Category Archives: Uncategorized

Let the Wild Rumpus Begin

As our motley crew starts to dwindle (John, Alanna, Nichelle, Laura F., and Katy W. left this morning) it’s impossible not to look back at the last five weeks with an overpowering sense of nostalgia.  The truth is still sinking in – our great adventure is really coming to a close.  Sure, some of us have a few days left with each other (Catherine leaves tomorrow, and Abbey and Laura E. on Monday) but it’s just not the same without the whole gang.  This has been one of the greatest summers of my life, and even as the memories of the Dali museum or the aqueduct in Segovia start to fade, I know I will never forget these people and the (far too short) amount of time we spent together.  We’ve all learned so much from Karl, Cheryl, and our rotating crew of guest speakers and Spanish friends; but even beyond the limits of design and journalism, we’ve learned how to live our lives to the fullest, to relax and practice tranquillo, to appreciate the world around us, and most importantly, to never use a ruler when sketching.

It’s easy to forget that all of us go to the same school and live within two miles of each other (some only a few streets or houses) and that many of our memories together have yet to be made. I’m looking forward to our many reunions, which, if all goes as planned, will quickly surpass the amount of time we were actually here in Spain. I can barely believe how lucky we’ve been to have such a great group of people here – for those of you who remember the good old days back in Barcelona, we’re still walking on a dream here three weeks later!  I don’t think any of us ever want to wake up from it.

As this is quite possibly the longest blog entry of all-time, you can take an intermission from reading and watch a brand new Jersey Boys Production – and don’t worry, I spent ten times longer on this one so it’s even better than the last! Watch it in full screen for full effect.

Anyway, as our blog sadly comes to a close, I’d like to give a shout-out to each of my fellow travelers, without whom this journey would not have been anywhere near as epic.  You guys are the best!

Abbey: You’ve been the ultimate contrast, playing the role of group mom while still embodying the spirit of Max from Where the Wild Things Are. I still think it’s hilarious every time you say ‘I died’ to convey the fact that you laughed really hard at something, and I will always remember the night you toppled over in mid-headstand to destroy everything on Katy’s nightstand. This trip just wouldn’t have been the same without you and your countless youtube videos (smells like meat! rotten meat!) and I hope you enjoy your new salt and pepper shakers, Adam and John!

Katy W.: Haha, just thinking about what to write here brings a smile to my face! You are so much fun to be around, and I’m so glad we could be neighbors for the last three weeks. Whether it’s being able to hear you Skype from half a mile away or (in Katie’s case) witnessing your strange sleeptalking ways, you’ve brought so much life and energy to this group.  And, of course, the boda bag you gave me is something I will treasure for the rest of my life.

Laura E.: While our relationship has been rocky at times, and may have started a bit awkwardly in ENG 265 (still your fault, sorry I’m not sorry), I’m glad we were able to work through it all and become BFF’s. It’s been great to have a fellow Spaniard on the trip, as well as someone else who isn’t afraid to be sarcastic and snarky all of the time. You are absolutely hilarious and I look forward to making teddy bears with you next year at Biggby!

Alanna: Words simply cannot express how ashamed I am that we never even spoke to each other in Karl’s class last year. The pure volume of sass that I missed out on will haunt me for the rest of my days. That being said, I hope I redeemed myself slightly over the last five weeks, because I’ve enjoyed every minute of our time together (yes, even the times you banged on our door at 7:30 AM to make us wake up). I’m looking forward to celebrating y0ur birthday with the gang at Karl’s pool party, and if we ever have another class together I swear I’ll talk to you at least once!

Laura F.: My favorite memory of you will always be the night when we split off and went to the ‘jazz club’ which turned out to be the Spanish equivalent on a rock and roll venue. I’ll never forget the look on your face when the guitarist swung around and almost chopped off your head with his guitar neck. You’ve probably come closer than anyone else to becoming a local here, and I’m sure that you are destined to return someday (regardless of whether we ever actually found the magic fountain in Barcelona).

Lauryn: The fact that we share a favorite movie (Almost Famous) and a favorite Nate (Mooty) would be enough in my book to make us lifelong friends, but when you add in your carefree and fun-loving attitude and your ability to draw McDonalds food when everyone is already starving, I think I could be friends with you even longer than that. From standing like bobbleheads in Barcelona to making faces in a Belfast pub to recreating the famous Da Vinci sketch in Segovia, many of my favorite photographs from this trip feature you and your crazy ways. Sorry for beating you and your sorority in battle of the bands a few years ago.  Sorry i’m not sorry.

Catherine: Cathcath, C Mills, the first half of Cathalanna – no matter what you choose to call yourself, you bring all of the intensity that one would expect from someone with fire for hair and it’s been such an integral part of our group. I have so many favorite memories of you, bursting into our room at 3 AM looking for food or talking for twenty five minutes about why you love the New England Patriots or destroying John’s beloved cereal bowl that I simply cannot put them all into words.  Instead, I wrote this little haiku.

You just live to hug

And make me smile always

C Mills, you’re my fav.

Nichelle: Possibly the only person here who made as many weird faces as John and I, I have two favorite memories that pretty much summarize you the best. Firstly, in Barcelona before I really knew you, when we went to a club and you befriended a pair of Germans (you told me their names were Hans and Franz) as well as a nice man with an Aladdin tie (you told me his name was something that I could not decipher for the life of me). The second was the other night, at a club here in Madrid, when you accidentally stole a purse for half an hour and managed to find a large starfruit to put inside of it, before trying on a big pink motorcycle helmet that you found sitting on a seat. You are a constant source of entertainment, and I’m so glad you invited yourself to come to Ireland with us. You and John and I (and later Lauryn and Elena) made for a great group and I wouldn’t trade those five days for anything in the world.

Katie D.: Where to even begin? You and Katy, our lovely neighbors, are as different as can be, but you have one thing in common: just being around you makes the world infinitely more fun and happy. I can’t even imagine this trip without your energy and laughter and willingness to be a kid on playgrounds and teeter totters with me. I think the highlight of the trip was when you decided to travel on to Rome for an extra week with me, because I already know it’s going to be one of the most fun adventures of my life. I look forward to returning to East Lansing and finally meeting the legendary Amy and Aunt Marcy, and introduce them to Captain Punky and Princess Beluga Sparkles!

John: When I went to the first study abroad meeting and saw that there was indeed a second boy going on the trip, I was so relieved that I almost skipped home. At the time I said to myself that I didn’t care if you turned out to be the weirdest and creepiest kid on the face of the earth, as long as I was not alone in yet another design class filled with girls (ew gross). Little did I know that I would be lucky enough to have the greatest roommate and friend that I could have possibly asked for – the last five weeks have been my greatest adventure and I owe so much of that to you. There is no way that I could ever mention one-thousandth of the memories I’ll take away from this, but I can mention ten:

  1. Discovering our shared affinity for Taylor Swift and spending countless hours doing homework to the album Fearless in the hostel.
  2. Our first conversation, which consisted of “Hey have you seen my towel?” “Yeah, it’s on the right.” “Wait are you sure?” “Wait, no, my right, your left.” “Okay cool.”
  3. Our last conversation, which consisted of “Be strong.” “I’ll try.” “I might cry.” “Just go, don’t look back.” “Bye.” “Bye.”
  4. Bartering for our Lionel Messi jerseys in a shop outside of Parc Guell and our David Villa jerseys in Platha Mayor.
  5. Wearing them most days after that.
  6. Staying up until 3 AM on our last night in Barcelona to make the first Jersey Boys video, and then watching in class to close out our time there.
  7. Splitting off from the group at Parc Guell and climbing almost to the top, and then returning that weekend to finish the job.
  8. Speaking in Castillian lisps and Irish accents.
  9. Sketching Megan Fox and a kitten in a bonnet during Karl’s first drawing class.
  10. Everything else.

I’m glad that, unlike the places and things we’ve seen here, our friendship can return to East Lansing and hopefully continue to thrive. I cannot even wait for our first day wearing our jerseys to school and blowing everyone’s minds with how cool we are. I love you, man – latis on the menjay.

~Adam

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Happiness is best when shared–#msuspain heads into the wild

Knowing that our final days in Spain are dwindling down has created an elephant in the room type of situation for #msuspain. We are all very aware that Saturday is quickly chasing us down, ready to pounce and send us back to reality, but nobody wants to acknowledge it. In this spirit, we are living in the moment and trying to squeeze as much fun and excitement out of every day. Today’s final “field trip” to Segovia, a town located 50 miles northwest of Madrid, has been a microcosm of our past three weeks in amazing city.

“On time is late” – A quote from my middle school band teacher

It’s not always easy getting 11 people to a specific location on time (especially since nine of them are girls, if you know what I mean), so we’ve all had our fair share experiences of being late. Sometimes it’s because an alarm doesn’t go off, or other times it’s when you accidentally take the metro the wrong way. In today’s case, you board the wrong train and end up having to wait around for two hours to catch the next one.

In Karl’s defense, he had us all up and rearing to go at 7:45 am, and we were at the train station by 8:20 for our 8:45 train. Unfortunately, he received some faulty intel from a train station employee and we ended up getting on at the wrong platform. Karl realized something was wrong when there weren’t any other passengers on train, which prompted us all to sprint to another platform, but it was all for naught. The train had already shut its doors and we were forced to set up camp in the train station for two and a half hours until the next train left the station at 11:30 am. However, the hours flew by as we played cards, worked on our flipbooks and got more than enough of our daily allotted sugar intake for the day with gummy worms and other assorted candies. When the eventually time came, we ventured onto the correct platform and headed off toward Segovia.

Oh, it’s just another amazing European church again. Yawn.

We have visited countless churches during our time in Europe, and it seems like each one just tops the next. Whether it’s been in Barcelona, Toledo or El Escorial, each cathedral finds a new way to impress. The cathedral in Segovia was breathtaking in its own right, but since we have already witnessed these other amazing houses of God, it just seemed like another church. We’ve been spoiled rotten with these religious spectacles since we’re at the point where they all appear to look the same.

After the tour of the church, we did a little window shopping and continued our journey through Segovia. More than once we had to press up flat against brick buildings to allow cars to pass through the narrow, cobble stone streets. It just made our adventure to the castle that much better.

The weird little beasts love to explore.

Our group does not shy away from adventure.  This troupe eats adventure for breakfast, well, after our usual cafe con leche to start the day, that is. If you need any more proof, just look to El Escorial. Karl has been building up our trip to Segovia the past couple of weeks with tales the last groups’ excursion to a picturesque location that was perfect for snapping shots of the town’s famous castle, Alcazar. With this mind, we were all excited for the amazing hike that would be in store for us today. Eight members of today’s group were brave enough, cunning enough, and more importantly on this scorching hot day, hydrated enough to take on the task of finding this unique viewing point. The rest of the group joined Karl and Nancy for succulent suckling pig and drinks in Plaza Mayor back in the city. Armed with our water bottles, cunning and vague memories of Karl’s instructions as to how to reach the location, we headed off. We wandered around streets and down a wooded path before eventually stumbling upon a road. We spotted a trail heading up a hill and decided to pursue it. The exploration party climbed a steep, dirt path slope and came across a plateau which offered a gorgeous view of the castle. Not satisfied, when then climbed even higher, this time ascending to the spot, the best view of the castle. It was essentially a 360 degree shot of the entire surrounding area, and those of us who made the hike couldn’t have been happier with what we had accomplished.

5 unforgettable weeks

Since this appears to be my final blog of the trip, I suppose this is an appropriate time for me to be sentimental. I never imagined that I would have so much fun and make such lasting lifelong memories with eleven folks I had just met five weeks before. I have had a couple classes with a few group members (Catherine and I actually have had four classes together and actually never really spoke to one another before. Oops!) but we were nowhere near as close as we are now. As sad as the reality that our time in Spain is almost up, I will always cherish these memories and these people. I couldn’t have asked for a better group of 10 other little, weird beasts to spend five weeks with. On that note, Adam and I, the other wolf in my wolf pack as well as my fellow soul sister, have formed an unbreakable friendship that has spanned boarders, time zones, and multiple soccer jerseys. We have completely revolutionized the way people think about blogging, first with our infamous “Living on a dream” video back in Barcelona, and then with our innovative infographics on the Prado Museum. We’d like to end our time here in Spain on a high note with this moving piece (we’re currently experiencing technical difficulties with the video and should have it up soon. We apologize for the inconvenience). We hope you have all enjoyed experiencing our travels through the points of view of the only two guys on this trip as much as we have enjoyed being stuck with these nine fantastic chicas. Jersey boys forever!

Adios!

John

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Nothing to do but Smile

We are all a bit in shock.  It is shocking to think we are halfway through our last week here.  As we sat around a table in a boardroom at El Mundo today listening to the paper’s all-star graphics team, my mind wandered back to Barcelona, to the first time I sat a similar sized table with similar people.   Although we were at Spain’s largest newspaper and every word spoken was unbelievably impressive, I could not help but think about the people I was sitting around the table with and how we have changed since our first meal in Barcelona nearly five weeks ago.  Thinking back to that first night, I thought about how each one of us have changed from the people we were when we first arrived.  While the changes were stubble and gradual, we have all taken a small piece of each other and molded ourselves into one unique family unit we like to call #MSU Spain.

As I looked around at my classmates today images from our first days together came rushing into my head and I realized since that day I have effortlessly been discovering new things about each one of my fellow travelers.  Since we are together constantly our conversations have involved every possible topic and we have naturally shared our life stories, becoming best friends quicker than in usual situations.

It is expected during study abroad to experience some of the best days of your life, what is unanticipated is that these perfect days will be spent with people you have only just met.  Sharing my best days with a group of people I have known for merely weeks seems so strange, but in this short amount of time we have grown as close as friends I have known for years.  Our experiences have been as amazing as the people I have gotten to experience them with. These amazing experiences continued today, where we not only toured El Mundo, and saw some of the paper’s coolest interactive information graphics, but also were treated to a lovely lunch with the paper’s art director.  After lunch a group of us headed to the park for the rest of the afternoon while a few of us caught up on laundry and movies.  It is on days like this, that I am reminded how difficult returning to reality where our daily responsibilities reach beyond field trips, networking, and handing out with my friends.

Still in shock we only have a few days left together, we are enjoying ever last moment of this week, with our final field trip tomorrow to Segovia.  It seems that since we have arrived in Spain I have had no worries and nothing to do but smile.  As this experience ends and we return to our daily duties as students, hopefully our worry free Spain attitude remain part of us.

-katie d.

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Live from Lisbon, It’s Weekend Update with Katie, Catherine, and Alanna

I will never forget the excitement of today, the adrenalin rush I felt is unparalleled—it must be a symptom of the nasty case of the travel bug I’ve caught.  Today’s mix of emotion sent me on a whirlwind that led me here, my top bunk in Lisbon, Portugal.  The hostel, the friends I’ve met, the friends I’m with, the tile on the street; have captured me and forever changed my life.  I realized today I am a traveler and I never want to stop exploring the world.  I only wish everyone was here to share this with me, but I am so grateful for the opportunity to travel this weekend.

Parting with eight best friends for the weekend was more difficult than I anticipated.  While we have only known each other for four weeks, we are literally together 24/ 7 so we have become a family rather quickly, making parting ways with our ‘papa John’ and the rest of our family as difficult as saying good-bye to my true family four weeks ago.

We are now scattered across Europe, with John, Adam, Nichelle, and Lauryn in Ireland, Abbey and Laura E. in Italy, and Catherine, Alanna and myself in Portugal; while Katy and Laura F. hold down the fort in Madrid.   Although we are apart, we are still on each other’s minds; I’ve said to Catherine and Alanna at least a million times, I wish everyone were here.  As we all explore this weekend we are searching for the perfect memento to bring back for our ‘secret traveler.’

Just a quick update from the Lisbon crew.

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11 hours, 660 minutes, 39,600 seconds. One day in the life of #msuspain.

This is a minute-by-minute account of our trip to Toledo, Spain. Not Ohio… we would have stopped to say hello if we had been that close to home, home. (Don’t go to Cleveland, Tom.) We hope that it gives you an idea of how busy our days have been since we have arrived in Spain.

7:10 – Catherine’s first alarm goes off. Because our train was leaving for Toledo at 9:20 and there was absolutely no way to get there otherwise, paranoia was running wild about being ready to go and alarms were set accordingly.
8:21 – Karl arrives. Catherine passes him in the hall as she goes to Alanna and Nichelle’s room to hang underwear on their balcony to dry. Bathtub laundry and a shady window make for slow drying clothes.
8:32 – Our group of 11 departs the hostel for the metro. The group agrees this is the most urgent any of us has seen Karl since our arrival to Madrid.
8:42 – The metro leaves the Billbao station for the train station.
8:52 – After arriving to the lobby in a bit of a tiff, Adam and John seemed to make up only to have their disagreement intensify on the metro.

Karl handing out tickets for the train!

8:55 – We arrive at the train station.
8:57 – Karl promptly asks someone who looks like they know what they’re doing for directions. He seems very stressed at this point.
9:01 – After going down an escalator, Karl attempts to confirm if we are in the right place. “If you don’t know, ask!”

9:03 – Location is confirmed.
9:04 – We all make it through security and are greeted with giant baby heads.

Baby heads at the train station.

9:08 – Our tickets are scanned.
9:10 – We find our seats on the train.
9:12 – John reads Catherine what Rick Steves has to say about Toledo. El Greco didn’t live there. Now you know.

John loves Rick Steves.

9:15 – Alanna, John and Catherine discuss how to get to the airport tomorrow for the four-day weekend.
9:17 – Laura E. and Catherine switch seats. John and Laura E. plan exciting Society of News Design things and ask questions including, “How long does it take to drive to Denver?”
9:20 – Our train departs on time.
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Ceremony

The view from inside the Las Ventas bullfighting arena.

I awoke yesterday to a clear, cool Sunday in Madrid. Although I had been having fun into wee hours with some #msuspain kids I was determined to attend a Catholic mass. I had never had this experience, and I thought it would be an adventure to have it in Spain. With the most respectable outfit I had with me on (don’t worry, it really was church-ok) I set out. The chapel was surprisingly close-one block east, two blocks north-which made me earlier than I expected to be. Spanish churches, at least in the city, are set up a little different from what I am used to, and so I almost missed it. The church had it’s side to the street, with a little courtyard to it’s front.  Through a door in the stone wall and up a few steps took me into a sanctuary I never would have known was there. Here and there were patrons among the darkened pews, basking in the glow of two offering-candle stands behind me and the beautiful altar with the crucified Jesus rising above to the front. After some brief moments of meditation in that quiet place the priest motioned for us to move to an adjacent chapel. It was filled with shafts of light emanating from a wall of stained glass, softened by a million dancing dust motes. The glass depicted scenes from the New Testament as any christian church would, but the faces of the characters had been hand-painted with obvious care. A woman directed the opening business, before the priest came out to conduct the actual ceremony, which I found interesting as most of the attendees were older and, one would assume, more traditional. I speak a little spanish, but it was not enough to understand all of what happened during the mass. I could tell some things from familiar cadences of speech, such as the Lord’s prayer, scripture, and sermon, and I generally just followed along as the faithful knelt or bowed their heads. The strongest impression I was left with was the importance of symbols and ceremony in our lives, especially as a means of catharsis. When we came to the ‘greet your neighbor’ part, perhaps my neighbors guessed I was slightly out of place, but nonetheless gave me warm smiles and firm handshakes. I was early in the morning and they had been sitting on wooden benches for more than forty minutes, but they were happy in the best kind of ways–happy enough to share it. Perhaps there is a heaven, but even if not we were able to produce a facsimile of it by quietly remembering an old story of a good man who took the bad upon himself so others wouldn’t have to. The symbol of the sacrificial lamb stuck with me as I joined the rest of the students later in the day to watch our first bullfight. This was to be a ceremony of a very different kind.

The first bull we saw.

We had heard that it was to rain, but the clouds never arrived. Karl, one of our very helpful semi-native guides, knew to buy the ‘sol’ tickets–for the section of the stadium in the sun. Luckily the cool weather made the temperature mild our view was well-lit as we were bustled in by a perturbed usher, as we were slightly late. Men in the outer corridor had been selling ancient leather cushions but we had refused, electing to bear with the stone benches.

Las Ventas.

I think we all had been expecting to leave before the last bull fell, thanks to Karl’s warnings. As we sat the first bull was already in the stadium-a large black with a white underbelly. He loped around the ring, almost springing with energy. There were several men in the ring with him, flashing bright magenta capes at the bull and then scurrying behind wooden walls when he got too close.  Suddenly three or four high trumpets sounded from our right and two men on horseback, caballeros, rode walked in. We were surprised to see that the horses wore thick padding around their bodies that reached to the ground and blindfolds with the colors of the Spanish flag. It wasn’t long before we saw why. Bulls are colorblind and react to movement, so once the first bull caught sight of the horse and rider he charged. The almost 1700 pound animal hurtled forward at an amazing rate and crashed into the horses’ flank. He pushed into the horse, lifting it up, and thrust his head and horns into the protective padding with a loud thwock. At the same time the caballero jabbed a long spear into the bulls back. When they separated the bull already had a red curtain of courage running down his neck. After a few rounds of this the trumpets were blown once more and the caballeros left the stadium. The next to enter were the picadores. These men carried what looked like long sticks decorated with colorful flowers. One at a time they locked eyes with the bull, raised the sticks (which were really small harpoon-like spears) and they slowly moved towards each other. The tension builds, then breaks as the bull charges and just as he reached the picador the spears were jammed into the bull’s back and the man jumped out of the way. Three picadores did this, then as the trumpets sounded once more the matador entered the ring. He held a large cape which he flared open by holding a small sword concealed within the edge. Slowly he strutted in the middle, holding his head high, displaying like a peacock would. He was certainly just as colorfully dressed. Several times he would lure the bull in close and they would perform a sort

The matador approaches.

of dance, the bull unknowingly trying to gore the cape, missing the matador by just inches. By this time the animal was visibly weary and most of his shoulder was drenched in blood. During the final dance, under a swoosh of cape the matador pushed the sword deep between the bull’s shoulder blades. The enraged bull writhed in pain, while four or five men confused him by swirling their capes in his face every way he turned. This only lasted for a few precious seconds, then he stumbled once, twice, and fell to his knees. We could hardly watch as blood poured from his mouth and he collapsed, with finality. Some of the bulls struggled on the ground before one of the men with capes plunged a knife into the back of the bull’s neck, ending his life. After this there was a flurry of activity, as a rope was tied around the bulls neck, the other end of the rope tied to a team of four mules, and with the crack of a whip the carcass was dragged out of the arena. One of the matadores, who was apparently very popular, did a victory lap around the ring as this happened, smiling at all the people waving pure white handkerchiefs at him. Unlike the earlier ritual, this animal and all the others died in vain, save for the poverty-stricken they were later slaughtered to feed. It was more akin to the gladiator fights of ancient Rome, where men lived and struggled and died, never knowing why. Karl tells us that there are many activist groups trying to end the sport  of bullfighting. We left long before the fight ended, and while I think most of us are glad we saw one in our lives I’m sure none of us would be sad to see this practice end.

Waving the white flags...

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The Devil Wears Prado

Today we saw our first precipitation since arriving in Spain! Yahoo!

You cannot tell, but this man is doing a Gene Kelly impression.

Everyone broke out the hoodies and umbrellas as we made our way to El Prado (see the graphic, below) for a day of art history and lessons on perspective.  Afterwards we all made our way back home, where we capped off the day by ordering Domino’s pizza (it took 11 of us to figure out how to order, and we ended up having our wonderful guide Nancy do it for us anyway).  Needless to say, it was delicious and well worth the trouble that Abbey and Katie D. went to to pick it up for us, in my opinion.  For a more detailed overview of the day, please see John’s blog (also below). Please enjoy our infographics as we continue to take this blog to new levels never thought possible by mankind!  Adios americanos!

~adam

El Prado

Click here for John’s blog.

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