How Not to Starve in Spain (And Other Food Abroad Stories)

Keely Meyers is a student at the University of Michigan – Ann Arbor and is an intern in Barcelona this spring. Read about her adventures with food in Spain and how it has unexpectedly impacted her intern abroad experience!


One of the things I was most excited about while traveling abroad was the food. I couldn’t wait to try new things, cook traditional meals, and learn more about the Spanish culture through something I already loved. Food has played an integral part in my experience abroad. All of my experiences surrounding food – the good, the bad, and the ugly – have taught me more about myself and my host culture. 

Chocolate con churros from Cafe de l’Opera
Chocolate con churros from Cafe de l’Opera

Cooking and Eating in Spain

Learning to cook Catalan food has been one of the best parts of enjoying food in Spain. I took a Catalan cooking class as part of the cultural activities through CISabroad and learned how to make traditional foods such as calçots and romesco sauce, artichokes, pan con tomate, paella, crema catalana, and tortilla española. I also got to keep the recipes to take home and impress my family and friends with my new skills and broadened palate.

The culture around food here is much different than it is at home. For example, meal times in Spain are not what I am used to. Here, locals eat a large lunch around two o’clock in the afternoon and take their time, similar to how many Americans eat dinner. The dinners here, on the other hand, are very small and eaten late at night – usually around 10 or 11 o’clock! It took a while to get used to the different eating schedule, but embracing the different mealtimes has made me feel more immersed in the local culture.

Also different from the U.S. is the amount of time devoted to cooking and enjoying food. Spaniards take a lot of pride in preparing their food from the freshest ingredients and enjoying the eating experience with family and friends. There are various mercats around the city – markets where you can find the freshest fruits, vegetables, meats, and seafoods – where locals buy ingredients to cook with. Cooking and eating meals are also much longer processes than they are back home, often lasting multiple hours.

Fresh fruits from Mercat de La Boqueria in Barcelona

Fresh fruits from Mercat de La Boqueria in Barcelona

Trying New Foods

Trying new foods is something that I definitely wanted to do while abroad. One of my rules while traveling has been to never say no to something I was offered – no matter how weird or scary it seemed. Because of my self-enforced rule, I have enjoyed culinary “delights” such as blood sausage, cow intestine, octopus, squid, and anchovies. Even if I hated them, I knew it was important to try new things and embrace local flavors. I have also gone out to new restaurants or been invited over to eat meals with new friends and tried foods I never would have back home, including pho from a traditional restaurant in Paris, authentic Chinese food from a local restaurant in Barcelona, and home-cooked Argentinian asado. I have found some surprising new favorite foods and learned that things I was too scared to eat weren’t actually so bad! (Except anchovies, those were about as bad as they sound.)

Some of my favorite local foods that I have tried have been the tapas. I have tried ham croquetas, pan con tomate, patatas bravas, and many more. I have also enjoyed cava, the Spanish version of champagne, and went on a cava tour with my site director to learn about the history and production process of this regional drink.

Another local eating experience I had here was taking part in a calçotada – a large feast centered around sweet onions called calçots. The process of eating calçots is both messy and fun, and is an important local tradition that I absolutely loved experiencing.

Tapas feast from my welcome lunch with CISabroad
Tapas feast from my welcome lunch with CISabroad

Grocery Shopping

Trying new foods has also come naturally because of the different selection in supermarkets in Barcelona. Brands and even types of food from home are not found here, which has forced me to push myself outside of my comfort zone, craft new recipes, and pick up local habits. When one of those habits includes picking up a fresh-baked baguette daily, I’m not one to complain!

Grocery shopping in Spain was definitely an experience the first time I went. For one thing, the grocery stores are all closed on Sundays and often close much earlier than American supermarkets on weeknights. As a result, my first Sunday in Barcelona also happened to be a very hungry day for me! When I did find an open grocery store the next day, it took a little getting used to. I vividly remember shopping with my roommate, who was searching for milk. Eventually, she had to ask a woman in the store where it was. The woman gave her a confused look and proceeded to point right next to the shelf where the two were standing, not understanding how we didn’t know to look for the milk on the shelf and not in the refrigerated section. Embarrassed, we thanked her and proceeded to the checkout. However, another thing we did not know about grocery shopping in Spain was that grocery bags were not free. We tried to save some money by carrying our groceries home in our arms, struggling and laughing the whole way home. We did not know at the time, but the bags were only 10 cents – definitely worth getting to avoid dropping your eggs on the city streets.

Food has been a huge part of my experience here in Barcelona and has been a way for me to challenge myself to try new things, learn about local customs and cuisine, and immerse myself in the daily life of a local. I have learned to be open to new things, try my hand at cooking once in a while (I’m not quite as terrible as I thought), and use food as a way to connect with people and cultures from around the world.


Want to learn more about how you can have an amazing experience in Spain? It’s easy with CISabroad! 

A Letter From an Intern in China

Living in your comfort zone will kill you. For someone who’s understanding of the Chinese language can be rightly called mediocre, it was intimidating to say the least to intern in China with such a professional and fast-paced company such as Across China (ACC). The company works with large names such as BMW, Audi, and Mercedes-Benz therefore my personal expectations to do my job well were not small. Although my fears were many, I quickly found my rhythm. After all one can only be brave when they are afraid.

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While my work was kept to relatively simple tasks, they remained vital to the success of the project as a whole. Furthermore, the opportunities to prove myself in more difficult tasks were plenty, which proved rewarding as well as motivating towards my work ethic. Aside from the usual duties given to an intern, such as scanning or copying documents and moving things from one place to another, my experience with ACC has given me more opportunities to travel around. Even better, the business trips to different provinces of China to support my team were paid for. This included transportation as well as my accommodation at comfortable hotels. My most recent adventure brought me to the city of Chengdu, the largest city in the Sichuan province. Even though I had to work long hours on-site, I got to see exactly what my company was doing. Extravagant is the word that would describe this larger than life car show, which can also be used to describe the rest of China, which I soon realized lovs to make all things extravagant. I got to see booths from legendary brands like Lamborghini and Aston Martin, among the myriad of other brands which attended this exhibition.

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When I wasn’t working, I was exploring. My colleagues quickly became my friends and tour guides, taking me to local restaurants and famous places. I got to experience first hand the Chinese culture, and more so the plethora of sub-cultures within it. The food was diverse and delicious. Chengdu is known for its spicy cuisine which I was fortunate enough to try many times. I was able to hear the local dialect which differed greatly from the Beijing or Shanghai dialects. Additionally, I felt the uniqueness of Chengdu in its romantic architecture and environment. The buildings were gorgeous and sky scraping. I quickly learned that it is part of the Chinese culture to go out with your supervisors to eat and drink all night, never rejecting their offers and staying up with them until the middle of the night chatting. But even just walking down the streets of Chengdu one can truly feel the dynamic atmosphere and relish in its abundant culture. It was the Paris of China, a genuinely beautiful city.

I owe my enriching experiences in Chengdu to those very same fears I first confronted in working on my own in a foreign country. Your comfort zone will kill you, and I’m so glad I didn’t stay there.

-Richard Lee

Across China Public Relations Intern

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Student Spotlight: Intern in New Zealand

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Meet Alex F from East Stroudsburg University currently on the program, Intern in New Zealand working in the film industry. We recently caught up with her to check-in about her internship goals and to see how things were going. 


 

“Interning abroad has been teaching me a lot about responsibility and decision making. From deciding on which deals are the best at the grocery store to how to design a new project assigned, I am learning more about both myself and the world around me.

I am constantly setting goals for myself, both little and small. Some are as simple as making sure I don’t impulsively buy things while others are more career oriented, such as challenging myself to triple check projects to make sure my work is excellent. It is very important to view assignments from different angles and viewpoints so that is something that I am really enjoying being able to put into practice. Living in another country is a great way to discover who you really are and that has been a very exciting and new discovery.

Each day has its own new goals and challenges and I plan to achieve them by being wise and humble. There is so much that I don’t know and can’t wait to learn.”

 

New Zealand

“The thing to do, it seems to me, is to prepare yourself so you can be a rainbow in somebody else’s cloud. Somebody who may not look like you. May not call God the same name you call God – if they call God at all. I may not dance your dances or speak your language. But be a blessing to somebody. That’s what I think.” Maya Angelou

 

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Scorching Bay – Wellington, New Zealand

You can follow Alex this semester, check out her blog, https://amfnz.wordpress.com

 

Interning Abroad: Do I Choose New Zealand or Australia?

Internships are all about experiences and opportunities, and the world is your oyster when doing it abroad. Interning abroad is a fantastic idea as it demonstrates to future employers your flexibility and adaptability to the work environment–a quality that is prized in almost every field. When deciding whether to intern abroad in Australia or New Zealand, it’s almost impossible to go wrong. Fortunately, the seemingly difficult choice between them comes down to just three F’s: your field, your finances, and your future.

ResearchField

The Field

The first consideration is the type of work you will be doing in your internship. Australia and New Zealand are similar culturally, but the types of businesses you will find in each country vary.

If your internship includes work in ecology, forestry, agriculture, or tourism, then New Zealand is the best destination for you. As one of the most naturally beautiful nations on Earth, New Zealand is a prime tourist destination for people from all over the world. In fact, the tourism industry accounts for nearly 10% of all jobs in New Zealand, and nearly 10% of the nation’s GDP as well. Anyone looking to work in the tourism management or hospitality fields would be hard pressed to find a better location for an internship abroad than New Zealand.

Most of these tourists are drawn to the natural purity New Zealand boast as second to none. As a result, the ecological well-being of the country is central to its economy. Jobs are plentiful in the fields of ecology, natural resource management, and forestry, and the potential learning experience provided by an internship in these fields is world class.

Lastly, agriculture is the largest sector of the New Zealand economy with major production areas in beef and dairy cattle, sheep for wool and meat, and crops such as hay for livestock feeding. Those studying agriculture would be well served by an internship in New Zealand, as many farming techniques utilized by the Kiwis are comparatively different from large scale farming techniques seen in North America.

Australia, on the other hand, is a thoroughly interconnected nation in the global economy, and certainly more so than New Zealand. Since Australia is substantially larger than New Zealand, internship placements here will be much more varied in their topic areas. Internships can be found in just about any field one could find in the United States. Financial sector internships with large, multinational corporations are available in the major cities while positions in the field of zoology and marine biology are plentiful in both urban and rural settings.

Furthermore, positions in science and engineering will tend to be more widely available in Australia. The medical science field can provide an interesting intern experience, allowing for comparisons with the American health care system. Finally, the presence of the large manufacturing companies provide positions in several branches of the engineering sector including chemical, industrial, and civil engineering.

budgetThe Finances

If one nation doesn’t stand out on the merit of the field you are studying, then the cost of living may be a deciding factor. Both countries are thoroughly modern and neither is necessarily better or worse, but there are several key differences. For starters, the cost of living will vary somewhat between the two, as well as between locations within the countries. In New Zealand  the cost of living  may be noticeably cheaper. Keep your eye on the exchange rate.

futureThe Future

The final factor that should be taken into consideration is the simple question, “Why am I doing my internship abroad?” Is your goal to someday move to the country you will be going to, or are you interested in a temporary placement and nothing more? If the latter is true, then Australia may be the better choice with its plentiful multinational corporations. Experience here is very applicable to experience with a US company, and skills acquired can easily be transferred to a career back home. New Zealand, on the other hand, could be the better choice if your goal is to one day return in order to work in your field long term. The compact size of the country allows for more connections between business contacts and the smaller average size of companies means a good internship experience can potentially turn into a concrete job offer, something that is essential to obtaining an immigration visa.


Deciding to complete an internship with CISabroad is a fantastic educational decision. The experience of adjusting to the professional world in another country is a great resume booster, and learning to assimilate to life overseas can prove to be invaluable life skill. If your goal is to intern in Australia or New Zealand then congratulations, you’ve already made a solid choice. Choosing between the two nations is perhaps the most difficult obstacle remaining. When doing so, just keep in mind which country would be best for your F’s: your field, your finances, and your future. If you can come up with an answer for each, then your destination country should quickly become clear.

Still having a hard time making a decision? Call our advisors at CISabroad – 877-617-9090; we can also connect you with our alumni network! We wish you the best of luck in this journey.

 

Going Alone – Insight from an Intern in Costa Rica

Stephanie Pinella, is a graduating 5th year student at Ohio University with a double major in Spanish and Restaurant, Hotel, and Tourism as well as a minor in Business Administration. She is an alumni ambassador of the Intern in Costa Rica program in San José, Costa Rica. We recently ask her to provide student-travel insight:

If you really want to go somewhere, don’t wait for your friends; take the initiative and go by yourself! You don’t have to leave the city or anything; it can be somewhere close by, just don’t be afraid and go do it; you’ll be glad you did!!!

I have to admit, traveling is so much fun with friends. But, without a doubt, there will be times where you want to go somewhere and your friends are either unwilling or unable to go along with you. When that happens, you should try to go there by yourself. Since I’ve been down here in San Jose, I have had the opportunity to visit the local markets as well as some restaurants and museums with friends.

But, there were two places I really wanted to go: Parque Espana and the Jade Museum. I decided that in order to visit these places, I had no choice but to go by myself.
Visiting Parque Espana had two purposes: First, I wanted to be sure that I knew how to get downtown by myself and second, I had previously visited Spain in 2007 and loved it, so when I found out that there was a Parque Espana, of course I had to go and see it! I poured over a map and pinpointed the precise location of the park. On Saturday, I took my iPad that held my map and set off for the park.

Once I got there, I was pleasantly surprised to see that there was some sort of celebration going on. Also at the celebration were a bunch of vendors selling some of their goods. I also had the opportunity to see some dancers do a wonderful performance. This is an opportunity that I would not have had if I had not decided to take the initiative and gone down there.

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Another place I visited on my own was the Jade Museum. This museum had just been relocated to a six floor building and it was totally worth the five bucks that I paid in order to get in. All of the exhibits had descriptions in both English and Spanish, so I tried to read both.

Later on, I became acquainted with one of the security guards. Knowing that I spoke English, he immediately had me go over to one of the guides and had us start a conversation in English. It was kind of weird at first because we are both kind of shy. His intent had been to improve on the guide’s English skills because part of her job was to give an introduction to tour groups, which could be done in either English or Spanish. We ended up getting along and talked about various aspects of our lives, ranging from family to school activities.

If you really want to go somewhere, don’t wait for your friends; take the initiative and go by yourself! You don’t have to leave the city or anything; it can be somewhere close by, just don’t be afraid and go do it; you’ll be glad you did!

Interested in studying or interning abroad? Application deadlines are fast approaching for January and Spring 2015 program. Contact our helpful advising center if you are still deciding on a program. 

Top 10 Travel Writing Prompts

Photo: https://www.flickr.com/photos/37896380@N00/7955441560/

 

Interested in being a travel writer? We’ve found that when students go abroad often times they suddenly found an inspiration that propels them into “blogland.” We have compiled 10 of our favorite travel writing prompts to inspire your next travel writings. Matthew, a current intern in South Africa, recently wrote for the first time after being on an international internship program for 2.5 week. He’s fallen in love. Sometimes love inspires us to write. Shakespeare was king of that idea. Matthew has fallen in love with South Africa, he writes:

So from seeing all the natural beauty this place (South Africa) has to offer, to experiencing local food and the people, I have fallen in love. It also helps that I have made so many friends with the people who I live with. I live with people from all over the world and I can honestly say that I have made friends I know I will have for a lifetime. Everyone is open-minded and is excited to meet new people and try new things. It’s hard to find people like this back home and it has made me feel apart of something bigger than myself for the first time in my life. I feel so much more grounded and have much more clarity being here and I couldn’t have asked for a better experience. I’m so excited to see what is in store the next 5 in a half weeks. I love and miss all my friends and family dearly, but we will see each other soon enough!

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Writing helps synthesize cultural adaptation, process foreign experiences, and document the changes that are happening right in front of our eyes! At CISabroad we love to read our student’s expressive writing and we’ve compiled a list of top ten writing prompts for a successful travel blog while studying abroad.

1. Write freely. Grammar and editing can come later. Sit down and just write for one minute without stopping.

2. Find a local busy coffee shop and describe the scene around you.

3.  Have you fallen in love with a destination, new tradition, or new language? Tell the world about it!

4. Pick one new thing you learned today. Tell the world.

5. Describe an obstacle you overcame.

6. Tell a story about the people you are traveling with or people you have met.

7. What tips do you want to share with other travelers?

8. Write about your favorite dish or snack  from where you are and how it is prepared.

9. Write about the most amazing moment of your trip so far.

10. Share your #ootd. What is the ideal outfit to wear in your location?

Comment below with links to your blogs!

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Photo: flickr

Adios, Barcelona!

Ashanka Kumari is a featured blogger who is currently an intern in Barcelona, Spain. My last day in Spain began with the usual breakfast of toast. Yes, I’ve literally had toast for the last 40 days of my stay in Spain. The jams have been varied and occasionally I have been given the option of cream cheese. Sometimes I get two pieces of toast with a sandwich (either just cheese or turkey and cheese) on the side or I get four pieces of toast. I must say, I am craving cereal and other breakfast foods. However, a small part of me will miss the regularly expected toast. After breakfast, I mentally planned out my packing and then waited around until I went to have my final lunch in Barcelona on the top of Las Arenas with another intern. It was cool to finally get to eat on top of one of my favorite sites in the city. I had a lovely lunch of some tapas and guacamole. Afterwards, we went to the bottom floor of Las Arenas where there are many cafes and restaurants and got some delicious ice cream! Following my lunch trip, I went back to my home stay for about two hours before going to see another intern perform in a dance show. It was really cool to attend the show and see all the different contemporary dances. My friend did a fantastic job performing! Finally, I took the metro for the last time and returned to my home stay to shower and pack before dinner. Packing took me about 30-45 minutes since I had already mentally prepared for it and I believe I have everything minus a few small things ready to go for the morning. Dinner consisted of one of the best pork cutlets I’ve ever had! It was even stuffed with bacon, which was absolutely delicious. These last six weeks have been an incredible journey and I will never forget my time in Barcelona. It’s hard to believe that this is my last day. This evening, my host mother and roommate and I went to La Nena, as per my choice to celebrate my birthday and my last day. My host mother gave me beautiful earrings as a gift and she treated my roommate and I to some drinks. We stayed for about two hours enjoying a variety of conversation topics and laughs. It was really fun and I’m glad that I got to end my last night in Barcelona this way. My flight leaves at 11:20 a.m. and I will pack my computer and final things up before going to bed soon to rest up for the long day ahead. Adios, Barcelona. I will definitely miss you! Have you ever been to Barcelona and what did you enjoy most? Leave a comment below!

CISabroad Featured Student: Ilse, Intern in Barcelona

Ilse DIlse D. Ilse is a 21-year old student Worcester State University student who took her internship with us through our Intern in Barcelona program. What classes did you take while abroad? While I was abroad I did an internship at BEdeluxe, a start-up internet company that specialized in luxury discount goods, services and experiences. It was a small office of less than twenty employees and a young office, launched in May of 2011. What was your favorite class and why? My favorite thing about my internship was the experience that I was able to get while working in the marketing department. I loved being able to strengthen my Spanish skills with my co-workers and learning what it was like to work in a foreign country, while also learning the ins and outs of marketing. It was cool to see how such a young company goes about day to day business and seeing some of my translations on the website was an awesome feeling! What type of accommodation did you have? Did you like it? While in Barcelona I stayed in a two bedroom apartment with international students. I really liked living in the apartment; it gave me a sense of independence and allowed me to learn about the city as well as other international students. I spent a semester in Valencia with a host family, so it was nice to see the other aspect of living abroad. What do you miss the most about your host country? The thing I miss most about my host country is the culture. It is so different in Spain and I love the way they stress the importance of family and friends over there. Barcelona is such an interesting city with so much to offer culturally, and I really miss waking up every day and learning something new about the amazing city. Food is definitely a close second! What was your most challenging travel experience? Some of my friends and I went to Amsterdam for a weekend getaway and were supposed to meet my Uncle at the airport. He had sent a driver to pick us up and told us where to go, but when we arrived the driver was nowhere in sight! None of us knew the address of the hotel we were staying at and were getting very worried after we called to see where the driver was and he still was not there. Luckily after about a half hour of searching, we found him and arrived at the hotel safely. For the time it was scary feeling stranded in a foreign country not knowing where we were supposed to go! What are five things you packed that you wish you hadn’t? My hair dryer, hair straightener, hair products, high heels and towels What are five things you didn’t pack that you wish you had? MONEY, books, rain gear, medicine, a fan Is there anything else you’d like to add? Given the chance, I would go back to Barcelona in a heartbeat! I wish I had more semesters left in college because I would definitely go abroad again. It was one of the best experiences of my life and I miss it everyday. I was able to learn a lot about the great city of Barcelona, and also a lot about myself as well. Interning abroad has opened up a lot of doors for my future and I am so thankful I was lucky enough to experience it!