Neerja en España #9

A wonderful whirlwind end to 2019 in Spain

Originally written December 2019

Holiday season in Spain was incredible! I could feel the spirit in the air in a much more visceral way than when I was in America. This was definitely due to everyone’s joyful attitudes, but also in part due to the Christmas markets and decorations - all of the cities put up gorgeous lights.

Here’s a taste of what Zaragoza looked like for all of December
And here’s one of my favorite plazas in Madrid

Over their winter break, more of my Dartmouth friends came to Spain. Two of them came to visit me in Zaragoza, and then we went to Barcelona together and met up with a few more friends! By that point, I was very comfortable in Zaragoza, so it was a blast to show them around the city, introduce them to my Spanish friends, and take them to my favorite bars for juepincho. It is so special to share a place you love with people you love.

Barcelona was a blast, as always. (And it would just keep on getting better…that city has a very special place in my heart). We ate a lot of good food (finding great Korean food in Barcelona was a dream come true), did a Freixenet cava tasting and tour, and explored some parts of the city I hadn’t seen before. The highlight was definitely taking my Dartmouth friends to a party with all of the 10 or so Barcelona Fulbright researchers. Now that I’ve had a chance to actually see and get to know them more, I adore the other Fulbright grantees. We had a ton of fun that night just talking until it didn’t even make sense to leave my friend’s apartment and go to a bar, and it made me very excited that I’ll be returning to Barcelona in the near future.

Thanks for visiting friends, I had the best time with you guys! Here are some photos from our adventures in Barca:

It took me going to la Sagrada Familia 3 times to get a photo in front of it. By the way, it’s just as impressive every single time
Cava tastings are always fun, but a little less so when it’s 11 am and you were at your friends apartment until very late the night before
Showing my friends around the gothic quarter
Watching the sunset from the Bunkers del Carmel

After my friends left, I had a little over a week in Zaragoza before I headed home for the holidays. In this time we had a lab Christmas dinner, which was a lot of fun - after a blissfully early 8 pm dinner we all went to a bar for 4 full hours. I had an amusing conversation in Spanish with the head PI of my lab about the Minnesota Vikings (which he became a fan of during a year abroad in the Midwest but I know very little about - but my dad is a huge fan so when I told him about this he was thrilled) around 2 am. In addition to festivities with the lab, one of the woman in Aiko’s class who is from Vietnam opened an incredible Vietnamese restaurant, so we all started going there a lot. We also had a group Christmas dinner there - I guess people are really into Christmas dinner here.

Then I was all of a sudden back in Madrid for a night before an early morning flight back home! By a stroke of luck there ended up being a Fulbright party the one Wednesday night I was in Madrid, so I got a chance to see a lot of my research friends, as well as meet a bunch of the english teaching assistant grantees. This year has already made me a lot better at navigating parties/cocktails where I don’t know a lot of people - I used to be very shy when meeting new people, but now I have a blast.

Overall, the end of 2019 in Spain was a great time. I also did some work that month too, but for once, not that much work.

Neerja Thakkar
Neerja Thakkar
Incoming EECS PhD Student @ Berkeley

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