Erin Quinlevan '15

As I am writing this post, I feel a mixture of emotions.  In just 3 days it will be April, meaning only two short months are left for me in Palma.  Before leaving for Spain, the thought of being away from home in a foreign country for at least 10 months seemed daunting.  That’s practically one year of my life spent away from the comfort and convenience of America.  Anyone would be nervous, scared, excited.  Now looking back on those weeks before I made my journey across the Atlantic, I find that I have completed reversed my thoughts and emotions about living abroad for a year.

I love Palma, Mallorca, Spain and everything that comes with it.  The homesickness I felt first semester has long since passed. Now I realize why: this is my home. Not only do I know my way around the city and the island, pronouncing street names and villages like a native in the Mallorquin dialect, but also I feel emotionally connected to the place I am living. When I recently made a trip to Dublin, I felt homesick, not for Wisconsin or Holy Cross, but for Palma.

Here lays not just a beautiful island with great weather, but optimistic, welcoming people.  The relationships I have developed with a few special Mallorquins have helped me tremendously grow as a person, and I know they will last.  The thought of not having them in my everyday life this upcoming year, or years to come grieves me.

With this in mind, I intend on taking full advantage of my last two months here.  This year, although intimidating at first, now doesn’t feel long enough. There will always be a piece of my heart here in my new home.


I was fortunate enough this semester to take a trip to Florence, Italy to visit a friend from home who is studying there.  I visited her for a weekend and experienced “La Dolce Vita,” which I know I will be returning to someday!  Florence is a beautiful city filled with amazing food, ample history, and friendly people.


One thing I found interesting was the quantity of American study abroad students living there, the city was flooded with them!  With this many Americans, most store and restaurant owners spoke English.  Because of this, most study abroad students knew very little Italian.  Without being forced to speak only Italian, the students there did not reach their full potential for learning the Italian language, which made me appreciate this aspect of the Holy Cross program.  Although frustrating in the beginning months, I feel that because I have been forced to speak only Spanish I have improved by leaps and bounds.


Another difference of my friend Lindsey’s study abroad life in comparison to mine would be the food.  She lives in an apartment with three other American girls, meaning they cook their own food, whereas with my host mom, I eat whatever she makes for me.  When I visited, we went out to eat for almost every meal, which was probably bad for the bikini diet, but so delicious that it was worth every calorie!  I am a huge fan of Italian food from what I’ve tried in the States, but authentic Italian food knocked me out of my socks.  The ingredients were so fresh and simple, and the taste was something I will never forget.  We had enough pizza, pasta, paninis, wine, and gelato in one weekend to keep us full for a whole week.  As I am writing this, my mouth is watering, remembering every savory bite.


The best food of the trip may have been at a famous butcher shop in the Chianti region of Tuscany, which we stopped at during a day trip.  This butcher shop does so well that at while they are open they give out free bread and salami for anyone to try.  Many celebrities have visited this shop and I found out why when we went.  Also on that day trip to Tuscany, we went on a hike and saw some amazing views despite the rain and we were invited into a man’s house for a wine tasting and lunch.  My expectations of the Tuscan countryside were derived from the movie “Under the Tuscan Sun,” and although I did not meet an Italian man or buy a cute little house, I found all my expectations to be met.  Tuscany is so beautiful, romantic, and relaxing that I highly recommend you visit someday.


Overall, the trip was amazing for many reasons.  I caught up with my friend Lindsey, who I’ve been friends with since the second grade, and experienced part of Europe with her.  I lived like an Italian for a few days and understood why it has the great reputation that it does.  And finally, I appreciated aspects of my program through Holy Cross and felt grateful for my experience in Mallorca.


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Lindsey at a pizzeria!                                    Lindsey and I in Tuscany

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View of Florence and the Duomo from above                 Famous butcher shop in Chianti

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Tuscan countryside                                                                 The Duomo

Going abroad through Holy Cross has proved to be a great experience for many reasons.  One of them is that I’ve learned so much about the Spanish language and culture: through my host family, our Holy Cross Spanish class, and now a trip to the capital of Spain: Madrid.  Completely paid for by our program, this trip allowed us to explore the city without the omnipresent study abroad student budget holding us back.  Free of stress and eager to explore, we set out for Madrid.

In just three days, we saw a large amount of the city. We went two museums, the Prado and the Reina Sofia, in which we saw two of the most famous paintings in history, Las Meninas by Diego Velázquez and Guernica by Pablo Picasso. Even though I had already seen Guernica the last time I was in Madrid, this time I was more awestruck by the painting than before. Now, I understand the significance of the painting: it is a piece of political art, an anti-war symbol, portraying the pain of the Spanish civilians during the Spanish Civil War. Aside from the museums, we visited the Real Madrid soccer stadium but didn’t have any luck finding tickets for the game day-of. We also went to el Mercado San Miguel, which is a giant food market with small plates of any kind of Spanish food imaginable. We went on a Saturday at 2pm, lunchtime on a weekend, which meant it was packed, adding to the atmosphere. Finally, we visited the Parque de Retiro, a giant park in the center of Madrid, twice because it was so beautiful and relaxing. The second time, we rented boats and navigated around the pond in the center of the park. In addition to all the attractions we visited, we also ate very well and shopped like true Spaniards in Zara. Overall, the trip allowed us to expand our knowledge of Spain and the Spanish culture and have fun while doing it.



Parque de Retiro


Nicole rowing our cute little boat in the pond


Plaza Mayor


Mercado de San Miguel


Matt in front of Zara



Some of the group in front of the Prado

Erasmus? What a strange word. When I first heard it, I thought it sounded like some kind of distinct dinosaur.

Turns out Erasmus is actually a program that allows European college students to study at Universities in other countries throughout Europe.  Basically it’s study abroad, but minus the whole “abroad” part because Europe is so compact.  At my university in Mallorca, the University of the Balearic Islands, lots of erasmus students come to study, probably because of great weather and party scene.  This past semester over 200 students from all over the world were here, and this upcoming semester some of them will leave but 110 more will come.

The Erasmus culture is a ton of fun.  It involves lot of drinking, socializing, and partying rather than the actual studying they were sent here to do.  They all rent apartments in the city, so every weekend someone throws a huge house party then after heads to the club.  I’ve been lucky enough to attend a few and they are crazy.  An insane mixture of language and culture, these parties have allowed me to get to know so many different and interesting people.  I’ve met people from Germany, Italy, Taiwan, England, Ireland, France, Poland, The Netherlands, and other provinces of Spain.  We talk mostly in Spanish or English, but you’re bound to find any European language there.  What I think is the coolest part, is that many of these people speak 3, 4, 5 languages.  Here I am thinking I’m so great trying to become fluent in just two, while many others are working on their 4th or 5th.

Although the Erasmus culture is more about the party scene than hitting the books, I think they are learning just as much through being around each other.  It’s a global culture, introductory language, and psychology course all rolled into one.  In general, interactions through Erasmus teach you just how big the world is and how it is filled with such a diverse cultures and people.  Sometimes I think we all get caught up in our own lives, forgetting that each of us is just one person in six billion on this Earth.  Erasmus has freed me from my personal bubble and reminded of how great it is to meet new people, learn from them, and enjoy each other’s company.

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Here in Mallorca, it feels like there is a festivo, or festival, every other week.  The people here celebrate anything and everything, because work can always wait for them.  This weekend, the biggest festival of the year took place in Palma, and my friends and I were lucky enough to take part in it.


During the Festival of San Sebastian, each plaza in the city has its own free concert.  Also, they bring out tons of grills for the people at the concert to throw there own meat on.  Basically, this festival is like a really fun tailgate with a concert at the same time. Even though it rained one night, thousands of people filled the streets, grilling, laughing, chatting, and dancing.  The entire city was a fiesta(party)! I’ve never seen the Palma so happy and alive before, I loved it.



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Now the festival is over, and it’s time for finals… yay.

I’m not usually a person to get homesick.  I like new experiences, exploring, and meeting new people.  But this semester, I missed home more than I ever thought imaginable.  Don’t get me wrong, I love Palma, Mallorca, but sometimes you just need your house, your family, your bed, and your dog.  Nothing in life can amount to the simple joy you get from being home, especially for the holidays.

Although it was an expensive trip to go home for the holidays, I begged and eventually my parents caved.  They wanted me home just as much as I wanted to be there.  It’s only been two days away from them, and I already miss them again.  It’s crazy the cycle we go through growing up.  When you’re little, I’m talking ages two through six, all you want is your mommy.  You’re afraid to leave your parents and start school.  You run to them when something’s wrong.  Then, once you hit the teenage years, you want absolutely nothing to do with them.  Going to the movies with your mom?  Social suicide.  You want as little to do with them as possible.  By the time college rolls around, you want them again.  Becoming an adult is not easy, and you begin to realize how much your parents did for you growing up and how much you appreciate that.  Right now, I’ve hit the last phase and I want as much time with my family as I can get.  Two weeks home for Christmas was not enough, and I’m already sad to be without them again.

As much as I missed my family, I think I missed the American culture almost the same.  Growing up in the US, we don’t realize how lucky we are.  Stores are open for our convenience with long hours.  Waiters are extremely accommodating to get a good tip.  A variety of foods is available.  One language is used, English.  People do not invade personal space.  We drive cars instead of riding buses.  We walk fast.  Credit cards are commonplace.  And smoking is not.  I could go on forever like this.  It’s not that I don’t appreciate the differences in our cultures, it’s that I am accustomed to my own.  Change is often a good thing, but living with so much change for an extended period of time it can be difficult.  Being away from America for so long helped me realize how much I love it.

Now that I’m back in Spain, although I’m jet lagged and exhausted from my travels, I feel mentally rejuvenated for the second half of my abroad adventure.  The first half was adjusting to life here, now I’m ready to aprovecharme, or take advantage of the time I have left on this beautiful island!

Me and my dog Ginger My sister and I at a German restaurant in Milwaukee My sister, cousin, and I in a food coma on Christmas Eve My family on Christmas My back yard My cousin's dog Penny My adorable dog Ginger My driveway/yard




This trip was absolutely amazing.  My friends and I planned a trip to two cities in December, and it was spectacular.  We spent one night in Brussels, Belgium, where we sampled everything Belgium is known for: waffles, chocolate, beer.  All of it delicious.  I can definitely say that the waffle I had there was one of the best I’ve ever tasted.  The Grand Place (main plaza) was decorated with lights, a manger, and a giant tree for Christmas, with Christmas music blasting, making the atmosphere very inviting and Christmas-y.  One afternoon was more than enough time to explore this cozy city, and the next morning we took off for Paris.


In Paris, we stayed with another Holy Cross friend studying there’s place, James.  He had his own apartment and was extremely accommodating to us.  We got a tour of the city from a Parisian’s point of view, went to the French markets, window shopped the most luxurious stores, and lounged at the local bars.  Although we did do some touristy things, such as climbing the Arc de Triumph, seeing the Eiffel Tower, exploring the Lourve and Musée de Orsay, and taking a million pictures, I’m glad we got to see part of a Parisian’s life through James.

The city is breathtaking.  Every single building is beautiful, old architecture and low the the ground.  There are no skyscrapers like New York or Chicago.  The people inhabiting the city are incredible too.  You watch them walk by in awe.  They are beautiful, the clothes they wear even more beautiful, and the language they speak even more so.  Entering this city is like going to Disney World when you were a little kid, something magical takes place in Paris, and only when you are there can you feel it.


The only downside of our trip was the ending.  Not only because our vacation ended, but also because of the unexpected traveling problems we encountered.  We were flying out of the Ryanair airport in Charleroi, Belgium, meaning when we bought the plane tickets we thought we were flying out of the Brussels airport, Ryanair has a way of tricking you like that.  Anyways, we had to take a train from Paris to Charleroi, which is a random Belgian city an hour or so outside of Brussels.  Our train had a connection in a city I don’t remember the name of in Belgium.  Unfortunately for us, our connecting train was not marked at the train station, the information line was 25 people long, and our time to connect was only 6 minutes.  Needless to say, we missed that next train.  Luckily, the train that we missed was a commuter rail and ran every hour.  So we hopped on the next one hoping to make it in time for our flight.  This missed hour of travel time resulted in us running through the Charleroi train station, paying our cab to speed as fast as possible, begging the Ryanair people to check us in every though our flight was boarding when we arrived, cutting the mile-long security line, and sprinting through the airport.  We made it, sweaty and breathless, but we did.


Other than that extreme hassle, the trip was one I’ll never forget, and Paris is a city I will be returning to.

Palace in Brussels View from top of Arc de Triumph Mona Lisa in the Lourve The Lourve Catacombs of Paris Catacombs of Paris Catacombs of Paris Eiffel Tower selfie Arc de Triumph Paris Paris Paris Notre Dame Paris Paris street art Grand Place(main plaza) Brussels Belgian Waffle in Brussels Grand Place(main plaza) Brussels IMG_5104


After being in Spain for over 4 months now, I feel like I completely understand the University culture here in Spain, especially in Mallorca.  Public Universities are usually better than private, and kids commute to the nearest University, while living at home.  The typical “college life” that every American thinks of, with residence halls, off campus apartments, dining halls, and student centers does not exist here.  College is not a time to find new friends, join clubs, or become independent in this country, it is solely for learning and earning your degree.

Part of the reason the University life differs is because of the difference in culture.  In America, to find a job, you must sell yourself.  How can a company can profit from adding you to their staff, through your grades, experience, and achievements.  Finding a job in Spain however, is different; it depends only on the equivalent of a GPA you have received from the University.  Along with selling yourself in the United States, you can also chose to change career paths if you are unsatisfied.  In Spain, this is unheard of.  Here, once you chose a path, there is no option of turning back.  For example, before entering high school, I would have to decide whether I wanted to follow the science and math route or the humanities route.  If I chose humanities, I would have to chose a subject from this area to study at the University.  Say I chose Psychology, I would only be taking Psychology classes at the University.  You may not take classes outside of your major at the University.  After, you specialize further through your master or doctorate.  With these degrees under your belt, you only have a handful of options for a job.  If these positions are already filled, you’re out of work and out of luck.  This is part of the Spanish economic crisis.

Another difference in the culture that makes life more difficult for these young Spaniards is the transportation to the University, especially here in Mallorca.  There is one University on the island, situated 15 minutes outside of Palma, by car.  Coming and going from Palma to the University is not a problem, but from other areas of the island, it is.  From North to South as well as East to West on the island, it is about an hour drive.  But the students don’t have cars, and must take public transportation to the University.  Most have to take transportation into Palma, then the the University, which could take up to an hour and a half just one way.

Yesterday I talked to a girl who is forced to make the three hour transportation everyday to and from the University work.  She is a Psychology major, like me, hoping to eventually be a psychologist for children with Down’s syndrome.  Everyday she wakes up at 5 am to make it to class on time, and usually doesn’t go to bed until after midnight because of all her studies.  Her grades aren’t as great as they could be, I believe because she is so run down.  And these grades determine whether or not she will be able to continue with her goal of becoming a psychologist.  To continue on this career path, she will need money to pay for graduate school, so this weekend she will start work at a bar.  Friday and Saturday nights she will work from 11pm to 5am or 6am, taking even more away from her sleep.

After she told me all of this, I couldn’t help but say, “less than 5 hours of sleep a night?! I couldn’t do it!”  Her response was, if you were in my position and that was the only option, you would be able to.  There is no other option.  Which lead me to realize, how lucky I am with my Holy Cross education.

Coming from Holy Cross, I have found a large difference in the education here versus that of my liberal arts college.  I have come to appreciate that I can choose my classes, that I sleep a 10 minute walk away from my classrooms, and that when I graduate I have a thousand options or more options as a career.  Now, I appreciate and understand the American culture better.


This past week, he cumplido veintiuno años.. I turned 21!! Wow what a crazy thought that is. I’m old enough to drink legally in the US.  Turning 21 in Spain was a little anticlimactic because the drinking age here is already 18, and no one asks for IDs, ever.  I can’t complain though, I had a wonderful birth day and week.


My mom and grandma came to Spain for a little over a week to celebrate my birthday.  We spent a weekend in Madrid, the middle of the week in Palma and the next weekend in Barcelona.  Spending time with them was absolutely amazing.


Showing Palma and the island of Mallorca with my family was an experience I will never forget.  When you spend time with people you love in a place you love, it’s a magical feeling.  Honestly, I can’t describe with words how awesome this past week was.


Here are some pictures to better explain what happened.

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Here, in Palma, I have been blessed to be given such an amazing host mom.  Before coming, this aspect of the study abroad experience was probably what I was most worried about: living in someone else’s home and feeling comfortable living there for a year.  Two full months have passed, and I feel completely at home in my apartment with my host mom.  She has made my transition between countries smoother than I ever thought it could be.


As soon as I entered through her door the first night, I have been treated like family.  She cooks for me, cleans my room (including making my bed everyday), does my laundry, listens to my complaints, shares stories of her past, and helps me with the Spanish language, just to begin.  On the fourth day living in her house I told her I had blisters on my feet from walking so much.  Next thing I know, she has gone down to the pharmacy and bought me blister pads and disinfectant and insists she applies for me.


Magdalena is a one-of-a-kind person, the type of people you meet  and change your life for the better.  She has more patience than I have found in any other person in the world.  At 45 years old, she lost her husband before they ever had kids.  Instead of dwelling on his absence, she tries to be as happy as possible under the circumstances.  For 12 years she worked on a bus with children with special needs.  Although she has been retired for 5 years, whenever these children see her in the street, they run up to her and give her a giant hug.  Most of these children ask their parents when she will come back.  Her motto is to “disfrutar la vida” or enjoy life. She is kind to everyone she meets, never has a bad word to say about anyone, and is always genuine.  I thank God everyday for bringing her into my life, because I feel that already I have learned so much from her.


Just recently, I lost someone at home.  Being abroad proves tough in these situations.  I wanted a hug from my mom, a joke from my dad, and a kiss from my dog, but none of this was possible.  Magdalena sat at the dinner table and cried with me, the night I told her what had happened.  Without her, my experience here would not nearly be as great.



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Erin Quinlevan '15

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