Life of an Exchange Student

I write when I am either frustrated and need to vent, or inspired and want to share. For example, I was inspired to write ‘Finding your Happy Place’ and frustrated enough to write “The Weekend from Hell’. For a while now, however, I have been neither inspired nor incredibly frustrated, which means that writing requires a lot more effort. That’s not to say that I haven’t been doing anything, au contraire, I’ve been pretty busy with volleyball, tutoring sessions (yes, I am now a tutor!), school and weekend excursions with the rest of the students from Rollins. I definitely have a lot of material to work with, but for some reason every time I sit myself down to write, I find myself distracted by other things. Thus, instead of writing in great detail about one experience or place, I’m going to break this into sections and write a little bit about everything I’ve been doing.

Siempre escribo cuando estoy estresada y necesito desahogarme, o cuando estoy inspirada y quiero compartir mi experiencia. Por ejemplo, yo estaba inspirada para escribir “Finding Your Happy Place” y estaba tan estresada que escribí “The Weekend from Hell”. Pero durante un tiempo ahora, no me he sentido estresada ni inspirada así que escribir es mas difícil. No quiero decir que no he estado haciendo cosas, al contrario, he estado muy ocupada con voleibol, la universidad, las clases de ingles (si, soy profesora ahora!), y los viajes con los demás chicos de Rollins. Entonces, tengo mucho material con el que puedo trabajar, pero por alguna razón cada vez que siento e intento escribir, no puedo. Entonces, en vez de escribir solo una experiencia o un día con pelos y señales, voy a romper este blog en secciones y escribir un poco sobre todo lo que he estado haciendo.


I guess I’ll begin with volleyball. It’s been about month since I started practicing and playing with the team, and it has been interesting to say the least. I played volleyball in high school and wasn’t half-bad, I even played club ball for a close to a year. Unfortunately, my long absence from the sport combined with my inability to understand the coach (his accent is especially difficult), has made me less than stellar. Because of my height (especially obvious in Spain), the coach thought my level was close to professional and because I could talk to the girls on the team, he thought I was basically fluent in Spanish. This led to me playing in my first game, not knowing the names of any of the positions, running around like a chicken with its head cut off. Not my proudest moment. Apart from disappointing the coach however, it has been a pretty positive experience. The girls on the team are awesome. One of them is even teaching me French to help prepare me for my trip to Paris. So if you see a tall, female American wondering around Paris speaking French with a heavy Spanish accent, don’t be afraid to say hi, it’s probably me.


Supongo que empezaré con voleibol. Hace un mes más o menos, que comencé a practicar con el equipo, y ha sido interesante por no decir menos. Jugué en secundaria, incluso jugué en un club por un año. Desafortunadamente, mi larga ausencia del juego combinada con el hecho de que casi no puedo entender al entrenador (su acento es muy difícil de entender), me ha sido menos que fantástico. Por mi altura, el entrenador pensaba que yo era una profesional o algo así, y porque podia hablar con las chicas en el equipo, él pensaba que era casi bilingüe. Esto me llevó a mi primer partido sin saber los nombres de las posiciones, corriendo como un pollo degollado. Sí, no es mi momento más orgulloso. Pero a parte de eso, ha sido una experiencia muy buena. Las chicas en el equipo son la leche. Una de ellas esta enseñándome francés para prepararme para Paris. Así que ustedes ven a una Americana alta, andando por Paris, hablando en francés con un acento español, deben decir hola porque, probablemente, soy yo.



I am currently taking classes in a specific part of La Universidad de Oviedo which is called La Casa de Las Lenguas (The House of Languages). Here, exchange students from all over the world take classes that help them learn Spanish. I am currently taking Art, History, Oral Expression, and English to Spanish translation. Although I should be in the advanced levels for all of my classes, I chose to remain in intermediate for several reasons. First, advanced and intermediate count for the same amount of credit at Rollins College, and second, with everything else going on, I simply don’t have time for too much homework.

The classes themselves are pretty good. I’m especially enjoying Art, where I’m learning the latin roots of a lot of words, and History where we just finished watching Gladiator in Spanish. The students in La Casa de Las Lenguas are usually American or Chinese and in their late teens or early twenties. It’s absolutely fascinating to hear the accent of the Chinese students and I find it impressive that there are so many in my English to Spanish translation class.

La Universidad

Estoy tomando clases en La Casa de las Lenguas, que es una parte de la universidad de Oviedo. Aquí, estudiantes internacionales de todo el mundo, estudian y toman clases para aprender español. Yo tengo clases de Arte, Historia, Expresión Oral y Tradución Ingles a Español. Las clases son muy buenas, especialmente Arte, donde estoy aprendiendo las raíces de las palabras. Los estudiantes en La Casa de las Lenguas son normalmente americano o chino y de edad joven (como 19 o 20). El acento de los estudiantes chinos es muy interesante y estoy impresionada que hay muchos chinos en mi clase Traducción Ingles a Español.


Me, Catey and Sara (my conversation partner), taking a break from school and enjoying a club night in Gijón


The classes in school are fine, but they pale in comparison to my tutoring skills! (just kidding, I’m still figuring this whole teaching thing out). My host mom put a tutoring add on some website when I first got to Spain, and I finally got a a response about two weeks ago. So now I am the proud tutor of a fifteen year old boy named Sergio. He’s planning on spending the next year in Ireland, but he still isn’t comfortable having a conversation in English, so it’s my job to prepare him. I will admit it’s not as easy as I thought it would be. For one, it’s very hard to figure out his level of English; sometimes he seems to understand everything I say and sometimes he’s entirely lost. For another, it’s very hard to not speak to him in Spanish when he doesn’t understand my English. I constantly have to remind myself that I can’t just repeat my statement in Spanish, I must find another way of rephrasing what I said in English. The hardest part, however, has been finding fun vocabulary games for two people.

So far we’ve played ‘memory’ using different English verbs, good old twenty questions, and boogle. I’ve even had him listen to English songs while reading lyric sheets that I gave him and filling in the blanks. Does anyone know any other games we could play?

Las Clases de Ingles

Las clases de la universidad son buenas pero son nada en comparación a mis clases de ingles (estoy bromeando todavía estoy aprendiendo como ser profesora). Hace un mes, mi mamá española puso un anuncio online que dijo que yo era un nativo en ingles y que yo podia enseñar, y por fin, recibí una respuesta hace dos semanas. Ahora, soy la profesora de un chico de 15 años se llama Sergio. El va a vivir en Irlanda durante el próximo año, pero todavía falta mucho con gramática y vocabulario. Tengo que admitir que enseñar no es fácil. Es muy difícil averiguar el nivel de ingles de Sergio porque a veces al puede entender casi todo, y a veces ni una sola palabra. También es muy difícil encontrar juegos divertidos de vocabulario para dos personas. Ya hemos jugado ‘memoria’ usando palabras en ingles, 20 preguntas y Boogle. Alguien sabe mas juegos que podemos jugar?



Finally, to end the post I’m just going to quickly mention that I was lucky enough to visit both Ribadesella, (almost as beautiful as Santiago de Compostela–definitely a must see!),  and León, which has beautiful cathedrals.


I only have one picture of Ribadesella, but If you go to my friend Mary’s blog, there are a ton


Catedral de León



So that’s what I’ve been up to. I hope you have enjoyed reading and if you know of any fun vocabulary games, please let me know.


The Weekend from Hell

You know that old saying ‘when life gives you lemons, make lemonade?’ Well in my experience life will sometimes give you lemons, sometimes it even gives you a freshly squeezed lemonade with a little umbrella straw, and then sometimes it gives you rocks instead of lemons and instead of handing them to you, it throws them at you while giggling like an immature child. Unfortunately for me, life has picked me for target practice these last couple of days and has proceeded to bombard me with a shower of lemon-shaped rocks.

It all began yesterday (a Thursday for those who aren’t up to speed with the calendar). It was a Spanish holiday so there wasn’t any school and all of my friends had gone to go traveling over the long weekend (I elected to stay behind so I could hopefully play in my first volleyball game on Saturday). I woke up Thursday morning completely stuffed. I couldn’t breath out of my nose and phlegm wads were ensconcing themselves comfortably in the depths of my throat (wow, who knew something so gross could be described so poetically?). Needless to say I did not feel my best at that moment. Nevertheless, I got up, persevered and went to the gym (I’m really proud of myself for that btw). When I got back I was exhausted so I basically spent the day on the sofa doing absolutely nothing productive, and falling deeper into the rabbit hole that is Youtube. At around 9:00 pm, I finally stopped watching videos and eating cold pasta long enough to call Siubhan, (a.k.a. my number 1 home skillet) back in Illinois. We talked until she had to go to class then I watched a couple more movies and tried to go to bed. Not being able to breathe made falling asleep pretty hard, but the worst part was my hair. For some reason my head itched like the dickens. After a good thirty minutes of restlessness and scratching, it slowly dawned on me that I had felt the exact same itchiness before…in sixth grade…when the school had an outbreak of, wait for it, lice…shit. I tried to remember when exactly my head started itching but the more I thought about it, the more it seemed like it had been itchy for a while. The only place I thought I could have gotten it was from sharing hairbands during practice on the volleyball team.
Once I had the idea of lice on my head there was no way in hell I was going back to sleep. I knew no pharmacy would be open or else I would have run down there and bought every bottle of lice shampoo they had. Instead, I frantically searched the Internet scouring for any homemade treatments I could use as a substitute. I finally found a simple one involving coconut oil. Fervently thanking past Shannon for packing coconut oil, I began scooping copious amounts onto my head. I was a tad overzealous with it, however, because when I stood up to find a shower cap, a huge glob splattered around my feet. Not really caring, I jump over the gelatinous mess, shoved a make-shift, plastic-bag shower cap on my head, and set the timer for two hours. Waiting was horrible, now that I had the lice image stuck in my head, I could feel the little critters crawling around in my hair. When the two hours were up I took a hot shower, vigorously washing my hair, got out and inspected the bath water. And sure enough I found one. At least I think I did. It wasn’t moving or anything, but I could see the tiny little legs. Throughly freaking out by this point, I run back to my room to start tearing off the bedsheets, trying to resist the urge to scream and/or light my hair on fire. In my panic, I failed to see the giant glob of coconut oil on the floor. I fell. Hard. And let out a stream of impressive curse words in both English and Spanish. Now, my friends, as impossible as this may seem, all of Thursday night was just a light drizzle of lemon-rocks, the real storm came today.

My host mom had heard my fall and subsequent cursing and came into my room at 5:00 in the morning to see numerous garbage bags sitting on a completely naked mattress. She asked me what I was doing and I, almost ready to cry, told her that I had lice (fun fact: lice=piojos in Spanish). I honestly wasn’t sure how she was going to react. There’s an old (and completely untrue I might add) stigma that only dirty people get lice. Would she accuse me of infesting her house and kick me out into the streets (hey, in my sleep-deprived brain that seemed entirely conceivable). But, she took it surprisingly well and basically told me to calm down, that lice aren’t fatal and they’re a lot easier to deal with than bedbugs. After making sure I wasn’t having a complete meltdown, she headed back to her room and I tried to catch a couple hours of sleep while sitting at my desk.

I awoke several hours later and if I thought my cold was bad Thursday, Friday it got  worse. Now added to my stuffed nose and phlegmy tubes was an inability to speak without, wait for it, hacking a phlegm ball (I know, my sexiness surprises even me sometimes). Anyways I had class at 9:00 but I didn’t want to wear a sweatshirt because anything I wore before buying the lice-killing shampoo was going straight into the wash. So I ran to school to keep warm, hocking a loogie every few feet. I forgot the money for the lice shampoo back at the house so after class, I headed back home to get it. Once there, my host mom told me that we needed actual dryers to kill the little buggers, and since she didn’t have one, she gave me directions to the nearest laundromat. So I headed to the the laundromat, 20 euros in my pocket, a giant garbage bag in each hand, snuffling and hacking spitballs, and with only the slightest sense of where to go. I started off pretty confidently, all things considered. It took me a good twenty-five minutes to find the laundromat and by that time my arms were pretty tired. The only person in the laundromat was an older gentleman, closing his eyes and listening to some music. I decided not to disturb him and figured out how to load and pay for the washing machine by myself. Unfortunately, the laundromat was a lot more expensive than I thought it would be. It was 10 euros every load in the big machine, which I had to use twice. Thus, I had no money for the dryers, which were the main reasons I had come in the first place. I was in luck however, right across the street was an ATM, I could simply take out some money, while keeping an eye on my clothes. I was at the ATM for a good twenty minutes trying to figure out why it kept telling me my PIN number was wrong. Finally, frustrated beyond belief, I called my dear old Pops. He told me that the PIN number was actually different but because I had tried so many times, they had locked my card for 24 hours. Perfect. I had no other choice than to drag two large, dripping garbage bags twenty five minutes back to my apartment, then return to actually dry them. This was just a little overwhelming for me (did I mention I was also on my period and thus more emotionally fragile than usual?). Anyways, what all this leads to is the following scene: I’m walking down the street, pissed off, tired, walking with a slight limp, dragging two wet garbage bags behind me and probably looking like I’m about to cry. I suddenly see a grocery store right in front of me and decide to check and see if they have the lice shampoo. They don’t. As I walk out the door to leave the lady at the cash register starts yelling at me. I turn around to see her running towards me, and of course, the first response my tired brain comes up with is ‘let’s run too!’. So I start running. It must’ve looked kind of strange; a cashier chasing down what could have been very tired, skinny Santa Claus hauling ass with trash bags flying out behind her. Well it didn’t take long for the cashier to catch up to me (even though I was carrying bags and had a limp it was still pretty embarrassing). She grabbed one of my trash bags and ripped it open. When she saw a pile of wet clothes and bed covers she looked confused and then turned bright red and apologized to me. I opened my mouth to tell her it was fine, and instead of words, I got a mouthful of phlegm. Unable to spit it out without the crowd around us seeing, I could only nod and kind of hum my lips together. So yeah…that was the beginning of my weekend, how was yours?

Author note: originally I wasn’t going to post this because it seemed kind of gross, but if I talk about the wonders and beauty of traveling and being in Spain, I think it’s only right that I mention some of the not so fun parts.

*Este vez no he escrito un sección en Español! Lo siento mucho! Intentaré hacer uno mañana.

Btw. I have my first volleyball game tomorrow, fingers crossed it goes well!


Actually this was taken during San Mateo, but I felt like I needed to end the post with a happy bang (get it? no? Don’t worry it was pretty bad).

Do Blondes Have More Fun?

Las rubias se lo pasan mejor? Esta es la cuestión. Para averiguar la verdad, me convertí en una rubia. Bueno, en realidad, no completamente rubia. La parte superior de mi pelo todavía es marrón, pero el resto es oro pálido. Ahora lo se que estas pensando “Pero Shannon acabas de cortar tu pelo, y ahora estas pintándolo? Porque tantos cambios? Bueno amigos, la verdad es que querría ser rubia por algún tiempo y ahora que estoy en España, porque no?

Desafortunadamente, yo escogí una semana muy complicada para averiguar la verdad sobre las rubias porque escogí la misma semana de las fiestas de San Mateo en Oviedo. Entonces es muy difícil saber si el cambio en el nivel de divertido es por ser rubia o por estar en San Mateo.

Me encanta San Mateo! Cada noche hay películas en el parque, conciertos en las plazas y comida y sidra en todos lados. He visto una banda se llama ‘La Oreja de Vangough” y me gusto mucho (pero son mejores en directo).

En Miercoles fui a los fuegos artificiales con Bea y los demás de Rollins. Fue muy divertido y después fuimos a bailar. La calle estaba tan lleno de gente que casi no podia moverme. Pero, cuando finalmente llegamos a un bar, bailaba hasta que me dolieran mis pies. Por la primera vez, yo estuve despierta hasta las 5 en la mañana. Casi soy una Española!

Para terminar, todavia no se si las rubias se lo pasan mejor. Creo que es una profecía autocumplida. Si crees que las rubias se lo pasan mejor, es la verdad. Eso es la verdad para muchas cosas, entonces ‘aparenta hasta que lo hagas’.

Do blondes have more fun? That’s the million dollar question. In order to ascertain the truth, I decided to become *gasp* a blonde! Well actually no, not really, I simply became blonder. The top of my hair is still pretty brown, but the bottom is now a very pale gold. Now, I know what you’re thinking, ‘Shannon didn’t you just cut your hair? What’s with rapid succession of hair changes?’ Well dear reader, The truth is that I have wanted to try blonde hair for awhile. I was actually planning on going full out blonde but highlights were cheaper and the nice hairstylist told me that it would look better if I left my ‘natural color’ on top (at least that’s what I think she said she was speaking very fast). So anyways, I am now a full fledged half blonde and on the path to discovery.

I will admit I picked a rather complicated first week to go blonde however. The festivities and concerts of San Mateo are so much fun, it makes it hard to figure out if the change in the level of fun has anything to do with the hair. Every night during San Mateo there are movies in the park, concerts in the cathedral plaza, and street vendors, music and food everywhere you look. Unfortunately for the first couple of days, it was rather rainy so most of my San Mateo experience consisted of listening to wonderful music beneath a sea of umbrellas. On Wednesday however, that all changed.

Wednesday night was the night of los fuegos artificiales and our hip, young Spanish teacher, Bea, was going to take all six of us to the fireworks. She told us to bring some snacks and plastic bags to sit on and she would bring us some bottles of sidra (hard, Asturian cider).

At around 7:00 Mary and I met at the Museum de Bellas Artes de Oviedo to complete our homework before the night’s festivities. The museum is absolutely darling (darling must be said in a deep southern accent–DARHling) and it’s entirely free, so I highly recommend it. There are beautiful paintings and sculptures (many by Asturian artists) hung in a very aesthetically pleasing manner all around the tiny, maze-like museum. After completing our homework, we headed out into the city to buy some snacks for the fireworks.

The city was jumping (yes, I’m bringing that phrase back). The weather was perfect, not a drop of rain in sight. Mary and I wondered around for a little while, ending up in the Parque de San Francisco (basically a minuscule version of Central Park). There we watched, what can only be described as one of the weirdest movies I’ve ever seen. It was like a Japanese cartoon with bright, almost neon colors but no dialogue, only music. The beginning must’ve explained everything because coming in during the middle made no sense whatsoever. Shortly thereafter, we decided to leave the bright cartoons behind and finally head over to Bea’s house. When we got to her street, I was almost knocked over by the sheer amount of young teenage hormones in the air. Bea’s street was packed full of 14-16 year olds. They were all standing in different groups and there were so many of them that it was like playing teenager obstacle course to get to Bea’s apartment. When we finally did, we met up with the rest of the Rollins crew and headed out to El Parque de Invierno.

Walking with our bags of snacks and cider, I felt like a fully fledged Oviedoin (or Ovetenses as it’s actually called). We found a spot on part of the sloping hill near the front of the park and arranged our plastic bags in a little group. We ate our snacks and learned how to properly pour la sidra (you must pour it from above your head and into the glass), while the park around us filled with people. Finally, the fireworks began. Out of all the firework shows I’ve seen in my life, this one made the top 5. It was pretty close to us and went on for close to half an hour! The only reason it isn’t higher on my list is because there was a tree obscuring part of my view. [After the magnificent fireworks were over, we packed up out stuff to head out. Unfortunately, Catey had to pee desperately and there were no bathrooms nearby. I volunteered to help her find a bathroom and thus we embarked on another Catey-Shannon adventure (this one shall be dubbed ‘Nature’s Calling’). Long story short- we began looking for an empty, out-of-view place for Catey to do her business, but when we finally found a darkish corner, I look back and see about a dozen girls following us. They finally catch up to us and ask where the bathroom is. I tell them that we couldn’t find one, and we were actually looking for a place to pee, you know, in private. Clearly not getting the hint, the girls (all of them) squat down right in front of me and start doing their business. I saw about seven fully nude butts that evening. I couldn’t stop laughing at the look of horror on Catey’s face as she realized she had to wait until all the girls were finished to finally get some privacy.

After Catey was finally able to attend to her business, we rejoined Bea and the rest and went dancing. We stopped first at El Parque de San Francisco, danced outside, and then headed over to the center of the festivities and the bars. Oh, my, God. The streets around the bars were packed! It seemed like the whole world had come out to dance. It was a little hard to move from one place to another but it was a lot of fun. That was the first night I managed to stay up until 5:00 in the morning (which I’m told is quite normal here). I’m finally becoming an Oviedoin! (Kind of).

So, to end this rather long post, I’m still not sure if blondes truly have more fun, but you will certainly have a blast if you’re ever lucky enough to attend even a part of San Mateo.


So I’m a half blonde now..PC: The Incredible Mary Vickers


This (and some of the following pictures) were from the Día de Las Americas parade on Tuesday. PC: Bea the Bae