Christmas in Coruña!

And just like that, my first semester in Spain is over.

Unfortunately, my phone randomly stopped turning on about two weeks ago so I lost a lot of pictures from this month, but the holiday season is in full swing! The entire month of December has been filled with holiday related activities. In our Spanish class, we learned all about the EIGHT days of holiday fiestas in Spain (Dec 22, 24, 25, 28, 31, & Jan 1, 5, 6) and practiced some of the holiday traditions–for example, the New Year’s Eve tradition/superstition of eating a grape with each clock bell strike, leading up to midnight!

At the beginning of the month, MaryKate and I had our Christmas concert for the university choir. We’ve made so many friends of all ages through the choir and because MK is going back to Holy Cross next semester, everyone surprised her at the end of the concert by singing her a Gallego farewell song. 

Later, my seven year old host cousin Nacho came over, and he, my host sister Teresa, and I decorated their Christmas tree and covered every corner of the apartment in Christmas lights. Nacho kept coming into my room, saying “Do you want me to decorate your room with this?”, and adding yet another ornament or Santa toy to the growing row on top of my dresser. 🙂

One of Coruña’s many Christmas displays. Thanks, Krys, for resending me this pic!

The city is all lit up for Christmas, so walking home at night now is somehow even more beautiful than usual. I don’t know where the time went, but I’ve had an amazing five months. At the beginning of this semester, there was so much unknown: I barely knew the other HC kids. I had no idea what to expect from studying at a Spanish university or living with a host family. I was frustrated by my inability to express myself/effectively communicate. 

Being thrown into a foreign culture and language was daunting. But being stripped of so many of the “givens” of my life gave me the opportunity to start learning who I am without them. Coming out of first semester, I have so many great new friends from HC, a few Spanish friends, my special host parents and sisters who have made me feel so at home in Coruña, and a broader perspective on the world. I know it’s cliche, but being in Spain has reminded me of the things that are important to me and shown me that a lot of the other stuff is just background noise.

I’m so grateful that I have next semester here to continue growing and experiencing all of the fun, amazing things that Coruña and Spain have to offer. But, in the meantime, I’m about to board my flight home to the US. In a matter of hours, I’ll be at Iden Avenue’s annual Christmas party with my all of my family, neighbors, and friends– I’m more aware than ever that the world is both very big and very small.

FELIZ NAVIDAD/MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Ireland, Italy, and Thanksgiving!!

Ballymahon, County Longford, Ireland

It’s been a busy couple of weeks!! The second weekend of November, I visited Ballymahon, County Longford, Ireland. County Longford is a rural area in the very middle of the country–my dad likes to call it the “Nebraska of Ireland.”  Even though it’s not as well known as counties like Dublin or Kerry, it’s my favorite part of the country, because it is breathtakingly beautiful and is home to all of my Irish family. I spent the summer in Ballymahon when I was 16 and I have such special memories of my time there, so being back four years later was surreal. My little cousins kept laughing at me because I took pictures of everything I saw.

(We spent a few hours at my cousin’s farm. He is in the process of converting it into a dairy farm, so there will be hundreds of cows on the property by January/February. I went to go see some of the cows, but I didn’t get to take any pictures because my phone died:(!!)

I made my cousins pose for SO many pictures throughout the weekend
Jumping on the trampoline!!
Beautiful colors
Seas of green
My cousins took me to see their new baby calves (can’t seem them very well in pic)
View from my cousin’s farm
View of the Shannon from the Athlone Castle, which dates back to the 12th century
We sent my dad pictures throughout the weekend to make him jealous (Longford might be his favorite place in the world)
I tried an amazing craft beer (similar to Guinness, but better)
My cousin Olive showing me how to make pancakes “the Irish way”
Art with Olive
My whole extended family at Skelly’s, a restaurant in Ballymahon
Me and my cousins Helen and Carmel <3 !!!
My cousin Adam took me to Sean’s Bar, the oldest bar in the world!!
My littlest cousin Nellie
Helen and Tommy picked me up at the airport
Me and my cousin Tommy

Thanksgiving Day- A Coruña, Spain

Pablo, our program director, organized an amazing Thanksgiving dinner for the Holy Cross students so that we could celebrate together, despite being so far from home. We went to the one American restaurant in Coruña, where we enjoyed an authentic Thanksgiving meal– turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, pecan pie, and all.

A few days later, the mother of the girls I babysit for (Elena and Lucia’s mom!) texted me a link to an article from La Voz de Coruña. We had made the news!! “A group of about 20 American students gathered in a restaurant in Coruña to eat turkey and celebrate Thanksgiving, the most important day of the year in the US.” Here’s the article:

Pablo wearing the American flag
An American Thanksgiving in Spain!

Rome, Italy

I spent this past weekend in Rome, Italy. Two of my grandpa’s sisters moved to Rome in their twenties, so I now have a lot of family there. On Saturday, my cousins Vivian and Noah took me and my roommate to see the city’s most important monuments and eat some really good food.

We visited the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, The Pantheon, the Trevi Fountain, and many piazzas, markets, and restaurants along the way. (I kept accidentally saying the Spanish word “plaza” instead of “piazza”!)

Me, Vivian, and the Colosseum
Me and Caroline in front of the Colosseum
Händel’s Hallelujah in the Pantheon-no words to describe how powerful it was
So beautiful
I could spend days here
The Pantheon- the pictures just don’t do it justice
A children’s choir outside the Pantheon–SO BEAUTIFUL!
Selfie outside the Pantheon!
The whole city was lit up for Christmas!
“Oh the streets of Rome…”
The Christmas store- open all year long!
Campo Dei Fiori market- so many different kinds of pasta!!!
Pizza for lunch
Enjoying Aperol Spritzes


My cousin Kama showed us a lot of monuments from the years Mussolini  was in power. They are marble, regal looking imitations of Roman imperial architecture, and you can tell that they were used as propaganda. I found it a little creepy that the monuments still stand, but Kama said that they are important reminders of the country’s history.

Hard to see but this is the marble Obelisco di Mussolini, which is engraved with the words “Mussolini Dux/Mussolini the leader”
The Typewriter- another example of Mussolini’s architectural legacy

On Saturday night, we had a great Thanksgiving dinner. The food was delicious and there were five different pies/cakes for dessert!! My cousins had their other side of the family over to celebrate, and it was really cool to spend time with so many new people for Thanksgiving.

Some of the group at Thanksgiving dinner
Thanksgiving dinner in Italy

I have 100000000001 things to be thankful for this year– especially such great, loving family all around the world, who make it easy to call a different continent home. This Thanksgiving was definitely one I’ll never forget!