Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Valencia’s Inner Fire

Fallas: A week filled with churros, fire and pure excitement. Something I am going to try my hardest to explain, but I can’t promise that I will do it justice. Fallas is a festival in Valencia held every year that leads up to March 19th, which is the day of Saint Joseph, the carpenter saint and coincidentally the patron saint of Valencia. Valencia used to be a town filled with carpenters around the 15th century. After the winter season, many of the carpenters would throw their scraps into the streets and burn them to start fresh for the spring. Eventually, they started creating little structures out of the scraps and later it became a competition between the neighborhoods.

One of the best things about my experience of Fallas was being able to see things from a local’s point of view. For example, FSU is a sponsor for our neighborhood Falla house, which means we are allowed to partake in many of the activities that this house has and they even set up a wonderful paella making contest for us. We were given four huge paella pans and could decide the kind
of paella that would be made. A Valencian helped each group with the chopping of veggies, order of ingredients and how to correctly stir (because there is a correct way). Regardless of the technical difficulties, the veggie paella was definitely the fan favorite (secret ingredient: a hint of love and patience). The entire process took a few hours but the outcome was well worth it… making paella with the people who invented it! Although Eduardo Jimenez, if you are reading this, my parents still swear your paella is the best they have had.

For the rest of the week after this my day was more or less as follows:

  •  Wake up to the sound of old ladies eating and drinking outside of our window. 
  • 1:00PM Get dressed and run out the door to the Plaza de Ayuntamiento for the afternoon Mascletá ­daytime fireworks that make your chest vibrate and your jaw drop. 
  • Find some churros, chocolate, porras, or bunuelos. 
  • Check in on the Plaza de La Reina to see the Virgin and her skirt made entirely by roses donated by every Fallera in the city. 
  • Walk around and try and see every Falla structure that you can.
  • 8:00PM light shows in the Rusafa area every half hour.
  • 12:00AM fireworks in the riverbed. 
  • Block parties! Music, food and LOTS of dancing!


The last day, March 19th was the best, however. This is the pinnacle of the entire event. The streets are filled with Falleras and Falleros either walking in the crowd or in some form of parade. There is music everywhere and anxious excitement in the air. The first burning we saw was the Falla Infantil de Falla Serrans (our Falla house). It was a small structure and still a crowd bunched up as close as we were allowed and firemen held their hoses tight as they watched the Fallera Infantil light the firework that led to everything bursting to flames. The second burning was the structure in front of the Central Market and although a bigger man squished me into a trashcan, though I had the last laugh when he couldn’t handle the heat and I found myself in the front row. The final burning was the town hall Falla where fireworks were set off and the entire city cheered as the event came to a close.

This festival may seem strange and the concept of burning a year’s work may seem extreme, but I think it is beautiful. All that is bad, physically or emotionally goes into the fire and everything starts new the next day (after a good nap).

Article by Chloe Craig

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Orxateria Tavernes and Lladró Factory

One Friday, FSU took us on an excursion to the Orxateria Tavernes and Lladró factory. We visited a little cafe where we were given horchata and fartons, croissant-like sweet, sprinkled with powder sugar. This common dessert can be found all over the streets of Valencia, as well as in almost every restaurant. While we enjoyed our treats, we learned horchata was made in Valencia and is made with simply water, sugar, and tiger nuts. We also learned fartons are meant to be dipped into the horchata.
Horchata and Fartons
Then we were given a tour of the Lladró factory and they brought us into this room where a handful of ladies were meticulously painting, molding, sculpting, and handcrafting the tiniest of figures, flowers, and shoes, etc. The ladies had a model of the figurine they were copying right by their station and plenty of paints and utensils to make sure everything was precise.  As we watched, we were also shown how they mold the figurines which was almost like a jig-saw puzzle. Every single body part was molded separately, even the thumbs! 

Written by Samantha Wells

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

What I Learned from Studying Abroad

I’ll be the first to say that some of the best things I’ve learned in life so far weren’t even learned in the classroom. Thanks, Spain
1. It’s not all about me. People in Spain, Italy, or England don’t always do things like we do here in America. Not everyone speaks English, the locals in these countries don’t adjust what they’re doing according to your culture, and they’re perfectly happy with it. It’s okay. Breathe and embrace what the country has to offer. Be open.  
2. A gelato a day keeps the homesickness away. No elaboration needed. 
3. Excursion days are the best days. The only thing better than an excursion to a bucket list place is an excursion to a location off the beaten path where you have to be on the bus at 6:45am. These places are all straight up gems and it’s worth it. Trust me, just go. 

4. Traveling gave me some of my best friends. There’s nothing that expedites the friendship process more than running through airports on the weekends, fangirling about all of the incredible experiences you had that normally include running through the airport, and watching the sunset in a different city that you get to call home.
5. The best things in life don’t always cost money. Honestly, my favorite memory in Valencia was being able to sit on my balcony in my pajamas every Saturday night and watch fireworks going off above the Torres de Serranos. I didn't pay a single Euro and I didn’t even have to leave the study center!
6. People actually are awesome. I can’t tell you enough about how many times I had to interrupt a local’s daily life just to ask for directions or where I should stop to eat because I had no idea what I was doing. I also can’t emphasize enough how patient and helpful the locals were with me, and through those experiences I learned that there is still so much good in the world.
7. To be comfortable with the culture, sometimes you have to be okay with feeling uncomfortable. I thought I was pretty decent at using the Spanish language until I found myself out of my comfort zone in a Spanish hospital having to explain to the doctor that I probably needed stitches in my foot. True story! But once again, breathe.
8. “Adulting”. Studying abroad taught me how to plan a trip, buy my own plane ticket, navigate through unfamiliar airports, feed myself, pack a suitcase, and so many other life skills I could bring back home with me that would benefit me later on in life.
  9. Everything is an adventure. After backpacking through Spain before going to Valencia to study abroad, I thought I had to go out and climb mountains if I wanted an adventure. Boy, was I wrong. It turns out that adventure is also in some of those things we take for granted back at home. Asking for directions, trying new foods, going to the grocery store. It’s all a big deal in another country.
10. The experience goes by way too fast. Whether you go abroad for a year, a semester, or six weeks, it’s always amazing how fast the experience comes and goes. With that being said, do everything you can and take advantage of any opportunity because you don’t want to come home and say, “I wish I did that”. Also, be fully prepared for the tears on your last day.