Hi Berklee! I’m Eli, and I’m studying abroad at the Valencia campus this spring semester and it has been absolutely incredibly amazing and fantastic- and that’s an understatement. Seriously. The semester here started a week earlier than the semester in Boston, so it’s already been about a month and a half that I have been living in Spain. In such a short time, I have already had so many unforgettable experiences and will share them with you in this blog post!
It’s so hard to narrow down what the best parts of this semester have been so far because there are at least a dozen things that I could write about, so I’ve done my best to share a little bit about 5 particularly great things I’ve been up to. Before I get into it, I just want to stress how most of these experiences would have not been possible in Boston, and that if you are considering coming to Valencia- do it. The opportunities for my music, career, and personal growth here have been exponentially greater than in Boston, and it’s only been a month and a half. It probably will be for you too. Don’t worry about “missing out” on things happening in Boston because you will almost certainly find that there is tons more going on here, and it’s up to you to take advantage of it.
1) I relaunched my podcast, In The Shed, with co-host Serin Oh
Rebooting my podcast was probably the most exciting thing I’ve gotten to do since being here. On the podcast, Serin Oh and I interview our fellow Berklee Valencia students (who are all close friends of ours too since it is such a small group!) to talk about their music, their aspirations, and their life at Berklee Valencia in general. We even record live performances at the end of the conversation if the person wants to perform (special shoutout to Jeff Wilken who does our mic set-up and editing)! At the time I am writing this there are already two episodes which you can find on iTunes or in the Podcasts app by searching for “In The Shed.” We had two great conversations- one with Kristen Zagales and the other with Hugh Macdonald. We have many more people lined up for the remainder of the semester and hope to get some master’s students to talk to as well. Check it out if you want to hear some more perspectives about Berklee Valencia! I hope to keep this going after this semester is over too, so I’m excited to see where it goes!
2) I spent a weekend alone in Alicante, Spain
Best thing about studying abroad- you have extraordinary freedom to travel. I so far have taken the opportunity to travel alone, which I think is even better than traveling with other people because you get to spend as much or little time going to wherever you want! I took this selfie at the Santa Barbara Castle which is literally right next to the ocean. It’s stunningly beautiful- 360 degree view of Alicante with the city on one side, the ocean on another, and mountains on another. I hiked up to the mountain around 3pm and stayed for almost four hours since there was so much to experience, especially the sunset which was one of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve ever seen. The travel was super cheap- the round trip train was only $40 and I stayed in a hostel which was only about $10 per night (where I met some really interesting people who were also traveling). I should also say- there is an incredible amount to explore and do in Valencia, so if you don’t feel like traveling much there is plenty to experience here as well. As I walked back to the train station in Alicante to return to Valencia, I felt the same bittersweetness I feel when I leave after visiting a close friend or family member for a few days, which goes to show how incredible of an experience it was.
3) I started a language exchange club in the Spanish university we live in
This has been such an amazing cultural experience. If you are under 24 (or 25, I can’t remember), you will be living in a dorm called Colegio Mayor Galileo Galilei, which is housed in the Polytechnic University of Valencia. As it is also a dorm for the UPV, a majority of the residents are Spaniards. During the first week and a half living here, I noticed that the Berklee Valencia and UPV students were not really interacting much, mostly because of the language barrier which made people unsure of how to approach each other. I decided it would be cool to start a weekly language exchange club/party in the dorm to get to know each other and share our languages, and it has been quite successful! Personally, I have made a couple of good friends who are from Spain which is great because that was one of my big goals that I made before coming here. They are all very friendly and have so much to offer with their culture!
4) I went on a 4-day trip to Granada, Spain with most of the cohort
The trip to Granada was an absolute highlight of my study abroad experience so far. This trip is put together by the incredible Student Affairs team here in Valencia and includes several amazing meals, a city tour of Granada, a flamenco dance class and concert, and a visit to La Alhambra (I know everyone always says, “oh my god you have to go to [x place] when you’re in [x city] because it’s the coolest!,” but without a doubt, La Alhambra will blow your mind.) It’s not just a place where you can take a bunch of cool pictures for your Instagram- you will literally feel the history. It was originally built almost 1,500 years ago and throughout Spain’s crazy history of being conquered, it was controlled by Muslims from Africa, then by Christians after the Reconquista, and nearly destroyed by the French. You can see how the architecture in La Alhambra evolved over this turbulent time and it is so unique. What will make you feel the history the most is when you stand in the room where Christopher Columbus got Queen Isabella’s signature to fund his voyage to India (America). It’s surreal.
5) I’ve planned an amazing adventure: 13 cities, 9 countries, 28 days
Now this is probably going to turn out to be the most unbelievable thing I’ll ever do in my life. I bought a Eurail pass, which is a one-time payment for a pass that you can use to travel by train just about anywhere in Europe over a certain period of time. Depending on which pass you get (how many travel days you want, how long of a trip) they range from $300-800. After this semester ends in May, I will be traveling by myself through 9 countries in western Europe over the course of 28 days. This doesn’t even include Spring Break, when I will be traveling to Berlin and to Warsaw, Poland (country #10!) I am still finishing my plan but this is the basic idea of my trip:
London -> Amsterdam -> Cologne -> Brussels -> Paris -> Geneva -> Milan -> Genoa -> Monaco -> Marseille -> Toulouse -> Barcelona -> Madrid -> (and back to London)
I am extremely grateful to have such an opportunity and cannot express how much of a life-changing experience this adventure will surely be. I plan to use Couchsurfing, which in case you haven’t heard of it, is a service similar to AirBnb which lets you stay with people in cities all over the world- for free! It is a fantastic way to dive into the culture of the city you are visiting by giving you a chance to stay with and get to know the locals!
I can’t even begin to explain how much I have grown in these last seven weeks that I’ve been in Valencia. The friendships that I’ve made with fellow Berklee students (and also Emerson students who take our classes too), Spanish students, and also the staff here are friendships that will last a lifetime and I am so happy to have met so many driven, open-minded, and brave people. The atmosphere here has had me consistently feeling happy, motivated, and productive which has been immensely inspiring. This is what inspired me to reboot my podcast, since I had to put it on hold during the last particularly busy summer and fall semesters. Although I chose not to talk much about the music projects I’ve been working on so I could talk more about the Spain/Berklee Valencia-specific things- it goes without saying that this side of the experience has been just as fulfilling and exciting. The professors here are incredible and friendly, and the access to amazing facilities is far better than in Boston. There is unlimited studio booking time for everyone, and the practice rooms look like this (with a Lamborghini in the background):
Please reach out to me if you have any questions about Berklee Valencia, things that I wrote about in my blog, or anything in general really. I love sharing. You can send me a message on Facebook- that will probably be the best way to reach me. Also, (and this is not self-promotion, this is purely me wanting to share my experience) feel free to follow me on Instagram- @elislavkin – where I have been uploading weekly videos which are mashup one second per day videos from that week. I try to make them as interesting as possible and as representative of that week as I can. I am so happy that this semester isn’t even halfway done yet and I can’t imagine how many more amazing experiences I will have in the remaining time I have here.
By: Eli Slavkin, 3rd semester JCMP & Film Scoring major from Los Angeles