Winter Quarter / by Stefaan Conrad

The past three months have been a whirlwind of trips and excursions. Not even three weeks had passed since the holiday break and my friends and I were off across the Mediterranean to Milan for a birthday weekend. Five of us from Spain met up with two from France and one from Italy for a weekend of cooking and gelato.

I came home from that trip and was browsing my email inbox and saw an alert from Student Universe, a flight search engine that offers student discounts, saying that "today (January 30) was the last day to enter" some competition in which the winner would receive $1500 towards their travels and any student abroad could qualify. I whipped up a video submission in less than an hour and turned it in hours before the deadline. Long story short I won the competition and was selected to become Student Universe Snap Chat ambassador for the rest of my time abroad. Since then I have been putting that prize to good use and taking pictures and videos in the name of Student Universe. 

Two weeks later I was back in Italy for a visit to my sister in Florence. I got to spend a few days with her in her city and doing the things she does on an average Tuscan day. 

One day of school bridged the gap between my trip to Florence and our school tour to Barcelona. I had been to Barca before but I had no qualms with returning as it is one of my favorite cities here in Europe. We spent the week exploring Las Ramblas, El Barrio Gotico, and even had a day trip to Girona which looked like a mini version of Florence with a dirty river and colorful houses, only difference was the lack of basic tourists which I suppose we made up for in some way.

A rather spontaneous trip was planned the next weekend to a small coastal town called Xabía. We rented a car and an AirBNB and spent the weekend driving tight roads down to precious little coves and beaches that seemed to be hidden away from the rest of the world.

Three weeks after my visit to Emily in Italy it was time to go see Reuben, my brother, and Nephta, my other brother-ish, in France where they study. We saw some of Geneva for an afternoon and the next day climbed the Saleve, a cliff face of a mountain, in rather unfavorable conditions. The wind was so incredibly strong and the last 100 meters of elevation brought us to temperatures below freezing and the small drips of rain turned to snow. Needless to say our thin jackets were soaked and our shorts-clad legs were frozen stumps from knee down. The next morning we woke to see that a solid layer of snow had accumulated on the cliffs where we had just been scrambling the day before. 

The following weekend I joined the local highschool on a trip to the Pyrenees outside of Barcelona for a ski week. 12 of us college students had three days of bliss with three days of pure blue sky following a storm the night before we arrived. The whole three days there were little powder stashes to be found and us Americans pushed the limits of skiable terrain that Boi Taull had to offer, finding off-piste lines through rocks and gullies in seek some fresh snow.

Ski trip left us with one day to take our final exams from winter quarter before our first spring break took off. This break was for Fallas, a Valencian festival which compares to absolutely nothing I've ever experienced. How an entire region of a country can party that hard for that long is beyond me. Take my word for it; absolutely wild!

The next weekend I took off to Tenerife, a Spanish Island that is part of the Canaries off of the African Coast. We spent two days on the beach, tanning and surfing what little waves there were. 

Another week of school followed before my next trip took me, first, back to Italy to a small town called Trieste before I took a bus down the start of the Dalmatian coast to a small Croatian town called Rovinj. Between the coastal views of the town and the national park just a short walk down the coast, this was probably the most beautiful place I can remember visiting. The breathtaking tranquility in the crystal clear waters and the tiny streets filled with boutiques and local restaurants were so unique.

Later that week we hit a deadline that every student had been stressing over since late fall quarter: DELE Day. April 7 was the scheduled test day on which we were tested on our writing, listening, and speaking abilities in the Spanish language. Fortunately our teachers had prepared us well and the majority felt that the test was easier than expected.

Easter weekend came a week later but due to incredibly high flight prices I decided to go with a group just a few hours south of Valencia to another coastal city called Alicante. We spent the weekend cooking, tanning, playing games, and we even climbed the castle for a gorgeous sunset above the city. 

That brings me to today, April 17. Summary of the past three months; 14 weeks, 10 destinations, 10 flights, 6 buses, and innumerable experiences. I have 51 days until I arrive back home. Between now and then I will have seen Toledo, Segovia, Madrid, Kings Day in Amsterdam, Peñiscola, and Porto. The last hoorah of this year is going to be a week spent in a camper van driving the ring road of Iceland with 4 other adventurers. Yikes...6 days later I'll leave home for another summer in central Oregon.

La juventud es como una ola, si no te subes, la pasará.