exhibit shot down. As weeks passed, I began feeling smarter, able to better comprehend quantum’s ability to bring about more knowledge of the world. This internship experience was nothing I expected at all, which gives me all the more reason to appreciate it.
 
Not only did I gain the chance to learn more about something I knew nothing about before, I also am grateful to learn about the economies of different countries. Mapping out which nations are testing or researching technological advancements allowed me to process areas that hold significance. Reading details regarding how quantum technology is able to improve and develop everyday processes, I’m fascinated that my group was tasked with finding out how quantum technology could benefit Barcelona’s prosperity for all. 

A Hike and A View – July 3, 2019

Nebraska students enjoy the view from the Tibidabo mountain in Barcelona.
Nebraska students enjoy the view from the Tibidabo mountain in Barcelona.
I am incredibly impressed with the number of activities at my fingertips here in Barcelona. I wrote previously about sand volleyball as a way to be active. However, there’s plenty more to do: playing fútbol, running on the beach, running anywhere, swimming, working out at a gym, dancing and hiking to name a few. To help us experience some of these activities in Barcelona, IAU created “Sports in the City.” I wrote about it before, but it is exactly as it sounds; some sort of sport on Wednesdays with other students in the college. Having a night class made it hard for me to attend during previous weeks, so I was more than stoked it worked out this time.
 
My first Sports in the City consisted of a hike up to Tibidabo, a mountain that overlooks Barcelona. Not only is does it offer a view, but it is also holds the Sagrat Cor Church and the Tibidabo Amusement Park. You can see this magnificent church sitting atop the mountain, and if it is dark, you’ll often see the lights of the Ferris wheel as well. Before, I’ll admit I was intimidated seeing how far of a climb it might be. The first time I came up here I took three different transportation systems along the way: metro and funicular underground railways and a bus. I enjoy hikes, but this experience was like no other.I don’t know if I would classify this experience as a hike because most of it was walking up a really, really steep hill in a neighborhood.  When I typically think of a hike, I think of being surrounded in nature, walking over gravel and through trees. For this blog, however, I will call it a hike.
 
This hike challenged me, but in a much different way than I expected. After a long walk up, we then climbed up 400 stairs. A small group of us determined to make it to the top for sunset encouraged and pushed one another to run the last stretch. Reaching the top before everyone else was breathtaking as we were able to absorb our surroundings in peace and tranquility. The reward was huge, too: a sense of accomplishment. It astounds me how working as a team can bring people closer quickly because we bonded in a different way than others as they arrived. All the four of us could joke about on the way down afterwards was how much we really wanted to get some gelato.

Gaudí is Everywhere – June 28, 2019

Nebraska students pose on the top of La Pedrera, one of the most visited buildings in Barcelona.
Nebraska students pose on the top of La Pedrera, one of the most visited buildings in Barcelona.
A couple weeks ago when all the University of Nebraska–Lincoln students arrived in Barcelona, Dr. Laurie Miller and her husband, Nate, also arrived. We were excited to have them and their guidance, spending dinners together and enjoying tours. Thankfully, we visited La Pedrera, a place I didn’t realize beforehand was essential to see. Walking around Barcelona, it is so easy to pick out Gaudí’s one-of-a-kind works utilizing lots of mosaic tiles inspired by the nature around him.
 
Known as “La Pedrera” by those from Catalonia, the building is more commonly called Casa Milà by tourists and visitors. It was originally created to house people like an apartment. Today it has been restored, and businesses operate on the lower floors. The upper floors and terrace (where we are standing in the photo) remain open to the public for tours. Our tour allowed us to explore and interpret Gaudí’s designs. For example, some floors inside offer interpretation about additional works by Gaudí: “Park Güell” and “Sagrada Família.” Park Güell is a public garden today but was originally created as a neighborhood for the richest in Barcelona around 1900. Sagrada Família is a Roman Catholic Basilica started in 1882 and estimated for completion in 2026. Gaudí has more than 15 works all over Barcelona, which makes it no surprise that he stands as a symbol for the Catalan style. This is evident in not only his buildings, but also tiles he designed that line the sidewalks. These same tiles line certain areas of the La Pedrera/Casa Milà floor. 
 
Seeing work by Gaudí inspires me. For a long while, many of his works were criticized as different. A good number of his projects fell through for a variety of reasons; one project he started but was never able to complete was Park Güell. We see, though, how Gaudí persisted and gained popularity when he was chosen to take over the architectural work of Sagrada Família. We see a man who pushed to overcome being a slight outcast to a symbol today.

London, England - June 23, 2019 
 
Jessica and Ariel sit with a Victoria Memorial statue before the Changing of the Guards outside Buckingham Palace.
Jessica and Ariel sit with a Victoria Memorial statue before the Changing of the Guards outside Buckingham Palace.
On a weekend trip to London, one of the neatest things we — a small group of Nebraska girls and I — noticed during the Changing of the Guards Ceremony was how the band played very recognizable music. It keptgetting better and better, going from “Hairspray” to “The Greatest Showman” to “Star Wars.” I wasn’t as familiar with the United Kingdom as others. I just learned that Buckingham Palace is the headquarters for the monarchy in the United Kingdom.
 
Before this trip, I sheepishly say, I had little to no knowledge of the monarchy in the United Kingdom. We toured Kensington Palace, which gave a lot of background. It was intriguing to learn how the United Kingdom has a constitutional monarchy and how Queen Elizabeth II today essentially stands in as a symbol. We talk about creating symbolism and a brand in our marketing classes, and this is something the Queen is responsible for within the UK, maintaining peace and identity.
 
Though it may sound silly, it was refreshing to understand why many tuned in to watch the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle in May 2018; it holds that symbolic importance. Additionally, I enjoyed learning things about England like how “afternoon tea” originated. In the 1800s, the Duchess of Bedford would get hungry in the afternoon. She couldn’t make it to suppertime without eating something. I am studying international business, and this knowledge may or may not come in handy for me someday, depending on where I will be doing business. However, I fully advocate for knowing how traditions begin and appreciate what it does in the present. 
 
It was a breath of fresh air this weekend getting to spend time in a country with another new perspective but one that still speaks my first language. I am more than excited, though, to arrive back in Barcelona and challenge myself further.

Did Someone Say Sand Volleyball? - June 19, 2019 
 
Nebraska students begin a rally with a nice play by Nassar.
Nebraska students begin a rally with a nice play by Nassar.
Yes, someone did say sand volleyball! After a long day of an internship, international marketing and a presentation in our internship seminar class, volleyball sounded extra fun. IAU has a thing called “Sports in the City” set up for us, which is essentially a different activity that occurs each Wednesday to get people up and moving. It’s completely optional, of course.
 
This Wednesday, the chosen activity was running on the boardwalk by Barceloneta beach, the popular beach here in Barcelona. Tired Nebraskans not up for a jog created our own “Sports in the City” this time around, switching the game to volleyball.
 
Playing volleyball in high school, I still get pretty intense and competitive by diving after every single ball. Don’t worry, though, I was certainly taught how to be a team player by keeping a positive attitude and encouraging others. If my high school coaches are reading this, they should know I appreciate how they helped shape me. Anyway, it was astounding to see the mix of players and personalities here coming together through a game of sand volleyball. Having a mix of people like me alongside a mix of people who never played but were just as enthusiastic made for a joyous time.
 
Volleyball on the beach here is very common; often it is very hard to even find an open net to take over. Walking along the beach, you observe all full nets alongside groups of people setting up their own nets they brought. I consider Barcelona a fairly active city. You also see people making their own fun out of a little game of fútbol, also known as “soccer” to us Americans. Many are more than eager to gain extra players, and some of our group would go play when it was their turn to sit out a volleyball match. My preferred activity this night, though, was hanging around the slackline near our court when it was my turn to sit.

Morocco, North Africa - June 14, 2019 
 
Ariel, Jessica and AJ prepare to make Tajine in the Atlas Mountains.
Ariel, Jessica and AJ prepare to make Tajine in the Atlas Mountains.
Through IAU, we were given the choice to attend a three-day program to Morocco at an additional cost. It is very fortunate that the university we study with here in Barcelona also has a location in Morocco that allows for this possibility. Before this trip, the seven of us Nebraska students who chose to make this journey contemplated if it would be worth the extra cost.
 
I see myself as someone who will find new knowledge and a new way to look at the world in any experience, but I did have to consider strongly whether or not to go. What we learned was the investment was more than well worth it. In Morocco, we got to meet the Dean of IAU, Aboubakr Jamai. Aboubakr took  immense care of us. He took us out to the Atlas Mountains, gave us the experience of riding camels, allowed us to network with international startups in Morocco, led us on a tour around the Medina (an outdoor market in old city Marrakech) and the Bahia Palace, surprised us with a horse carriage ride, and taught us ample things about Morocco.
 
This is what rocked me the most. The amount of students who graduate in Morocco is less than 20 percent, and this is greatly due to the language barriers. They speak Berber, but some dialects here are so different. It’s extremely common for a child to be taught one at home and taught another in school. Going to the Atlas Mountains, we learned they are very fortunate to have what we would call a grade school for students to learn the dialect of their village. We also learned many of the parents in this village did not get the opportunity to attend much or any schooling, like their children.
 
It makes sense, then, when we are told that around only half of adults in Morocco are literate. We learned that there is a great divide within Morocco with a very small middle class. In fact, two-thirds of Moroccans work in the informal sector, making it increasingly hard for them to make Morocco better. If two-thirds work in the informal sector, that likely means two-thirds don’t pay taxes. If your head is thinking through all of these “what ifs” right now, believe me, mine is too. 

Girona, Spain – June 7, 2019
 
Ariel takes in the breathtaking views in Girona, the Catalonia town of Medieval Walls.
Ariel takes in the breathtaking views in Girona, the Catalonia town of Medieval Walls.
When coming to Spain, one thing really important to me was learning about Barcelona and how its culture differs from other towns within Spain. Fortunately, IAU already planned a trip for us exploring surrounding cities in Catalonia. Although these towns were still within Catalonia, they still possess differences worth noting. The main highlight was meant to be Costa Brava, but I would say Girona stood out to me most.
 
For those of you interested in the TV show “Game of Thrones” (spoiler: I’m not), Girona is a destination where lots of filming took place! What we both might be interested in is the cathedral; it is a prominent and historical piece to me, but it might bring to mind a couple scenes for you. What I found extra neat was how around the corner of the cathedral was a whole Jewish Quarter. Both the Jews and the Catholics seemed to get along for quite some time, living in unity, before things took a sad turn and the Jews were forced to leave Girona.
 
Though things such as politics and religion can be taboo subjects, they remain a big part of Spain. It’s something that takes much time to comprehend and interpret, and I am certainly still trying to wrap my mind around it. Many people around this area today, I’ve learned, practice no faith or religion. Nonetheless, the people possess much history regarding different religions. The more I study here, the more I realize there is so much I don’t know and it is undoubtedly humbling.

Nebraska Has Arrived! – June 4, 2019
 
All the girls from Nebraska pose on the first day of class at the Seminari.
All the girls from Nebraska pose on the first day of class at the Seminari.
The University of Nebraska–Lincoln is now here in its entirety; all 33 of us. This was my first interaction with half of these students who I am fortunate to take classes with and get to know over the next few weeks. Walking into my International Marketing class was a little intimidating the first day, as I realized there was only one familiar face. The rest of my class consists of Nebraska students who are part of the six-week group and American students who are studying abroad in Barcelona but are from different colleges in the United States.
 
What’s really neat is the variety of classes available here for us to take. We have a pretty unique set of students from Nebraska this year, because every single student studies business in some facet. What this means is that all of the students are taking classes like International Finance, International Management and International Business. However, options for photography and language also are readily available courses through IAU, and are transferrable credits! If that’s not enough, we each have our own additional class that helps us orient with the culture here. For example, some students are partaking in a Spanish Survival course, where they walk around and learn the dos and don’ts in Barcelona, whereas I am enrolled in an Internship Seminar. Here, we are able to discuss the current culture in Barcelona and share things that surprised us.
 
For example, did you know that in Barcelona, status is more muted than it is in the United States? Many people don’t even wear wedding rings or care to drive fancy cars. And marriage here looks much different than what I am used to traditionally in the States. In Barcelona, it is much more common for a couple to get a civil marriage over a religious one. It is also more common for it to be more low-key. Unless you’re a close friend, you may not have a clue if a person walking by is married or not. This is one of those things that is a different dynamic from home.

Paris, France – June 1, 2019
 
Can you spot the Eiffel Tower in Paris?
"Can you spot the Eiffel Tower in Paris?”
Coming to Spain, I determined in my mind that I would only explore places within Spain on weekend trips. This would give the opportunity to see and understand Spain completely, knowing the ins and outs of how different cities within the same country behave. However, when two new friends informed me about a 36-euro roundtrip flight to Paris for five days, they won me over. For more context: If you would have asked eight-year-old me where I wanted to go, anywhere in the world, I would have said Paris. Eight-year-old me would have been pretty disappointed in 21-year-old me if I had turned down that kind of offer. Alas, we were off on our Ryanair flight. If you’ve never been to Europe, this airline, along with Vueling, offers relatively cheap flights between European countries. If you ever book a flight with one of these two, make sure you check over the details of your flight carefully. From my experience so far, a cheap flight means cheaper service.
 
I could talk about Paris for days. I was relatively shocked to experience a culture and people I didn’t expect from the impression I grew up with about Paris. Knowing maybe three words in French, we all got by just fine speaking English. There were key differences of course, but we found it relieving to be in a country with distinct similarities, as they allowed us to split checks and provided us with free water when eating at a restaurant. These two things are prominently opposite in Barcelona from my experience. However, what I really want to share is my experience when my new friends and I went to Disneyland Paris.
 
Nothing too crazy occurred, except for characters singing Disney songs in French. I figure you’re probably asking: You traveled overseas and decided to spend a whole day at Disneyland? Yes. The greatest part about this, though, is I had never been to a Disney park. We have ones in California and Orlando, but my first experience happened to be in Paris. Reflecting back on a previous blog post I wrote, I remember almost being able to count all of the states I have been to on my two hands; yet, here I am exploring and experiencing things for the first time in other countries. I had the time of my life riding in a boat through the “It’s a Small World” attraction realizing that this is kind of a small world. Super cheesy, right? This attraction obviously can’t represent all nationalities and culturesperfectly, but it inspired me and reminded me why I am studying abroad. Yet again, I’m left thankful for this opportunity.
 
Becoming More “Cultured” – May 29, 2019
 
Nebraska students enjoy homemade nachos at their group dinner.
Nebraska students enjoy homemade nachos at their group dinner.
In Spain, our group of 15 Nebraska students strives to get out and experience or, as we joke, become more cultured. I’ll admit we do have the occasional, guilty-pleasure Starbucks drink; sometimes finding a place that offers iced coffee or a sweeter coffee, is rare. However, we go out of our way to order coffee in Spanish and drink coffee or eat food the way locals do. Pros and cons come from this, of course. Though trying new foods can be fun, it also becomes expensivecompared with cooking food on our own. What you see in this photo is our second attempt at a group dinner, which was a blast. I am eternally grateful that we have some good cooks in our group. All I did was supply the tortilla shells and clean some dishes, to be frank.
 
Group dinners provide such a great way to bring everyone together and get everyone involved. If done right, something can be cooked new or in a different way that still fits with the culture as something a local might cook up for their own family. We had some homemade guacamole, pico de gallo and rice to make some really yummy fajitas. Here, dessert is not something to be forgotten. The group in charge of desserts picked up two kinds of brazo de gitano, essentially a Spanish cake roll. It relates most closely to a homemade Swiss roll back in the States. This dinner was a good way for us to kick off the last of our time together as “just us.”
 
You see, this year, the University of Nebraska–Lincoln set up three tracks for students wanting to study abroad in Barcelona. Our group consists of 15 students both studying and interning here for either 12 or nine weeks. In a few short days, we will welcome another group around the same size as ours who will take classes in Barcelona for six weeks! This will be a neat time for us to begin sharing this city with fellow Nebraska students. This group I am with now will choose what to share and what not to share; some things are better found out through personal experience. Either way, our group dinners may double in size soon. This will depend on if these newcomers value the occasional group gathering or if they define becoming more “cultured” as we did, experiencing and trying new things ourselves.

Exploring Bilbao, Spain – May 25, 2019
 
Ariel Zach’s favorite work at the museum: “The Matter of Time” by Richard Serra (left), and with smiles under “Mom” by Louise Bourgeois at the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain. Both artists have artwork displayed at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
Ariel Zach’s favorite work at the museum: “The Matter of Time” by Richard Serra (left), and with smiles under “Mom” by Louise Bourgeois at the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain. Both artists have artwork displayed at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
Welcome to the northern port city of Bilbao! I took a quick solo journey here and fell in love. With a city population slightly larger than Lincoln, Nebraska, I felt the comfort of home a mere 5,000 miles away — as soon as I got over the fact that everyone here speaks Spanish. More locals in Barcelona speak English due to it being a bigger city of business and tourism. Bilbao was seemingly more quiet and underrated.
 
I spent my first morning accidentally joining a private boat tour on the river flowing through Bilbao and its surrounding towns as I chose to orient myself and find my bearings. Don’t get the wrong impression, though. I didn’t pay for a private boat tour; I still am a college student on a college student budget. When I say this place is underrated, I am serious. There are far fewer tourists, which makes booking tours apparently much rarer. On this boat tour, I was thankful to see the renowned hanging transporter bridge, Vizcaya, which is famous for being well over a century old. It makes sense now why they call it the “iron dinosaur.” If you ask me, I still don’t quite get how this is more effective for moving people, cars and boats, as it seems smarter to build a drawbridge or simply a taller bridge. I’m no engineer, though. If you are and you know the efficiency of this design, by all means, let me know.
 
Another hot spot to explore for art or architecture gurus is the Guggenheim Museum. I paid the entrance fee, (thankfully cheaper for college students) to get in for two reasons: checking out the interior architecture of the building itself and exploring “The Matter of Time” permanent exhibit. I began my college career studying architecture, and it still intrigues me to see how architects and interior designers make things work. In Richard Serra’s exhibit, I felt an array of emotions and thoughts. Serra also has a walk-through sculpture called “Greenpoint” on the UNL campus outside the west entrance of Andrews Hall. If you ever get the chance to see his work at the Guggenheim, I suggest using the recorded guide for this one, as they walk through how to enjoy this piece and assure you that all come out of it feeling a little different. I won’t spoil you with my own thoughts; if you’re interested, reach out and let’s chat over coffee. If you’ve been there, you can bet I want to know your own impression from this work of art.
 
Though these two things completely exceeded my expectations at the Guggenheim, so did many more of the exhibits. I was pleasantly surprised and my mind challenged through many exhibits dealing with controversial issues of today. It really opened up my mind to common beliefs of other countries as well as common beliefs those countries have about the United States. After I wandered through the museum, it was time to head back to Barcelona, giving me plenty of time to reflect and ponder.

Forget Las Ramblas – May 22, 2019
 
Nebraska students Izzy, Ariel, Sara and Brenna enjoy ice cream from Giovanni before classes start.
Nebraska students Izzy, Ariel, Sara and Brenna enjoy ice cream from Giovanni before classes start.
When we arrived, one of the instructions was to avoid the street called Las Ramblas as much as possible, as it is the street known for having the most tourists flooding it. There are multiple reasons to stay away, though. The first reason: Prices are often inflated around the area. The second reason: There is an increased risk for pickpocketing. The third reason: We are not tourists, as we have learned. We are here in Barcelona to have fun, of course, but to learn and to grow as people through understanding and appreciating a place different from our own.
 
As we dive into our second week knowing we will be here much longer, we didn’t really understand we couldn’t at least play tourist for a little bit until we orient ourselves. However, we have obliged (for the most part) and challenged ourselves to visit other areas where more local food and people may be. Visiting other areas, we have discovered another reason to stay away from Las Ramblas: There are so many more unique places and delicious foods to try if you step off the main tourist path!
 
I’ll admit, where we are located in this picture isn’t too far from another common touristy area, but why wouldn’t you get some Italian gelato while in Barcelona? If you know me, you know I can’t pass up ice cream, and I’m happy to say I met some other gals with a similar sweet tooth. We’ve been making our way around, trying foods both from Spain and not from Spain. Many native Spanish dishes we try consist of different types of tapas, basically like an appetizer at a restaurant in the States. It is common, though, for a group to order many different tapas and share here, making a full meal of tapas for all. One common tapa is papas bravas, which look like grits if I were to order them in the States; they just have a spicy sauce drizzled on top.
 
Paella is another food originating from this area, which is a seafood and rice-based dish. This wouldn’t typically be a tapa, though. Outside of ordering just tapas, I’ve seen people order one tapa and one dish of paella for two to share. They have pretty hefty portions of food here, so that’s usually just enough. I haven’t checked paella off my list of foods to try yet, but there are many weeks ahead for new discoveries.

Felíz Cumpleaños! – May 17, 2019
 
Nebraska students visit the Arc de Triomf in Barcelona.
Nebraska students visit the Arc de Triomf in Barcelona.
Our group successfully gained a good understanding of the metro system, so we made our way to the famous Barcelona arch, the Arc de Triomf. This arch was built around the 19th century as an entryway when the World Exhibition was held in Barcelona. What is neat is seeing the growth of Barcelona’s metropolitan area since. It reminds me of the growth over the years in Omaha, Nebraska, back home. But Barcelona is more densely populated than Nebraska because here they must build “up” and not “out.” Nebraska has a lot of land whereas Barcelona sits in the valley of mountains.
 
Understanding the background of this city has been phenomenal. Growing up, I don’t remember learning about how Barcelona or Spain came to be. I could have learned in school and forgotten about it, but actually seeing memorials and areas is key to making things stick in my brain.
 
What made things even more special today is getting to celebrate my 21st birthday with new friends in this new place! All of the girls pictured are my roommates. There are seven of us living together in one apartment, actually. Don’t worry, we function together really well. I would attest some of that is because we have a solid three bathrooms to save us from conflict. Each girl is very different from one another, yet we seem to mesh pretty well. None of us really knew each other before this trip, so it is exciting to meet other students in the College of Business.
 
Not pictured here is our adventure to find ice cream! We ended up in El Flako, or Corn Flakes & Co., for milkshakes made with a type of cereal. We discovered here that milkshakes in Barcelona are much different than milkshakes in the States. When we think of milkshakes, we think of something dense, primarily made with ice cream. Here, milkshakes are literally MILKshakes – primarily made with milk. It tasted like extra creamy, flavored milk. Who would have thought you’d have to order a “thickshake” if you wanted it the American way?

Quantum Technology: More Than an Avenger’s Phenomenon – May 13, 2019
 
The Nebraska students enjoy food together after internship orientations.
The Nebraska students enjoy food together after internship orientations.
Our group studying in Barcelona started our internships today! Afterward, we spent some time celebrating our excitement by getting some light foods and coffee. One thing I have already come to adore is how easy it is to order a single sandwich everywhere, rather than a full-on meal. There is no additional pressure to add a side of fries or chips. I’m more of a snacker, so I fit right in!
 
On just about every block, you’ll find a place like this one with a variety of sandwiches and coffee. Upon exploring, I found more places that serve some lattes, but I’ve gotten pretty good at ordering coffee with milk (“cafe con leche”) as a safe bet if I don’t want straight espresso. In the States, we often drink coffee that includes additives such as milk or sugar. In Barcelona, however, it is much more common to drink a single shot of espresso. One shot of espresso goes a long way, and I’ve seen groups bond over them for hours as they savor the smaller, stronger glass.
 
As we students bonded, we discussed our project. We – three others and I – will work as a group to research quantum technology and how Barcelona can become more well-known in the world for it. Essentially, we are partnering with the government to help them with part of their 2020-30 strategic plan for the metropolitan area of Barcelona. A strategic plan is made to figure out which things to focus on within the time period to make the area better. Areas such as demographics, territory, energy, mobility, economy, welfare, governance, etc., are included in strategic plans for cities or countries.
 
We have our work cut out for us, researching and interviewing these next couple of months! If you’re not sure what quantum technology is, we get it. We are still trying to comprehend this advanced physics theory. I don’t want to spoil anything, so check out the “Avengers: Endgame” movie to see how they use quantum technology to explain it some. Though the U.S. currently performs the best with quantum computing, Barcelona has resources such as the Centre de Cultura Contemporania with their Quantum Exhibition. Wish us luck!
 
See Ya In Barcelona! – May 9, 2019

Ariel Zach takes her last photo before leaving for Barcelona.
Ariel Zach takes a moment to slow down before life picks back up.
Here’s me, as real as can be with my pink luggage in the middle of the country, posing for a photo as I essentially have no clue what lies ahead. I write this as I sit in the Toronto Pearson International Airport, trying to convince my mind that I will not see the States again for the next three months. Getting my passport checked, security asked me how long I will be gone, and I stuttered when saying “85 days.” Spain will be my new home away from home.
 
Before this study abroad trip, the only time I left the United States is when I went on the Australia study abroad trip during the 2018-19 winter break. Not to mention, of the 50 U.S. states, I visited less than 15 of them. As a girl coming from a small town in northeastern Nebraska, there is a world of things out there I have yet to experience. Coming from a town of 1,500 people and transitioning to the University of Nebraska–Lincoln with 26,000 students started this empowerment of learning from different people and different ways of life. What I know of myself is I really flourish by absorbing myself into things to get a full, appreciated picture. This opportunity is just what I need.
 
Professors always talk about a cheesy thing called “goal setting,” but it’s pretty beneficial. Here’s mine:
 
For my classes, over the nine weeks, I will stay intentional and focused within the classroom on both the content and the teaching style so I can make the most of learning to be effective with my personal growth.
For my internship, I will devote nine weeks and 20 hours a week to intentionally work on my understanding of the business and their goals, how I can help get them a step closer (however big) to their goals and increase my understanding of how to successfully work with a business that has different cultural norms and a different first language. This will allow me to prepare for graduation and find a job where I can succeed.
For my experience, knowing I will walk around the city interacting with people and places, I will write a short excerpt in my travel journal each day I spend along this journey, no matter how long or short.
For my Spanish (even though many speak Catalan*), I desire to confidently hold short conversational interactions with another human on the bus, the person ringing up my groceriesor the person serving me food over the next 12 weeks through personal study, practice and my Spanish class.

*Catalan dates back pretty far and is a mix of many different languages, including Spanish, Italian and French. It’s similar to the English we generally speak that combines words from many different languages to create our own. Pretty neat!
 
Let's Take a Moment – May 6, 2019

Ariel Zach is packed and ready to go to Barcelona.
Ariel Zach is packed and ready to go to Barcelona.
I have so much gratitude! The opportunity to study abroad is a once … or twice … in-a-lifetime experience. Cheesy, but so true. As I prepare and probably procrastinate, taking the time to thank those who worked with me on writing essays for scholarships and those who provided me with scholarship money to make this big opportunity attainable is a must.
 
I’ll dive into experiences in future blog posts, but I must lay down a solid foundation. Yes, studying abroad takes lots of prep work. And yes, you guessed it, studying abroad is definitely expensive. However, it is more than attainable and achievable through the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. Did I get all the scholarships I applied for to help me fund studying in Barcelona? Not a chance. Am I thankful for what I have received? Absolutely. It will be totally worth it. I hope you’ll see the benefit over the cost.
 
Studying international business, I foresee more travel in my future. What I hope, especially for those of you not required to study abroad, is you will build up the courage and take the leap to invest in yourself by going abroad. I never heard anyone say they regret a study abroad experience, so prove me wrong; I’ll wait.
 
I’m still undecided whether this is preparing or procrastinating, but feel free to read through a list of who I have to thank:

Thank you, Mom - for still accepting me as your child after I told you I decided to accustom myself in a new country for the summer
Thank you, friends - for your understanding and encouraging nature, working with my chaotic schedule to meet up one last time before I took off
Thank you, College of Business - for setting up these incredible study abroad trips tailored toward growth and development in my area of study
Thank you, Education Abroad Office - for sitting down with me, full of excitement, to review essays while reminding me of upcoming deadlines
Thank you, Scholarships and Financial Aid Office - for answering my emails when I needed help budgeting or turning in information
Thank you, IAU - for providing me a learning experience I am excited for, confident you will send me home full of new knowledge
Thank you, readers - for taking a chance to read what I say, in hopes that it brings some sort of value to you
 
Feel free to live out the fun through my experiences! But, if it’s worth it to you, you’ll make it work. Don’t make excuses, make experiences. And make thank you notes for those who help make your experiences possible.