Have you ever wondered what a typical week is like when you travel abroad as part of an organized student expedition? Last summer, teen travel blogger and high school student Rachel Paroff joined Abbey Road on a language immersion program in the ancient port city of Cadiz, Spain. Here’s a first-hand glimpse at her fun-filled, educational first week abroad.
By Rachel Paroff, world traveler and teen travel blogger who loves urban life, and enjoys escaping urban clutter to learn about how other people experience the world.
| Day 1: Cafe y Conversacion
Today was my first day of classes in Cádiz.
During class, we discussed an article about la golpe militar de Argentina and then went out to talk to the locals about the culture of Cádiz. The people here are so friendly! Everyone we asked to talk to immediately smiled and made an effort to understand our slightly broken Spanish. It was definitely a nice surprise, as I come from the New Jersey/ New York City area where strangers don’t tend to have any conversations with each other. After, my friend Soli and I walked back to a nice meal at home and a short siesta.
Next, we joined a group of girls and Gemma for some café y conversación, where we drank coffee and talked casually about our lives, hopes, and dreams for our futures. It was nice to talk in a small group so that everyone could get a chance to be heard. “Cultura y Conversación” was the last “class-like” activity scheduled for the day. We talked about Spanish idiomatic phrases that use colors like ponerse rojo which actually translates to “to blush”. It was fun because we got to walk around and talk to people again.
After quickly browsing the stores and grabbing a meal in La Plaza Mentidaora, we made our way to the last activity of the day: the beach. Walking around at low tide in the evening was really enjoyable. For such a small city, Cádiz offers quite a variety things to do.
Day 2: Surf and Study in Cadiz
Tuesday morning, we spent time in classes and then walked to the University of Cádiz to explore the library. We discussed Spanish literature and took a look at the books. I chose a book comprised of postwar poems written by various Spanish poets.
For our afternoon activity, we headed out in a parade of taxis to take surf lessons up near La Playa Victoria. After practicing our surfing moves on land, we dove right in and caught some waves! Before heading home for the night, we met up for gelato in La Plaza Mentidero. I’m always surprised by the number of people who stay out late in Spain. Even though it was 11:30 pm on a Tuesday night, kids were running around screaming, adults were sitting on benches and lots of people were milling around in the plaza.
Day 3: Tarifa
Wednesday, we talked about grammar and commercials. We stopped for some quick café con leche and then we went out to a museum of art near la catedral. Our assignment was to create a short video as if we were selling one of the paintings on TV. Later in the afternoon, we took the bus just across the bridge to Tarifa. There, we took out kayaks and paddleboards. We had a lot of fun pushing each other off the boards and some of us even got to see a stingray! It’s very different from my hometown where many people hang out at home. In Cádiz, I can usually hear people talking and kids giggling outside until as late as 3 am.
Day 4: Moorish Mosques and Tapas
Thursday we started the day off with a short class and then took the bus to Jerez de la Frontera. In Jerez, we explored the last of the city’s eight mosques with its evidence of both Moor and Catholic influence in its architecture and design. Its Islamic influence is easily identifiable through the keyhole shaped doorways, star-shaped pond and small domes for worship (with side rooms facing Mecca). It also has these old gardens with an early irrigation system.
Much to the disgust of other tourists and the delight of the rest of the campers, Soli decided to take a dip in a pool of dark green water off to the side of a dome. We explored Jerez a little but the heat was a bit much for me so we sat down at a restaurant for water and a croissant. Much of the city was closed for siesta so after the snack and some shopping, we went back to Cádiz.
In Cádiz, everyone was given a few hours and 10 € to make a type of tapas to share with the group for dinner. With the help of our homestay mom, Soli and I made carrots with a sauce of cumin, garlic, paprika, oregano, and vinegar. The other tapas ranged from mini hamburgers to a Spanish tortilla to guacamole and chips. We ate on La Caleta (the closest beach) and afterward most kids decided to go hang out on the nearby swings. It was a really nice evening with a cool wind and lots of people around.
Day 5: Aqualand
Friday we sat for our last class and then took the bus to a waterpark called Aqualand. They had a bunch of different waterslides and a wave pool. My favorite part of the day was when they called people into the wave pool and we started dancing to Spanish pop music. A lady was dancing in the front of the pool and there I was among old people, littles kids, and teenagers, copying her moves. Before today I would’ve never foreseen myself participating in a public dance party but it actually turned out to be a lot of fun :).
Later in the day we took a siesta and then went out to eat at Balandro’s. We had a very nice three-course meal together and Chris said a couple words bidding some of the students goodbye. We clapped and the whole room of people decided to join in clapping as well. It was a nice ending to the week and a nice closing to the camp for the kids leaving early Saturday morning. All in all, great first week in Cádiz!
About the Author
Born and raised in New Jersey, Rachel Paroff has seen her fair share of highways and concrete. She maintains an appreciation for the urban life but loves escaping the clutter to learn about how other people experience the world. Ever since spending a year in New Zealand, she has been seeking the opportunity to go back and study. She has also been to Canada, Italy, Holland, Spain, Australia and soon China.
This fall, she will be a freshman at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor to study Anthropology and International Affairs. She is also focused on improving her Spanish and maybe picking up another language. She absolutely can’t wait to get out there in college and study abroad! Her favorite things include: playing the violin, taking her dog to the park, watching horror movies with her friends, driving around town with all of the windows down, drinking real Italian coffee and listening to music.