Shannon Cain '13

Hi everyone,
I would like to apologize for not updating my blog in a while, I’ve been pretty busy with exams and I also managed to travel to Greece for a week while I had time off during the exam period. I had four total exams, I am so glad that they are finished and I am excited to beginning the new semester next week. Overall, I think my exams went alright, although I haven’t received any of my grades yet. I feel comfortable about my sociology exam; even though it was pretty difficult and there was a large amount of material on the exam, I studied a lot and I’m now awaiting my grade. Meeting with my professor on a weekly basis and borrowing notes from other students in the class was definitely very important so I’m hoping that my hard work will pay off. As for philosophy, my professor gave Kelsey and I a separate exam from the rest of the class and I feel pretty good about it. Philosophy is definitely not my favorite subject but I’m happy that I stuck with the class in the end. My last exam that I had was for Latin American fiction and it is the class that I am most worried about. I already know that I passed the class, however, the professor grades the exams very rigidly and does not give any partial credit. I am hoping for the best and am anxious to see my grades.
On another note, I would like to tell you all about my amazing time in Greece! Since we had a break during exams, Kelsey, Brooke, and I decided to go to Athens and Santorini, one of the Greek islands. It was incredible! We saw the acropolis in Athens as well as the other ruins throughout the city. We spent the first three days in Athens in a great hostel, explored the city, and ate Gyros every day for lunch. We then went to Santorini for 3 days which was absolutely beautiful. It was exactly what I had pictured of Greece, with all of the blue and white buildings overlooking the mediterranean. We went to the beaches which had red and black sand, and even went for a swim one day even though it was a bit chilly. It was well worth it though! We spent our last day in Athens walking around the city and enjoying the best baklava I had ever had. Overall, it was an awesome trip and I am so glad that I had the chance to go.
As for right now, I am enjoying a few days off before my classes start up for the next semester. Also, it’s hard to believe, but I’ve already been back for a month! The time really does fly!
Hasta luego!

Hello everyone,

After being back in León for a little bit, I am finally feeling adjusted again to being here. It was hard to leave my family yet again, but I am lucky enough to have them coming to visit me in April! I heard mixed reviews about going back home for Christmas from past students because it was difficult for them go back, but I know that it was definitely the right choice for me. Even though I had another teary-eyed goodbye in the airport with my parents, it was totally worth it for me to be able to spend time at home.

After a marathon day of travelling, I was exhausted and the first few days here were definitely tough. However, it´s been great to catch up with my friends here who I hadn´t seen in a few weeks and I missed León as well as speaking Spanish! Since being here, I’ve been very busy with my work because I have exams next week. I am most nervous for my sociology exam because there are a ton of things to memorize for the exam and I am one of the very few people in the class who isn’t a native Spanish speaker. Not to mention, this final is worth the majority of my grade for the class. Borrowing notes from friends in the class and meeting with the professor on a weekly basis have definitely helped me out, but now it’s up to me to study and memorize all the information. This has really made me appreciate exams at Holy Cross for the sole fact that they are in English! The other two finals that I have shouldn’t be quite as difficult so I am less nervous for those, but I still have a lot of preparing left to do for the exams. I’ve got a full weekend of studying ahead of me!

Wish me luck!

Greetings from the US!
I’m here at home right now, enjoying the last few days of my break before I head back to Leon. The past two weeks have gone by pretty fast, but I’ve had a great time seeing family and friends. It feels pretty great to sleep in my own bed, drive my car, hear people speak English, go to Dunkin donuts, watch American TV, and spend time with friends and family. I’m so glad that I had the chance to go home for Christmas because I really couldn’t see myself staying away until June. I didn’t do too much during this break; it was just great to spend time with my friends and family from home. It will definitely be bittersweet as I go back to Leon. On one hand, it will be really hard leaving my family since I’ve started to get used to being home. On the other hand, I’ve got so much to look forward to for this semester. I’m really excited to go back because I already know what to expect, I miss my host mom and my friends, and I’m in the process of planning some great trips for the semester (I´ve already got a pretty long list of countries that I would like to visit!). I’m also looking forward to my family visiting me next semester so they can finally see where I’ve been living since September. I can’t believe that I’m going back so soon and I’m so thankful that I have another semester in Leon!

It’s pretty hard for me to believe it, but 8 days from now, I will be home for Christmas! The time really has gone by fast and I am so excited to go home to see my friends and family who I miss a ton!

I just got back from a very busy 9 days of travelling, thanks to the week-long break from classes due to 2 holidays in the past week. I was able to travel to Andalucía, the southernmost region of Spain, as well as Paris, the city of lights. I had an amazing week travelling and I got to see tons of beautiful sights. (I would like to send my regards to everyone at Holy Cross currently taking their final exams).

My trip to Andalucía was one of the trips planned by the university and consisted of one day in Granada, two days in Sevilla, and a day trip to Cadiz. The region was beautiful:  it was completely different from the other Spanish cities that I had seen beforehand.  We even had the chance to spend a day at the beach. It felt pretty great to be able to lay outside on the beach in December.

From Andalucía, I headed to Paris with my friends and we met up with some of the HC kids that are studying in Palma de Mallorca and A Coruña. Paris was absolutely gorgeous! It surpassed all of my expectations and there were so many things to see. Our trip consisted of visits to Versailles, the Louvre, going up the Eiffel Tower, walking around the Christmas market, visiting Notre Dame, taking a boat cruise along the river, and eating as many crepes as possible. Needless to say it was a great few days and Paris quickly became one of my favorite cities!

As fun as it was to travel, it felt great to arrive back “home” in León. I missed spending time with my host madre, my own bed, and the comfort of a familiar city. As the semester comes to an end, I can’t help thinking how happy I am to be here for a whole year. This was something I was very hesitant about in the beginning when first thinking about studying abroad. I almost didn’t consider going to Spain because it meant being there for a whole year. Before this experience, I managed to stay very close to home, so the thought of being so far away was daunting. Ill admit that it has been hard being away from home, especially on Thanksgiving, but I’m so happy to have the chance to study abroad.

Looking back, I am sure that I made the right choice and I am so excited to have another semester here. I’m really getting to know the city and the people here and I truly feel comfortable here. My Spanish is improving, but I know I still have a long way to go. Also, I’m so excited to travel more throughout Europe next semester.  I have so many things to look forward to and I feel so lucky to have this experience.

I’ve been keeping very busy with classes and travelling and Ive been finding it difficult to keep up with my blogging. However, I wanted to share with you a little about my trip to Ireland! Brooke and I decided to go to Ireland for the weekend because we both have friends that are studying in Galway for the year. I have always wanted to visit Ireland because it seems so beautiful and I come from an Irish background. Needless to say, I had some pretty high expectations about my trip, and I was amazed at how beautiful it actually was. I was only able to go for a couple of days for a quick weekend trip, but it was great. I already want to plan another trip to return next semester! The town was really cute with tons of little shops, people walking around the city, and quaint Irish pubs. We heard some live music in one of the pubs and we also took a bus tour of some of the Irish countryside. Never in my life had I seen so many sheep in one place! Overall, it was a really great weekend and I couldn’t have asked for a better time there.

After my great weekend in Ireland, I had to go back to reality and keep busy with my schoolwork. I recently had my first philosophy paper due as well as an oral presentation. I’ve gotta say that philosophy is definitely my hardest class here. I decided to take it to fulfill my common requirement and it has definitely been challenging (to say the least). For me, I’m not sure if I can really understand it in English so I don’t know what I was thinking when I signed up to take it here. However, becoming friends with some of the Spanish students in the class has really been helpful. They’ve even told me that the professor isn’t very clear in her explanations of things and they’ve been really willing to help me out. It made me feel a lot better when they said that they were just as confused about some of the things that we are learning.  For now, I’m just sticking with it, hoping that it’ll be alright in the end.

In terms of my other classes, everything seems to be going pretty well. I’m really interested in the classes that I’m taking and both the professors and the students seem willing to help me out. For example, I was nervous about asking someone to borrow their notes for class one day but I finally managed to get the nerve to do so. I was very surprised the next day when I received 10 pages of typed up notes for the class (it pays to ask!). At this point in the year, it feels really nice to have a few different groups of friends and to feel comfortable with the people around me. Between the Spanish students we have met in the university and the Erasmus students that we have gotten to know on the trips, I have loved getting to know the people here so far!

First off, I’d like to apologize for my lack of updating this blog. I’ve been extremely busy the past few weeks with travelling and schoolwork. Ive got a lot of things to catch up on so I´ll start with my trip to Barcelona!

My trip to Barcelona was with a group of 50 other Erasmus students who are studying in León and it was organized by the university.  It was nice to have everything planned out and we were able to take advantage of the “puente”, the  long weekend due to all Saints day on Nov. 1st. Barcelona was a great city to visit but its very large and there are tons of tourists, so I could never see myself studying there. There was a ton of English and Catalán (the official language of the region) being spoken, which was something that really frustrated me because I’d like to practice my Spanish. However, the city was very pretty and we were able to see some of Antoni Gaudi’s architecture, including La Sagrada Familia, a basilica that is still being constructed today. I was absolutely in awe as I walked into the basilica; it was gorgeous and it was really interesting to it see amid the construction. The pictures really don´t do it justice! We also went to the Picasso museum; I really enjoyed this because the entire museum consisted of his art and we were able to see the many different styles that he experimented with throughout his lifetime. It was really interesting to me because I had learned about Picasso as well as Antoni Gaudí in my Montserrat class freshman year, which consisted of art, literature, and film of Spain. How suitable, right?

To get to Barcelona, we left on Friday night and traveled overnight by bus (trust me; it was an extremely long night on a less than comfortable bus). All of the different things that we did in the city were done as a large group and I now really appreciate travelling in a small group of people. Let’s just say that I am not the most patient person in the world, especially when it comes to waiting for other people who are running on “Spanish time” nonetheless. Despite having some flaws in the organization of the trip, it was nice to have the different tours because I really wouldn’t have known where to go and what to do otherwise.

On Monday, we had a free day to ourselves, so Brooke and I decided to visit Montserrat for the day because it is only about an hour outside of the city. As a Holy Cross student, I have heard the story of how St. Ignatius of Loyola went to Montserrat to lay down his sword countless times so needless to say I felt obliged to visit for the day. The scenery was absolutely beautiful! We visited the chapel, the museum, and walked around the mountain for a while. After hearing the story of Montserrat so many times, it felt pretty surreal that I was actually there. It was a really great day and a worthwhile trip.

On Tuesday, we headed back to León, and I feel like this trip was the perfect length of time. Even though there is so much to see in Barcelona, we had the chance to see a lot of different parts of the city and we had a lot of fun. We were even able to celebrate Halloween and we all dressed up as we went out at night!

During the weekend, we were also surprised by a couple of Holy Cross students who are currently studying in Coruña and Palma de Mallorca who were also visiting Barcelona. It was really great to see them and it was like a mini-Pamplona reunion. Overall, we all had a great weekend!

designed by Antoni Gaudí

by Antoni Gaudí


Not too much is new with me here.  I’m still having a great time here in León and at times, it still feels surreal that I’m actually here. I feel so lucky to be able to call this city my home for the year. My friends and I were casually walking one night and as we passed by the cathedral, we all stopped and stared up at how beautiful the cathedral is when lit up at night.  I walk by it nearly every day and every time I pass by it, I am still in awe at how gorgeous it is. Its crazy to think that there is so much history in this city, including the cathedral, which dates back to the 13th century.

For the first two Wednesdays of October, we were lucky enough to not have classes due to one holiday in León and a national holiday throughout Spain. For the local festival in León, San Froilán, there were many different celebrations and traditions in the city. For example, we saw some traditional Leonese dancing, known as the Jota, as well as a procession of “carros”, carts that were decorated by the surrounding pueblos and were led by horses, cows, and donkeys. There was also a procession of banners along the streets and a medieval marketplace with local merchants selling hand crafted items. The city streets were filled with people and it cool to see the traditions that are centuries old.

I’ve been keeping pretty busy with classes and meeting new friends.  I’ve also starting tutoring English to a couple different families so that I can earn a little bit of extra spending money here.  I play games with younger children and teach them vocabulary and I also spend an hour per week conversing with 2 university professors that are looking to improve their English. Even though everyone is required to learn English here, the people here don’t have a lot of opportunities to practice speaking with native English speakers. So far, the classes have been fun for me and it’s always nice to earn a little bit of cash!

This weekend, my friends and I will be heading to Barcelona!  This is one of the trips that the university offers so we will be taking advantage of the great opportunity. We’re all really excited to go and I will be sure to update the blog upon my return!

The first two weeks of classes are over and I’ve begun to get into a regular schedule here. I’m beginning to get a sense of what the classes here are like. It’s a little overwhelming to be with mostly Spanish students in my classes, but my professors are very nice and are making an effort to help me out. Even though I know it will be tough with the language, I´m really interested in my classes. After being here in León for about a month, I thought that I should share a little bit of the daily routine here.

8-9AM- Desayuno, breakfast: breakfast is very light here, coffee and crackers or toast. Its definitely an adjustment to a hearty American breakfast which I have grown so accustomed to.

In the morning I have classes at the university, any time between 9AM and 2PM. After my morning classes, I head back to the apartment for lunch.

2:30PM  Comida, lunch: The largest meal of the day.  It is definitely hard to get used to eating so late in the day for lunch, but it’s really nice that lunch is the largest meal of the day.  There are 3 courses, first course, second, and dessert.

After comida, it is time for a siesta. While its true that not every Spaniard is able to take a daily nap after lunch, Ive grown to take full advantage of it. Between 2pm and 5pm, almost all of the shops are closed and everyone returns to their houses for a family meal.

On some days, I also have afternoon classes between 4PM and 8PM. Cena, Dinner, is traditionally served at around 9 or 930PM. While it seems extremely strange compared to 6pm dinner in the states, dinner here is much lighter because comida is the main meal of the day. Eating this late makes the day feel a lot longer. Since they eat so late, Spaniards generally go to bed later and get less sleep. I guess that’s where a siesta really comes in handy!

In terms of the nightlife, people usually don´t go out to bars until about 1 or 2AM, and then most places close around 5AM. This certainly is a huge difference than the US, but I guess the Spaniards know how to make the most of their day (and night)!

The schedule here has definitely been a large adjustment but I’ve been getting accustomed to it during my time here. Overall, the people seem much more relaxed. A common stereotype of Spaniards is that they are always late and more relaxed when it comes to the timing of things. Even though this isn’t always true in terms of work and important meetings, when it comes to meeting up with friends, I always have to remember the difference in ¨Spanish time¨, aka 5 to 10 minutes late. Also, in our classes, its very rare for a professor to show up exactly on time and class usually starts 5 to 15 minutes later than it is scheduled to. This concept of time can occasionally be frustrating, but I generally like how the people here seem a little more relaxed.

That´s all for now, I´ve got to do some work for my classes.

¡Hasta Pronto!

So here’s where I start to brag about how amazing Leon is and how much I like the city already. After about three weeks of orientation grammar/culture classes, I have just had my first few days of classes. I’m loving my time here as I’ve begun to feel more at home in this city and my friends and I have been figuring out our favorite places to go to hang out. I’ve also been feeling a lot more comfortable with my host madre as we’re starting to get to know each other more. I’m pretty relieved to finally start classes because, like most HC students, I’m used to always have something to do. I started to get homesick when I had so much free time on my hands, so I am glad to be keeping busy with classes.

In our free time, my friends and I have enjoyed going out for tapas in the city, which is something that is really unique about Leon. Tapas are like appetizers and Leon is one of the few cities in Spain that will give you free (yes, I said free) tapas with the drink that you order. Each bar has a signature tapa, including pizza, potatoes with alioli, chorizo, ham, tortilla, and morcilla, just to name a few. There are a ton of different bars in the city so normally when people go out for tapas, “tapear”, they go to a bunch of different places for a variety of foods. The food here has been great, to say the least. Even though I would normally consider myself to be somewhat of a picky eater, this experience has allowed me to try tons of new dishes, most of which I’ve really enjoyed!

In the past couple of days, we’ve also started to meet some of the other university students, mostly the other foreign students, who are also studying in Spain for the year. There are a lot of different students, especially from all over Europe, and the university offers a lot of activities for us throughout the year.  For example, there are trips throughout Spain during the year offered exclusively to the international students. These trips are included in our tuition and include places such as Barcelona, Salamanca, Asturias, Andalucía, and Valencia, to name a few.  I’m extremely excited to take advantage of these trips because I’ll be able to see all around Spain as well as get close with the international kids here.

This past weekend, we went on our first of many excursions of the year. Our first trip was to Las Medulas, former gold mines, and Astorga, a small city with a beautiful cathedral, ancient roman walls, and a building designed by Gaudi. Las Medulas consisted of a lot of walking and hiking to see the beautiful mountains and the mines. It was a very cool sight and I didn’t think I would see anything like it! Also, Astorga is famous for its chocolate production, as a chocoholic, I definitely enjoyed it! Both cities are located in the province of Leon so they were relatively close by. Overall it was a great day!

Thats all for now, I will keep you updated as to how my classes are going soon!

  • Leon!

  • September 15th, 2011


I am officially in Leon! The four of us took a train from Pamplona along with the kids who are studying in Coruña, because Leon is a stop along the way. The word stressful is an understatement when you have a handful of people each with 2 large suitcases attempting to get on the train and store their luggage, with very limited time to do so. It was like a puzzle attempting to fit all of these suitcases in the very limited storage available. Despite this chaos, after four hours on the train, the four of us HC students were greeted by Mercedes, our program director, and our host families at the train station. I am living with a 60 year old woman whose children are older and living on their own. I was brought to the apartment with my luggage and was showed around my room and the apartment. It felt nice to finally be able to completely unpack, rather than just living out of a suitcase for 3 weeks. The apartment is very nice and it’s pretty close to the center of the city, so it’s very convenient. My favorite part has to be the balcony, which overlooks the street and boutiques below. I was definitely anxious and nervous to finally be arriving in Leon, and even though it still feels strange that I’m actually here, I’m sure that it will just take some getting used to.

Leon is without a doubt a beautiful city; it’s pretty small but there are a lot of people and tons of things to do here.  The size of the city makes it really easy to meet up with everyone and to get from place to place. It feels really nice to start to get a sense of where everything is located and I’m really looking forward to knowing the city well this year. During the past week, we’ve been busy exploring the sights; its a small city, but there are so any different things to see!

The Cathedral

San Marcos- A former monastery and hospital in Leon that has been converted to a hotel and museum

Casa de Botines- Designed by Antoni Gaudi, now it serves as a Spanish bank

The Barrio Humedo, or “wet district”- where the bars and clubs are centered in Leon

Plaza Mayor

We don’t officially start classes at the university until September 27th, so until then we have some grammar and language classes and some tours of the city. I just recently picked out my classes for the year: I’ll be taking one year long grammar and culture class, 2 Spanish literature classes, and I will also be able to fulfill some of my common requirements by taking social sciences, history, and philosophy. It’s somewhat intimidating to know that ALL of my classes will be in Spanish but our advisers assured us that previous students have taken many of the same courses. Overall, I’m anxious to begin classes and I am really looking forward to meeting some of the university students.

Talk to you soon!