Remembering My Time Abroad
I wanted to find a way to best remember my time studying abroad in Alcalá de Henares, Spain. I decided to collect labels on bottles unique to Spain, museum maps, napkins with restaurant logos, etc. as I feel they hold memories of my time with friends. Upon returning to the U.S., it was bittersweet compiling them in a scrapbook, along with pictures of the moments they were associated with. Now I remember my favorite places as well as the amazing people that I was with, and it was very fun to do along the way.
Bracelets: Embracing the Little Things
I also collected various bracelets from the different cities I visited outside of the town where I was studying. My most meaningful bracelets are from Barcelona and Granada: both cities are associated with major popular sights, yet feature iconic symbols that are featured throughout that can be missed if not paying attention. In Barcelona, the Sagrada Familia, or the Basilica of the Holy Family, is a church that was designed by Antoni Gaudi and climbs so high in the sky it can be seen from many points in the city. It is incredibly detailed and has continuously been undergoing construction since the 1800s. Nevertheless, the four-petal flowers displayed along the stones of the sidewalks in Barcelona caught my attention: this artistic detail is just as much a symbol of the city as the incredible Sagrada Familia, but could easily be overlooked by visitors.
Similarly, Granada is known for the Alhambra palace featuring beautiful Islamic architectural designs. There is much important history surrounding the Alhambra, which was interesting to see in person after having learned about it in a culture and civilization of Spain course I attended during my study abroad experience. Located on a hill, the palace attracts a lot of attention from all over the city, again detracting from the smaller details: the outlines of pomegranates were present in the tilework of every road and lined the sidewalks in the form of iron posts. This symbol is displayed everywhere it can possibly appear, yet is very easy to miss. Granada in Spanish means “pomegranate,” and it was delicious exploring the many desserts offered containing this fruit. I left both cities with bracelets encompassing these symbols – the pomegranate and the four-petal flower – and they serve as my reminder to embrace the little things.
I purchased a handmade bracelet from Toledo to remember my weekend trip with CIEE in this beautiful city. We first stopped at a lookout to observe the entirety of the city, then we were accompanied by a tour guide to various churches and synagogues. During our free time, I found a shop with jewelry and picked out a blue bracelet lined with gold beads, the center one featuring a gold bird on a black pendant.
I selected earrings featuring an imitation of Gaudi’s unique tilework from a collection at the Sagrada Familia. I visited the houses he designed during my time in Barcelona and I was impressed by the whimsical designs. After seeing Park Guell and overlooking the city from the mosaic tile benches he designed, I wanted earrings to remember the beauty of the experience.
El Rastro, a flea market in Madrid open every Sunday, had many souvenirs to offer. I was most attracted to a set of canvases featuring key elements of Madrid, including posters of Retiro Park and Plaza Mayor. These now hang over my bed and I am reminded of the many visits I made to this city since it was located only a short train ride away from Alcalá de Henares, and the many places I hope to visit again someday.
Lastly, I left Spain with various clothing items. My favorite t-shirt features Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, which I learned about through a course regarding Miguel de Cervantes, which was particularly impactful as the town of Alcalá de Henares is where this famous author was born and grew up. Additionally, my favorite socks were purchased in Valencia and feature olives (“aceitunas”) to remember the strong connections I developed with friends over these small oval fruits commonly served as tapas in Spain.
All of the items I collected while abroad hold much sentimental value to me, and I am so grateful to have spent the summer in Spain with CIEE. I have so many great memories and these objects help me maintain a feeling of ongoing connection to my study abroad experience.