It has been one week since I left the U.S. to embark on a journey to Valencia, Spain; here, I will be studying with the University of Virginia. Since this is my third time studying abroad, I was not nervous to be in a foreign country for an extended period of time; instead, I was excited. After landing in Valencia, and running on four hours of sleep, my host sister picked me up from the local soccer stadium, la Mestalla. She immediately started speaking Spanish and I quickly flipped the switch in my head from English to Spanish as I understood every fifth word she spoke. We arrived at a small apartment, located in downtown Valencia, and ate a very large delicious lunch before walking around the area. I was greeted with a big hug after my host mother arrived home from working as a nurse at the local hospital. Next, she took me on a walk around the neighborhood and pointed out the great bars and cafés nearby. I quickly discovered that the neighborhood where I was going to spend the next four months is lively and will be the perfect setting for an incredible experience.
Two days later, UVA took all of the students on a day trip to visit the classical city of Xátiva—where I hiked to the top of the old castle. The bus ride was only an hour long and the group was greeted by a local who the school had hired to give us a tour of the city. The walkways were very narrow, but we slowly hiked up through the town to the old castle that once stood at the top of the hill. On the way up, we stopped to walk into and examine an old ice cellar. It was located deep beneath the ground and had a long dark corridor through the hillside to access the main freezer corridor. Afterwards, the tour guide pushed us forward as we climbed the top of the hill to the base of the castle. The group was given three hours of free time to explore the grounds and eat our “bocadillos” which our host mothers prepared.
I chose to keep hiking up the hill to the tallest point of the castle where I was greeted by an astonishing view of the town, countryside, and hills in the surrounding area. I remained at the peak for the rest of the duration and took in the beautiful view as I enjoyed my lunch.
After one week here, in the beautiful city of Valencia, I have already traveled to a new town and visited many magnificent sights. I am optimistic for the next four months and have recently planned a trip to Barcelona for this upcoming weekend.