Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Spanish Television and Why I Love It

Spain may not be known for having a bustling entertainment business, but there is just something about Spanish television that I love.  There are both national channels, that are broadcast all over Spain and regulated by the government, as well as channels specific to the different communities in Spain that are regulated by (and broadcast in) that community.

The biggest difference I have seen from American television, is that there are not (usually) hundreds of channels that end up being unused.  The most popular channels in Spain are Telecinco, La 1, Antena 3, Cuatro, and La Sexta.  My boyfriend would always tell me that channels one through six are the most important, and at his house you can always guarantee that when you turn on the TV one of those channels will be on.

As for the programs themselves, most of the young Spanish people know watch mainly American scripted series: House, Family Guy, Bones, Simpsons, How I Met Your Mother, Game of Thrones, etc.   Spain does have many great drama and comedy series but I personally have not found a Spanish comedy show that I'm a huge fan of (yet).  The Spanish shows the majority of my friends do watch are usually game shows, travel series, news programs, and dramas.
Pulseras Rojas, source

I love the lack of reality television in Spanish broadcasting and love how it is a shared family activity.  It's something that is watched all together at the end of the day and on the weekends.  On Sundays when my boyfriend's grandfather came for lunch we would all always watch the movies aired in the afternoon.  It's also an added bonus that watching TV in Spanish is a great way to practice the language and learn about Spanish culture.  A lot of these series can be watched en directo (live) or with old episodes on the channels' respective websites.  I try to keep up with as many as possible!  Here are some of the Spanish series that are my favorite to watch:

Games Shows:

My three favorite game shows are Pasapalabra, Atrapa un Millón, and Ahora Caigo.  Pasapalabra is a game with two contestants that are helped by Spanish celebrities.  They spend most of the show competing in various word style games to earn more time for the final challenge, where they are given a definition and must give the word being defined.  To win they have to successfully name all 25 words (they don't use all of the words in the Spanish alphabet) correctly in the time available.  This show is probably the most difficult for me to follow as the games are very challenging, especially the final challenge.

Atrapa un Millón is my favorite of these three game shows.  The contestants work together to get through the different levels and each level they must choose between two categories.   Before they know the question they will be asked (it somehow relates to the category, but not always how you would think) they are given multiple answers.  Once the questions is given they must place their money on which answer they think is right (it's possible to split among several answers).  If it's wrong they lose their money on the wrong answer, but if right they keep it and move up the levels. It may sound confusing but watch for yourself, but it's a great show!
Atrapa un millón, source

Ahora Caigo, source

Another game show I enjoy is Ahora Caigo.  It's a fun show to watch as contestants that answer incorrectly are literally dropped from the trapdoor where they are standing!  The main contestant stands in the middle while the rest circle him/her.  The center contestant then chooses one of the others to compete against.  They go back and forth having to answer a question correctly in a certain time period.  The main contestant has three 'lives' but if any of the other contestants gets the answer wrong, they are dropped through the trapdoor and the center contestant gets the money that dropped contestant had.


Pulseras Rojas (Polseres Vermelles) is a Catalan drama about a group of children and teenagers who befriend each other as patients in the children's ward of a hospital.  The show deals with many issues including friendship, the children coming to terms with why they're hospitalized, and the dynamics of the group they form; the pulseras rojas, or red bands they wear as patients.  It's a very moving show, dealing with the different reasons why the children are in the hospital (childhood cancer, anorexia, severe accidents, etc.) and how these children seek to thrive and overcome the adversity they're faced with.  And if you don't know Spanish (or Catalan, the show's original langauge) there are currently plans for the show to have an American remake, adapted by Steven Spielberg.

Gran Hotel, source
Gran Hotel could most closely be described as the Spanish version of Downton Abbey.  It takes place at a hotel at the turn of the century and details the lives of those that own, work at, live in, and visit the Grand Hotel.  The series has all the drama and intrigue of Downton Abbey, and will keep you guessing on what twist will come next.  Also, Gran Hotel is largely filmed at the beautiful Palacio de la Magdalena in Santander so it's a double win for me because I adore the palace and accompanying park.


Callejeros Viajeros is a travel show where the hosts travel to different countries to learn about the experience of living in the visited area through the eyes of both Spanish expatriates and the country's natives.  It gives a very interesting look into the different aspects of living in each country and city they visit.  While I do enjoy watching the ones of new places I have yet to travel, I particularly enjoy watching the episodes about places I've been to or places I know a lot about to see what they make of it and if I'm able to understand.

The show Españoles en el Mundo, is about the places Spaniards are living throughout the world.   They visit the different countries and cities to look at the lives and cultural experiences of these expatriates as they live abroad.  The shows often end with the same question, when will they return to Spain?  As someone trying to move to Spain, it's interesting to see Spaniards that have left their native country to start life somewhere new too.

Guilty Pleasure:

Where the previously mentioned shows generally have intelligent conversation, correct Spanish, and can offer some kind of educational benefit, my favorite guilty pleasure to watch is the Spanish dating show Mujeres y Hombres y Viceversa.  My friends judge me all the time for watching this 'trashy' tv, but I can't help it; it makes me laugh!  In this dating show there are two sessions, one where there are two male tronistas and the other where there two females.  Tronistas are the protagonists of the show, the people 'looking for love' from their pretendientes (or contestants who enter to try and date them).  It's full of drama, scandal, and often out-right ridiculous contestants.  Mujeres y Hombres y Viceversa may not be award-winning television, but it sure is entertaining.

[Update 11/2013] New Shows that I've fallen in love with since living in Spain have been that you all should check out:

  • Tu Cara Me Suena
  • Natural Frank
  • La Voz
  • Vive Cantando

Do enjoy Spanish television too?  What Spanish shows do you recommend?

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Surviving Life After College

It's getting to be that time of year...  College graduation time.

All over the country college seniors are finalizing all their projects, essays, theses, and internships while preparing for their plunge into the adult world.  A lot of my graduating friends have mentioned how scared they are to take this giant step, and that's normal!  Graduating college is a scary thing.  I remember last year at this time, with only a few weeks remaining of my senior year, feeling excited, afraid, and anxious all at the same time.  All of this mixed with relief that you're almost done with all those years of school, a dash of excitement that you're finally on the road to starting your real life, and more fear at the fact that 'Oh crap.  You're actually starting your real life!'  But don't worry; it's not as bad as you think!  I promise that you will get through it and who knows, you may even enjoy your post-college life more!  To help you along here are my tips on surviving life after college (in no particular order):

Have Working Goals and Plans

One big piece of pre-graduation advice is to have some working goals or plans in your head on what you want to do after college, both short-term and (relatively) long-term.  Many choose graduate school right out of college, some already have careers lined up, but the majority fall into the 'I have no idea what I'm doing with my life now.'  To help answer that dreaded question: 'so what are you going to do in the fall?' it's important to start thinking of the options out there.  My main goal after graduation was to move to Spain the following year with one of the English teaching programs I had researched [Auxiliares de Conversación, BEDA, UCETAM, CIEE (offered in 7 countries), and Fulbright ETA (offered globally, check site for details)].
With all of this in mind I knew I would have to start planning for the applications, start saving money for the initial living expenses abroad, save for student loans payments while abroad, and gain as much experience as possible beforehand.  I planned my budget around what I wanted to do and found enough jobs to cover the expenses I estimated I would need to put my plans into action.  Because I had these working goals in mind so early I am nearly saved up for the flight to Spain, the first three months abroad (in case of payment issues), and my student loan payments for next year.  Remember, it doesn't need to be set goals or plans.  I started out with the idea of going abroad and then worked out how I could make it possible!  If you have your mind set on something you can make it work too!

Get a Job (Any Job)

That leads into this piece of advice: get a job.  Easier said than done right?  Unfortunately it may not be a dream job in your career but any job is better than no job.  And three jobs are better than one job, right...?  Before you graduate see if the career services office at your university can look over your resume, go to as many job fairs as you can, and if all else fails find some job(s) that help you get by until you kick butt all the way to your dream job.  I graduated with a degree in elementary education and history and I applied for multiple teaching jobs upon graduation but was not chosen (I guess it's difficult when 300+ people applied for one position...), instead I continued with my goals set on Spain and looked for other jobs in the education/childcare field.

I finally decided to take the traditional route to becoming a full-time teacher and applied to be a substitute teacher in different school districts.  On top of that I was hired to be the site director of an after-school program run by the local YMCA, it's not perfect but it works for me because I can still sub in the morning and once a week I work the desk at the Y for my free gym membership.  Try to find something (anything) in your desired field to gain experience and if it's not enough, find another job to help make ends meet until a better offer comes along.  Those pesky student loans won't pay themselves!

Organize and Understand Your Student Loans/Debt

Oh student loans, the bane of my existence.  At best they can be confusing and at worst they just make you want to burst into tears.  If you can, get some loan counseling from your university before you graduate.  Start looking at the terms and policies of your student loans; know when your grace period ends, estimate your monthly payments, know what your interest rates are, look into payment plans/deferrals/forbearance if you do not have enough for the monthly payments.  Familiarize yourself with the websites that your loans are based out of so that when you do have to make the payments you know what you'll have to do.  If you can afford to make some payments before your grace period ends to help pay down the principal balance.

I have all government loans and I chose to have the payments drafted from my bank account directly so I don't forget any payments, it had the added bonus that this payment method reduces my interest rates by .25%.  If you start looking at your loans now it won't be so frustrating months from now when you have to start those painful payments!

Create a Budget

I cannot say enough how important it is to create a good working budget.  A good budget will help you organize your finances, keep you on track for your saving goals, and help you retain your sanity as the reality of student loans/debt hits you like a high-speed train.  There are many different budget templates on the internet and most banks may offer some on their websites/locations too.  Find one that works for your life and saving needs.  If your first budgeting attempt doesn't work, don't stick with that template.  I am constantly changing the format of my budget to better suit my needs.  Budgets are meant to make your life easier, not stress you out more.  I think it is most important to consider your income, bills, emergency funds, monthly necessities and saving needs prior to leisure/spending money.  Once what you know what you owe or how much you have to save up for, then you can see how much you have left to spend on going out and entertainment purposes.  That way you can keep from overspending.

Don't Let the Post-Grad Blues Get You Down

Adjusting to life after college is not easy.  Many of us went from living in a dorm or with friends to moving back home with our families.  You lose that sense of community, your independence, and your own private space.  The transition from college life to the 'real world' often leaves us with some good old post-grad blues wondering why did we think graduation was good?  What do you do now with your life?  It's hard to say when all you've ever known was being in school and with this economy not giving us the best job market.  This feeling may be stronger for those who still have friends in college.  I know visiting my friends still at my old university makes me feel out of place, like you don't belong anymore; only making the emotions of leaving more challenging.

Hold in there though, it gets better.  It's important to remember that you're not alone and that many people are trying to come to terms with the same feelings.  I felt the same at first, but once I started working I actually realized that I LOVE life after college.  I love not having classes and I love working, feeling that for once I'm actually taking myself somewhere instead of just doing the classes and work because I have to graduate.  You may be busy, you may be broke, but you are starting out on your crazy, beautiful life and you find that you start doing things you love because you want to do them.  So stay positive and busy and you'll work through those post-grad blues in no times.

Work on your Relationships

One negative about life after college is dealing with the relationships in your life, and not just the romantic ones.  Out of college it's much harder to meet new people.  You're not constantly surrounded by a community of people around your own age and it can be hard to keep in touch with your friends still in college because of your different schedules.  To make new friends, try to talk with other employees where you work; do you share common interests?  You could look at different social activities in your local community.  Are there any organizations or groups that interest you?  Volunteering is also a great option to meet new and interesting people.  Plus all the new, amazing people you will meet will be a great way to network for your dream job!

With your college friends you already have, part of the challenge may be in the distance that you may be apart now, if this is the case be sure to keep and touch and try to visit when you can.  Having a friend in another city or state is a great reason to take a road trip!  If your college friends are still nearby try to get together when your schedules can work out.  I know how challenging this can be; with my friends it often seems like we're on completely different time frames.  During the week I go to bed much earlier than they do and I often get out of work too late to want to drive over.  If the friendship is worth it, keep putting the effort in and eventually it will work out.

As for romantic relationships, many people may find themselves in a long distance relationship if they were from different cities, states, or even countries!  Like with your college friends you may be apart from, try to make it work by talking and visiting as often as you can.  Anything is possible if you want it and work enough to keep it strong.  It may not be easy, but a long distance relationship with the right person can absolutely be worth it.

Find a Hobby

This may sound like a silly survival tip, but finding a hobby is a great way to help beat the post-grad blues and work on your relationships.  I know that being busy and working on something I genuinely was interested in helped me get over my bout of post-grad blues.  In my spare time I practice my Spanish, go to the gym, read a lot of books, work on my scrapbooks, and knit.  I know some of those hobbies may not sound interesting for everyone (knitting may not be the 'coolest') but for me they're a perfect way to keep happy and busy when I'm not working.  And some of these are even better because my friends enjoy them too, nothing is better than a hobby you can do with friends and on your own.
Another thing I enjoy, not quite a 'hobby', is volunteering.  I volunteer for an organization called WaterFire Providence.  It's a non-profit arts organization based out of Providence that sets up events sponsoring the arts every other weekend during the summers (in the Providence locations).  It's based around the fires that are lit around the rivers in Providence, and this upcoming season will be my fourth volunteering on the wood boats.  I was even asked to train to be a captain this season and will have my first training coming up in a few weeks.  Check out the website here: WaterFire Providence.  It's been a great way to meet new people and a great way to network, on the boats we meet a lot of important people in Rhode Island who are our guests.  If you have the opportunity to volunteer somewhere I suggest you take it, it's one of the best feelings to do something you love and help others at the same time.

Enjoy Every Minute!

Last, but certainly not least, is to enjoy every minute of your life.  Remember that it's your life and do with it what you want and what makes you happy.  If you want to travel, travel.  If you want want to move to another state, do it.  If you want to gets a Master's or PhD, don't let anything stop you.  Live so that you don't regret a single choice you make.  Even if you can't afford your dreams right now, work your butt off and do it a few years down the road; you're never too old for happiness.  Surviving life after college may be a struggle at times, and you may get down, but always remember that you can do it.  Remember to stop and smell the roses, that sometimes those 'huge' problems really aren't so big.  And most importantly remember that yes, you are tough enough and yes, you deserve the best.  So enjoy what life after college brings you!

What are your tips for surviving life after college?

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Let Down in Versailles

Château de Versailles is perhaps the most famous château known to in world.  It was once home to the French royal court and was the center of politics prior to the French Revolution.  The palace is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and was originally built in the 1500s but was continuously added upon by subsequent monarchs; creating the palace as we know it today.  It is one of the most popular tourist sites in France and is known for its extensive estates and grandeur.  Before visiting France myself I had heard many people raving about how gorgeous the palace was: how spectacular the grounds were, how beautiful, I had to visit it, so on and so forth...  With this in mind we all traveled to Versailles with high expectations, thinking we would be won over by its proclaimed beauty.  Now I love history, I've studied history, and I wanted to love Versailles.  But speaking on behalf of myself, I was sadly underwhelmed by the majority of the palace and estate.

Just look at all those people in line!
It was a beautiful July morning when we took the train to Versailles.  It was perfect weather and it seemed everyone else in France thought so too!  The palace had not even been open for an hour but the wait was already ENORMOUS, forcing us to wait over an hour in lines that snaked around the grand entrance.  The exterior of the palace was beautiful and indeed grand, but with the abundance of tourists pushing and yelling with their cameras flashing a mile a minute, I was not blown away by Versailles yet.

What's this?  A ray of hope in the gardens?
Queen's Chamber, held the camera over my
head to get a shot people-free!
As we finally entered the palace I was still hoping for the best; that I would find something within that would amaze me.  I instead found that even though the rooms were gorgeous and detailed, showing the grandeur of the old monarchy of France, it was impossible to see anything in person.  It was so crowded the only way you could see a room was when you stood on the tips of your toes with your camera held high and looked at your photograph later.  Not to mention if you were lucky enough to get even one clear shot as you were literally pushed room to room by throngs of tourists who just rushed through without taking in the room or wanting to understand its significance.  In college I studied art history and history and this should have been a dream come true.  Instead I found I could barely get a passing glance of any room, let alone take it in and learn more about it.

I'm not one to live through my camera when visiting a place of interest, but at Versailles there was little opportunity to view anything in person without holding my camera high above and hoping I got a good shot to reflect back on later.  In fact the only time I got to take in anything inside the palace was when I had to fight through crowds searching for one of our friends who got swallowed up in the sea of tourists.  It's a shame, because it really is gorgeous.  It would just be nice to actually get the chance to look at anything...
Hall of Mirrors

The best part of the main gardens, my cat friend 'Marie'
When we finally exited the main palace to the gardens we were all rather perturbed that it would cost an extra €6.5 due to the "Musical Fountain Show" that takes place during the late spring through early autumn.  I don't quite think it was worth extra as we were all equally unimpressed with the 'show' (the fountains are turned on while music plays...all for an extra €6.5.)  Walking through the main gardens I admit they were pretty, yet the green hedges lacked for me the color and the beauty I craved.  We visited the Grand Trianon and its well-groomed gardens with carefully placed flowers was an improvement...but I was holding out for what lay beyond the Petit Trianon.  The Hamlet of Marie Antoinette, the part of Versailles that I had wanted to see the most all along and the portion of Versailles that I hoped would be its redeeming gem.  Luckily, for the first time that day, my expectations were not only met but exceeded by this often forgotten area of Versailles.
Gardens at the Grand Trianon, getting closer...

Well worth the extra 20 minute walk, and extra €6.5!

The Hamlet is part of the Petit Trianon estate and was built in the late 1700s, designed by Marie Antoinette as a place for her to have privacy and escape from court life at Versailles.  It was her 'countryside' retreat while trapped in the middle of the highly regulated court.  Marie Antoinette was said to visit the Hamlet dressed as a shepherdess and pretend to live there as a 'peasant.'  Many people at the time found it a mockery of their poverty and more proof of the frivolity of the monarchy.  The Hamlet was a real working farm and since it was renovated in the 1990s and opened to the public in 2006, there are animals living in the Hamlet now as well.  

When I visited in July the rest of Versailles was packed, like sardines.  However, the Hamlet was absolutely empty.  Apparently all the others visiting that day hadn't received the memo, or didn't want to take the extra twenty minute walk.  Their loss was my gain!  Walking into the Hamlet was like walking straight into a fairy-tale world; quaint little cottages, gardens, and animals.  It was love at first sight and instantly became my favorite part of Versailles, and one of my favorite parts of the whole week in France.  If you've never been to Versailles, or have been and missed this gorgeous area, then I highly recommended taking that extra walk.  I promise you that you will not regret it!  And if you're still not sure, Memoirs of a Young Adventuress has a great post on her thoughts of Versailles as well.  We have similar feelings about our visit to Versailles and she also has some great tips for visiting.  It will be a day trip you will not forget!

Temple of Love, Petit Trianon

Have you ever been to Versailles? What was your favorite part?  

*[This is all my own personal opinion of Versailles.]

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Italy: My Food Heaven

I love food.  If you know me even a little, that should be no surprise.  And while I have loved the food of all the places I have traveled to so far, my absolute favorite has been in Italy.  While a lot of the snack stands we stopped at for a quick bite were indeed average, every single restaurant we ate at was delicious.  Pizza, pasta, and Gelato (of course) to die for!  If you've been to Italy I'm sure you can agree that the food is pretty close to heavenly.  Here's a brief post on why I could live on Italian food for the rest of my life.

It started our first night as we wandered from our hostel to the Trevi Fountain.  As we wandered I was tempted by all of the gelaterias, or gelato stores, we passed.  My boyfriend has been lucky enough to travel to Italy quite frequently (the perks of being European) and was quite adamant I chose my gelateria wisely; nothing too fluffy, or too bright.  If you don't know what gelato is it's a dessert similar to ice cream.  It's much smoother, creamier, and has a richer flavor.  We finally chose a tiny place on a side street that was full; we selected the flavors of Nutella and Tiramisu to try between the two of us.  Needless to say I was in gelato heaven and may or may not have eaten some gelato every single day...and have no regrets.  I tried many different flavors over our week in Italy but Nutella was my favorite.  Whenever I am in Europe I am sure to overload on Nutella anything because it is not common back in the United States.

Is this not perfect? source

Another thing I try to overload on in Europe, is the presence of so many languages.  I always like to pick up at least a few words and phrases when I travel somewhere new.  I have never studied Italian before but I picked up the basic Italian words of: grazie, prego, scusa, etc.  Over the vacation though my most important, and most used,  vocabulary word was of course: formaggi, or cheese.   It's something I have been sure to learn the word for in the countries I've visited, because let's face it.  I can't get enough cheese!  Over our stay I had some truly delicious quattro formaggi pizza, pasta, and gnocchi.  If formaggi was in the name then I knew it was the food for me.  You only live once so why not eat everything I possibly can that is smothered with cheese!  In fact I loved the formaggi so much that I have been so disappointed in most Italian food since I've come back home, I miss the real deal.

For our meals in Italy we tried not to eat in the main areas because they would be the most 'touristic' and were often overpriced, crowded, and I'm sure not quite as tasty.  It was quite easy to find these off the beaten path restaurants in Rome because of all the winding side streets you find yourself on.  We found some truly delicious places for food while wandering around the streets of the city.  Only once did we end up sitting in a plaza for a meal, in Piazza della Rotonda, across from the Pantheon.  It may not have been as 'authentic' Italian but I enjoyed our meal and we had street performers serenading us so it was impossible to not fall in love with the atmosphere.  Not to mention I got to sit, and eat, in front. of. THE. Pantheon.  The history major in me died and went to heaven while the cheese lover in me followed suit with my quattro formaggi.
Caesar was pleased

We were only in Florence for a day and did not really leave the center of the city so it was much harder to find a restaurant that was not very touristic.  We tried wandering down different side streets but it was most shops and not restaurants.  Despite that we had some delicious pizza at our dinner in the Piazza della Repubblica but when we grabbed a quick lunch in the Piazza della Signoria it was, nicely put, awful.  Our waiter literally TOOK our table away before we could finish our coffee so he could seat someone else.  We sat there in shock as we held onto our coffee cups and what we had left to drink.  Needless to say it was a disappointing lunch, but you win some you lose some.  Overall, I loved the cuisine in Italy and was able to feed my ever-growing cheese addiction.  Good or bad, dining was always an experience!  And in Italy I have eaten the best pasta, gelato, and pizza in my life.  Luckily when I'm in Santander I can get my Italian fix at my friend's Italian restaurant that his family owns called Pizzeria l'Archetto.  He's half Italian so not only is it authentic, but he encourages (and feeds) my cheese love.  A win-win situation!  Now go out and find your favorite cuisine, buon appetito!

Hail Caesar!

Do you love Italian food too?  What country is home to your favorite food?

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Long Distance Loving: How We Make it Work

Nowadays it seems that many people are in long distance relationships.  In my case, mine started when I met someone while they were studying abroad.  A reader of my blog recently mentioned I should blog about my situation as they were in a similar relationship, and while I try not to get too personal on here I thought it could be a good idea.  So here you go, the low-down on one real-life long distance relationship:

Our relationship is one thing that never fails to confuse people.  They can't seem to wrap their heads around the fact that I would be 'crazy' enough to have a long distance relationship that is actually separated by an ocean.  We've been dating for 2.5 years but the last 1.5 has essentially been us living in our respective countries and traveling back and forth to visit.  When people find out that I'm in a long distance relationship there is always a multi-step reaction:
  1. Initially it's: "Aw, cute!  Where's he from?"...then I throw out the curve ball that he's Spanish.
  2. Now they look confused: "So wait, is he from Spain or studying in Spain?"  
  3. I explain that he IS Spanish and therefore IS from Spain, as in you know, living there.  (That's when I get a face mixed somewhere between pity and horror.)
  4. But it gets better.  This semester my Spanish boyfriend is currently studying in Shanghai, China
We went from this...
To this.  (Anyone else concerned google says I can drive there...)
Yes, you heard that right.  Instead of closing the 3,000+ mile gap we have created a 7,000+ mile gap.  My favorite part is the completely unreliable internet that makes skyping an absolute nightmare, not mention the complicated visa process just to visit China...but I digress...  Once people get over the initial shock there are always the same main questions: How did you meet?, What's it Like?, How do you make it work?, Do you have trouble understanding one another?, What are your plans for the future?  So here you go, the reality of an intercontinental relationship, because I promise you it's not all sunshine and daisies:

How We Met

We met at my University while he was studying abroad for a year and I was actually the very first girl that he met there.  It all started when I offered to help move move in the fridge for his roommate, who I previously knew.  Before I go further, if you know Spanish culture, you know that guys (and girls) will give two kisses, one on each cheek, when they meet a female.  Well I knew that too, but on that day I didn't even think about it. *foreshadowing*  When he went to shake the hands of the guys I was moving the fridge in with to thank them I instinctively held out my hand too.  When he gave me the two kisses instead of shaking my hand I was in complete shock until I remembered Spanish culture (too late).  I tried to compose myself so he didn't feel badly, but the damage was done.  Poor thing was mortified, andactually avoided him for around a month because I was so embarrassed.  Eventually we bonded anyway by skydiving together and our love of world history/travel.  Good thing I didn't scare him off!
He's the one with the Spanish colors, go figure!

The Reality

Many people ask me what it's like being in a relationship with a person so far away, well the reality isn't pretty.  Only getting to see each other a couple times a year can be quite lonely.  People think falling in love with someone from another country is all sunshine and romance, where you meet some cute stranger and ride off into the sunset on their Vespa.  Incorrect.  Don't get me wrong, it is great, you know when you actually get to see each other.  Talking to him does help, but then you hang up on skype and you go out into the world and have to look at all those other couples happily together.

We've both learned how to cope (more or less) with the loneliness that comes with this type of relationship, but it's not any easier when you've had a rough day and just want your significant other to be with you.  We work really hard to get through those hard times by making our schedules work so that we can find time to talk, saving a lot of money to visit back in forth, planning in advance to get time off of work or school.  Not all long distance relationships are as extreme as ours; it all depends on the distance and the time zone situation, but it still isn't easy.

How We Make It Work

This one will be a long one because it is probably the most frequent question I get, how we make it work being apart.  Honestly, it takes a lot of effort and hard-work.  No relationship is perfect and last year was really difficult as our first year apart, we struggled with whether or not we could make it work, but in the end we have come out stronger and closer together.  We talk every day, though it's harder now with him in China.  Also, when we started being long distance the first thing we did was each get a smart phone.  Having whatsapp to chat with each other is the best, especially now that he has the app on his Chinese phone too.  We play multi-player games back and forth like: Angry Words, Draw Something, Bike Race (which I'm so painfully terrible at); it's a fun way to not feel so far apart.  Another thing we did while he was in Spain, and had more reliable internet, was to watch movies together.  Usually he would send one to me via our shared drop box account and we would sit on skype and watch the movie together.

The two most important thing we do to make it work though are: to be busy (and happy) with our own lives and to visit as often and for as long as we can.  The first part was hard for me especially.  I would be lying if I say I wasn't sad a lot at first.  I got through it by keeping myself busy and happy with my life as an individual; I started to get a gym routine, threw myself into my studies, made new friends, worked really hard.  Soon enough I wasn't sad all the time, dare I say...I was even happy.  Don't get me wrong, it's still hard missing him but keeping busy helped me appreciate living in the moment and enjoying the times when we couldn't be together.  As for visiting, we usually try to make it at least twice a year, taking turns, and the past two summers I've spent a couple months living in Spain with him and his family.  Every long distance relationship needs time together; seeing my boyfriend for even a week is the strongest reminder of why we do this to ourselves.  Because we love each other and want to make this work.

[Memoirs of a Young Adventuress had a great guest post on Things No One Tells You about Falling in Love Abroad.  And this site, Loving From a Distance also helped with some ideas on how to make the distance less painful.]

Understanding One Another

Another question I get a lot is what language we speak together.  It's mostly English because it's what we started talking in.  We met when he came to the United States to improve his English so it's the most natural thing for us to speak in, and his English is excellent (though he may stubbornly think otherwise).  Over the past year or so I've become more comfortable with my Spanish and have been trying to improve my skills so now we've been talking in Spanish more.  It's hard to get him to speak in Spanish sometimes though because he's so used to talking in English with me, often he'll just naturally go back to English!  I'm hoping that if I get to go to Spain this year with the teaching programs I'll be able to improve my Spanish enough that we can talk back and forth in both languages.  That's my goal, a fluent bilingual relationship!

Our Plans For The Future

Honestly our plans for the future are essentially non-existent, it's hard to plan in advance when neither of you have no idea what country or continent you'll be on.  We're hoping that he'll be able to stay in Spain for at least a semester if I get into one of the teaching programs but he's looking for jobs all over the world.  I could be moving to Spain while he moves to Canada or Australia!  While we don't have any concrete plans yet, we certainly hope that our futures are with each other.  It's not an easy road by any means, but it's one we're both willing to take it.

For more advice on keeping a long-distance relationship intact read my other post: Bridging the Gap in a Long Distance Relationship.

You can read more about my experience in a interview I did as part of the So You're Dating a Spaniard series in one of my favorite blogs: Y Mucho Más.

Have you ever had a long distance relationship?  Did you fall in love abroad?