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Shannen in Elche

Junior Journal #5: Shannen Chacon '25

Jun 15, 2023

Florida Southern’s Junior Journey is one of the highlights of the educational experience students can expect at the College. There are a number of trips throughout the year with destinations like Germany and Spain among the most popular. The goal of this blog is to give an insight into what goes on before, during, and after the trip so that future travelers can have an idea of what to expect.

Editor’s Note: This will be a weekly feature, with this week’s entry chronicling Shannen’s fourth week in Spain.

June 6, 2023

Buenas tardes, Mocs! We are in our final days of our time in Alicante, and so many of us wish we could stay here forever. Tonight, we get to celebrate the ending of our trip with our teachers from Proyecto Español at a tapas dinner. Our teachers have become our friends, and I feel so thankful for everything they have taught me here.

Left: El Campello, the beach where we did water sports as a group.
Right: The outside of the Basílica de Santa Maria in Elche.

Last Tuesday, my friend, Graciela, and I spent our rainy afternoon inside. After spending time at home with our sweet host sister, I showed her around my favorite bookstore that I’ve mentioned before (Pynchon & Co.). We enjoyed a café con leche and read our books while the rain fell. My favorite thing about having a whole month in Alicante has been getting to know the area in a relaxing, everyday-activity fashion.

After school on Wednesday, we took the tram to the beach in Campello as a whole group to try water sports. With some very fun instructors, we tried kayaking, paddle boarding, and even a giant paddle board with multiple people at once! Needless to say, we laughed so much! I had never tried paddle boarding before, which I loved the most. Thankfully, the gorgeous waves of the Mediterranean Sea were calm for us!

This past Thursday, we visited Elche after school. Elche is a small city in the Alicante province that is known for their handcrafted shoes. Close to the train station, we walked through the largest palm garden in Europe. After our walk through the garden, we visited their archaeological museum before heading to the basilica. In Elche, they perform what is referred to as “the mystery of Elche” during Semana Santa (Holy Week). For a small city, it has a very rich history! We enjoyed some delicious ice cream, made conversation with a kind owner of a jewelry shop, and bought some souvenirs before getting back on the train together.

The Hogueras parade!

Due to a free last weekend, many students left for independent trips to other amazing places (both within Spain and to nearby countries) on Friday. Since many were absent, after doing some classwork, our teachers decided to show us around two other museums in Alicante for the rest of the school day. We visited the Hogueras Museum, which I found so interesting! The Hogueras de San Juan (Bonfires of Saint John) Festival, which lasts from the 19th of June to the 24th, is traditional in Alicante. Politically satirical sculptures made out of paper are displayed throughout the city center. On the evening of June 23rd, the winner is kept while the others are burned. Imagine a block party occupying the whole city, and you’ve got Hogueras. I hope to experience this for myself someday in the future! We visited the Ocean Race Museum as well, which covers all things related to the competition in which world class sailors race to reach different destinations across the globe. It begins here in Alicante each time! Now that I’ve seen this, I definitely need to follow how this year’s competitors are coming along. To conclude our fun school day, we all got gelato at Levanti. This is the third best gelato shop in all of Spain! Later in the day, Graciela and I went to shop with our friend Rachel, and we stumbled upon a parade that is related to the Hogueras festival. Each neighborhood chooses their most beautiful girls, and later, they choose one younger girl and one older out of them all. This tradition can be likened to a pageant. Each dress is handcrafted and the fabric alone typically costs around €3,000 (~$3,200). It was so fun to see this parade!

At the Ocean Race Museum with my teachers: Irene, Inma, and Victor.

I chose to stay in Alicante this weekend to soak up the city a bit more. After a Saturday morning run, I joined Graciela and Rachel for a relaxing beach day in San Juan. It always feels incredible to be able to see mountains from the beach, and I’ll certainly miss them when I’m back in Florida very soon. On Sunday, Caroline, Katie, Emily and I took a Renfe train to Villena. Villena is a small city where one of our amazing teachers, Irene, lives. She showed us around the city, including the castle that is there! We enjoyed some tapas from a local restaurant before heading back home. 

For our final group outing, we visited Murcia this Monday. We visited the cathedral and had a walk through the city. During our free time, Caroline, Emily, and our friend Lex visited a sculpture museum (Museo Salzillo). This museum is dedicated to the famous Baroque sculptor Francisco Salzillo, and the artwork is incredible. 

As I write to you, we only have one more full day left in Alicante. Today, we took our exams and will be celebrating all together at dinner tonight. It does not feel real to be leaving this city that feels like home, and the people that have become home as well. We have about 26 hours of travel to return to Tampa beginning tomorrow night, so wish us “Buena suerte!”

From my visit to Villena with Katie, Caroline, and Emily.