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Showing posts with label languages. Show all posts
Showing posts with label languages. Show all posts

Winter Wanderlust | Tenerife *


As some of you may know, particularly if you've ever read my first ever blog post which was on my experiences working as an au pair in Spain, I am a freaking Spanish nerd. I love the language, I love the culture, and I especially love all of Spain's weird and wonderful customs and traditions.
 With the weather getting colder by the day now and my thoughts drifting to dreams of warmer climes, I thought I'd talk a little bit about the things I love about Spanish culture, particularly in one of my favourite Spanish islands, Tenerife.

1: You can siesta all day, and fiesta all night
If one thing is true of the Spanish, they love to party. In fact, Spain is home to more bars and pubs than anywhere else in the world. The Spanish penchant for parties was something I took a little while to get used to on my first visit to Spain, what with me and all my granny-ish tendencies (early nights are kind of my "thing"). On my arrival I suddenly found that lunchtime had become dinnertime, and bedtime? Well, there's really no such thing. In Spain, partying literally until the sun comes up is standard practice, and fortunately, so are very lazy mornings (and by "mornings" I mean "mornings, but also well into the afternoon").


Tenerife in particular is one Spanish island known for it's buzzing nightlife, especially in the infamous Playa de las Americas, a popular party destination for Brits for its bustling stretch of bars and clubs. However, if like me you prefer a taste of the more traditional Spanish nightlife, there's the unassuming Puerto de la Cruz where when the sun goes down, its quiet streets and plazas become a hub of night-time activity.   

2: I genuinely believe Spanish dance music is a wholly superior listening experience
This may be just me, but it would seem that with the ability of the Spanish to host a most excellent "fiesta" also comes, in my opinion, it's ability to produce some of the worlds most epic dance tunes. Spanish music makes me want to dance like my life depended on it (I mean, everyone loves a bit of Enrique in their life though, don't they?) Also, excuse what may well be my poor taste to a more attuned ear but while I was working in Spain the two little girls I was looking after introduced me to Abraham Mateo (who as far as I can understand is basically Spain's answer to Justin Bieber) and now his song "Señorita" will forever bring me back to times spent dancing along to it in the apartment's living room with the girls.


3: Churros (for breakfast)
Just in case you're unfamiliar with what churros are, they're basically long, thin donut-type pastries, (often coated in sugar and eaten with hot chocolate) and in Spain, not only is it normal to eat them for breakfast, it's encouraged. 
Now if that doesn't sell you on the joys of Mediterranean living, I don't know what will!

4: Spain has the most outrageous festivals
Spain is the mother ship of celebrations and there are an absolute multitude of festivals and holidays held all year around (some being stranger than others). My personal favourite is 'La Tomatina', a giant tomato fight held each year on the last Wednesday of August in Buñol, Valencia, and then there's the 'Running of the Bulls', where crazy folk volunteer to be chased by angry bulls through the streets of Pamplona. Though really you can't have a proper festival without building a castell (i.e. a giant human tower), which is common practice at various festivals throughout the year in the region of Catalonia.


Like most other Spanish regions, Tenerife also has its fair share of annual celebrations. In fact, it boasts one of the world's largest carnivals, Carnaval de Santa Cruz de Tenerife (The Carnival of Santa Cruz de Tenerife), held each February in Santa Cruz, the island's capital. The festival is a dazzling display of music and colour which lasts five days, ending on the final day in an enormous and spectacular parade.

5: The lush landscapes
Spain is rich in beautiful and diverse natural landscapes, from golden beaches in the south to striking mountain ranges in the north, not to mention the picturesque towns and cities featuring an abundance of awe-inspiring architecture in between. Tenerife is no exception to this rule, as a volcanic island it boasts a contrast of rocky volcanic mountains, forests and natural beaches. Teide National Park is popular with those hoping to experience the most rugged of the island's landscape. The national park is also home to El Teide, the 3rd largest volcano in the world.


6: El Corte Inglés
The ultimate shopping experience. That is all.

For more information on holidaying in Spain or Tenerife visit the First Choice website.

Disclaimer: this post has been contributed by First Choice though all opinions expressed have been my own and do not represent the views of  the company. 
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A Day in Pictures | A Meeting in Manchester

I love reading these kinds of 'day in the life' posts and I've been meaning to do one for ages but I haven't really had very many very interesting days recently, just a lot of lectures and uni work! Yesterday though I ended up taking a short trip to Manchester to go to a training session for working as a student language ambassador in the North West and thought since it was something a little different I'd take a few little pictures of my day.


I know for a lot of you English folk, especially if you're from the North, trips to Manchester may be somewhat of a regular occurrence, but I'd never really been before (except one time for a couple of hours when I got hopelessly lost) so hopping onto the train yesterday morning I felt as though I was embarking on a very exciting adventure indeed. One thing I can therefore definitely say after yesterday is that the novelty of living on "the mainland" really hasn't worn off me one bit- you mean I can get the train to London or Edinburgh from my local station?!- because whenever you're in Ireland, you're just you know, in Ireland. The public transport at home really isn't that great, for example, the train lines only cover about half the country so if you want to go to a more obscure location you're pretty much screwed. One fine example was a time my friend and I wanted to go to this little place called Moneymore to go llama trekking (yes, that's a thing), it was only about an hour away by car but we had to cancel due to the fact it would have taken us a good three hours to get there on buses and trains with a few changes in between, and obviously a six-hour round trip to spend 40 minutes walking a llama wasn't really feasible nor a sensible use of our time.




Anyway, when I got off the train at Oxford Road station I literally hadn't a notion where I was going. How people survived without Google Maps I do not know. The event was at Manchester Metropolitan University which thankfully was really straightforward to find, it was just straight up the road from the station. The trickier part was finding the right building once I got to campus since the one I was looking for was sort of tucked away behind the other campus buildings, though I did manage to find it quite easily once I'd gotten myself in the right direction. 
I wish I'd taken a photo of the inside of the building the event was in because it was so cool, it kind of looked like an airport departure lounge. I actually really liked the whole campus in general, it's got a nice buzz about it and is circled around a little park which was looking really pretty and autumnal yesterday as I was passing through.



The meeting ended up wrapping up a little early so I took my time strolling back towards the train station, appreciating the sights and sounds. I'm not at all accustomed to big cities because frankly, we don't really have them back home. I'm not sure if I'd call Belfast a "big city" by the rest of the UK's standards, so I always find cities like London or Liverpool really interesting and exciting and sometimes I'm kind of taken aback by it all, like I'm almost surprised places like this actually exist.

I arrived home around half 7, later than expected as my train was delayed by nearly 15 minutes... (not ideal). I then ended up heading out in Lancaster with my friend Louise where I danced like a freaking maniac, fell on my ass in the club at one stage (and have the massive bruise to prove it!) and then polished off a McDonald's quarter pounder meal and 6 chicken nuggets on the walk home. Oh, and if you have yet to hear of "the Great McDonald's Fanta Spillage Fiasco of 2014" you might like to check out my twitter feed. There were many tears. In fact, I still haven't fully recovered.

But hey, that was my day for you all, I hope you all had a very good day yourselves and are enjoying the October autumness as much as I am these days (unless you live in the Southern Hemisphere, in which case I hope you're having lovely Spring).
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My Favourite Apps


Hey there guys and gals, I feel like it's been a little while since I've posted, I've just been getting back into the swing of uni life this past week which has been super hectic and unfortunately my blog has been seriously neglected! But that will hopefully change now that I'm a bit more settled.

Today I thought I'd talk about apps, which is a bit of a joke since I'm  really not much of an app person- kind of sad really since I'm not sure I really get the most out of having an iPhone- but the few apps I do use regularly, I really really love so I thought I'd give you a little round-up in the hope you might enjoy them yourself! Also, all of these apps are free which is a double win really.

8 Tracks 
K so I've been ranting and raving about '8 Tracks' on my blog for a while now and I know it's pretty old news in general but it is the best app, for real. It lets you type in tags (e.g. 'studying', 'folk', 'getting ready') so you can find different playlists people have uploaded and listen to them for free! It's so amazing for finding new tunes, I guarantee it will revolutionise your music-listening experience. It certainly has done so for me. 




Kindle
Again, hardly revolutionary but boy do I love the Kindle App for iPhone! (not as much I've been enjoying having a real kindle to be fair though). It's just so handy for reading on the go or whenever you're flicking through your phone in awkward social situations. There's also the fact that ebooks are a lot cheaper than physical copies so essentially it can save you some money as well.



Afterlight
Considering the camera I use for my blog isn't really that great this app is a bit of a life saver! It's got a really extensive range of filters, frames and photo editing tools, much better than any online editor I've ever used, or any other app for that matter. I literally use it allllll the time for blogging and instagram.



Duolingo
Potentially the sweetest app ever especially if you're a total language nerd like me! Basically this app is a game that teaches you the basics of up to 6 European languages (Spanish, French, German Italian, Portuguese and Dutch) and is an absolute dream, I honestly can't believe it's free! So far I've been doing a little bit of everything and I even find it really helpful for picking up more obscure words in Spanish and Italian (which I already study). It's really fun and really addictive if you're into languages or fancy learning a new one. I'd definitely recommend especially if you're studying any languages at GCSE level at the minute, I can imagine this would help a lot!


What are your favourite apps?
23

My Au Pair Experience | Summer 2013





I actually heard about this opportunity through a friend, who messaged me just before my exams ended explaining that she had been asked through school if she would consider spending the summer in Spain as an 'au pair'. For those of you who maybe aren't familiar with what an au pair is, it's basically a young person who travels to a foreign country and lives with a host family. Au pairs are normally required to look after the family's children, help around the house and sometimes also help the children to learn English or another language, as it was in my case. My friend wasn't able to do all the dates the family needed so we were going to divide the time between us, doing three weeks each. As it turned out, the family needed the au pair to start the following week and since I had agreed to do the first three weeks, letting go of all inhibition, I booked a return flight to the Basque region of Spain.










 At the time, I didn't really get a lot of time to think too much about what I was doing since I flew out three days after my exams finished. In retrospect, this was probably a good thing since I didn't really have time to over-think and stress myself out. I did, however, have time to read over a few articles and blog posts about the sorts of experiences other people had had working as au pairs, and was slightly disconcerted to discover just how many of these experiences had been negative. Some, in fact, seemed to be real horror stories- tales of people being sacked without notice, kicked out onto the street or even abused by their host families! I was very fortunate in that my host family were extremely warm, welcoming and understanding but I really think these stories are a testament to just how important it is to ensure you find your family from a reputable source and that you get as much background knowledge on your host family as you can before-hand. If possible, it may also be helpful to try and get feedback from other au pairs who have worked for the family in the past, just to make sure everything is OK and to get an idea of what to expect. 




For me, working as an au pair for a short time-scale was at times, challenging but also very rewarding. I didn't really get homesick as such but there were times when I felt very cut-off from the rest of the world since I didn't really get the opportunity to socialise outside of the family very much during my time there. As well as this, it could also be a very tiring job at times, having to speak a foreign language from the moment you wake up until you go to bed again (although you don't necessarily have to speak a foreign language to work as an au pair, it usually helps if you're planning to work in a non English-speaking country). Despite the various challenges I faced, however, I had an amazing time. Fortunately again for me, the children I was working with were two very lovely little girls who were great fun to be around, which just made my job so much easier.

Provided you've done your research, I would definitely recommend working as an au pair for anyone who is keen to have the real authentic experience of living within another culture. It's also a great way to improve your language skills and do something a little out of your comfort zone. I studied Spanish for A level but I definitely feel my language abilities improved a whole lot from my time there, short though it was.

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