An article that addresses your concerns about the time it would take you to achieve fluency in Spanish with a couple of fun tests and a few pieces of advice.
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Studying abroad in Spain is an extremely exciting prospect for anyone and though you might just be picturing yourself snacking on tapas and downing cafe con leches. The first step on your wordly adventures starts at the suitcase. Namely, what exactly should I pack?
Spain is a huge country with a various diverse client from the cooler Basque region to the much warmer areas in the south of the country. Not to mention the vibe in cities like hipster Barcelona are culturally very different from cities like fashionista Madrid.
Whether you are already in Spain or plan on coming to Spain to study Spanish, it would be a good idea to take a moment to reflect when considering signing up for a Spanish language program.
Here are a few useful things to consider in order to help you make the right decision and take your stay in Spain to a whole other level.
Budapest was once three different cities, and then two, and now it is one. But, despite the technicality of unity, Buda and Pest are none the same. Neither is necessarily “better” than the other, but they are different in culture, topography, and history. Greenbridge Hostel and Instant Groove Hostel differ as greatly as their city.
- Hostel Options
There are plenty of hostel options conveniently located within Amsterdam. Prices range from just above 10 euros to 40 or 45 euros, but I’ve picked a couple that seem to provide much for little. These three are within walking distance of the most popular museums, Anne Frank’s house, the Heineken Factory, the Red Light District, and many coffee shops. Please note that weekend bookings must be for at least two nights.
The Flying Pig : This a network of three hostels, two of which are located in Amsterdam’s city center, and another which is quite a few kilometers away, on the beach. The two city locations are prime, and within a short walk of each other. The Flying Pig may not be the nicest of the three hostels, but it is the most “hostel” feeling—many of your typical, young, marijuana loving travelers.
The Van Gogh Hotel : Though listed as a “hotel,” this is both a hostel and a hotel. The website is new, the lodgings have recently been refurbished, and the staff is perfect. The lobby offers free computer use, Internet access, tourist information, coupons, and a spacious café area. Museum Park is within sight, but the hotel entrance is comfortably situated on a docile side street.
Stayokay Vondelpark: The aesthetic gem of the three hostels, Stayokay Vondelpark’s multi-story brick hostel is nestled in a safe and spacious park, in central Amsterdam. Like the Van Gogh Hotel, Stayokay also offers hotel quality private rooms with private bathrooms attached.
- Attractions That You Can’t Smoke
I used this museum app while in Amsterdam, and it’s perfect. The link is to a video that shows bits of, and ranks, the top 5 museums offered by Amsterdam. Please note, however, that the Van Gogh Museum is under renovation. The exhibit’s temporary location is now at the Hermitage Amsterdam.
The Heineken Factory is one of the few worthwhile brew-tours offered by big-brand-beers. (Guiness Experience is another.) Not tons of beer awarded to tour-takers, but the beer making process is charismatically demonstrated, and interesting enough for you to tolerate your sobriety.
The Anne Frank house is a heavy option, but perhaps a healthy reminder that Amsterdam is real. The young lady’s story is a powerful one, and her “house,” is now much more than a couple of old rooms. The line can be very, very long, so either book online prior to visiting, or save the Anne Frank House for an early evening event (Shorter lines after 5:30.)
- Do’s and Don’t Do’s: Coffee Shops, Bars, Clubs and The Red Light District
Foreigners can still enjoy the wares offered by Amsterdam’s famous coffee shops. There has been a to-do regarding the legal limbo, but Amsterdam’s mayor has informed his country that they may pass whatever laws they like, but he will not be shutting down the coffee shops. The coffee, of course, is not very good at all, but the not-coffee is regulated and safe. Famous shops such as Bulldog and Grasshoper have become traps for you and I, but places along side streets, such as Abraxas, present a more local and authentic feel. (Local feel does not exactly mean that locals will be there. Very few Dutch citizens smoke marijuana.)
The Red Light District is what it is. The free trading of sex draws people who are interested in trading money for sex. Take that as you will. If the anomalous nature of the district interests you, New Europe tours offers an information-only tour through the district.
Bars and clubs litter Amsterdam, but Rembrandtplein is an exciting square of beer-gardens and clubs. Adjacent to the square, on Reguliersdwars Straat, is a small bar without a name. The window advertises shots for 2.50 euros, and beers for 2. College kids who want to drink; this is the only place where you can do it affordably. Tomash, who owns the place, and who gave great tips regarding travel in Budapest, said that college students often take advantage of his, “pay for 8, get 10,” shots deal. After a stint with Tomash you’ll be ready for the two clubs just further down the street.
While participating in a culture studies program in Valencia, Spain, a group of us travelled to the nearby town of Segorbe. The small commune was hosting an annual festival that was highlighted by lighting bulls’ horns on fire, and then releasing them into blocked off streets. This is the story of our evening, of my intimate encounter with a bull, and of the possibility for adventure that’s available to those who seek it.
There is first the pebbly cement bench of the airport, and then the unbuckled-overweight-overcharge-the-tourist cabbie, and finally the greys, browns, and yellows of Valencia. But there are other terminals in the airport, other cabbies on the winding streets, and the colors spread too far for all of them to be seen. I do not yet know Valencia, but she has made an impression:
My first night in the city of Valencia’s, Carmen district, was in early January. (Search “Torres de Serranos, Valencia, Spain” in Google Maps and you’ll be looking at Carmen.) A friend who had been to Valencia suggested the Center Valencia Youth Hostel. The Hostel is perfect for anyone interested in conserving funds. The staff was friendly; the facility cleanly kept, and though it wasn’t exactly necessary in Valencia, there was a guard throughout the night.
My rolling suitcase clicked along behind me and my backpack jostled as I approached the hostel. I was very tired. Despite being advised to fight fatigue and align my sleep patterns with those of my new location, I climbed the steps to the third floor, found my bed in a communal room #9, and went to sleep without unpacking a thing.
A few hours later my bed felt like it was on top of a paint shaker and I was awake with a start. After a moment of confusion I realized that the reason for the shaking of my top bunk was the activity taking place on the bed beneath me. My room fit three sets of bunk-beds and all were occupied. Someone was on their computer, someone else was reading, and two were sleeping. Also, the guy in the bed beneath me was “engaged” with a lady-friend in a way that made my bunk feel like one of those plastic horses I used to ride outside of Wal-Mart. I’ve spent many nights in hostels since waking up above intercourse, and nothing of the sort has occurred since. I share the experience so that potential hostel lodgers might know what is within the realm of possibility. Many hostels offer rooms of various sizes with the private rooms costing the most. Consider yourself, and how spending a night with strangers might affect you. For me, the group living is a “win.” But we are not, and should not all be the same.
For more and more college and university students, the semester abroad is a rite of passage. If you are a student approaching your Junior Year, the odds are great that you are going to be spending a few months living and studying in a different country as well.
Generally, this is a rewarding experience that allows students to experience other cultures and grow as a world citizen. Almost everyone who takes a semester, or even a whole year, abroad generally reports that it is one of the best things they ever did.
As you get ready to spend a semester abroad, you should plan carefully. A worthwhile, rich experience, there are things you can do to make your time studying in a different country better, and the following five tips f...