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8 posts categorized "Sarah Skrobala"

Eating My Way Across Europe

Why travel if you don't get to experience the food, right?! When visiting a new city or country, many adventurers want to consume the local and authentic cuisine. For those of you looking for recommendations, I've composed a list of places I've eaten, what type of food they serve, and for some, if they have free WiFi available.

Southwestern Europe

  • Valencia, Valenciana, Spain
    • I didn't get to try any special restaurants while I was there because we made sandwiches and spent the majority of the time on the beach, but you can't go wrong with paella. It's native to Valencia!
  • Toledo, Castilla-La Mancha, Spain
    • Mercado de San Augustin   
  • Granada, Andalucia, Spain
    • Note: the bars/ restaurants in Granada serve free tapas when you order drinks!
    • Kasbah: Spanish-Moroccan restaurant in Albayzin (where there were many other Moroccan restaurants to choose from, too!)
  • Segovia, Castilla y Leon, Spain
    • If you're willing to take a little risk, try cochinillo, it's a slow roasted suckling pig native to Segovia
  • Lisbon, Portugal
    • Time Out Market: great variety, try some seafood plates
    • Pharmacia: lunch (I'd recommend just going for drinks, though)
    • Taberna Portuguesa: Portuguese plates to share
    • Pasteis de Belem: famous pastry shop

Western Europe

  • Tralee, Ireland
    • Ballyseede Castle: eat either at the bar or in the dining room
  • Edinburgh, Scotland, UK
    • The Elephant House: known as the one of the spots where JK Rowling wrote "Harry Potter," I'd recommend going here only for a cup of coffee and the experience
  • Amsterdam, Netherlands
    • Coffee & Coconuts: brunch, WiFi
    • Pancakes Amsterdam Westermarket: traditional Dutch pancakes, WiFi
    • Bartack: great food but on the outskirts of the city
    • Bird Thai Cuisine: in the Red Light District, WiFi

Central Europe

  • Radda in Chianti
    • Pizza Pie
    • Le Forchette del Chianti: absolutely amazing Italian food! It's a little pricey, though, so bring a full wallet (along with an empty stomach)
  • Florence
    • Acqua al 2
  • Siena
    • Morbidi
  • Prague, Czech Republic
    • The Globe Bookstore & Cafe: breakfast
    • Aromi: Italian cuisine
    • Lokal: Czech food, mess hall style
    • Sudicka/ Name Problema: Croatian cuisine
    • Hergetora Cihelna
    • If you're visiting Prague during the Christmas market season, you must absolutely grab food from the stands! Try a little bit of everything and wash it down with mulled win!
  • Hungary, Budapest
    • Circusz: brunch
    • Vintage Garden: brunch 
    • Mazel Tov: Israeli/ Middle Eastern cuisine
    • Trattoria Pomo d'Oro: Italian cuisine
    • Doblo: wine bar (Hungarian wine is actually quite popular, and good!)
    • Great Market Hall: go for lunch or just a hold-you-over snack
  • Berlin, Germany
    • Distrikt Coffee: brunch, WiFi
    • Le Bon: brunch, WiFi, cash only
    • Chipps: brunch
    • Cafe Bondi: breakfast, cash only
    • Baraka: Moroccan/ Egyptian cuisine
    • Cocolo Ramen: authentic Ramen
    • Madami: Vietnamese cuisine
    • Katz Orange: more expensive but delicious
    • Shiso Burger: Asian-style burgers, cards for orders over 20 EUR

Feel free to leave comments with other suggestions! Hope you enjoy this food as much as I did!

Type A & Travel: How the Two Fit Together

People travel to discover a new side of themselves, to explore new lands, to push their boundaries. Traveling extensively (and moving to a new country) demands taking a leap of faith that everything will play out the way it was intended to (that is, if you believe in fate). This requires a "go-with-the-flow" mentality, a Type B personality (and maybe a little of a "Type T" attitude, as my mom likes to describe thrill seekers like my dad). So how, then, do the Type A people fit into all of this? Speaking from personal experience, lists and Google Docs and months-in-advance planning can be incredibly beneficial, especially when visiting a foreign land. While it would be nice to be the type of person who can wake up one morning, decide to pack a bag and be on the next flight to some exotic location, planning in advance is necessary (in my opinion), particularly when you're looking to partake in incredibly popular tourist excursions. Take if from personal experience, you DO NOT want to be waiting on line in the cold for hours because you didn't buy tickets in advance. So, for the following popular European tourist attractions, don't be like me and buy tickets in advance (but if you were like me, here's how to still get tickets the day of).

  • La Alhambra (Granada, Spain)

Having rightfully earned the title of most visited site in Spain, this fortress and palace sells out months in advance. If you weren't lucky enough to buy tickets online, I've heard that you can buy from a secondary website (some travel websites will buy La Alhambra tickets for the sole purpose of reselling them), but I don't have personal experience with this. If you're looking to get tickets the same day as visiting, be prepared to wake up early. Same-day tickets go on sale at 8 a.m. so plan on getting there no later than 6 a.m. (at least that was the case in mid-September). Yup, that early. There are two ticket lines; one for cash only sales and the other for cards. My recommendation: split up so that you have at least one person standing on each line in order to maximize your chances of getting tickets. 

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  • Anne Frank House (Amsterdam, Netherlands)

Tickets to this powerful museum go on sale two months in advance. Buy your tickets then because they will be sold out in a very short period of time. If you don't, same-day tickets go on sale at 3:30 p.m., but don't expect to waltz up to the ticket counter at 3:30. There will already be a line wrapped around an entire block by this point. I've heard and read to go around 2 p.m. to start waiting. I didn't, and my friend and I waited on line for three hours (and it was a stereotypical overcast, rainy, cold day in Amsterdam).

  • Guinness Factory (Dublin, Ireland)

Now this one I can't say how to beat the same-day ticket line, as I invoked my Type A-ness and bought tickets ahead of time (knowing that I would be there St. Patrick's Day weekend), but what I can recommend is to avoid going that weekend, if possible. Also, ticket prices vary depending on the time of day, day of the week, and time of the year, so plan accordingly.

I can imagine there are many more popular sites in Europe that their tickets should be bought months in advance (if my memory serves me correctly, the Eiffel Tour is one of those), but these are just the ones I've had experience with this time around. So, be that thrill seeker and decide one morning to jump on the next plane, but if there are specific things you would like to see and do, take my advice and plan in advance (although I'm sure I won't always follow my own words of wisdom).

 

Keep on traveling (& planning),

Sarah

Christmas in Spanish Schools

The holiday season is a magical time for all who celebrate Christmas, and even those who don't . This is no exception in Spain and its classrooms. 

I came to realize pretty early on that Spain and its education system is not secular. Religion classes are offered in public schools, and while parents can opt their children out of taking such classes, the idea of religion (really, Christianity) being taught in grade school was new to me. Spain's lack of secularism became particularly apparent during the month of December. Streets were lined with Christmas lights and Christmas trees popped up in every major plaza; although, this is quite normal for major cities, regardless of which country they're in. The schools participated in a furthering degree of the Christmas spirit.

Again, the schools were decked out with the regular Christmas decor: ornaments, garland, snowflakes, and other seasonal decorations. However, it was unique and a little surprising for me to notice all the nativity scenes throughout the school. From students' handmade shoe box versions to the official one constructed by elderly members of the town, this religious decor moved away from the commercialized decorations typically seen in schools. During the final days before break, each class went to see the town's handmade nativity scene. This year's was the scene of Bethlehem, and it was unlike anything I had ever witnessed. Every single item in the building, including the building itself, was handmade over the previous year (each year's is different from the year prior). You can check this year's and all the previous ones here: http://asociacionbelenistacamarma.blogspot.com.es/

(I apologize for the poor picture quality, these were taken via Snapchat on my iPhone 5S)

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Other holiday school festivities included a Christmas card competition across 6th grade, a school wide Christmas performance (for which students practiced their songs and dances for many hours), the reading of Christmas stories in the decked-out library, and writing letters to pen pals in Poland about their Christmas traditions. While this isn't intended to critique the Spanish way of celebrating the holiday season (I acknowledge that many public schools across the U.S. also participate in Christmas-themed traditions despite the fact that they're public schools), I found it interesting just how intense and religious Christmas celebrations are in public schools without, what it seemed like, consideration that not all students may participate in this holiday. (Note: Yes, Spain is a predominantly Catholic country, but there are many Muslim people living there, hailing from Northern Africa, Turkey, and the Middle East, and I'm sure, other religions, too.)

 

Happy Holidays!

Sarah

Still Thankful, Now for New Reasons

With Thanksgiving just one day away, most Americans start the annual discussion of why they are thankful.... and social media becomes flooded with posts telling the world (or at least people's followers) details of gratitude. (Not a critique against those who choose to share publicly, just a comment that I believe most social media participants could agree on.) When people are asked, "Why are you thankful this Thanksgiving?" most people respond with some variation of "family, friends, and a roof over my head" (or at least I'm assuming those are some of the most common answers). And I, too, am grateful for those things today, and every other day, but the why behind feeling this way has taken on a different meaning since moving across the Atlantic this year.

 

1. FRIENDS

This one is intentionally placed at the top of the list. Moving to any new place can provoke feelings of anxiety and isolation; moving to a new, foreign city, where I understand, but am not cultured to, the customs and am significantly less proficient at the language than I would like to admit, can be a potentially panic-ridden disaster. But that could not be farther from my (three month and counting) experience. While there are many factors that have made my transition from Nashville, Tennessee (with a summer stint in my small New Jersey hometown) to Madrid, Spain smooth, the friendships that I have developed have made the biggest impact. Probably a combination of being Americans (don't worry, I'm working on forging international friendships) and just being who they are, my new friends have filled any potential holes I would have felt from leaving behind my family and friends in the U.S. (Side note: don't worry, none of you back home are being replaced) I have yet to experience feelings of loneliness or homesickness, and I credit a huge part of that to my new friendships. I truly believe that any experience, good or bad, can be positively or negatively impacted by who surrounds you. I thought there was no way lightning could strike twice (the first being the lifelong friendships I made while studying abroad), yet I feel equally supported here in Madrid for my second time around.

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Florence, Italy in late September

2. FAMILY

Of course, I am grateful for my entire family. In particular, though, I feel immense gratitude for three of them this year. I've always felt slightly cooler because I could say I had family members who lived overseas, as if that somehow made me more cultured, but I never anticipated needing their expertise for real life situations. Whether it be housing difficulties (check out the third point in this post), international safety concerns, or general "living in a foreign country advice," two of my uncles and one aunt have guided me through adult-ing abroad. Prior to moving to Madrid, I hadn't anticipated needing their wisdom; now, I know how blessed I am to have family that can help me through this specific phase of my life.

3. A ROOF OVER MY HEAD

The "finding a place to live" situation over here is cutthroat. In August and September, thousands (I don't think I'm exaggerating that number) of young, foreign adults bombarded Madrid. Whether they traveled here through Erasmus, study abroad, or to work as an auxiliar, finding a reasonably priced, decently nice, and relatively safe, in a neighborhood nearish the center, apartment was a nightmare for anyone during that time period. After not finding anything I would deem livable (that makes me sound like a diva, but trust me, I wasn't... I looked at one apartment that didn't even have a kitchen) or affordable, I opted to live with a Spanish family through a language exchange program. I'm not going to go into detail, but the process took about a month to be placed, and when I finally moved into their home, I only ended up living with them for a week. That entire housing ordeal made me seriously question my stay in Spain, despite wanting desperately to remain here. Luckily, I happened upon a newly redone apartment, which is where I now reside. While the apartment is far from perfect (yes, it's redone, but not with high-quality materials), it is comfortable, in a neighborhood which I appreciate, and filled with respectful roommates. 

I could list off so many more things and reasons why I'm grateful, but I wanted to share how my perspective differs this Thanksgiving from years prior.

 

Happy Turkey Day!

The World is Watching, America

With half of the country rejoicing the election results, and the other half agonizing in defeat, November 9, 2016 will undoubtedly go down as a notable moment in American history. My intent isn't to rant about my political views (that's what Facebook seems to be for, right?), but to say this: The world watches what the United States does. The world learns from what the United States does. The entire world is impacted by what the United States does. 

Prior to election night, one of my European roommates was assigned the task of writing a paper on the American electoral college (coincidental timing). I possessed the daunting task of attempting to explain to her why this system was established, who it is composed of, and how it functions alongside the popular vote (ironic?). Her education was affected by what the United States does.

In the days leading up to the election, my non-American roommates, hailing from across Europe and North Africa, asked me questions and shared their opinions of the two major party candidates. They understood that this election, in particular, was consequential. Then I considered this: How many American millennials closely follow elections in foreign nations? Many of us followed along to witness Brexit unfold, but how invested are we in foreign nations' political climates? I'm also speaking about myself. The world watches what the United States does.

Upon emerging from my room this morning, my roommates immediately commented on our new President Elect. While they knew where I stood politically, they still wanted to discuss my thoughts. They wanted me to go into greater detail regarding the President Elect's policies and how it will change American society. Today, Spanish teachers and students alike wanted to discuss the choice America made yesterday. They were all genuinely invested in learning more about what his election meant for the United States, and the world. 

While this post may slightly stray from the intended purpose of this blog, I was able to witness a crucial moment in American history from across the Atlantic Ocean. My objective for moving to Spain was to learn from and about a different culture embracing both the positive and negative aspects of it. What I have learned over the past couple of days, though, is this: the land of the free and the home of the brave has a far greater reach into foreign countries' political, economic, cultural, and social realms than I had ever acknowledged. I wasn't ignorant to the fact that the United States played a role in every country, one way or another. I was ignorant to what that actually looked like.

Whether you're ecstatic about the results of the election, or you're trying to figure out how to move to Canada, know this: how we vote and behave in politics and society not only affects our own nation, but every country in the world. So, America, now that the world is watching, what will you do next?

American vs. Spanish Education: 6 Key Takeaways

**Disclaimer: I'm not claiming to be an expert in the field of education -- I think I have a total of maybe 13 months (yes, I counted) of experience learning how to teach and actually teaching -- but I think I can say that I'm qualified to discuss the differences between my own American educational experiences, from attending a public school my entire life to teaching at a charter school (an alternative choice public school, for those who haven't heard of this term, as I previously hadn't), and my three and a half weeks working as a language assistant in a bilingual, public Spanish school. And anyways, this is a blog, so I'm here to share my own thoughts and opinions.

1. You knock on a classroom door before entering 

Honestly, I don't know why this sticks out to me so much (three weeks and one day in and this common practice continues to surprise me) or why I'm choosing to write about it first, as it's probably the least important. Prior to entering any classroom, both teachers and students alike knock (there are even signs outside the door reminding you to do so). I haven't asked why this is the polite thing to do, and I would imagine it has something to do with not causing a distraction (have you ever tired to get a classroom full of 11-year old's to calm down?) when entering the room. However, once you're in the classroom, the teacher will stop the lesson in order to talk to you for a relatively long period of time. Also, most teachers lock their windowless doors when teaching (I just wouldn't foresee this going over well in the U.S.).

2. The school day

Now, I don't necessarily know that this is common across all public Spanish primary schools, but the school that I work at operates from 9 AM - 2 PM everyday. Five hours. And there's a 30 minute break in the middle of that time. In total, there are 22.5 hours of potential learning each week. Compare that to the 7 hours of learning per day in the public school system I attended and the approximate 8 hours of learning at the charter school at which I worked. I haven't done all the math, but that is a serious yearly difference in the time students spend learning. Again, I'm no expert, but neither system seems to be reasonable. I have difficulty understanding how much material can be covered in a 4.5 hour period, but I also don't know if it's possible for 11-year old's, for example, to sit and actually retain information for 7 or 8 hours a day. Both education systems could learn from the other.

3. The students talk... A LOT

Customary to Spanish culture, the children talk, a lot, and they speak over each other, and their teachers, a lot. It's totally normal for students to be speaking to each other while the teacher is lecturing, and most times, the teachers will not say or do anything to stop them. As a millennial, I'm more adapted to multi-tasking than my parents' generation, but even I would struggle to take notes and understand material if I was always (note the italics) talking during class.

4. Bilingual schools are quite common in Spain

This is something that the United States gets so wrong. In Spain, many schools incorporate English into their curriculum. This doesn't just mean taking an English class for one hour per day. The students actually learn in English. At my particular school, students are taught English (duh), natural science, social science, and arts & crafts in English.  While I am a huge proponent of incorporating a second language into learning, I think this system has it's flaws -- What about the students who are just learning English? How much material are they not understanding because it's being taught in a foreign language? Even though there are kinks in this system, the Spanish definitely have the right idea.

5. Discipline

From what I can tell, there doesn't seem to be a school-defined "appropriate" or consistent way of disciplining students. In my own schooling experiences, there were steps to follow (teacher detention, Saturday detention, etc.) and at the charter school I taught at, there were very strict and clear procedures to follow (again, steps). So what have I seen in Spain? A teacher yelling (and I mean yelling) at a student, usually in front of the whole class, or at the whole class, about their lack of worth (that may be a little harsh, but I have heard teachers tell students they can't do anything). Then, everything goes back to normal. The entire event is quite startling to witness.

6. Teacher-student boundaries

I had only planned on writing about five differences between American and Spanish schools, but I couldn't conclude without writing about this subject. Students call teachers by their first names. Students often hug and grab (in a non-sexual manner) their teachers. How the Spanish define an appropriate student-teacher relationship is drastically different than in the U.S. I can see the positive (American) aspect of having a clearly defined wall between a teacher and his/ her students, but I also understand the (Spanish) mentality of students feeling comfortable with their teachers.

 

It's difficult to fully articulate how differently the American and Spanish education systems operate, but I hope I was able to paint some sort of a picture. Oh, and did I mention that I only work 16 hours per week?! Yeah, quite different from my experience last year.

 

Hasta luego,

Sarah

Sarah's Wanderlust: The Best of Madrid

(Almost) two weeks in & it's confirmed: I love Madrid. The capital of Spain certainly does not disappoint with its rich culture, delicious food, and stunning architecture. Instead of giving a play-by-play of my first two weeks in Madrid (because they have been packed), I thought I'd sum up my time by sharing some of my favorite things about Madrid. 

The Abono: If you're living for an extensive period of time in Madrid, you have the ability to purchase an Abono, which is the equivalent to a monthly Metro card. Why is this metro card so spectacular, though? If you're under 26, the Abono is only 20€ per month with access to all the metro lines, buses, and trains within the community of Madrid!!! To put this into context, those 26 and over pay about 100€ for the same advantages, and an unlimited metro card in NYC is $116.50 each month. 

The metro: In addition to the advantages of the Abono, the metro system here in Madrid is incredibly easy to navigate. For those of you who know me, I'm quite directionally challenged, and pretty much always need to rely on a GPS or friend. But the metro system here is clearly labeled, quick, and much nicer than any other city's I've been on (cough, cough, NYC step up your game). 

The food: Is anyone really surprised this is on my list? While the Spanish tend to love food that's fried and cooked with lots of oil , I could eat their cured meats, cheeses, and bocadillos (sandwiches) every day. Plus, most places serve olives with their tapas.

Their culture surrounding time: This is one thing that while I love, it is definitely taking some time to get used to. There's an outsider perception that the Spanish are slow, late, etc., but in reality, they value time spent with loved ones. So while Americans are always in a rush to get through dinner (and are often pushed out the door by staff), Spanish people sit and enjoy the company and the food. Waiters don't bring out the check before you finish your coffee. Time is genuinely valued in Spain.

The cost: How is it that everything seems so cheap here?! While the exchange rate favors the euro slightly, everything (and yes, I mean everything) is super affordable. A three-course meal for lunch? 11€. A boxed liter of wine? 1€. The only thing that isn't quite as cheap is electricity/ gas which is why very few Spanish apartments have air conditioning (not to mention it's upwards of 100 degrees everyday). 

I haven't had the opportunity to do many touristy activities yet, as I've been busy with orientation, class, and a quick weekend getaway to Valencia, but hopefully my next post will be an update on all that (and with pictures).

 

Hasta luego,

Sarah

 

 

 

 

Sarah's Wanderlust: An Introduction

Hi all! My name is Sarah Skrobala, and I'm thrilled to be blogging for CIEE about my adventures while teaching in, living in, and exploring Spain. A little bit about myself before getting into the heart of the post -- I'm a New Jersey native (north Jersey, to be exact), and I graduated from Fordham University at Rose Hill in 2015 (go Rams!) with Bachelor's Degrees in Political Science and Spanish Language & Literature. I studied abroad in Seville, Spain during the spring of 2014 and absolutely fell in love with the city and Spanish culture (and by that I mean the four hour siestas, which I took advantage of daily). After graduating college (something I'm still pretty heartbroken over), I packed my bags and moved down to Nashville, Tennessee to begin a career in education. I eventually realized that education was not the field for me (ironic that I'm teaching again this year, huh?) and decided to look for an opportunity which allowed me to return to Spain. So, here I am!

Like the perfectionist I am, I struggled for some time to come up with an angle/topic/theme for my first blog post because, well, I wanted it to be perfect and captivating (and have people other than my family and friends want to read what I write). And then this morning it hit me: what I want to accomplish when living abroad. This idea came from my good friend Sam (shout out!) recently asking if I had any "goals" for Spain. So, here they are (in no particular order):

  • Improve my Spanish: I feel like this is what a lot of people move to a new country to do, right? Despite studying abroad in Spain, majoring in Spanish, and teaching many Spanish-speaking students last year, I would deem my Spanish sub-par. In particular, I struggle the most with actually speaking Spanish (which I blame, in part, on having a Jersey accent, making it difficult to pronounce most words, but really, that's just an excuse). This is the primary reason I chose to move to Spain and probably the most important thing on this list.
  • Take a solo trip: Independence is quite important to me, and I've read that travelling alone (especially as a woman) is quite empowering. (My mom will probably worry the entire time.)
  • Learn how to cook classic Spanish dishes: I've only recently realized I can cook (or at least follow recipes) so why not increase my repertoire of dishes (which currently consists of, like, four or five).
  •  Actually immerse myself into Spanish life: I don't want to be that tourist living aboard like I did when I studied abroad. I want to actually be a part of Spanish life.
  • Read a book in Spanish: This will probably take me the entire 10 months I'm abroad (P.S. suggestions appreciated!).
  • Travel: I don't think anyone moves to Europe to not travel.

Alright, that was a lot for one post. I'm trying to not write the way I talk (a lot and with too much unnecessary detail) so hopefully each post will be an improvement. Once I get it started, I'll also include a link to my personal blog. Thanks for joining in as I begin my adventure abroad (in just three short weeks)!

Hasta luego,

Sarah

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