Studying Abroad on Beautiful Mallorca

When I was still a wee college student, I spent one happy June “studying” the island of Mallorca, a Catalan-speaking island located a hop, skip and a jump from Ibiza.

Living there, however briefly, was easy in a way only living on the Mediterranean can be: A cool bowl of gazpacho for lunch, indulgent mid-day siestas, salt-sprayed afternoons on the beach.

During my month on Mallorca I made time for plenty of little adventures. From journeying to the beryl waters of Porto Cristo’s beach…

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to exploring the narrow streets of Palma’s medieval quarter…

Spain 2011 LR

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to staring up in awe at La Seu, Mallorca’s enormous cathedral… (and my favorite church in Europe!)

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to boarding an antique wooden train to Sóller, a charming port town where we drank orange liquer on the pier…

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to enduring a (hungover) sailboat ride with my friend’s host family…

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to catching rays and strolling the promenade at El Molinar every day.

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And then there were the things I didn’t photograph: Eating ham and cheese croquetas while watching the waves crash to the shore, buying anise and orange flower cookies from nuns, sipping Mahou as dolphins jumped through sunset-dappled waters, driving down the windy mountain roads to Deia on roads barely big enough for a horse-cart.

But what I valued most on Mallorca was simply daily life with my host family. Or rather, my host grandmother- I spent the month living with a lovely, 78-year old polyglot and mother of seven who spoke fondly of her girlhood in France and Basque Country.

We spent many sun-dappled afternoons together in her kitchen, donning aprons and cooking up fragrant batches of paella and menestra.

Everything at Mercedes’ was equally a treat and a learning experience. I loved waking up to pa amb oli, or pan mallorquín rubbed with sea salt and extra virgin olive oil and topped with tomatoes and jamón ibérico de bellota, Spain’s finest ham.

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I loved my afternoon snack of homemade crackers topped with spicy sobrassada, a Balearic Islands’ specialty sausage.

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Actually I loved all the food at our house: fresh off the vine nísperos (loquats), queso de cabra from a local dairy farmer, olives that the dentist dropped off, manure and feather flecked eggs from the neighbor.

I enthusiastically tried to learn every recipe Mercedes would teach me: gazpacho, trampó mallorquín, ajoblanco, tortilla de patatas, merluza en salsa verde, among many others.

One of my favorite ways to travel is to live with a host family- you simply learning so much more about the country.

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Mercedes’ courtyard where she grew lots of fruits and vegetables. See the little aluminum foil figures on the tree? She used those to ward off birds from pecking the lemons. 

How else would I have learned about the unrelenting heat of the Xaloc, the southern wind that blew in from the Sahara?

Or when to use extra-virgin olive oil and when to use virgin? And how you should reuse it seven times?

Or how to make stock out of a rabbit’s head? (Seriously.)

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A map of Mallorca’s winds.

Another one of my favorite things about living on Mallorca was my friend’s amazing host family who basically adopted me during my time on Mallorca. We would spend long afternoons lunching and relaxing in the courtyard as I tried to understand the Catalan they spoke.

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And on our last night on the island they played Spanish guitar for us for hours, danced and sang, and gave us a bottle of local Mallorcan fennel liquer. Spanish guitar is my favorite instrument in the world; I truly could sit rapt and listen to it for hours. 

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Overall my month on Mallorca gave me many things: a reconfirmed, lifelong love of Spain, an improved command of the Spanish language, a fascination with Catalan culture, a recipe book stuffed with traditional Basque and Mallorcan recipes.

Gràcies, Mallorca.

Have you ever had an incredible study abroad experience?

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About Ashley Fleckenstein

Ashley is a travel and lifestyle blogger who lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Since college she has au paired in Paris, backpacked the world solo, and lived in Uganda. Her work has been featured by Buzzfeed, Forbes, TripAdvisor, and Glamour Magazine.

26 thoughts on “Studying Abroad on Beautiful Mallorca”

  1. Such a beautiful piece! (And agreed, on living with a family)! You’ve traveled more than migratory birds, government agents, or “The Real Housewives” have to their spray tan machines and plastic surgeons even! Your posts do really bring it all to life! So very fun! Cheers!

  2. I went to Mallorca a couple of years ago and really enjoyed it: much more than I expected to. I’d love to go back and do that train ride you describe!

  3. I spent the summer on Mallorca as an au-pair and I really loved it there! It’s nice to see all your pictures, they make me even more nostalgic.

  4. I’ve been considering moving to Mallorca from La Rioja to teach English… you described it so beautifully here! Maybe I’ll look into practicing Catalan first. Also, I completely agree that host moms are the best. Glad you had a good experience!

    • Honestly you don’t need to speak any Catalan to live in Mallorca. Catalan (or Mallorcan, the local dialect) is what people speak at home but everyone is bilingual (I even met some people who didn’t speak Mallorcan at all!) Good luck if you do decide to live there! :)

  5. in what way does one reuse olive oil 7 times? I’m intrigued.

    How special that you were able to spend time with your host family and that of your friend’s! There’s something about making connections that completely take your travels to a whole new level. Definitely makes me wish that I’d studied abroad while I was in school.

  6. I studied abroad in South Korea, Spain, and Costa Rica and each country was definitely incredible and memorable in its own way.

    Loved Spain although I never made it to any of the Balearic Islands-next time!

  7. I’m a huge Rafael Nadal fan, and so I’ve always wanted to visit Mallorca because that’s where he’s from – but from your post it looks like there are a million other (and better) reasons to visit as well! Cooking with your host family sounds like such a cool experience, too.

  8. Sounds like a true paradise. You have dear memories of
    Majorca, a place that makes good memories. I loved your working and cooking with the grandmother. Your Great Grandparents (Flecks) loved it there too.
    Love, Gamma

  9. Well that’s a lot simpler than I thought it would be- I’ll have to try it some time, though I can’t help but be a little skeptical ;)

  10. Oh I was totally following up on your comment about the olive oil – for some reason I couldn’t directly reply to the thread so I think the train of thought got a little cut off :/ I imagined that you’d have to do something to the olive oil to reuse it instead of just pouring it back.

  11. I was just placed in the Balearic Islands through the ministry of education to teach English. The main reason I want to go to Spain is to better my Spanish–do you think it’s possible in Palma, or is it mostly Catalan?

  12. Such a lovely place! Looking at all these photos I feel like leaving my home now. I’ve always loved Spain and it’s one of the most probable choices for my tour abroad next year.

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