UNCW volleyball student-athletes Haley Collins and Meredith Peacock are traveling overseas this summer as part of UNCW’s study abroad program. Be sure to check back throughout the summer as they document their experiences.

Meredith Peacock Photo Gallery

Haley Collins Photo Gallery

July 8, 2013

Well, I am finally back home and all settled in from Spain. I can't say I don't miss it already.

This trip was by far one of the greatest seven weeks of my life. We finished our classes and thankfully I ended up with all A's! We had one last week of travelling in Sevilla and Madrid after saying goodbye to our host families. It was so hard to leave them because they made my experience one that I will never forget.

Sevilla was probably my favorite city in all of Spain. It was such a breathtaking old city with incredible architecture on every single one of the buildings. We got to see the third largest Gothic style church in the world, called "La Catedral de Sevilla" which was beyond beautiful, and we also got to see so many other old buildings and castles. After being in Sevilla for three days, we traveled to Madrid for the remainder of our trip. It was so cool! It was like the New York City of Spain. The Plaza Mayor is the main attraction in Madrid where there are a lot of restaurants and things to do. Also, we went to "La Puerta del Sol" where the zero kilometer mark of Spain is, so every city in Spain is measured from that mark. We had a double decker bus that we could ride at any time to explore any part of Madrid that we wanted to. One day, a group of us went to the Real Madrid soccer stadium and we got to go down to the field and in the locker room of the team! It was one of my favorite things I got to do on the trip!

I am so thankful to have had the opportunity to go on this amazing trip, and I greatly appreciate all the support everyone gave me to make it possible. I am already looking forward to going back one day!

- Meredith


June 13, 2013

Today I got back from a week of rafting down the Orange River. It was definitely an experience.... The Orange River runs along the border of South Africa and Namibia. I don't have any pictures from this last week because we were camping and on the water the whole time. We used rafts called duckies to get down the river. They are two person rafts (similar to an inflatable kayak). The first day that we were on the water was absolutely miserable. It was freezing cold and the wind (called Isabella because it is bad luck to say the word "wind" while rafting) was blowing against us at what felt like 50 mph. The Orange River is in the middle of the desert so it was supposed to be hot during the day, but for some reason it was freezing that first day. The next three days were beautiful. I was able to get a little bit of sun and the rafting was fun. There were some rapids (my partner actually popped out of the boat on one), but for the most part it was a scenic river route. Each night we sat around a bon fire and looked at the stars. They are INCREDIBLE! It was pretty cool to see stars that we aren't normally familiar with since we are on the other side of the world. Our guide pointed out the south stars, Scorpio and Sagittarius. I also saw about 20 shooting stars. The nights in the tents were freezing though. In the desert, the days are hot and the nights are really really cold (I didn't end up sleeping much because I was freezing). We returned to Cape Town today and I couldn't be happier to be back. The river was fun, but 5 days was plenty. I'm sad to say that we are leaving on Saturday, but I've missed my friends and family. It is also time to get back into volleyball gear. Africa has been great and it was definitely the trip of a lifetime. Anyone who gets the chance to come here definitely should. It is an indescribable place!

- Haley

June 10, 2013

It has been a busy past couple of days!

The school work has really been picking up lately, but there is no way that is taking away from the many incredible experiences I have been having here in Spain!

I thought I would take a minute to express my love for my "hometown" here in Spain, called Ubeda. I feel like I could live here forever! My host family is absolutely amazing. My host grandma loves to feed us tons of food, which I am not complaining about whatsoever. One day, I tried "caracoles" which are SNAILS! I have no idea how I brought myself to try them, but since they are very common here, I just told myself, "When in Spain!" They weren't my favorite thing in the world, but surprisingly they weren't horrible!

Last weekend, we all went to Valencia, a city on the coast of Spain. It is the city of arts and sciences as well. We went to the beach and I got to see the Mediterranean Sea for the first time.. it was so beautiful! We also got to try paella, which was incredible. However, after we ate it, we were told there was rabbit in it.... Anyways, Valencia was awesome. We also went to an aquarium, which I believe is the largest aquarium in all of Europe! I must also say that the Americans made a large appearance at the dolphin show.. We all stood up and danced in front of everyone so we could go play with the dolphins, and one of the girls from my group got picked!

This past week, we got to go to an olive oil factory where we got to see how olive oil is made. We also got to try a lot of it! Spain is most well-known for its olive oil, so it was pretty cool being able to see the whole process that goes into making it. This past weekend a group of us travelled to Malaga, which is another city on the coast of Spain. We went to the beach, of course. I can't get enough of it! We went shopping a lot in the city, which was beautiful. Each city blows me away with how beautiful it is!

I've been making so many amazing relationships here, and I don't want my time in Spain to end!

- Meredith

June 5, 2013

 South Africa is AMAZING! Last week was probably the best week of my life! We went on this five-day excursion called the Garden Route Tour. This tour consisted of us driving up along the eastern side of South Africa and staying in different hostels each night. It ended up being a lot of driving, but it was definitely worth it. The first day, we drove about five hours and ended up at these awesome caves called Cango Caves. They were intense. The hiking we did through them was fun, yet challenging. There were some really tight squeezes so I'm lucky that I am not claustrophobic!

The second day of the tour may have actually been the best day of my whole life. We woke up early and headed to the Cango Ostrich Farm. Here, we were able to get pretty personal with the ostrich. I even got a chance to ride one! It was so crazy; I guess it was similar to riding a two-legged horse. From there, we drove about ten minutes up the road and headed to Cango Wildlife Preserve. It was very interesting learning about their goals as a preserve and what we can do as tourists to help different or endangered animals around the world. My favorite part about the preserve was that I was able to pet a cheetah, an eight-month old tiger cub (which was still huge!), and have lemurs jump all over me. It was awesome! The lemurs were probably my favorite because they are very interactive and friendly.

After we left the preserve, we had about a two-hour drive to our next location: the Boulkrans bridge, the world's highest bridge bungee jump. The two hours was just the right amount of time for me to sit in a bus and process what I was about to do... Also letting my anxiety reach an all-time high (you all know how my anxiety gets...). Let's just say that I was freaking out. We got to the bridge and after taking one look at it, I thought I was going to chicken out. It was SO high! (216 meters) Somehow I was convinced to pay and get harnessed up and then I realized that there was no turning back. The walk to the middle of the bridge was intense. It felt like it took an hour and I tried to not look down. Once reaching the middle of the bridge I knew that I was set to jump eighth. The waiting was the worst part, but there was a DJ playing pump-up music to try and take our minds off of the actual jump. My turn finally arrived and one of the workers strapped my ankles together and told me that everything was going to be okay. Honestly, that just made me more nervous. It is impossible to walk with your ankles bound together, so two of the workers, one on either side, picked me up and carried to up to the edge until my toes were hanging off. I did not look down. I kept my eyes up focusing on the gorgeous mountain scenery that was in front of me. Before I knew it, I heard "5, 4, 3, 2, BUNGEE!" And that was it; I jumped! I can't believe I actually did it. It was one of the most amazing feelings I have ever had and there are no words to describe it.

We had awesome adventures the rest of the tour, but nothing was quite as exhilarating as jumping off a bridge! We went to Addo National Elephant Park, we did a hike up the mountain at Tsitsikamma, went to Knysna Elepahnt park where we were able to feed and hang out with the elephants and we went on a two-day safari and stayed at a cool game lodge. On the safari we saw more elephant, giraffes, lions, cheetahs, kudu, eland, rhinos, and many other antelope-type animals.

On the way back to Cape Town, we stopped at some awesome beach towns and markets and were really able to submerge ourselves into the culture. This upcoming week we will be headed down to Cape Point, which is one of the southern most points in Africa, hiking Table Mountain, which is one of the new Seven Wonders of the World, planting trees in a township, visiting Robben Island and the 2010 FIFA World Cup Stadium, and we will finish up our week with sandboarding.

As you can probably tell, I am having the time of my life!

- Haley

May 30, 2013

Wow, what an incredible week!

Classes started this week, so that means no more siesta time for me unfortunately. I am taking three classes - SPN 302, 303, and 305 - It is a lot of work but definitely worth it. I am learning so much, especially since I am engulfed in the Spanish culture every day. Outside of classes, we also have conversation partners who we meet with two hours a week to practice. I help my partners with English and they help me with my Spanish. I have made so many friends through it!

This weekend was by far one of the amazing times of my life! On Friday, we travelled to a city called Cordoba and were given a tour of it. One of the best parts was climbing up an old castle and being able to see out across the entire city! However, Saturday was my favorite part of the weekend. We went to another nearby city called Cazorla, which is in the mountains in Spain. All of the other students and I just thought we were going on a little hiking excursion. We were so wrong! Our professors surprised us with a day full of adventure at Cazorla National Park! I went rock climbing, zip-lining, and repelling down a mountain! The view was breathtaking; it was probably one of the most beautiful things I have seen in my whole life.

Basically, I am living a dream!

- Meredith

May 28, 2013

Twenty hours of travelling later and I finally made it to Cape Town!

Unfortunately, it was dark when we arrived so I wasn't able to see any sights immediately. I was exhausted from lack of sleep on the planes and passed out as soon as I got to the lodge. Today was our first day on the town. We did typical tourist activities today (riding a red double-decker sightseeing bus, taking tons of pictures, etc.). The first part of the morning was cloudy, but by 2 o'clock the sun was shining. Cape Town is stunningly beautiful with the two mountains on one side and a beautiful ocean on the other. I can't wait to continue exploring this city!

Tomorrow the touring will continue and we will be attending a South African Super Rugby game! The rugby fans here are insane! I'm thankful for the safe travels and I am so excited to submerge myself further into this amazing South African culture!

- Haley

May 16, 2013

Hola from Spain!

It was a long day of traveling yesterday. We flew from Raleigh to Philadelphia from there to Madrid, which was about seven hours. All in all, it was about ten hours or more of traveling. I was exhausted, but as soon as I arrived at my host family’s house, my roommate Annabel and I ate a delicious lunch with our family and then took a "siesta." Siestas are when the whole town shuts down and people relax and usually take naps. Everyone eats lunch at 2pm with their families, which is the main meal of the day and then go and take their siestas. It's wonderful! 

My family is the sweetest! There is an older woman named Maria, probably around 60 years old, with a 40-year-old daughter. They feed us the most incredible food and make us feel so welcome. Today, we took a tour of historical downtown Ubeda, which is the city we are living in. Everything is SO BEAUTIFUL! We also met two girls today named Judith and Loli who invited us to hang out later tonight! Everyone here is so nice. I'm in love with Spain already! We start school on Monday, but until then, we are exploring all around the town and of course going shopping!

- Meredith