William Imeson (Valencia, Feb. 23)

I have been in Valencia for a little over a month now and it’s finally beginning to feel almost normal. The initial shock of waking up in the mornings and realizing that I’m halfway around the world has worn off, and now I’ve settled into a fairly standard weekly routine. I have classes from Monday through Thursday, and these three day weekends are fantastic. The UVA center here offers 90-minute Spanish classes twice a week that feel pretty similar to the classes at HSC.

Each morning, I have three options for travel to get to class. I can walk, take the bus, or ride a bike. Valencia has a system called Valenbisi, which allows people with a pass to rent a bike for half an hour. There are over one hundred in the city, so after I bought my pass, I can ride these around Valencia freely as long as I return it before the time expires. This is my main method of transportation. I live about forty walking minutes from the school, but the bike cuts that time in half. I bike to school through Turia River, which is a huge park system that goes through the middle of the city and is one of my favorite places in Valencia. It used to be an actual river, but it kept overflowing and damaging the surrounding area. The city diverted the water and turned the riverbed into a long park, filled with palm trees, grass, and flowers. I live pretty close to Turia and it’s a good short cut to get to school. Turia River has several skate parks, soccer and rugby fields, and is always full of people biking, jogging, and walking.


I live in an apartment in the middle of the city with my host mother and one of her sons, who happens to be my age. It’s actually a pretty large apartment and we have plenty of space. The apartment is long and narrow, and has a nice living room that overlooks the street. Unfortunately, carpeting isn’t big in this country and the floor is easily the coldest tile my bare feet have ever rested on. Luckily, my host mother gifted me a pair of Homer Simpson slippers. The Simpsons are pretty popular here, but it’s a huge shock to the ears to watch it on television and hear the iconic voices dubbed over in Spanish.

I wake up every morning and eat a light breakfast while my host mother packs me a sandwich to take to school. I come back around two o’clock in the afternoon for a larger meal and finish off the day with a big dinner around nine at night. It’s a bit of a strange schedule to me, but it’s not too hard to transition into. Not a single meal passes where I don’t eat an absurd amount of bread. I’d say that my diet here consists mostly of bread and meats, which I don’t have a problem with.

Overall, I’ve had a great first month in Valencia! I look forward to what my next three months will bring!

William Duncan (February, Barcelona)

It already feels like I’ve been in Barcelona much longer than one month. As I’m notoriously bad with directions, I shocked myself with how quickly I learned my way around the city. I didn’t get much practice with using the metro in my home town of Pinehurst, North Carolina. My first time ever on a metro was a week after Christmas in order to pick up my Spanish visa for this trip. Now that I live in a city where my primary source of transportation is the metro, I purchased the T-Jove pass, which is a three-month long pass. At 105 Euros (I never thought that I would think more in Euros than Dollars), it’s much cheaper than getting individual one-month passes, and now I don’t need to worry about running out of uses.


It turns out that I’m in the minority in regards to traveling to Barcelona to study without coming with friends. From what I’ve seen so far, many people will stick mostly to the friend groups that they came with, but just as many people are happy to let you in. I’ve met people from all over the United States here, and they all have very different styles of living. It’s been fun to talk to everybody about their lifestyles at different, and larger, universities (most people enjoy listening to me talk about Hampden-Sydney just as much as I enjoy hearing about their experiences). It has been a great experience for me. I have really gotten to know myself better—I’m learning what types of people I enjoy being around, how I handle new experiences, and how I fit into a huge city. I’ve made some friends who I hope that I can stay in contact with for a long time.

What aids in building friendships quickly is travel. I recently visited Rome, Italy and fell in love with the city. The food there cannot be described justifiably. We all devoured traditional pasta dishes with fresh cheese, we had seafood that was caught that same morning, and of course, we had pizza. We visited Vatican City, which left me speechless. The amount of history and artwork in the Sistine Chapel and in the Vatican Museum could easily take days to get through and to fully appreciate. I’m sure that none of us will forget that trip. Traveling and being in a country even more foreign than Barcelona was such a humbling and bonding experience for our group. In the end, I practically had to be forced on to the plane back to Barcelona and away from all the amazing food.

Taylor Anctil (Provence, March 4)

My walk from home to school takes about twenty minutes if I walk leisurely, but I can get to or from campus in twelve minutes if I’m walking at a quick pace. No matter the day, I thoroughly enjoy the walk from home to school and back again.

I have probably taken fifteen different routes to school, but there are three main routes that I take regularly. The first is very much “as the crow flies,” and I use this route when I’m running late or need to get to town in a hurry. My second route is my favorite because it takes me through les marches (the markets).

Every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, the markets set up outside the Palais du Justice and L’glise de St. Madeleine. Fruit and vegetable booths stand outside the church, the antiques and collectibles market is outside the Palais du Justice, and clothing stands are around the corner. The markets make for a really nice walk, because there are a lot of people in the area and plenty to look at.

The market has every scent imaginable: the crispness of roasting garlic, the scents of lavender, perfumes and spices, and the earthy aroma of vegetables in the morning sun. I believe that there is no better way to start the morning than a stroll through the town, where one can hear the hustle and bustle of people.

There aren’t many open air markets in the United States—everybody goes everywhere by car, and we lose a lot when we travel in this fashion. I think that a lot more people would walk in the States if there were places like Aix-en-Provence to walk through. There is always something to look at here; there is always a shop window, a stand, or a building worth looking at ahead of you that you may even forget that you were walking. I like the feeling that I am engaged with the world and the people around me as I walk to school through the markets.

The third way is a route I take with my friend Alexis when we get coffee in the mornings on Mondays and Wednesdays. I meet up with her at a bus stop, and then we walk to our favorite café. After an hour or two of talking, we head off to attend to our daily businesses.

The apartment I live in is about a six-minute walk from the center of the city. I live with a married couple, Christine and Philippe, and one other student, Joshua. I really enjoy living with them. Philippe speaks only French and thus, I always have somebody to speak French with. Chris is English and we get along well. I typically get up early (despite my late start classes), so I see her in the mornings while she gets ready for work.

I couldn’t be happier with my personal room! I have a double bed, which is a real treat. Words could not express my excitement when I first learned that I would have such a big bed. As a big guy who has always slept in a narrow bed, this is quite the luxury.

Living here isn’t too different from back in the US. I come home from school, settle myself in the kitchen with a drink, and talk about whatever comes up with whomever is in the kitchen with me. This isn’t much of a change from how I normally live.

Luckily for me, I didn’t forget to pack anything significant, nor did I over-pack. My biggest regret was my last-minute decision to pack my dress slacks instead of my corduroy pants. This has proved to be my biggest blunder, and the cause of much anguish and sorrow on my part (to be entirely melodramatic about it)! I have yet to wear the slacks, while I have repeatedly found myself wanting to wear my corduroys. Quelle catastrophe!

When I realized the gravity of my mistake, I checked the local thrift shops to see if they had any similar pants. They actually didn’t have any pants long enough to fit me, so now I’m stuck with a pair of pants that I don’t have reason to wear that will be a constant reminder of my mistake.

Quentin Smith (Reflection on New Zealand)

My twenty-first birthday is easily the most memorable birthday that I will probably ever have, but not for the reason that many other people would say. On that day, I landed in New Zealand for my study abroad adventure and my first time outside the United States. The first few days at orientation were incredible—we were all exposed to some of the New Zealand landscape, the wildlife, and the food relatively quickly. After a short period at orientation, my group elected another gentleman and me to represent them all as chiefs at a traditional Maori marae, or meeting house. I was blown away by the opportunity, and I’ll never forget the experience of speaking in Maori to Maori elders.


Once I arrived in Dunedin, the city that I called home for the next four months, I really started to enjoy the country. I was living in a flat with three other students, purchased groceries and cooked for myself, paid for electricity, and had more than one fight with one of my flatmates about whether or not to use the dryer (the clothesline was perfectly functional, but Dunedin cold and rainy for most of my stay). Throughout the semester, IFSA-Butler treated the whole group to different excursions: a murder-mystery dinner party, volunteering at an eco-sanctuary, a rafting trip, and an overnight cruise in the beautiful Doubtful Sound in the Fiordlands.


During my time in New Zealand, my Norwegian friends taught me how to say one particular curse word, my Swedish friends went jogging with me, my Kiwi friends got me to more fully appreciate the simpler things, my many German hostel-mates  made me laugh, and my American friends became closer than I could have imagined. I’ve never felt more connected to other parts of the world, and transversely, I’ve never felt more at home. Ever since I left New Zealand, I’ve felt an immitigable desire to return. I feel out of place back at Hampden-Sydney. Hopefully my girlfriend, who I met on my twenty-first birthday, and I will return there someday soon.

Thomas Bourne (Dublin, Feb. 22)

Hello again, Hampden-Sydney! I just got back from a long weekend trip in Slovakia and Austria. I skipped by Friday class to fly to Slovakia, where I immediately was faced with a challenge—the language difference. I wasn’t sure how to react, so I figured that the safest thing for me to do was find my hotel first. I had no idea how to navigate through the city because all of the road signs were in Slovak. I eventually found it and checked in, then spent the evening walking around the old city. The old buildings looked amazing and there were a lot of little cute shops around. I didn’t explore for very long because I had to get up early to get to Vienna.

In the morning I left for Austria, and the trip was lovely. I decided to ride the train to Vienna, and I was rewarded by views of the beautiful countryside. It looked like something straight out of a movie! When I arrived, I didn’t get as much of a culture shock as I did when I got to Slovakia, but it was still present. The biggest change between Bratislava, where I stayed in Slovakia, and Vienna was how much more advanced and modern the city was. The train station was massive in comparison.


I finally set out to explore the city, and it was stunning. The imperial palace at the center of the city took my breath away. Unfortunately, the museums in the area were rather expensive, so I didn’t get to tour any. My stomach started rumbling, so my next objective was to find dinner. It hadn’t occurred to me that it was Valentine’s Day, so many of the restaurants I tried to get into were booked, but I eventually found an Italian place for the evening.

The next day, I spent the day hiking through the hills surrounding Vienna. On one of the peaks, I found a quaint little alpine village with an incredible view. I made my way back into the city, and that night I went to a Mozart concert in one of the royal palaces. Overall, the trip was fantastic. That being said, when I got back home to Dublin, I was glad to be somewhere familiar.


Thomas Bourne (Dublin, Feb. 10)

Hello, my friends! I hope all is well back on the Hill. I can’t believe that the semester is already flying by; it feels like just yesterday that I arrived in Dublin. UCD Dublin so far is great, but nothing can compare to good ‘ol HSC. Since arriving in Dublin, I have missed a couple of things. The first are my friends back at Hampden-Sydney. When Hampden-Sydney says that the friendships you make there last forever, they’re right! I wish my friends were here to experience everything. Besides missing my friends, the one other part of HSC that I miss very much is, surprisingly, The Moans. I never thought that those words would come out of my mouth, but they have! Cooking for myself has been a struggle. I know how to cook, and the food comes out great when I do, but I can’t get myself to cook very often. What The Moans does for us is amazing, and my respect for them has grown since being away from campus. Since we are on the topic of food, I really wish I brought pretzels. The only pretzels that I have found in the store have been rather expensive for how much food I actually get. I asked my dad if he would be able to send me some—he said that they should be here in six to eight days, but that’s just way too long for me.


The Sunderland EPL game

In my last entry, I said that I was going to attend an English Premier League game soon. I went to the Sunderland game and it was amazing! Sunderland won the game by two goals and the atmosphere of the crowd after the game was unbelievable. That day, my group and I went to explore Newcastle, England. We met a nice couple who we talked with for several hours. That experience is something that I will never forget, since this was the first time that my friends and I were able to sit down and really talk to some locals. The couple introduced us to some of their friends, one of whom was a former Oxford Professor. I told the professor that I was hoping to participate in the Virginia Program at Oxford (VPO), and he looked so excited. He started listing off things so many things for me to remember about Oxford, but I’m not sure if I’ll be able to remember all of it!

William Duncan (Barcelona, Jan. 23)

While choosing to attend Hampden-Sydney College was a difficult decision to make, the decision to determine my study abroad location to be Barcelona, Spain proved to be oven more challenging. As I don’t know what I want to do after college, I have been set on studying abroad for some time now. I’m biased towards warmer weather, so I knew I wanted to be somewhere close to water and in a warm climate. I had never been out of the country before and I knew I wanted to see Europe, but I was unsure where I wanted to spend the majority of my time. However, my selection process might have been a little different from others who chose to study abroad. I had to complete one more level of Spanish for my core curriculum requirements, so I began to narrow down places where I could take Spanish classes. Then, I looked at climate, culture, history, and environment, rather than at specific programs. I wanted the best cultural experience, rather than the best study abroad program. After comparing Madrid, Valencia, and Barcelona, I decided that Barcelona met my requirements for what I was looking for in a host city. This masterfully designed metropolis, full of historic artwork and architecture by the famous Gaudi, inhabits the shore of the beautiful Costa Brava and is the capital of the passionate Catalonians. While Madrid and Valencia both are fantastic options, I felt Barcelona was the place I needed to call home on this eye opening experience.

When I was planning for my trip abroad, I saw that Barcelona had a heavily athletic aspect of the city. Being an avid sports fan, this called to me: I am dying to attend a game in the historic Camp Nou stadium to watch one of the richest fútbol clubs in the world, F. C. Barcelona. I can’t wait to see the best player in the world without requiring a television—Lionel Messi. I want to be engrossed with the fans and experience the same passion that they feel, I want to bear the bitter cold temperatures in the signature Barcelona scarves to watch their famous blue and red jerseys fight for victory, I want to be at a small, local bar, cheering Neymar Jr. on to net another flashy goal. As a foreigner, how else am I supposed to truly absorb what it’s like to live in Barcelona?

Barcelona’s stunning coast called to me as well. I work as a sailing instructor for Camp Sea Gull in Arapahoe, North Carolina, but I’m sacrificing that summer work in order to experience sailing off the coast of Spain. I wanted to be somewhere where I could share my passion for this sport with. Barcelona has such a rich sailing culture. Its ports are lined with an excess of sailboats: day sailors, schooners, and massive yachts bob gently in the harbor. I feel like this is a reasonable substitute for my summer job.

Regardless of the endless experiences that Barcelona has to offer, I will admit that I was extremely nervous upon arrival. I am the only Hampden-Sydney student in Barcelona. I knew nobody in my abroad program. My biggest fear was that I might not meet enough people to be comfortable in this new environment. Not only am I not a great speaker of Spanish, but I have never lived in a city as large as Barcelona. One can imagine the culture shock of going abroad for the first time, but an unexpected culture shock was added when I realized how large Barcelona actually is… then again, that’s not saying much when compared to Farmville.

I made my biggest fear my main goal for my time in Barcelona: I want to meet new people from different places. I have lived in the Southeast United States for all of my life, and while I love it more than anything, I think that I should expand my horizons and meet people from many places around the world. I feel that being able to open myself up to new people is a trait that I will be able to use for the rest of my life. Two weeks into the program, I have found that there are many other students who are looking to do the same. I have found a fun group of friends who are from all around the country and are looking to experience Barcelona culture in the same ways that I am. They bring different outlooks on life and their different passions make this experience more exciting. I would not think to try some of the things we’ve experienced if not for these new friends and I could not be more excited to see what else Barcelona and the rest of Europe have to offer with my new friends at my side.

William Imeson (Valencia, January 16)

William Imeson (Valencia, January 16)

I have now been in Valencia for almost a week and it is already far more than I could have ever anticipated. As I prepared for the trip, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, other than the basic cultural differences that come with visiting another country. I knew that I would be taking some classes with my program and that I would be with other students my age. I knew that Valencia has two official languages: Spanish and Valencian. I knew that people in Spain eat different kinds of food at different times of the day. But aside from these basic understandings, I really don’t have any preset notions of what my semester here would be like. I will just let my experience in Spain and with my study abroad program play out and see where it takes me.

I always knew that if I studied abroad, I would want to go to a Spanish speaking country. I have studied Spanish for about eight years, and I wanted to be able to put that practice to good use. For the record, I don’t speak Valencian at all, but it isn’t too terribly different from Spanish if you can make a few educated guesses at words that are similar to Spanish. I chose to travel to Spain because there are a lot of good study abroad programs for this country and because I wanted to return to Europe. I went to Europe as a child and I felt compelled to go back. I eventually decided on the University of Virginia Hispanic Studies Program at Valencia because it is a language-intensive program and I heard positive reviews about it from previous students in this program.


The two things I look forward to most are travelling around Spain and improving my Spanish. I sometimes forget that the United States is still an infant compared to these ancient European countries. Spain has been around for so long and history can be seen all around the country. There’s something intriguing about walking around an old city and feeling its age beneath your shoes (side note: I also don’t mind that Valencia averages about 65° Fahrenheit during the day in winter). Although I would certainly enjoy learning some Valencian, I don’t know if I will be here long enough to pack two languages into my brain. The first couple of days have been a jet-lag induced whirlwind, but now that I have been here for a while, I have started to acclimate and will start my classes soon. While I wouldn’t say that I’m dying for them to start, I’m sure it will be nice to finally get out of Morton and Bagby.

Thomas Bourne (Dublin, January 16)

Hello from the Emerald Isle! I’m really thankful to Hampden-Sydney College for giving me the chance to fulfill my dream of traveling to Ireland. One might ask: why would I pick Ireland instead of somewhere like Germany, Spain, or Australia. The answer is fairly simple—history. The history engrained in Ireland is both mystifying and rich. The preservation of the Catholic Church at the fall of the Roman Empire and the multitude of bloody battles over centuries for Irish independence are two fine examples of the history of this fine country. However, history was not the only factor in my decision to study in Ireland. The vast and beautiful natural world that Ireland offers, with rolling green hills and spectacular cliffs, appeals to my love for nature and to my Environmental Studies minor.

Now that I’m in Ireland, the long wait for classes to start has begun. My biggest fear is how different these classes will be from Hampden-Sydney College. When I got to University College Dublin (UCD Dublin) on Tuesday, I walked around campus to soak in the atmosphere. The campus is huge and really spread out; I have to walk way further to get to my classes here than I did at HSC. Another big difference is the environment for classes: instead of small classrooms,  UCD Dublin uses theaters that seat nearly three hundred students. Hopefully my anxiety for these changes subsides, but we’ll have to wait and see.


I’m trying to plan a trip to Sunderland, England to watch the Sunderland A.F.C. (Go, Black Cats!) face Burnley F.C.. Hopefully, this won’t be the only time I travel; I hope to travel to Iceland, Norway, Denmark, and Germany and see more of our incredible natural world.

Taylor Anctil (Provence, Jan 25.)

Hello everybody, it’s Taylor S. Anctil reporting from Provence, France. I chose to come to France because I thought it was high time I took my study of the French culture and language seriously. I chose the IAU College program because it offered several courses that would contribute to my major and because I would be residing with a French family.


During my time in France, I am most especially looking forward to exploring all of the nearby villages. I already have my bus pass and my travel companion, therefore I shall be reporting back soon with inside knowledge of all the neat spots to visit and out-of-the-way places.

There is really not all that much that I am nervous about. My rather gung ho personality and way of facing the world leave little time to think and get nervous about the experience itself. If I had to choose something, I would say that I am most nervous about my inability to speak with French women—my inability to speak French fluently, that is. I can communicate well enough with my host family and my teachers, but as soon as I go into a store or café, I get so flustered and mixed up that you can hardly get two coherent sentences out of me! The girls are just so pretty and speak so quickly that I hardly know on which to place my concentration: the girls or the language.

I mentioned earlier, my goals are to study the French culture, learn the language, eat, drink, and be as merry as possible (and squeeze a few classes in as well). I want to be so comfortable by the end of my stay here that I am mistaken for a local—that would be the best goal to achieve.