Discovering Madrid – Leadership Without Limits 2015

We began our day early this Sunday morning as we were leaving Barcelona and traveling to Madrid by train. Personally, I felt bittersweet emotions leaving Barcelona. On one hand, I felt excited to greet a new city and see what new adventures  would await us there. However, on the other hand, I felt Barcelona still had so many places it wished for us to visit. In the short amount of time we were in Barcelona, it had become to feel like home to me. Navigating the metro and walking from place to place were some things I was just starting to get accustomed to. Barcelona also helped bring our LWL group closer together thanks to our living arrangement here in the city. You quickly become comfortable with one another when you share one apartment with fifteen others.

Students relax inside the shared apartment in Barcelona

Students relax inside the shared apartment in Barcelona

We left our apartment and made our way to the train station in Barcelona. Once aboard, we all made ourselves comfortable as it would be a three our ride. The natural landscape on our way to Madrid was very beautiful and a nice change from the city scene. Large mountains and wild fields decorated the land we passed and made it hard for my tired eyes to want to rest in fear I might miss an incredible view. Alas, we were all tired from our early departure that at one point or another we all rested our minds and enjoyed a nap on our way to Madrid.

Students learn more from our tour guide inside Botin, recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as the oldest still-functioning restaurant world in the world

Students learn more from our tour guide inside Botin, recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as the oldest still-functioning restaurant world in the world

When we arrived to Madrid, I could already feel the difference between the two cities. Barcelona had been fast paced, loud, and the streets were almost always heavily populated. Madrid, on the other hand, felt like it ran at a slower pace and the streets did not seem too populated. Our schedule for the rest of the day was a walking tour of Madrid and dessert afterwards. As our tour guide showed us around the city he would point out buildings that dated as far back to the 14th century. He made us aware of how “new” our own country was compared to some of the landmarks we passed by. Our tour guide was also very helpful in explaining the way of life in Spain and the people’s view of politics in their country. After our tour, we headed to Chocolateria San Gines to have dessert as a group. Our sweet treat consisted of fresh churros dipped into delicious melted chocolate. It was the perfect way to end a busy day of traveling and sightseeing. I have to say, so far I am excited and looking forward to see what other treasures this city holds for us.

LWL members enjoy churros dipped in chocolate at Chocolateria San Gines, which dates back to 1894

LWL members enjoy churros dipped in chocolate at Chocolateria San Gines, which dates back to 1894

-Natalie Ramirez

Adventuring in Spain – Leadership Without Limits 2015

Saturday started early for us. We had an open schedule for the first half of the day, so I decided to visit a couple of must-sees. Still recovering from our Friday hiking escapade on Montserrat, I and a couple of others were able to drag ourselves out of bed by 4am to watch the sunrise at Barceloneta Beach.

Students ventured out at 4 am to watch the sunrise at Barceloneta Beach

Students ventured out at 4 am to watch the sunrise at Barceloneta Beach

On getting there we were greeted by the warm breeze and cold sand. Completing the mysterious yet astonishing view was the sunrise dazzling on the Mediterranean. After taking endless selfies, in a beach photo-shoot series, we sat and watched the sunrise together, appreciating Barcelona in the wee hours of the morning.

Next on my adventure for the day was Camp Nou Stadium, home of the Spanish Football Club Champions, and a club that is made up of some of the world’s greatest soccer players: Messi, Neymar and Iniesta. I was in awe, humbled by the intimidating size of the stadium, and grateful to be in an environment that has witnessed historical football moments. By the stadium was the Museum, and I was able to see all the trophies, awards, and revered artifacts of the club since its inception. I learned about the strong ties between the football club and the Catalonian people. The club represents the culture and values of Catalonia, with its official language being Catalan. The icing on the cake was sitting in the magnificent stadium with friends. Again, we sat there for a while taking it all in, with a permanent smile on all our faces signifying satisfaction.

Some students chose to visit Camp Nou, the soccer stadium for FC Barcelona, during their free morning.

Some students chose to visit Camp Nou, the soccer stadium for FC Barcelona, during their free morning.

From Camp Nou, we went to the Picasso Museum. Thankfully we got in for free with student status. Picasso is a significant figure in Barcelona art. He lived in Barcelona in his earlier days, where he learned and practiced art. The museum showcases most of Picasso’s earlier works: his drawings of people using his relatives as models, his sketch books, and his landscape paintings of Barcelona.

Afterwards, we took a trip to the countryside. At the countryside, we took a tour of a winery. Owned by a family for centuries now in the 35th generation, the winery had rich history. I really enjoyed the view of the large vineyard. We learned how wine was made at the winery, and the different procedures used in making red wine and white wine. The most remarkable information I got was that the quality of wine does not depend on where it is made, as location only accounts for difference in texture. Quality, on the other hand, depends on how much one is willing to invest in making wine.

Students chose to also learn more about wine during their free day in Barcelona.

Students chose to also learn more about wine during their free day in Barcelona.

Well that was my Saturday in Spain! Filled with adventure, learning, and amazement. #LWL2015 Experience.

-Edosa Obaseki

Climbing a Mountain! And other adventures… – Leadership Without Limits 2015

Today was eventful to say the least! Our morning started with a train ride to the Montserrat monastery, a mountainous place about an hour right outside Barcelona. Apart from the church and the museum that we had access to all day, we were able to hike up the beautiful mountains through various trails. The longest trail was a hike that brought us to an elevation of 1,236 meters, and it was definitely a challenge. Honestly I felt like it was the biggest physical challenge I’ve ever come across in my life. I definitely had moments where I just wanted to stop and go back down or just stop and not go up to the top of the mountain.

The view from the top of the mountain of Montserrat

The view from the top of the mountain of Montserrat

I kept thinking to myself that this year is the year for new adventures, pushing my limits, and challenging myself to grow as a person. This hike definitely incorporated all three of these aspects. I hiked up most of it with Jasmine and we helped each other through the rough climb up.

Students spent time at the top of Montserrat thinking about and honoring Devin Oliver and Aubree Butts

Students spent time at the top of Montserrat thinking about and honoring Devin Oliver and Aubree Butts

At one point me and Jasmine talked about Devin, our beautiful angel that heaven gained last June from our school. We talked about how she was supposed to be in LWL with us and then I suddenly got the inspiration I needed to finish hiking up the mountain. This hike was suddenly for her and so we were going to finish it in her honor. Even though I did not know Devin, I can see how she affected the lives of those around me and it’s inspiring. When we got to the top we took a few pictures with ReNeé and Ms. D in her honor, it was beautiful and emotional all at the same time. The views were amazing from the top and I have never felt more accomplished.

Tamine at the top of Montserrat

Tamine at the top of Montserrat

Our next adventure was a trip back to the city to see Parc Güell.  Our Parc Güell trip was unfortunately cut a little bit short because we were running late coming back from the mountain. We did get to take pictures though and spent time appreciating the architecture of Gaudi and his mosaic art. I also got to take another “Cheetah Girls” pose at the park, my second one that I have. It’s a little joke for anyone who has seen The Cheetah Girl 2, it was cheetahlicious. ;)

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Our last stop of the night was when we went to go see The Magic Fountain in Plaça Espanya. It was beautiful! Music was set to a water show, there was a nice breeze, just a very chill ending to a very long and adventurous day. This was probably my favorite day on the trip so far. :)

-Tamine Chagerben

Our last stop of the night was when we went to go see The Magic Fountain in Plaça Espanya. It was beautiful! Music was set to a water show, there was a nice breeze, just a very chill ending to a very

See the sites of Barcelona! – Leadership Without Limits

The students post in front of a giant statue on the way to the morning activity.

The students post in front of a giant statue on the way to the morning activity.

The excitement of the trip literally had me up ALL night, and witnessing the sun come up over the city of Barcelona was a once in a lifetime experience! The city at the beginning of its day is so peaceful and quiet. We have also found the perfect breakfast spot that has these amazing ham and cheese croissants and coffee de leches.

Enjoying our visit with Torre Jussana.

Enjoying our visit with Torre Jussana.

In the morning on Wednesday, we talked more about Barcelona’s social impact plan, where we met a man that works with the social services in a specific part of Barcelona. We also have finally gotten this riding-the-metro thing down and rode all the way across town to get there. Although super fun and fast, sometimes it’s frustrating with so many people crowded in one tiny car. Once there, we talked about how associations differ in Spain and what they do to help those in need.

The view from the Passion tower of the Sagrada Familia!

The view from the Passion tower of the Sagrada Familia!

The Basilica de la Sagrada Familia was a once in a lifetime experience. We exited the metro stop and literally looked straight up at this church that towers over the entire city. Each tower was uniquely amazing and stood for something significant. We took an audio guide tour and were able to listen to the history of the exterior architecture, the meaning behind the colors of the stained glass, and the interior design. We were then able to go to the top of one of the towers and view the city of Barcelona. The church is close to the Mediterranean Sea so we had a gorgeous view and the blue was indescribable. We were able to see the different side of the church that they are still constructing, including towers being constructed for the 12 Apostles. I decided to take the stairs down from the tower, which was a spiral staircase, and it was interesting to walk down.

Everyone had the chance to help out at the cooking class making our dinner.

Everyone had the chance to help out at the cooking class making our dinner.

From the Basilica de la Sagrada Familia we went to a cooking class. We learned to make a potato and onion type omelet which we ate with toast rubbed with tomato and olive oil. We also had asparagus and an artichoke with a toaster cream sauce that we basically started to eat on anything and everything. The main dish was similar to that of chicken and rice. It was all veggies and minimal spices, making sure all of the flavor from the onions and both red and green peppers infused into the dish. Dessert was a lemon flavored Catalonia-style crème brûlée, which was the best I have ever tasted and probably the only one I like!

By the time we got done with the day, we were all EXHAUSTED! No one wanted to go shopping or walk around the city with full tummy syndrome hitting us hard. We were lights out by 11 and ready for our next adventure! :)

-Brianna Harrison

Getting to Know Barcelona – Leadership Without Limits 2015

On Tuesday, we first went to Barcelona City Hall to got a private tour, talked to some officials and employees about their government ‘s structure of the city of Barcelona and what they are doing to improve unemployment, homelessness, and other major issues of the area, and then had lunch with one of its employees. We then went to one of the poorer areas where there was a day facility for people that have been homeless for a long time and talked about their living conditions and what is being done to improve them.

Learning about the history of the Barcelona City Hall

Learning about the history of the Barcelona City Hall

The outside of city hall was already a charming building, but when I went inside, I felt like I had walked into a wonderful movie set or I had entered some sort of time machine. It was beautiful! I could tell right away that this was a building that has been witnessing important decisions being made, many historical events and landmarks, and, most importantly, stood the test of time. We got to look at their 1st meeting room that was built in the 13th century, the most recent meeting room that was built in the 15th century, and another room that used to serve as a ball or gathering room for the city. Each room was unique and had its own style and artistic feel.

Group photo in the medieval hall for the city council--the waiting list to get married in this room is 3 years long!

Group photo in the medieval hall for the city council–the waiting list to get married in this room is 3 years long!

The people were very friendly there and explained what their local government does to benefit the city in very good detail. I really liked a lot of their ideas and their course of action to solve some of its problems. For example, one of their problems is that their elderly are struggling with loneliness now that times have changed and people aren’t living in 3-generation homes as often. To help with this problem, the city has started a program where they will send senior citizen an easy-to-use, easy access tablet to keep in touch with family, friends and loved ones for a very small fee. Another good example is that they are starting other programs to help insure their citizens have food or help with living expenses (as well as preventing evictions). To explain every detail would probably an information overload, but in a nut shell all of their ideas centered around aiding their citizens who are in need of help with basic living expenses while maintaining the person’s dignity.

Learning from Jordi about social issues in Barcelona and what the city is doing to help

Learning from Jordi about social issues in Barcelona and what the city is doing to help

Going to the day center for the homeless was a real eye-opener and unique experience. What was most surprising about going to a poorer area in Spain was seeing how consistent the effects of living in poverty are. No matter the race, nationality, or religion, poverty and homelessness links to other issues such as depression, alcohol abuse, or other negative effects. One of my favorite things I learned that day was how the city is trying to move past large overnight shelters, which have a reputation for being tough and dangerous, and replacing it with city owned apartments for homeless people where they are able to have their own room. It isn’t given to everyone, but it is basically when they give a qualified candidate an apartment to share with 3 or 4 others and are allotted their own private room and toilet. This is a safer and more dignified situation for a qualified homeless person that has probably seen enough hurt and danger to last a lifetime.

Meeting and discussion with members for the Arrels Foundation, that works with the homeless population in Barcelona

Meeting and discussion with members for the Arrels Foundation, that works with the homeless population in Barcelona

Overall, it was a good day filled new experiences and new knowledge about how people live in Spain and about their rich culture and history.

-Jennise Streaty

We Made It To Barcelona! – Leadership Without Limits 2015

The view flying in to Barcelona!

The view flying in to Barcelona!

As soon as I heard the announcement that we were about to land in the Barcelona airport, I was really excited and nervous at the same time. I can say that we were all super excited for Spain. The thought that we’re here made me really excited and I was nervous because this is my first time so I don’t really know what to expect or what to see, or I had no idea what Barcelona would look like. I was amazed with the beauty and green land as I saw from the plane when we were about to land at the airport.

Yes, I’ve been outside of U.S. before. Last May, I had the great opportunity to visit Greece with the Sophomore Year Experience, but every place that I’ve been to it’s different. The first thing I noticed about Barcelona is that there are a lot of mountains, there are houses on the mountains, and so far I don’t see people driving trucks. This is different from Texas, which is more of flat farmland and you will see all kinds of trucks that Texans are driving everywhere. Most of the cars that I see are four doors and vans, which makes sense because when we did research we learned that in Spain they are very family oriented and that would give more seats in the car.

The view into the courtyard from the balcony of our apartment!

The view into the courtyard from the balcony of our apartment!

We arrived to our apartment at about 1:00 P.M. and rested for a little bit after a long flight before our next move departing for a walking tour. The apartment is perfect for us and we each have a bed. We had a few hours to rest but ReNee’ and I passed out while everyone took showers and changed clothes. We left the apartment and went to meet up with the tour guide and she gave us a good walking tour history of Barcelona. It was amazing to hear the stories of the history of the buildings, seeing pictures of the original buildings, and actually being there in person. It’s a beautiful thing and the tour guide told us many stories of the “dark history” of Spain.

Hearing about the Gothic Quarter on our walking tour

Hearing about the Gothic Quarter on our walking tour

Compared to Dallas, everything is different: the buildings are different, the people are different, they speak a different language, and even the streets are different. Highways here don’t have as many lanes like in Dallas. For example, they have two lanes for bus and taxi and just two lanes for normal cars to drive. One fun fact about Barcelona that Tamine pointed out as we were walking was that their street signs are on the buildings and printed really small. We did a lot of walking but I had so much fun and most importantly I was taking in every minute I am really happy that I get to explore Barcelona. After our walking tour, we went for dinner and watched a flamenco show. I was really hungry and so happy when the food finally arrived and it was delicious!! It was some rice with amazing flavor topped with a muscle and two pieces of shrimp. Our plan was to go to visit the Magic Fountain of Montjuic after the dinner, but it rained so we didn’t get to go tonight. But it’s okay because I am still excited for tomorrow!

View at the Flamenco Show!

View at the Flamenco Show!

Kim Chet

Traveling to Spain! – Leadership Without Limits 2015

Getting ready to board our second flight from Amsterdam to Barcelona!

Getting ready to board our second flight from Amsterdam to Barcelona!

The night before the trip I decided to pull an all nighter. I figured that if I didn’t sleep at all during the night, I could sleep the entire airplane ride. Little did I know, I would, in fact, not get much sleep on the ride there either. It turned out to not be such a bad thing. I was over-excited anyway, since it was my first time on an airplane! I couldn’t help but notice all the small things. Smalls things to experienced airplane flyers, big things to a first-timer like me.

The view from our plane window after taking off from Dallas!

The view from our plane window after taking off from Dallas!

Let’s start with the take off. For some reason I expected my stomach to drop the way it does when I ride a roller coaster. There was no stomach dropping feeling. I was a little disappointed since I’m a bit of an adrenaline junkie. Now let’s talk about the view-that was not disappointing at all! Have you ever seen such a beautiful view that you instantly think, “yep that was God right there”? Well, that’s what I saw. I saw an ocean of clouds, and I wanted to jump and bounce from one cloud to another.

Breakfast on the flight from Dallas to Amsterdam.

Breakfast on the flight from Dallas to Amsterdam.

A few other things I noticed was the adorable compact-size lunch trays. I really enjoyed how they were all organized and divided in their own little  compartments. I also noticed the terrifying restroom. I felt as if I was going to get sucked in and thrown out of the airplane. Last but not least, the ear popping. Goodness it felt as if my ears had a mind of their own, popping all the time without my consent, and the ear pressure was also not very enjoyable.

Sonia after arriving in Barcelona!

Sonia after arriving in Barcelona!

Although at times I felt uncomfortable, I really enjoyed my first airplane ride. Discomfort means I’m learning, and boy did I learn a lot. I was also lucky enough to to sit by Lauren and was given tips through out the flight. If it was up to me I  would do it all over again.

-Sonia Meza