Media Takeover

Having lived in Barcelona for almost two months now, one of the aspects of this country (and ultimately, all of Europe) that I’ve come to appreciate is the lack of technology use during mealtime. In America, my generation has grown up in an environment that considers it completely normal and socially acceptable to have a cell phone lying beside a plate of food. To be honest, I didn’t realize how dependent I was on my cellular device until I studied abroad. I quickly realized that the Spanish cherish every minute with friends and family, thus taking advantage of breakfast, lunch and dinner as an opportunity to connect with one another. During my time spent in various restaurants and café’s, I’ve noticed that no one uses their cell phones, and if so, it is considered to be rude.


Having a brother almost five years younger than me, I’d like to think that I have a comprehensive understanding of the development stages of children born in our technological-based decade.

Don’t get me wrong—multimedia and technological advancements have their perks. I couldn’t imagine driving to a foreign destination without relying on my iPhone’s “Maps” application to guide my route step-by-step. However, a CNN article by Chelsea Clinton and James P. Steyer, “Is the Internet hurting children?” made me to realize how such advancements are reshaping the ways in which children are raised and communicate with one another.

The article explains that 90 percent of American two-year-olds already have an online history, along with 7.5 million people under the age of 13 with Facebook accounts. Although these numbers are staggering, I am not surprised—by the time my younger brother was in elementary school, he already carried a cell phone of his own, introducing me to new apps and shortcuts that I was previously oblivious to.


Day-to-day communication is not the only technological transformation—movies today, even those G-rated, contain considerably higher amounts of sex, violence and crudity than films with the same rating from 10-20 years ago. I have experienced such instances firsthand while watching my brother become accustomed to swear words and violence through video games like Call of Duty, as well as PG-13 movies that would have been rated R years ago.


If managed properly, the possibility of using media to positively transform our lives is likely. However, the 24/7 digital world we live in must begin to require “legislation, educational efforts and norms that reflect 21st-century realities to maximize the opportunities and minimize the risks for our kids. Only then will we be able to give them the safe, healthy childhood and adolescence they deserve” (CNN article, Clinton & Steyer).


New Social Media – “Ello”

One of the most prominent up and coming social media platforms of 2016 is Ello, a company that promotes the message to “join the creators community, not the status quo.”


One of the reasons why I chose to write about this specific form of social media is that Ello will never sell advertisements, as it considers itself an alternative to mainstream networks that manipulate what we see, control and think. Unlike sites such as Facebook that sell users’ data to companies that bid the highest, Ello is unique in that it stands with the theory that it is both unsafe and immoral to publicize the things we love.


Essentially, Ello presents itself as a site for people to “discover beautiful art, be inspired by meaningful stories, and connect with creators around the world.” Because the first time I heard of Ello was actually in last week’s class, I decided to make an account so I was able to provide input on my thoughts regarding the site.

Immediately upon creating an account, I appreciated the simplicity of signing up. By simply submitting your email, a “get started” message is automatically sent, prompting the user to create a username and password. After entering your interests/information, Ello produces results that align with your hobbies. This is one of my favorite aspects of the website, as in contrast to Pinterest, for example, a user doesn’t have to spend time searching and following accounts. Instead, Ello integrates your fascinations to produce photos, quotes and stories that catch your attention.

Screen Shot 2016-02-23 at 10.36.37 AM

In my opinion, Ello is extremely similar to Tumblr in both its format and content. Though I commend Ello on its promise to eliminate advertisements and keep its users’ personal information safe, the sole thing preventing me from continuing to use this site is the fact that I already have a Tumblr account that displays years worth of compiled photos. To switch platforms and ultimately start from scratch seems worthless when both social media pages are so similar.

Screen Shot 2016-02-23 at 10.36.29 AM

If you don’t ski or snowboard…

This weekend, a huge group of my friends and me planned a trip to Interlaken, Switzerland through the program Bus2Alps. (For anyone considering using this company for travel in the future, I would highly recommend it! Other than having to wait 6 hours for our return flight due to the company only providing one bus ride from the hostel to the airport, Bus2Alps did a great job). Though I was staying in Bombers, the oldest hostel in Interlaken that was full of other study abroad students, I was still hesitant to go due to the fact that I don’t ski or snowboard. However, I quickly realized this didn’t once affect the amount of fun I’d have on this trip.

1.) Like me, if you aren’t comfortable with snow sports and have a free day in the alps, I would highly recommend going paragliding to anyone (even if you don’t have an adventurous edge, it was the best way to see Switzerland). I would recommend suggest using the program we went paragliding with—they were organized, calm and cautious of everyone’s safety. In fact, my friends and I were originally supposed to go on Friday, but due to the light snow and wind, the instructions moved all of our dates to Saturday for a safer fly. Coming from someone who easily gets nauseous from roller coasters and heights, my experience in the air this weekend was unforgettable and stress-free. The flight time was only 10-15 minutes, and provided the most breathtaking birds eye view of both lakes and the city.

2.) In addition to paragliding, I would also recommend visiting Lake Thun. Because the town of Interlaken is so small, walking and using the bus system are both doable/easy ways to get to Lake Thun. Not only are the views here crystal clear, highlighting the snow covered mountains and clear blue water, but it allows for an opportunity of pristine lighting and picture quality.

3.) If you start to get hungry or develop a sweet tooth throughout the day, a visit to Funky Chocolate will probably be necessary. Located on Jungfraustrasse St. (around a 10-minute walk from my hostel), not only does this chocolate store have the best hot cocoa I’ve ever had, but also it offers daily chocolate-making cooking classes. Not to mention, for 10 Frank’s, the store provided customers with bubble wrapped envelopes to express mail two chocolate bars of the customers decision.

So, even if you aren’t a skier or snowboarder, this won’t prevent you from having an incredible time in the Swiss Alps.

Social Media – The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

In Jeff Jarvis’s article on BuzzMachine called, “Bizarro Identity,” Jarvis, who has worked with various media businesses, explains the profound effect that media has on society.


Jarvis’s article describes the reality of online media outlets having the power to manipulate a person’s identity, as they do not allow users to “control and publish and set access to and rules for the use of its users identity online.” For example. Facebook lets people have control of their data, but it doesn’t allow people to create and transfer information. The extent to what we can share is things that we like, do and think. Although we are sharing our opinions, we are not completely in control of our data and what we have produced.

Jarvis states that there are three things needed for order in our social media outlets:

1.) Organization—Sites like Google organize information for us, there is no way for users to construct info the way they want to see it.

2.) Verification—People have the right to know if identities are true identities (Catfish accounts, hackers, etc.)

3.) Connections—Facebook does this well, making online use social, but there needs to be a greater link between information and relationships to enhance identities.


Identities online are not personalized, as online forums are solely interested in how their company can benefit and what they can do for their users online, and they ask these questions in the incorrect order. We, as users, do not have full control over our data and identities. We mainly share things that we identify with, such as places, sites, data and information. There is no value behind what we “like” and what our friends “like”—due to trends and the domino effect, this isn’t as significant as we believe it to be.


Almost every website holds some type of knowledge about its user’s distributed identities—thus, there needs to be verified identity, allowing people to be able to interact with the outside world and form authentic relationships. Ultimately, people can shape the way they look online.



The Beauty Blog

Of course, the most substantial/entertaining hobby that I will be partaking in during the next few months is studying abroad in Barcelona and traveling through Europe. However, during the rare weekends that I decide to relax and stay central to my home in Gracia, I realized that I should dedicate a secondary section of my blog to something else that I’m both passionate and knowledgeable about: makeup.

Growing up with a mom whose self-made success can be attributed to her independently owned beauty store and remarkable talent of doing others’ makeup, I was naturally inclined to be intrigued in this topic.


Many people consider cosmetics to be superficial, time-consuming and unnecessary. Although these characteristics can most definitely be true in certain situations, I have been raised to view makeup as a form of art, a way to reduce a feature you’re self-conscious about and a form of self-expression. According to an article found on, 67% of women receive better treatment, hold a better posture, and are more confident in general.


Overall, I strongly believe people must realize that makeup is a form of self-expression, not a mask. Although I wear makeup, I am still confident when wearing none at all but choose to put it on because I love using and experimenting with it. Although makeup makes me feel dressed-up and put together, the reason for my passion is due to the unique products and enjoyable process. Makeup isn’t a way to bury yourself from everyone else; it’s a way to help your features shine.

I hope this posts gives you an understanding of the reasons for my interest in cosmetics…throughout the next few months, I will do my best to post updates of my favorite hair, skin and beauty products/tips and tricks!

Madrid – A Must

For the first time this month, I actually managed to stay in Spain for the weekend, as I traveled to the capital city, Madrid. I originally planned to be in Barcelona for a relaxing few days, but last minute a few friends and I decided to take advantage of CEA’s free two-day trip.

I entered the weekend with ultimately no expectations—I didn’t know much about the city, and because the excursion was so last minute, I was unable to research popular things to do or places to eat. However, to my surprise, the past weekend in Madrid has been my favorite thus far. I’m not sure if it was because of the city itself, the people I was with, or a combination of both, but I can honestly say I was sad to pack my bags up on Sunday.

The train ride to Madrid is a quick three hours (and is so much more convenient than arriving at the airport early to avoid baggage and boarding pass issues). Upon arrival, the CEA group of approximately 100 students all trekked their bags up the street, as the hotel we were staying at was just a 15-minute walk from the station. We were checked in by the early afternoon, which gave us a full day to explore the city. I was shocked to find how delicious the food was, as I didn’t come across a single bad meal throughout the entire weekend. In fact, we ended up stumbling upon one of the best brunch spots I’ve been to in Europe, called Mür Café. Apparently this place is nearly impossible to eat at without a reservation, but luckily someone had cancelled right before we walked in. The café’s traditional brunch is 22 euros, which includes coffee, fresh-squeezed orange juice, delicious croissants, toasted bread and jelly and a choice of bacon, lox or spinach poached eggs—it’s safe to say you get your moneys worth at this place.

Of course, we knew we couldn’t leave Madrid without visiting the Royal Palace aka the official residence of the Spanish Royal Family. All in all, the grounds were absolutely breathtaking and straight out of a scene from Princess Diaries 2. Although we didn’t pay extra to tour the inside of the Palace, just walking around the grounds was enough to see the magical architecture and breathtaking views of the city.

The last thing on my Madrid “to-do” list is to rent a rowboat at Retiro Park Lake, located in the heart of the park. Not only will this activity allow you to capture some great pictures, but it’s such a unique experience that isn’t offered anywhere in Barcelona.

So, if you’re in the neighborhood, I highly recommend you explore Madrid. With endless shopping, great nightlife (especially Kapital—Madrid’s seven-story nightclub) and plenty of greenery and parks to relax at, this city truly has it all.

Fresh off the Plane

It’s been exactly one month since I stepped foot on European soil, and I’m proud to say that I’ve yet to have my phone, wallet nor personal belongings stolen (knock on wood).

There has never been a question in my mind of whether or not I should leave my secluded comfort zone at the U of A and move across the world for a semester. I mean, when am I ever going to get another opportunity to eat, drink, study and travel for four months with ultimately no preoccupations? Unless I win the lottery anytime soon, this is an once-in-a-lifetime experience that I’m so lucky to be able to experience in my early twenties.

Tips & trips thus far…

  • Language: Ignore anyone who tells you that you won’t be able to maneuver your way around Barcelona without speaking Catalan.
    • I can’t count the number of past study abroad students who told me my minimal Spanish would rarely come in handy—This statement is far from true, as I’ve never once been misunderstood due to a Catalan-Spanish language barrier.
  • Weather: It’s not as cold as you think.
    • Going to school in Arizona, girls are basically programmed to throw on a scarf, oversized sweater and boots in weather under 60 degrees. And, if you’re anything like me, the smallest gust of wind feels like Antarctica. So, I filled my suitcase with my heaviest sweaters and winter coats in an attempt to remain as warm as possible. Surprisingly, the brisk weather here is both refreshing and manageable—other than the early morning and late night, it’s rare that you’ll need more than two layers of clothing.
  • Phone Plans: Save your money.
    • In Barcelona, there is usually WiFi everywhere you go. Other than in the Metro and walking down the street, you’re bound to receive free service at most cafés, restaurants, shops and nightclubs. Before I began my travels, I purchased the cheapest international plan with my phone carrier. Though this has come in handy during the few times I’ve found myself lost in the city and needed to rely on Maps to make my way home, my iPhone is always on Airplane Mode and linked to the nearest WiFi connection.
  • Zara: A whole new world.
    • Before coming to Barcelona, you wouldn’t be able to find one item in my closet that has a Zara tag on it. In the States, Zara gets lost in the mix of Forever 21, Nordstrom, etc. However, you’ll quickly realize that, in Barcelona, a Zara store is located on each passing corner and is full of every essential clothing article that you’re missing from your wardrobe. I mean, it makes sense considering the founder of this corporation (who briefly overtook Bill Gates as the richest person in the world) started off right here in Spain.

Of course, these are only a small portion of the countless tips I’ll have gathered after months of traveling, so I hope you continue to follow along to find where the rest of my journey abroad takes me!