Well, it’s been a while since I have had to sit down with my computer to open up a Word document (okay really it was just last week or so when I had to write a short paper about a statue that I took a selfie with). Regardless, it has definitely taken me a really long time to write my first blog post — procrastination at it’s finest, am I right? These past four weeks — what?!?! It’s been a month already? — in Seville, Spain have been crazy, comical, challenging, very active (I’m talking walking or biking 8-10 miles a day) and filled with café con leche, crepes and sangria. So much has happened since I left Madison, but I’ll try my best to recap what I’ve been up to thus far!
Week before departure
I researched Spain via Pinterest and Google to get a better idea of what to pack and expect. My search history included questions such as:
- What do Spanish women wear?
- How do I fit my life in a suitcase?
- Are leggings acceptable as pants in Spain?
I did my best to fit a semester’s worth of stuff in one medium sized suitcase, a rolling carry-on and a backpack. Still, I had to take out some shoes at the hotel in Chicago because my luggage was pushing the 50-pound weight limit. Darn wedges. Looking back now, it’s actually a blessing I didn’t bring any heels — the cobblestone streets here would be deadly for my ankles if I tried to wear them. I have yet to figure out how the Spanish women do it.
The big day! I started my adventure from Chicago O’Hare Airport bright and early listening to “Time of Your Life” by Green Day during take off, and I may or may not have teared up a bit (mostly because I hadn’t been on a plane since I was five and well… that song just has some moving words about life). After surviving the short two-hour flight from Chicago, I had a layover that felt like FOREVER at JFK. In reality it was eight hours, I was just so anxious to get to Spain and away from the snow. Thankfully an awesome girl in my program, Jade, who happens to be in three out of my five classes and lives on the same street as me, also had the long layover in New York. We met up at the Subway in our terminal and survived the long day together.
I finally landed in Seville the next morning after spending nearly 28 hours chillin’ at the airports and being on planes. But hey, I made it, and thankfully, so did my luggage. The first thing I thought of when landing was COFFEE. I went to one of the coffee shops at the airport and asked for a latte in horrible Spanish grammar. The lady just stared blankly at me. I tried saying espresso in the best Spanish accent I could think of, but she still just stared at me. Finally I just said “café” and to my surprise, I got an espresso. What a happy coincidence. After my teacup sized latte, I saw my first sight of Spain outside of an airport — huge palm trees and some oranges in the street. I actually thought I was in Florida, because the 60 degree weather and oranges rolling on the ground didn’t scream Spain to me at all, or Europe for that matter. Still, it was so beautiful that despite the rain, I thought to myself, “I could get used to this!”
From the airport the program took me to meet my host family and, wow, I was so jet-lagged and exhausted that I could barely think to speak in English correctly, let alone in Spanish! I remember feeling super awkward and kind of stupid when my host parents were trying to talk to me at dinner that night to learn more about me. When they asked how old I was I actually said I was two-hundred years old instead of twenty. Whoops.
The first week
We got into orientation groups of eight people. My group had four of us from UW-Madison, but I had only met one of them before coming to Spain. Out of the other four, one girl was from University of Indiana, another from Villanova University, one from Washington University, and another from Harvard. I was super lucky — my orientation group rocks! We still hang out from time to time, and they definitely helped the transition of being away from everything familiar so much easier.
We had an “orientation guide” who showed us around Seville, telling us about the good bars and tapas places, “discotecas” to go to and where to shop. The tour was a great resource for learning how to walk in this city (the streets are so narrow, it’s unreal and kind of scary at times). That first week I had so many great things to eat—if you are friends with me on SnapChat, I’m sure you were getting annoyed that every snap was food or coffee. I just couldn’t help it! All of the food is so good! By the end of the week I felt so much more confident speaking Spanish with my host family and was finally feeling settled in. My host fam told me at the end of the week that I had improved a lot already in my speaking skills. When you go from not being able to say something as simple as your age to having a conversation about politics and soccer in Spanish within a week, I guess that’s when you know you’ve really improved, or you were really just that tired.
After a week of welcome events, eating lots of tapas, enjoying a beer in the open and learning how to get around in the city, I started a two-week intensive grammar course for three hours a day, a class similar to what Spanish 311 would be back at Wisconsin. My class was small, with 13 girls, and we had a super creative professor. One day we had class on a stage in a theater, and another we were assigned to take a selfie with a statue and write about it. While being in class three hours during the siesta time in Spain from 3-6 p.m. was pretty rough, the class was actually pretty fun. Now, I’m already done with my first class. One down, five to go!
Not this past weekend, but the weekend before that
I took a three-hour bus ride to Granada with my program driving on hilly roads that did not seem suitable for a coach-sized bus. We saw the amazing La Alhambra — one of the most beautiful and largest sights I have seen in my life! Walking through it took about four hours, and I’m not even sure we walked through the whole thing. In this large castle older than America were beautiful trees, fountains, intricate details on every inch of every wall, lots of mosaic tiles and a large tower to climb up and see unbelievable views of the city and mountains of the Sierra Nevada. Super neato. Later that night I met up with my roommate from Madison, Emily, who is studying in Granada this semester, and we tapa-hopped to a few of her favorite spots.
Tapas are free when you buy a drink, so it was a pretty good deal not having to pay for food. After saying goodbye to my roomie we walked up the not-so-desirable-for-walking hill from the center of the city to our hotel farther up the hill than La Alhambra. After finally reaching the hotel, I strongly questioned whether or not I wanted to walk back down the hill to see Granada’s nightlife, but I somehow got some energy and made it to a bar with daiquiris and mojitos, a club with interesting lights and good Spanish music, and to cap off the night, a 24-hour pizza place similar to Ian’s where you buy pizza by the slice. What a great find! The next day I came back to Seville with 657 new photos on my camera feeling exhausted and hungry.
Now to the present-ish
Last week I started my official semester. I have four classes at my CIEE Study Abroad Program’s school and one at the University of Seville. It’s been weird having an actual schedule, but it’s good because I was sleeping until 1 p.m every day — yikes! Anyway, I’m taking Health for the Spanish Professions, Contemporary Spanish Literature (it’s better than it sounds, I swear), a public health class, Phonetics at the University and a Culture and Cuisine in Spain class (you learn how to cook some Spanish foods, it’s actually pretty sweet.) I don’t have any class on Fridays for the first time ever in college, and it’s amazing.
Last Friday, I took a day trip to Carmona, a small village about 30 minutes outside of Seville, and I saw some tombs, a fancy hotel where famous, wealthy people stay and a cathedral. This past Saturday I went to Cádiz, a city on the coast of the Atlantic about an hour and a half south of Seville, for Carnaval. Carnaval is basically a Spanish version of FreakFest where people wear elaborate costumes, drink a lot of beer and enjoy some music and entertainment. I went as a deer with a few other girls from my program, and we ended up winning the costume contest on our bus as being the “Jagërmeister logo.” Not what we intended to be, but hey, it worked out in our favor!
Everything I have seen in Spain so far has been so beautiful, and it still feels like I’m on vacation sometimes. Hopefully I’ll grab a coffee next to a palm tree more often and feel inspired to write blog posts a little more frequently so that they all aren’t the length of a book. But for now, that’s the low-down on my Spanish adventures!