getting there | sunday stories #2

This is the second post in a Sunday series I’m doing. I’ll be telling my adventures from my  time studying abroad during a summer in college. If this is your first time reading “sunday stories”, you can find the first post here.


Remember that Mary Kate and Ashley movie in which they traveled to the 2002 Winter Olympics in Park City, Utah? That was one of my favorite of their mediocre movies – How The West Was Won was another fave or It Takes Two, but also their mystery movies. Ok, fine, they were not mediocre. Anyway, it’s also where I stole the name of today’s installment. Yolo. Memories.

Getting to your travel destination is no easy feat, especially if you have to fly…across an entire ocean. Oy.

The night before I was set to leave on my European excursion, I was packing my one, singular, UNO purple people eater, hard-side suitcase. Frantically. I was having an existential crisis over the fact that I couldn’t bring my favorite Bob Marley shirt. For real, this was 21 year-old Jess.

Long, stressful story short: Momma Bear convinced me that it wasn’t necessary to bring my beloved Bob with me. The only thing left to do was chug a weird IPA I didn’t like, set my alarm and go to bed.

Now, don’t get it twisted, I 1000% set my alarm. I set three alarms. There were witnesses.

All three alarms failed to go off, resulting in my very own “Home Alone” moment. You know that part where they have to rush to and through the airport because their alarm failed. Yeah…same. At least I wasn’t Movie #1 Kevin who got left behind. Anyway. I freaked out, naturally, since I react SO WELL to life scenarios.

It was either my roommate (who also happened to be going on the trip) or my parents (who came to take me to the airport) that woke me up. But, like I mentioned, I was not Kevin McCallister (#1 or #2). I made it to the airport with plenty of time to spare and I boarded the correct aircraft. Praise the Lord.

We flew from Salt Lake City into JFK in New York City. Like the asshole that I was…am, I decided this was an amazing opportunity to let the world know that I was (AM) a Red Sox fan by wearing a brand new Red Sox t-shirt. See…asshole. But a self-aware asshole. (If you don’t follow baseball or sports or just don’t care, the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankee rivalry is the biggest, most famous, longest-running, most taken seriously rivalry in sports. If you care for more info, google it.)

The five hours I spent in JFK were thrilling. Not really. I forced my travel companions to eat BDUBS (Buffalo Wild Wings) and drink Boston Lager with me. (My spirit animal is a middle-aged Dad with a beer gut. It’s becoming more aware to me as time goes on.)

I even witnessed a real-life couple carrying real-life SANDALS luggage. If you watch The Office, you’ll get my excitement. So naturally I had to capture the following photo, the one and only from the “getting there” portion of the excursion.

Finally, it was time to board my very first international flight to Madrid. WHEE! This was the biggest plane I have ever been on and it was quite the adventure…kinda. I quickly learned that being in the middle row of the Titanic of planes (bad reference) was squishy and you get hit with the beverage cart often. However, I also discovered they serve you free wine so that helped, but did not allow me to sleep.

So what did I do on that 7 1/2 hour flight?

1- Watched “500 Days of Summer” for the first time and had an existential crisis (this was a very unstable time in my life apparently haha.)

2- Watched my favorite Scorsese movie “The Departed” to make me feel more tough.

3- Watched a sunrise worthy of a Crayola box as we made our final descent into my homeland, España.

We made our way off the plane and toward Customs. As I proudly gave my shiny, new passport to the agent, I had the biggest smile on my face. I was FINALLY HERE! He was less than thrilled at my excitement (delusion) and barely used enough ink to produce a legible stamp in my passport. Asshole. (Takes one to know one!)

Once we were safely in the country, we gathered our bags and had to find a cab all while running on no sleep and pure adrenaline.

When you are lacking sleep, having to navigate a country you are not familiar with and attempting to speak a language you are not fluent in – your brain may shut down. Case in point, the only words I could come up with were: hola, baño, cerveza. Olé!

Luckily, one of my travel companions took charge and told the taxi driver where our hostel was located. I sat in the back of the cab overwhelmed by everything. All of it. From the architecture passing me by to the Spanish street signs. It was all so overwhelming. I was actually in the homeland!

After arriving at our hostel, the cute man at reception made a comment about my last name since, you know, my family hails from the northern part of the country I was in. He was absolutely convinced that I should know more Spanish than my sleep-derived brain did at the time. However, it was fun to be “recognized” and it only made me feel more at home.

So I’ve successfully made it to Madrid, Spain. Next Sunday, I’ll talk about the weekend we spent in the city and how I actually feel about Madrid.
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i did a study abroad once | sunday stories #1

This is the first post in a Sunday series I’m doing. I’ll be telling my adventures from my  time studying abroad during a summer in college. Back then, I started my first blog (which has since been deleted) and it’s fair to say I didn’t post as consistently as I wanted to while in Spain. Now, I feel it’s time to bring back those vintage posts starting now!


I’d always wanted to visit Spain. My ancestors hail from the Northeast region aka The Basque Country near San Sebastián and I was drawn to the country and the culture from a young age. When my Spanish teacher during spring semester of my fourth year in college mentioned that he led a partial summer-intensive study abroad in Northern Spain, I was instantly intrigued. He highly encouraged me to apply. So I did.

Spoiler Alert: I got into the program and was both ecstatic and nervous to be going on such a grand adventure. A group of about 30(?) students from the University of Utah (my school) were going to be traveling and studying together. This structure made me feel a LOT better. Plus, my Spanish teacher was leading the trip which also added to the comfort level of the whole excursion.

You see, at this point, the only time I had been out of the country was to go to a week-long summer camp in Canada. So Europe was a whole new world as far as I was concerned. I needed an adult who knew what they were doing to guide me (and everyone else) through said new world.

We had several pre-trip meetings so we could get to know our fellow travelers and plan flights accordingly so we wouldn’t be navigating alone. Again, more comfort before the discomfort began.

I studied in Oviedo, Spain, which is in the Northern region of the country and about a 30 minute bus ride to the northern coast. If you’ve seen “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” you might have heard of the city. Side Note: Woody Allen loves Oviedo so much they have a statue dedicated to him. True story, see below.

Though you may have never heard of this city or consider it a tourist town, it is for Spaniards. Oviedo is the capital city in the region of Asturias. From what I was told, this is the place where the Spaniards won their first battle in taking back Spain from Franco. (Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m going based off what my Host Grandma told me!) Hence why this is such a big attraction for Spaniards.

Oviedo is the chosen city for this particular study abroad program because Americans don’t visit, usually. AKA English isn’t widely spoken. Which means when you’re struggling to order a Spanish Tortilla (also known as the greatest thing besides wine to come out of the country), you are forced to find the words in Spanish to complete your order. This is the best way for your brain to learn and store a new language, to be thrown into the scenario and just do it. I guess this is why they call it an “intensive.”

The program was about a month and a half long, which was perfect for someone who couldn’t see themselves dedicating an entire summer to living abroad away from my friends and social life in Utah. Looking back on it now, however, I wish I would have spent more time in a study abroad program. Such is life!

Overall, you must know that this trip absolutely changed my life. I got to make some amazing friends, see a beautiful part of Spain I would have never considered visiting, travel to the small, mountainous village where my great-grandfather was born and finally have my own sort of “Midnight in Paris” adventure with my family. Most importantly, on this trip I discovered that I am a writer through and through.

I’m excited to share my adventures, thoughts and vintage blog posts with y’all over the next few weeks. The idea of revisiting them and providing fresh insight is also very exciting to me, so, stay tuned!

I also highly recommend you listen to the song “Oviedo” by Blind Pilot. While there is an Oviedo in Florida, the lyrics of this song convinced us that it was, in fact, written about Oviedo, Spain. Plus, I love it and it reminds me of my time there!

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Read post #2 here!