So Much to Say

It’s incredible what can happen over the course of 1 1/2 months.

Since I began living here in Salamanca, my life has changed considerably– from the smallest of things (what time I eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner) to the biggest (what language I use in my daily life), it seems like every aspect of my life has been affected by this experience.  A lot of the changes were things that I expected to happen, but I’ve been stretched and challenged in ways that I definitely didn’t foresee going into this adventure.  After living this new life for over 1 1/2 months, I can confidently say that studying abroad has changed me.  Not just the academic, Spanish-speaking side of me, but more importantly the who-I-am-at-heart me. Throwing myself completely into the unknown has opened my eyes to the ever-present faithfulness of our Savior, and has given me confidence in who I am through Him more so than I have ever experienced previously.

Going into this experience, I was FILLED with worries, doubts, and anxieties about what would happen.  I remember that, the weekend before I left for Spain, I completely broke down crying because I just didn’t feel like I had the strength to face so many unknowns at one time.  I was terrified that I wouldn’t be prepared for all that was waiting for me in Salamanca– from worrying about if I was bringing the right clothes for the weather, to being anxious about what level of classes I would test into, I was scared.  Although there was never a moment before leaving that I debated backing out and just staying home, I remember just thinking “what am I doing?…what in the world am I doing?” as I tried my best to prepare myself to leave.

Looking back now, it’s almost kind of funny to think about the anxiety-ridden-Catherine who thought she could actually be prepared for this experience.  For anyone who is reading this and thinking about studying abroad…I’m really sorry to say this, but there is NO way you can prepare for something like this! There’s just no way. Even for someone like me (someone who spent hours reading study-abroad blogs, pinning Pinterest packing lists, talking with study-abroad veterans, watching YouTube vlogs about studying-abroad, and researching the program I was entering), there’s just no way that one can go into this experience prepared.  But (as I now know), you CAN go into a study abroad experience like mine confident.

I know that sounds insane (especially to worriers like me who naturally think being prepared is the predecessor to being confident), but I promise you it’s true.  You can be completely unprepared, but 100% confident.  Why?  Because your level of preparedness isn’t what is going to make your experience easy or difficult…your willingness to place your experience in God’s hands is.  I went into this time of studying-abroad clutching onto control like my life depended on it. I thought that, the more prepared and in-control I was, the more confident I would feel in Spain.  But, if you go back and read my blog post from that first week, you’ll see that my “preparedness” didn’t do anything to make me feel comfortable my first day in Salamanca.  The peace, joy, and comfort came ONLY when I relinquished control of my experience over to God.  The moment that I acknowledged that I, on my own, couldn’t face the unknowns…my fear dissipated and was replaced with confidence.

What I’m trying to say is, all of my efforts to find confidence through being prepared and being in control failed.  They failed miserably.  I arrived in Salamanca “prepared” with a million print-outs of maps, shoes for every possible occasion, a med-kit that could rival a pharmacy’s, my old Spanish textbook…and absolutely no confidence that I would make it through the next two months.  But the MOMENT that I prayed to God to take control of my new life in Spain, I was filled with a confidence and strength that has not left me once since being here.

So, to everyone out there reading this blog who is planning on doing something that requires a huge leap of faith (whether that be studying abroad like I did, or something completely different), I hope you can see my experience as a testimony:  having confidence in God’s providence and faithfulness is ABUNDANTLY more powerful than doing your best to be “prepared” on your own.

And I can prove it!!

Here is an example of a very big worry of mine and the very big way God answered it:

Before leaving for Spain, I was TERRIFIED that I had lost the majority of my Spanish-speaking abilities. Although I had taken Spanish classes my freshman year at Fox, I neglected my Spanish over the summer and had absolutely zero time to fit a Spanish class into my schedule Fall semester.  So, even though I resumed Spanish class in the Spring semester, I felt like those six months away from studying Spanish had really taken a toll on my abilities.

I kept telling myself I would do some independent study to brush up on my Spanish skills before I left on my trip…but that didn’t actually end up happening until the train ride from Madrid to Salamanca.

But, as I was hurriedly trying to re-learn things I had forgotten, I realized that my efforts weren’t really going to make-up for all the time I had spent away from Spanish (I mean, the train ride was only an hour and a half long).  So, instead of trying to rush through all of the verb tenses in the short time that I had, I began to pray.  I prayed that God would help me to be brave…to strike up conversations even though I knew I would make mistakes…to ask another question in class even if I had already asked twenty.  I prayed for bravery over and over throughout this train ride, and implored God to help me once I got to Salamanca.

Today, exactly one month and ten days after this train ride, I am blown away by how God has answered my prayers.

Every single day I have an opportunity to speak to someone new in Spanish, and every day I am given a chance to use my Spanish in practical, real-world situations.  Because absolutely every aspect of my life is in Spanish, my own ability to speak and understand it has improved more than I ever could have imagined!  Honestly, I am so immersed in the language to the point that I now catch myself actually thinking in Spanish.

As for my previous worries about my competence in Spanish, God has proven faithful in meeting my needs there, too.  I have absolutely INCREDIBLE professors here who truly care whether or not I learn, improve, and grow, which I think has really improved my confidence.  Although I was nervous to be taking the highest level of Spanish classes here, the professors have provided constant support and encouragement throughout even the hardest concepts.  In my Spanish Language class, for example, the majority of the 20-student class (except for Madi, two Asian students, and myself) are native Spanish speakers.  When the class first started, this terrified me!  I saw around me people who had been speaking Spanish for their entire lives, had been raised in Spanish-speaking countries, and whose Spanish would clearly put mine to shame.  I looked at my own background–high school and college Spanish classes and a very white family–and immediately prepared myself to struggle in this upper-level class with people who “already knew everything.”

I soon saw, however, that God knew exactly what He was doing when He placed me in this class.  Our professor, Eugenia, has created a cohesive, safe, and collaborative atmosphere in our classroom that leaves no room for competition and allows me to ask as many questions as I want without feeling inferior. The other students in my class, instead of being Spanish-know-it-alls, have become sources of support and help (as well as good friends <3).  Because I’m surrounded by people who have an excellent grasp of the Spanish language, I can feel myself improving as we all work together during class time.

Since this blog post is more of a reflection (and doesn’t really give many updates on what I’m actually doing) these pictures might seem a bit random, but that’s ok! : )  I just felt the need to write down what I’ve seen God do in my life while I’ve been living here in Spain, and hopefully you were able to follow my scattered thoughts throughout this post!

Here are some wonderful moments from the past week or so:

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A sunny day in our beautiful plaza

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I took this photo out of one of my classroom windows…I’m still just in awe that this is where I get to go to school!

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There’s a wonderful bar/restaurant near our house that makes DELICIOUS sandwiches!! This is their house special (and my fave): pork loin fillets, Iberican ham, and cheese on toasted bread❤

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This is a snapshot of a free concert that was going on in the park by our house! The band played songs by ABBA while the rest of us danced and hummed along.

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An outdoor pottery market that I stumbled upon one day while out and about.

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This is the historic chapel in the University of Salamanca’s original building. Madi and I went on a faculty-led tour of the historic university and learned a BUNCH about its interesting history! This chapel is still used by the university today for special events, and can also be rented out for weddings!

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This is a photo of the entryway to the historic building of the university. Although there are many buildings that make-up the University of Salamanca, this one was the main building used when the school was first started.

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I LOVED this part of the tour! This is a picture of the university’s library. We couldn’t enter (since it’s filled with millions of dollars of old books and globes), but even through the glass it was breathtaking.


This is a picture (taken from FB) of Madi and me with our new friend, Léa! Léa is a French student who’s here taking Spanish classes (like Madi and me), but at a different school. This is a pic of our first night out together eating tapas, buying yummy frozen yogurt, and exploring the city at night.

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A quick pic of one of the tapas we ordered!

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Salamanca at night is one of my favorite sights.

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One night the city was having a huge music festival where they had different bands playing at different locations along the river! There was a jazz band, a group playing traditional Spanish music, a band playing American 80s rock, and this symphony, among others.

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A blurry picture of Madi, Léa, and me waiting to watch the fireworks!

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The fireworks were gorgeous!!! Pictures can’t really do them justice….because we were so close, the fireworks were practically going off right above us! The show itself lasted almost 15 minutes and was absolutely stunning. It felt like all of Salamanca showed up to see the fireworks, as the streets were PACKED with people!

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The Old and New Cathedrals illuminated at night.



The Halfway Mark

One month down, one more to go. I can’t believe this experience is almost halfway over!

I realize that I use the phrase”I can’t believe…!” pretty often in my blog posts, but it really is the most accurate reflection of my inner dialogue over the course of this past month. For example: “I can’t believe we only have one more month here!” “I can’t believe I’m actually living in Spain!” “I can’t believe they sell pastries for this cheap!” “I can’t believe kids go out and party on a school night!” “I can’t believe this building is older than my entire country!” And so on..

As overused as the phrase is, it’s probably something I’m going to continue using…mostly because I really am going day-to-day living in unbelief of my experiences here in Spain, and also in part because my ability to communicate eloquently and diversely in English has declined considerably (seriously– I’ve been finding it harder and harder to find the right English words while writing these posts, since my entire life has been overtaken by the Spanish language).


Yes. Madi and I have officially been living here in Spain for one month!  One whole month of adventure, change, growth, and excitement has already gone by. I think the both of us are in shock as to how rapidly the time here has passed and how much we have experienced in the span of one short month.  This past week, specifically, we’ve been blessed with some incredible opportunities that I feel are worth sharing.

Monday – Teachers for a Day

This past Monday, Madi and I were given the opportunity to be substitute teachers at a local elementary school!  From 4:00 – 6:00pm we taught two, one-hour-long English classes to groups of 10 and 11 year olds at el Colegio Publico San Mateo.  For me, as someone who is currently taking classes to become a teacher, this was an absolute dream!! The classes we taught were part of an after-school program offered by San Mateo, so our job was to facilitate a time for the kids to practice the English that they were learning during regular school hours.  Over the course of a one-hour class, we played games and did activities aimed at giving the kids a chance to use their English in fun, no-worksheets-or-red-pens-allowed situations.

For me, being presented with this opportunity was another reminder that, even here in Spain, God is absolutely directing my path! I really don’t think it’s a coincidence that I, an aspiring teacher, happened to be asked by my roommate (who happened to be asked by her friend) to TEACH for a day here in Salamanca. God is so very good!!

Tuesday and Wednesday – La Casa Lis and La Catedral 

On Tuesday Madi and I visited La Casa Lis, a mansion-turned-museum housing thousands of Art Nouveau and Art Deco style pieces here in Salamanca. The house itself is a work of art, and contains absolutely breaktaking stained-glass ceilings and windows throughout. We weren’t allowed to take pictures, so I don’t have any of my own to show, but I am still including one from the internet to show just how beautiful the house is.Luckily, we went on a beautiful sunny day, so the stained-glass ceilings were even more stunning than the picture shows. We spent a few hours wandering through the house seeing the paintings, statues, dolls, lamps, figurines, sculptures, jewelry, etc., and felt SUPER classy while doing so.

Wednesday we toured the inside of la Catedral Nueva, which, in contrast to its name, is really not very new. It was built between the 16th and 18th centuries (making it older than the United States itself), and it still contains a majority of the art, statues, and even furniture from this time. Walking through la Catedral and listening to its history honestly gave me goosebumps– to walk and pray in the same place where believers have been doing the same for hundreds and hundreds of years really is an ethereal experience. For Madi and me, it was wonderful and satisfying to finally enter the building that we pass each day walking to school (I know right?! We really walk past a cathedral on the way to school!)

Thursday – First Day of New Classes and a Concert

I don’t know how it happened…but we finished one whole month of school here in Spain!  Receiving my fancy schmancy Spanish diploma (with Sobresaliente grades–their equivalent of an “A”) was one of the most rewarding moments I have experienced.  Although the classes did not require a lot of time spent on homework, per say, they required a LOT of thought and concentration.  I ended this school “term” of newness and change feeling so so thankful– for the people praying for me, for my loved ones supporting me, for the faithful strength from Christ, and for the Spanish pastries and coffee that kept me going when the work got tough.  But just as one month ended, another one began!!!  I am now taking the following classes: Spanish Language, the History of the Woman in Spain, Spanish Culture, and Spanish Art.  My first class, which is a two hour session focusing on grammar, will probably be my most difficult class (it’s still the highest level USAL offers, like last month, but I’m pretty darn sure it’s a new higher level), but I’m so excited to keep learning and being challenged!  I can already tell that my other classes will be phenomenal– the professors are, as always, incredible, and the information is already really interesting.  Also, because most major universities in the US have now started their summer vacations, there are a TON more Americans here!! The majority have come in groups (like the 26 girls from Wisconsin) and are only spending one month here.  There are also a lot more native Spanish speakers  in my classes, as well (like the three girls who were born in Mexico and now live in the US, or the girl who’s parents are from Ecuador), which creates a lot of interesting discussion about the differences between Latin American Spanish and Spain Spanish.

On Thursday, Madi and I also went out during the night to experience a music and arts festival going on here in Salamanca during the first week of June! We saw parts of two different concerts in La Plaza Mayor before heading to el Patio Chico to watch a crazy electronica-rock-pop-dance-Latin concert.  This incredible (free!!) concert was honestly SO much fun!!! The concert itself was held right at the base of la Catedral, which created such a unique atmosphere (check out Facebook for videos!).  Really old building met really crazy music, and it was a blast.  The fiestas continue throughout the rest of this weekend, and Madi and I are already making plans to head out and enjoy some more of the Salamancan nightlife : )

I’ve had a wonderful, packed week of I’ll-remember-this-forever experiences, and I still couldn’t be more grateful for the chance to study and LIVE here in Salamanca.  I miss my family and friends so much (and have already started a bring-my-loved-ones-back-to-Spain-one-day fund), but God is faithful, and hasn’t left my side once this trip (no loneliness or boredom here!).  Thank you for your love, prayers, and care! <3


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Teachers for a day!


La Casa Lis


La Catedral Nueva

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A night in La Plaza with Madi and Teresa!

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La Plaza Mayor

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The start of the concert at the base of la Catedral

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El concierto!!!!!


The concert in full-swing

God is Good, Even in Portugal


Has it really been a week and a half since I last posted something on here?

I know I promised regular updates, and I feel so bad for all of the people who are no doubt devotedly following my blog (hi, Mom!) and waiting for a new post….but I’ve just been SO busy!!  I’m totally aware that this excuse sounds like a cop-out, but believe me, it’s the truth!  Now that I have fully adjusted to life here and have established a pretty set routine with school, it seems my freetime is just filled with one incredible adventure after the next.  For example, this past weekend, I had the opportunity to spend Friday through Sunday visiting Portugal on a trip hosted by the University (See? Being out of the country’s a pretty good excuse for not updating my blog, huh?).  Over the course of these three days, we visited monasteries, explored ancient castles, ate dozens of Portuguese custard tarts, toured the busy streets and plazas of Lisbon, and saw countless other monuments and historical sites.  Now, while I don’t want to downplay how AMAZING the actual trip was, there was definitely more to the experience than just the beautiful sights and exciting activities.  Throughout this weekend away from home, God reminded me (again!) how profoundly faithful He is in keeping His promises.

To start, I initially signed up for the trip completely in the dark as to what I was getting myself into– Madi couldn’t go, so I was going on my own; I didn’t know of anyone else I knew/had met who had signed up; we wouldn’t get our itineraries telling us where we would stay, what we would do, etc. until we were ON THE BUS ready to leave; and I had no clue who I would room with.  The funny thing is, none of this really worried me (then again, after overcoming the first big shock of arriving in Salamanca, I think that, by this point, nothing could scare me).  But even though I wasn’t scared or worried, I was still looking at the trip as something that I would have to do on my own.  I guess, if anything, I was just prepared to feel lonely.  

So here I am at 6:30am on Friday, making the half-hour walk by myself to the bus that we would take to Lisbon, praying that God would keep me company.  Pleading with Him to keep me company.  I knew that I could do the trip alone (as in the “Me + God and no one else” alone), but I found myself repeatedly reminding God of His promise to stay with me (as if He needed reminding) and saying, “Ok God. You promised, right? You’ll stay with me? You’re pretty much all I’ve got, so I really hope you do.”

And, of course, He did stay with me.

But in His true nature of giving abundantly, God also provided me with something unexpected on this trip– friends! As I arrived on the bus, I was immediately greeted by Maria and Cibele, two Brazilian friends of mine in their late 30s from my Spanish Language class. Throughout the trip, these women blessed me with encouragement, friendship, laughter, and a constant reminder of God’s overwhelming goodness.  We ended up rooming together for the two nights of the trip, and I couldn’t be more thankful to have had these strong, inspiring women become a larger part of my experiences abroad.

However, the way God blessed me through Maria and Cibele was only one of the many reminders I was given this past weekend of God’s goodness.  The trip itself was FULL of experiences that called my attention to His character.  Hopefully, this short day-by-day overview below will give you all a glimpse into how these beautiful historical sites point to our Creator.


Day one of the trip!! After leaving at 7:00am from Salamanca and driving for one and a half hours, we stopped at a small truck stop to take a break before finishing out the 5 hour drive.  Apparently Europeans know how to operate a truck stop WAY better than we Americans do, because I was able to eat a delicious chocolate croissant and drink a hot espresso instead of pick up a bag of Cheetos and a Pepsi for breakfast (I’m now adding “classier truck stops” to my list of things the US should change to be more like Spain, right after “siestas” and “eating lots of bread without caring”).  I used the rest of the bus ride to sleep, read, and eat the lunch that my Spanish mom, Carmen, packed for me (really– isn’t she just the sweetest?!).

Once we arrived in Spain, we checked into our hotel and were given a few hours of free time before meeting up as a group to head into the heart of Lisbon later in the afternoon.  We visited la Plaza del Comercio (an enormous plaza overlooking the river), learned some of Lisbon’s history, and walked up through el Barrio de Alfama to el Castillo de San Jorge (a picturesque castle/fortress that used to be the home of Portuguese royals).  After spending a few hours exploring these different sites, we were given free time to eat in the city and explore on our own.


Today we visited el barrio del Belém (a quaint, beautiful neighborhood) before heading to el Monasterio de Los Jerónimos.  This monastery was absolutely, completely BREATHTAKING. It’s almost unbelievable how simultaneously enormous and detailed the monastery is…and to think, it was created before any of the modern building tools we have today existed.  Actually, it was created before our country existed!  Even though we were touring the monastery along with a host of other tourists, the place still had an undeniable sanctity about it that gave me goosebumps as I saw where the monks used to live, pray, and worship.  After touring the monastery, we visited el Torre de Belém (a castle-like tower situated in the river), and began our drive to the coastal city of Cascais.  In Cascais, we saw la Boca do Inferno (a gorgeous natural rock formation/inlet on the beach), had lunch in the city, and were given free time to walk along the beach, shop, and eat Portuguese custard tarts.  When we returned to Lisbon, Maria and I spent the evening exploring the city one last time, knowing we would be leaving in the morning.


For our last day in Portugal, we went to what might be my favorite stop of the trip, Óbidos.  In this wonderful medieval town, we visited an old castle and walked along its outer walls…which gave us the most magnificent view of the Portuguese countryside.  Seeing the beautiful whitewashed walls and red tiled roofs of the town’s houses from the top of a castle wall was absolutely one of my favorite sights! After Óbidos, we traveled to our last stop, Batalha, where we visited another monastery before heading home.


I am SO incredibly grateful that I was able to go on this trip!! This short time of vacation was not only exciting, but also so very refreshing. Having time to simply adventure and explore was exactly what I needed to gather the strength to finish out this first month of school.  If you want to see more pictures of the trip (of which there are many!), head over to my facebook to view an album I’ve put together : )  Again, thank you thank you thank you for your prayers and love– I am blessed beyond belief to have so many people caring for me from afar!


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Friday: Maria, Cibele, and Me in La Plaza del Comercio

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Friday: Entrance to La Plaza

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Friday: Enjoying the beautiful fountains in a different plaza in Lisbon

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Friday: El Castillo de San Jorge

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Friday: The view from El Castillo de San Jorge

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Saturday: El Monasterio de Los Jerónimos with Cibele

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Saturday: El Torre de Belém

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Saturday: El Monasterio de Los Jerónimos with Cibele


Saturday: Cascais


Saturday: La Boca do Inferno

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Sunday: Óbidos seen from the top of a castle wall <3 

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Sunday: The Portuguese countryside

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Sunday: the Castle!

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Sunday: El Monasterio de Batalha

The Movies, Mass, and My New-Normal

I can’t believe we’ve already been here for two weeks!  It’s so strange to think that, just a little over two weeks ago, I was still at George Fox finishing up my finals…and now I’m here in Salamanca living a completely new life.  It’s funny…when I did my first two blog posts, it seemed like every tiny thing was worth writing about.  Everything was so new, so exciting, and so foreign..even something as simple as eating my first Spanish pastry warranted a multitude of pictures and a paragraph of text.  But now, after having lived here for a bit, it feels kind of strange to sit down and write about what I’m doing each day.  Why? Maybe the novelty of having a blog has already worn off, or I’d just rather watch some Netflix in Spanish (warning: Netflix is just as addicting in another language as it is in English.  Madi and I now have a nightly routine of watching an episode of La Grand Hotel before going to bed each night..but it’s ok cause since it’s in Spanish it’s good practice, right?).

The thing is, I don’t believe that it feels strange to write about what I’m doing here in Spain because I’m uninterested or distracted…I think the true reason is this: It doesn’t feel like I’m writing about a vacation anymore.  It just feels like I’m writing about my life.  My normal, routine, day-to-day life.

I know it might seem a little crazy that I consider my life here in Spain–my life that exists halfway across the world from everything I have in Oregon–to be normal.  But that’s really how it feels now.  Life feels normal.

Yes, every little bit of newness is still INCREDIBLY exciting and I’m still thrilled by the experiences I’m having here…but it doesn’t feel like vacation anymore.  It feels like home.  A really really different home from the one I have in Medford or in Newberg, yes, but home nonetheless.

Which is why I want to give a very big thank you to everyone out there who has been praying for me throughout this time.  I was so worried before coming that I wouldn’t settle in or feel comfortable in such a period of change and newness…but here I am walking around Salamanca like I’ve lived here for ages (which still means getting terribly lost sometimes like I do at home, or accidently locking myself out on our balcony like I used to do in the dorm rooms).  This place is home.  A very strange, very different home…and one that I’m very grateful for.  So to those of who who have been praying–THANK  YOU!!! I truly believe that this smooth transition is a blessing of your constant prayers.

Now.  About this new home of mine.

Madi and I have been having so much fun!!!!  There is always something to do or something to see in the city of Salamanca, and we’ve been trying our best to take advantage of every single opportunity presented to us.  On Wednesday we went to a local movie theater that was showing movies for the special price of 2,90€ a ticket with our German friend, Peter, who has been living here with us in Carmen’s home.  The theater was PACKED with people in line to get tickets, but luckily the three of us got the last three available seats to see Captain America: Civil War (seriously, the LAST three seats).  I went into it thinking I’d only understand the action sequences (you know…the parts without words), but I think Madi and I were both surprised by how much we understood : )  We didn’t make it home from the movie theater until near 2:00am (on a SCHOOL NIGHT, mind you), but we figured that we’re only going to have so many chances in life to see a Marvel movie in Spanish, in Spain, with a German friend who barely speaks Spanish, for under 3€.  Just kind of seemed unlikely to happen too often.

Madi and I have also been able to go out and visit much more of the city throughout this past week.  On Sunday we went to a Spanish mass in an old cathedral located smack-dab in the middle of the city, which gave a beautiful insight into the religious heritage of the country.  Although it was sometimes difficult to understand the scripture readings (the priest was pretty old and had a tendency to mumble), being in such a majestic building while hearing the Word spoken was an experience I will never forget.  And when I did have those moments of understanding what Scripture was being read…I was filled with so much awe and wonder knowing that those same words have been spoken in that same cathedral for hundreds of years before I came.  The antiquity and timelessness of the Bible is beautifully apparent in these old cathedrals, which makes for a worship experience quite unlike what I’ve ever been a part of in the United States.

Today, before I came home and started writing this blog post, Madi and I visited the gorgeous El Puente Romano–a bridge that crosses the Tormes river and gives a stunning view of Salamanca and the cathedrals.  After getting some gelato from La Plaza Mayor, we made the trek from the heart of Salamanca out to the city limits.  I can’t really describe the grandeur of the Salamancan skyline in words, and the pictures don’t do it justice, but believe me…it was even more beautiful than my cone of Ferrero Rocher gelato.

I know this post was long, disorderly, and full of many random thoughts…but thank you for reading it!!! It means so much to me (and to Madi!) that the people we love back home are so invested in our lives here in Spain❤  Thank you for your prayers, your comments, and your love!!! ¡Hasta luego!

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More treats in La Plaza❤ This time…gelato!

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Enjoying a beautiful Saturday by eating gelato in La Plaza



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Sitting in front of the city I now call home❤

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Salamanca as seen from El Puente Romano

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Apartments along the river


The traditional Spanish dish “paella” that our sweet mom made for us!

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On our way to see Captain America: Civil War!


Traditional Salamancan lunch at home


Yep..more pastries : D



Culture Shock & My Home Away From Home

There have been so so many wonderful things happening in the past few days,that I keep forgetting I’ve only been in Salamanca since the 3rd.  So many things have changed, and so many of my prayers have been answered.

To start, I have gone from being afraid of living here for two whole months to lamenting that I have to return in eight short weeks.  It’s funny…I remember talking about culture shock and the difficulties involved with adapting to a new culture in our pre-departure meetings at George Fox, but I totally dismissed everything that was said, and figured that culture shock only happened to people that had never traveled before or were afraid to leave home.  I remember thinking to myself, “Yeah..this information will definitely help someone, but it sure won’t be me.  I’ve been to Mexico four times, Nicaragua once– each time without my family. I live a couple hundred of miles away from home nine months out of the year without a problem.  Spain won’t be an issue.”  So, when I got to Salamanca and felt completely out of place and, honestly, completely in distress, I was pretty shocked.  If I’m being truthful, I was also pretty disappointed in myself.  I couldn’t believe that I was feeling the fear and the doubt that I thought only unadventurous people without previous experience being away from home would face.  But, no matter how many times I tried to remind myself how strong and independent I was, I still was afraid.

Very afraid.

Afraid to the point that I wrote my last blog post as a comfort to myself as well as a reassurance to the people who love me.  But, the thing is, this feeling of fear only lasted for a morning. The moment I remembered–and truly believed–that the Lord had a plan for me here in Salamanca, my anxieties were replaced by joy and my fears by feelings of expectation.  Instead of fearing the unknown, I looked at each new day with expectation that hardly allowed me to sleep.

Looking back, I can now see that I totally rode the roller coaster that is culture shock and adjustment.  The only thing is, instead of doing it over the course of a few weeks like we were told we would experience it…I did it in a day.  One short day, one huge shift in my point-of-view.  But hey…I’m impetuous and impatient, so it figures I’d try and compress a month long process into one day!

God is SO good and SO faithful, and yet I am SO great at forgetting it.  But being here has taught me that God won’t abandon us in our time of need.  He is present and He is faithful in His promises.  After holding my hand through my time of fear, the Lord is now walking beside me as I bask in the beauty of each new experience.

So.  Now that we are all caught up on my emotional status currently, I thought I’d share what my everyday life is like!

What is my schedule?

Every morning I wake up, quickly get ready, and eat breakfast at around 8:20am before leaving for class at 8:35 or 8:40ish.  Madi and I make the 20 minute walk to school together before separating to go to our different classes.  After school ends at 2:15pm, we return home, eat a big lunch, and have an hour/hour and a half siesta (Yes–siestas are real, they are wonderful, and we NEED to implement them in the United States ASAP).  Then, we work on homework and enjoy the evening until we have dinner around 9:00pm.  Carmen and her daughter Teresa usually stay up until around 2:30am, which is normal for the people of Salamanca, but Madi and I are so tired we’re usually out by 12:30am.

How are my classes?

Oh. My. Goodness.  I absolutely LOVE my classes and professors!!! I tested into the highest level of Spanish classes that the university offers (Group 1 of 6), and although the classes are definitely challenging, I am improving by leaps and bounds!  The classes usually have around 10-13 people in them, and they are all VERY interactive.  Students are encouraged to talk, blurt out comments, and practice our Spanish at all times.  I have classes with a very diverse group of students and adults–an old professor from Finland (he’s really sweet and is kind of like my new Finnish grandpa), two people from Canada, three women in their 30s from Brazil, a girl from Germany, a few people from the United States, a guy from Korea (according to him, “the good one”), some girls from China, and a few Japanese students.

What do I eat?

Well, besides churros con chocolate…we have the same breakfast every morning (toast with peach marmalade, croissants, super yummy coffee, and orange juice), a big lunch (pork loins with garbanzo bean salad, potatoes, and bread; pasta with peppers and ham; empañadas con carne; etc.) followed with strawberries with whipped cream, and a smaller dinner (“tortilla” that’s actually an egg frittata with potatoes and onion; braised spiced chicken; fillets of fried ground pork; etc.).  Also I’ve realized these two stereotypes are true:  the Spaniards loooove their meat/sausage/carne, and they think that all Americans eat is hamburgers, french fries, and pizza.  Seriously–our first night we weren’t very hungry so we didn’t eat much, and Carmen said that it was ok and she would make french fries and pizza the next night so we would eat.

If you’ve made it all the way here, to this part of my extra-long blog post…congrats!  You’ve made it through to the very end.  You’ve read (or maybe just kind of skimmed) my ramblings and hopefully have come to the conclusion that I absolutely, 110% LOVE my life here in Salamanca.  Because that, friends, is the truth : )  This place is wonderful, and it’s probably a good thing that I’ve purchased my return ticket home to the States.

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Churros con chocolate


Churros con chocolate


Churros con chocolate

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Apparently there are dogs in Spain, too

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The building to the right with the large door is where Madi has class!


La Catedral


La Catedral


La Catedral


Oh you know…just a picture of MY SCHOOL❤


A very old building and me


Ground plus shoes


Las calles


Las calles


On our way to school!


Walking to school!


La Catedral



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On our way to school!

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First day of class : )



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Walking to school


La Policia


The Scariest Thing I’ve Ever Done

“I don’t know what I was expecting this experience to be like, but it isn’t this”

That was the first thought going through my mind as we were met by Carmen and her teenage daughter at the train station and taken to their home in Salamanca.  I wasn’t really thinking this thought in a negative sense, but I’m not quite sure it was positive, either.  There were so many things going through  my mind at once, and I hardly had time to process each thought, each emotion, before another hit me.

Right now, I’m sitting in my new bed after having just navigated my way home from the University of Salamanca, where I took the placement test that will determine what classes I take, and I’m not quite sure what I feel.  I am incredibly excited, thankful, and expectant, but I can also feel the uneasiness of doubt in my stomach as I think about all that is ahead of me.  This is definitely the scariest thing I’ve ever done, and I just keep thinking…am I ready? Am I ready to completely change my life–what I eat, where I sleep, who I live with, what school I go to, what language I speak in–and live with this change for two whole months??  Honestly, probably not.  Those are pretty life-altering decisions.  Scary decisions.  But as I sit here writing, I am realizing that I could not have ever been ready and will not ever be ready…it’s just too big of a change to prepare for.  But you know what?  That. is. ok.  It’s ok that I’m scared about what this new life will be like, and it’s ok that I don’t feel ready…because I am not alone.  I have the King of Kings on my side, walking with me through this time of change.  Through the constant battery of heavy emotions and new experiences, He is with me.  In truth, this knowledge alone is what is giving me the ability to look at the next two months, the next two months full of the unknown, and smile.  So, even though this has already been the scariest thing I’ve ever done, I have a feeling it will also be the one of the greatest things I’ve ever experienced.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” {John 14:27}

Now that I’ve done my best to write down all that I’ve been processing emotionally, I’d like to transition into sharing the really wonderful things that have happened in the past few days : )

God has truly blessed Madison and me with a loving, welcoming, vibrant mother to take care of us here in Spain.  Carmen has been nothing short of incredible– walking us to school in the morning, preparing delicious meals for us, and helping us feel at home here in this strange new place.  She actually reminds me of my own late grandmother…all kisses, fancy clothes, and many offers of food.  Madison and I are sharing a bedroom in the apartment that Carmen lives in with her teenage daughter, Teresa, that is about .75 mi away from the University.  And, now that clothes are put away, WiFi is connected, and we’ve figured out how to use the shower…somehow Salamanca is starting to feel like a home.

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On our way!


Sights on the way to school


Sights on the way to school


Sights on the way to school


Our apartment building




Our bedroom