I can officially cross “swimming in the Mediterranean” off my bucket list. Last weekend was our long weekend, with no classes on Friday or Monday. Many of the EMU students visited Barcelona, some went to Rome, and a couple students went to Granada and Sevilla. The other UND girls and I went to Valencia, south of Barcelona and on the Mediterranean coast. The weekend before, we had visited Madrid, but we crammed El Prado, La Plaza Mayor, La Puerta del Sol, and El Corte Inglés (just to name a few) into one day. This weekend was much more relaxing, since we had three whole days to explore the city. One of the main attractions, the Ciutat de les Arts i les Ciencies (City of the Arts and Sciences), was split into two days. We visited a dinosaur exhibit and the Oceanogràfic (the aquarium) one day and saw the Museu de las Ciències Príncipe Felipe (Prince Felipe Science Museum) and an IMAX movie at the Hemisfèric (the planetarium) the next. Plus, we visited the Institut Valencià d´Art Modern (the modern art museum), La Plaza de la Virgen and La Plaza de la Reina. Sunday morning was our beach day, where four out of the six of us burned to a nice raw-steak red. The other two apparently never sunburn, which is just not fair. That day had been my first time in salt water, much less the Mediterranean. It was amazing! I was grinning like a four-year-old locked inside a candy shop; I thought I would never leave! I even collected some Plaza de la Malvarrosa sand and seawater in an empty travel-sized bottle of mouthwash. Don´t judge; I´m from a landlocked state! The only not-so-great part about my trip to the beach was the half-naked part. Many (or all, I´ve only been to one) of the beaches in Spain allow people to be topless. A small part of me appreciates how comfortable españoles of all ages and sizes are with their bodies, but a much larger part of me REALLY wanted them to cover up. As obvious as it may sound, the sun in Spain feels a lot hotter than it does where I´m from. Normally in North Dakota, I would have to spend quite a bit of time in the sun to burn as badly as I did. In Spain, however, it only took 3 hours (half of which was spent in the water) to turn my shade of red. And of course, since I wasn´t even trying to tan (I´ve come to terms with my pasty white skin), only the right sides of my legs, my chest, shoulders, and back sunburned. I can still see the exact lines of my swimsuit top and I´m convinced that my sunburned back shows a faint outline of my French braid that day. On a different note, here´s my advice for the week: When you study or even just travel abroad, you´ll have to decide between staying in hostals or hotels. Hostals are cheaper and usually allow you to meet students from all over the world. Hotels tend to be in better condition and allow you to keep your valuables in your room while you explore the city. Personally, I prefer hotels. If you travel in a large enough group, a hotel room will actually be cheaper, since you´re paying per room instead of per bed like you would in a hostal. That way, you can split the cost among your peers. Plus, I just feel safer in a hotel. When we went to Madrid, we hung “Do not disturb” signs on our doors, so we didn´t even have to think about the possibility of hotel staff going through our stuff. The benefits and drawbacks of hotels and hostals will be different for everyone, but I personally will always choose feeling safer over saving money. Case in point: One girl who stayed in a hostal awoke to find a complete stranger climbing into her bed. He knew perfectly well that this was not his bed and that he had another bed waiting for him in another room. After several minutes of telling him, “Déjame en paz” (leave me alone), she climbed out of bed and joined one of her friends. He finally left the room in a huff, but not before stealing an Australian´s towel first. You can´t make this stuff up! I will add, though, that as much as it makes me sound like a spin doctor, I´m sure many people have stayed in hostals without having a traumatic experience. I personally would much rather stay in hotels. That said, just because you feel safe in a place does not give you the right to completely forgo common sense. Case in point: Two girls on the trip thought it would be a great idea to go out drinking and bring two complete strangers back to the hotel with them and then let them spend the night on the couch. These girls lucked out in that the two guys were very respectful and didn´t try to touch or rob anyone, but let me emphasize lucked out. So many things could have gone wrong in this situation, and these two girls need to count their blessings that they left unscathed. This decision of theirs was stupid, irresponsible, and dangerous. First of all, don´t drink; it destroys your judgment. Second of all, I don´t care if you talked to the person for five or ten hours; you can´t guarantee that he/she is a good, trustworthy person after just one meeting. We were told before we left that if we wouldn´t try it at home, we shouldn´t try it over there. Safety rules in Spain are the same as they are back home: Travel in groups, watch your stuff, stick to well-traveled and well-lit areas and for God´s sake don´t bring home or go home with complete strangers. You leave them where you found them.

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