It’s only right that my first post be about Sevilla, as it is the city that will forever hold my heart. Without the time that I spent in this city and the people that I was fortunate enough to have met, I know that I would not be nearly the same the person that I am today. I left a little piece of my heart in Sevilla, and as of right now my only mission in life is to get back there to reclaim it.
First, some background information: before Spain, I was a homebody. I had done my fair share of traveling around the U.S. with my family, but beyond that I was most comfortable spending time in my hometown. I stayed at home with my parents and sister after graduating high school, and attended a junior college that had a campus two towns over. Everything in my life was relaxed and convenient, but each week was exactly the same as the last, with no change from one day to the next. Freshman year went by quickly and painlessly, but by the fall semester of my sophomore year my feet started to itch; I began looking at study abroad programs through my school, and soon realized that this was exactly the adventure I needed…even then I think I realized, If I don’t travel now, when will I get to do it in the future?
Although my family had lived in Madrid when I was a toddler, my first thought wasn’t to apply to programs there….in fact, I didn’t think to apply to any Spanish cities at all! It was only on a recommendation from my mom that I applied to the program in Sevilla, and the lesson I have learned from the series of events that followed is to always follow my mom’s advice.
I received my acceptance in October of 2011, and three months later I arrived in Sevilla with my suitcases, a piece of paper with my host family’s name and address, and no idea of how I was going to survive the next four months of my life in Spain. Language was my number one concern, as I was very rusty and out of practice; the last Spanish class I had taken was during my junior year of high school, and during my freshman year I once had a teacher save an exam in which I had written “el boxo” for the word “box,” and tell my parents that I did “not take her class seriously enough” … so at least I knew that things could only go up! As it turns out, language trouble is one of the last things I should have lost sleep over, as the people of Sevilla are truly some of the warmest and kindest people I have ever encountered, and would always encourage me in my language practice, no matter how broken my Spanish may have come out. I truly encourage people who wish to improve their Spanish to consider spending time in Sevilla – practicing and talking with the locals there was much less intimidating than I imagine some other foreign cities may be!
Another worry I had was my living situation – as I had attended a junior college, I’d never had a roommate, and had certainly never had a host family before. As with my concerns over language, however, this is something that I now feel silly for worrying about. My host family and my roommate are truly some of the most wonderful people that I met while in Spain, and I know that they helped to make my experience there the incredible adventure that it was.
I feel lucky because my living situation had me in beautiful, sunny apartment with a family that was comprised of two parents (Maria Luisa and Antonio); a fourteen year-old boy name Jose; an eleven year-old boy named Tete; and a wonderful dog named Wichi. Normally, I hate dogs, but Wichi somehow managed to work his way into my heart…maybe it’s because he’s Spanish? And then of course my compañera de cuarto, Alexandria. Many of the other students in my program lived with Señoras, or house mothers, and didn’t get the same sort of “family experience;” while each and every one of the students loved their host families, I think that this living situation was the exact right one for me.
Meal times are some of my favorite memories, as this was usually a time when my roommate and I got to spend the most time with the family. Lunch is the biggest meal of the day in Spain, and was usually served around 2:30 in our house. Our host parents were wonderful cooks, and we could always look forward to delicious Spanish meals – some of my favorites were tomates con huevos, tortilla, and gazpacho! Dinners were smaller and typically served around 9 or 10, and it was usually just me, Alexandria, and the boys that would eat in the kitchen – soup and salad were normal, and on Fridays we would eat pizza 🙂 Tete always tried to entertain us by putting on little shows during dinner, and in return we would usually end up covering for him when he would scrape his food into Wichi’s dog bowl. In all seriousness, these meals were some of the best opportunities I had to practice my Spanish, and hold a special place in my heart when I look back on my time with this wonderful family.
Both my school and apartment were in a beautiful neighborhood called Porvenir, which sits just about a ten minute walk away from the Parque de Maria Luisa and the Plaza de España. I also could walk to the Center within fifteen minutes, and could cross the Guadalquivir river and explore the neighborhood of Triana. People in this city love to walk, and there was always great people watching to be done during strolls. One of the biggest differences that I noticed right away was that no one in Spain ever seems to be in a hurry, which is such a nice break from the mentality I was used to seeing in the States. No one rushed down the street or zig-zagged around other pedestrians to get to where they were going faster – everyone in Sevilla truly embraces the idea of “no pasa nada.”
No discussion on Spain would be complete without a mention of the nightlife, which is, in my humble opinion, lo mejor. Before going to Spain I had heard a few stories of the discotecas and the bars, but really, I was shocked to see just how fun the nightlife really was – everyone in Spain loves to go out! Both Alexandria and I were only 19 and had therefore never had much experience with going out in the States, and I know that I’m lucky that my first real experience was in Spain – it truly is such a fun part of the culture, and a wonderful way to meet the locals!
Although I was only in Sevilla until June, it felt as though I was there for much, much longer…I truly think that time passes differently there. I was fortunate enough to see Semana Santa and La Feria de Abril, two cultural activities that deserve to have much more said about them. Sevilla opened my eyes to how much beauty and wonder there is in the world if we’re wiling to step outside of our comfort zone, and I feel so fortunate to have lived there, if only for a short time. Now, I just have to wait until I graduate college…and then I’ll be back!