Valencia Fulbright Midyear Conference + a lot of Shih Tzu Love

All of Fulbright Spain gathered in Valencia from February 6th to the 10th to enjoy the sunshine, paella, and beaches that Valencia has to offer while unpacking five months of teaching, researching, and thriving in Spain. 180 grantees contributed to the vibrant atmosphere of the city during a week that was equally recharging and exhausting.


While eating gelato in Valencia on Saturday afternoon, I found out that Scout, the Himes’ beloved Shih Tzu, had died two months after being diagnosed with heart failure. You will find a few of my favorite pictures of Scouty at the end of this post. ❤

Wednesday February 6th

On Wednesday morning the seven Ourense Fulbrights headed to the train station. Once in Santiago, we caught a flight to Valencia with all Galicia grantees. A bus took us all from the airport straight to the hotel where lunch was awaiting nearly 200 people in a large ballroom. Squash soup, chicken and veggies, cream puffs and chocolate prepared everyone for the opening Fulbright session held at the University of Valencia.

Fulbright Talent Show

In the evening, the Fulbright talent show occurred. I performed in an umbrella dance to a rendition of Come Clean by Hilary Duff that really conveyed the rainy situation of Galicia, the pacific northwest of Spain.

Post talent show, I grabbed a quick kebab with a group of grantees and passed out exhausted just before midnight.

Thursday February 7th

Thursday was a full day of presentations. Whenever we were given a chance to leave the conference room, I could be found sunbathing. I led a session during the morning about processing the grant and our different experiences at primary and secondary schools in different regions. I kept the conversation focused on the future and moderated by encouraging other to share tools for a successful final four months in the classroom and in Spain!

The City of Arts and Sciences

In the late afternoon on Thursday, I went on a walk through the main park in Valencia to see the massive structures that make up the City of Arts and Sciences.

Near these massive structures there is a peculiar park, in the shape of Gulliver! Slides, ropes, ladders, and more!

In the evening, Fulbright Spain hosted a cocktail hour at the hotel. Free-flowing wine and appetizers kept the group of 200 busy in lively conversation for hours before the fun moved to bars and then the club.

The club was a HOOT. A group of over 30 Spanish Fulbrights waltzed in after a Madrid grantee, shout out to Timmy, had messaged the club to get us all in for free. A dream come true. Lots of dancing followed.

Friday February 8th

On Friday morning, a lot of tired grantees filled a conference room. Turns out we had all danced a little too hard, and left too few hours for sleeping.

Paella and Sunshine

Finally, lunch arrived. We were bused to the beach and served traditional paella in a pan large enough for 200 people!!!

After lunch, we walked directly out of the restaurant and onto the beach. The water was chilly and the air brisk, but it was so nice to be reunited with the waves.

La Albufera

We were then bused to La Albufera, a lake and natural reserve known for growing the rice used to cook paella. It was gorgeous and calm as the sun set over the water.

Upon returning to the hotel, I called it an early night. But many “rallied” and went back out for another night at the club.

Saturday February 9th

On Saturday morning, I went on a walk with Shannon to show her the City of Arts and Sciences and Jesus park!

In the afternoon, we moved our bags from the Fulbright hotel to an airbnb with about 10 other people. Following that, we headed to the city center by walking through the main park.

The City Center

The city center was lively!! Live music, dancing, sunshine, wine, paella. Everything you would expect from southern Spain, and exactly what I was wanting after leaving Galicia for the weekend.

I grabbed lunch with some pals at the city’s main market. I chose Mediterranean food that left me feeling slightly sick for the rest of the day unfortunately. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Following lunch, Shannon and I climbed the tower of the cathedral and got a bird’s eye view of the city.

In Febrero drinking horchata!

Next, up Shannon and I headed to try horchata. The Horchateria de Santa Catalina is considered the best and most historic in the city. To be honest, horchata was not for me. It is super sweet, but I did finally fulfill a desire that Vampire Weekend left me with nearly a decade ago. We went nearly an hour in the sun enjoying the weather and the atmosphere.

Gelato and bad news

Shannon and I grabbed gelato as our last stop in the city center.

Right before we left my mom texted me asking if I could talk, I texted back “Is Scout okay?” after knowing that Scout has had heart failure for the last two months, I often respond to her messages asking if he is okay. I Facetimed my mom after she read my text but did not respond. She broke the news that Scout had died a few hour earlier after not being able to breathe. I wiped my tears and decided to keep the news to myself for a couple hours.

Once back at the Airbnb, I told Shannon what happened, and she jumped up to hug me right away. A few hours later, the airbnb hosted a party of about 40-50 people. I spent a few hours cutting veggies, cheeses, and putting out snacks before I went to hide in my room for the rest of the night. Many went to the club, but with a mix of slight food poisoning from the market and the bad news about Scout I was not able to find the energy.

Sunday February 10th

On Sunday morning, we headed straight to the airport. A group of Galicians all found ourselves in a Starbucks together before boarding the flight back to Santiago. A few hours later, I was back in Ourense and went to sleep exhausted by about 9 p.m.

The Fulbright Midyear conference was exciting, fun, overwhelming, exhausting, emotional, and a whole mix of emotions. It was so amazing to see friends for the first time since orientation in September, and I am so grateful that we were able to explore and laugh together.

Saying goodbye to Scout

Scout and I clicked from the moment he got home, when I was a Sophomore in high school. In fact, we were immediately so close, that my mom took him from me for a couple days so that he bonded to her.

Scout was the best cuddle buddy

and quite the drama king about being held like a baby.

Scout was a great big brother

Buck is missing him a lot right now too.

Scout was the best sunbather

Scout was an asset to any selfie

Scout was extremely dramatic on walks

He demanded to be picked up for no reason when he decided he did not want to walk anymore and went to the bathroom on absolutely every plant and pole.

Scout was the king of our castle

Scout was always anxious. He lived in two different houses with our family, and in both houses, my bedroom was his favorite place. He would come hide on my bed or under it whenever anyone raised their voice. He spend many days curled up with me laying on his back like a baby so I could scratch his belly endlessly.

I will forever be grateful to Scout for bringing nearly a decade of joy to our family.

Love you forever, Scout. At least you can keep Rosie and Oliver company in doggie heaven now! ❤

Thank you for reading another blog and sticking with me when traveling becomes a little more emotional.

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