Since being home, sometimes I feel like I never left, but then something simple will remind me of Sevilla & then I miss that beautiful city all over again. Nothing about my hometown is similar to Sevilla at all so it definitely has been a hard adjustment. I miss the people, the food, the culture, the city, & everything in between of Sevilla. I had such a routine in Sevilla that included crossing over River Guadalquivir & passing La Catedral on my way to class as well as the flamenco dancers dancing in the street. Everyone would be outside walking & enjoying the beautiful in the streets. I miss the sound of the Spanish language & how often I would speak it naturally to everyone around me. The one goal I have since being back in the United States is to not lose my progress in my Spanish speaking abilities because I have improved so much since studying in Sevilla that I am fully confident in my abilities to speak in any given situation. Also, with all the travel that I did while in Europe, I thought I would be crossing places off my bucket list but the list has continued to grow with new places I want to visit & especially returning back to some of the cities that have become my favorites, obviously with Sevilla being number one. Studying abroad in Sevilla was the best decision I ever made & I am so grateful & especially now being home, I realize how lucky I am to have been able to see so much & indulge myself into such a beautiful culture. I can say with full confidence that along with Saint Mary’s, I consider Sevilla a second home.
The Last Hurrah: Feria
My last few weeks in Sevilla were so busy & I wanted to enjoy & take advantage of every single second so that is why this blog entry is a bit delayed. I have been home for almost a week now & I still miss Sevilla every single day…but that is for another entry. For now, I want to talk & reflect on my absolute favorite part from my time in Sevilla: Feria. Feria is the famous & very underrated spring fair that occurs in Sevilla every single year. Thousands of people come to Sevilla for this week long fair & it truly is like nothing else I have ever experienced. First of all, it is located in the neighborhood that I lived in, Los Remedios, which made the experience even more enjoyable because I could come & go as I pleased every single day. The unique aspect of this fair is that all the women dress up in flamenco dresses & all the men dress very nicely. It is very comparable to high school prom except for the entire population of Sevilla. Many of the streets are closed off just for the fair & there are hundreds of “casetas” or tents. The tents are super glamorous including chandeliers, wooden floors, private bars with bartenders, & more. The owners of the casetas invite all of their family & friends & it is a huge party that never ends. The casetas all have a kitchen with many tapas & snacks for people to eat throughout the day as well as a bar for endless rebujito. Rebujito is the popular drink at Feria, which is manzanilla (a dessert wine) mixed with 7 up. During the day is dedicated to flamenco dancing & then by night, the younger crowd takes over the casetas with a DJ & plays reggaeton or club music & it is just a huge party at every single caseta. Also, if all of that was not enough fun, there are also many rides & carnival games, which is like a county fair on steroids. It is endless fun!!! There is not an official end time to Feria so it really just goes until they want the party to end. I would head back to my apartment at 7:30 in the morning & that was considered early! When asked what my favorite memory from Sevilla was, I say Feria 100%. It was truly like nothing I have ever experienced there & is so special to Sevilla specifically. It also helped that I took a flamenco dance class all semester so I felt very included in all the fun 🙂
Semana Santa (Holy Week)
On April 12th, my week long trip to Italy began! I had April 12-21 off of school for Semana Santa (Holy Week). I will explain this more in detail later on in this blog. But first, I just want to RAVE about Italy….I returned back to Sevilla 6 days ago now but I still cannot stop talking about it. I traveled to Milan, Venice, Florence & Rome within the span of one week. Although I loved each city for different reasons, my favorites were definitely Florence & Rome. Why you might ask? Well first of all, the food is amazing but that is expected of Italy. But also Florence was exactly what I pictured Italy to be like with the warm colored buildings & the nice people & a TON of pizza & pasta. Also, Rome was very special to me because I was lucky enough to celebrate my 20th birthday there! I took a pizza & pasta cooking class on my birthday, which was absolutely incredible. I had to keep pinching myself because I couldn’t believe how lucky I was to be taking a cooking class in the Roman countryside! However, what made Rome so special for me was that the day after my birthday, a group of girls from Saint Mary’s who are studying abroad in Rome this semester threw me a surprise birthday dinner at their favorite restaurant in Rome! It was so great to see everyone & catch up & have a piece of home with me even during my travels.
I left Italy a few days early because I wanted to be able to celebrate Semana Santa & Pascua (Easter) in Sevilla for the last couple days of my break. In my opinion, Easter & Holy Week in Sevilla is almost as popular as spending it in Rome. Spain is a majority Catholic country & beginning on Palm Sunday, there are processions that take place every single day leading up until Easter. I am so lucky that I was able to be in Sevilla to see the processions because they are so unique & unlike anything I have ever seen before. The processions commemorate the passion, death & resurrection of Christ & 115 plus brotherhoods in Sevilla participate by leading processions starting at their church throughout the city & ending at the Cathedral each day. It is considered an honor to be able to carry the heavy floats for miles & miles & the men who carry the floats on their backs are elected by the eldest brothers of the different brotherhoods every 4 years. These men are called costaleros because of the white protective garment they wear on their heads, covering their eyes as well, as they carry the floats that can weigh up to a ton throughout the city. Also, there are nazarenos who lead in front & follow behind the float along with the band throughout the city. This group of people are a bit controversial for people who do not understand the tradition in Spain because their capirote or hood looks very similar to what was worn by the K.K.K….HOWEVER there is no connection between the two at all!!! Also, since the nazarenos look quite frightening, they hand out candy to children as they walk through the city so they do not look as scary. I found it so cool how each float was different & displayed a different scene from the Bible regarding the death & resurrection of Christ. Some were happy & some were dark & the music being played by the band that paraded through the city would change based on the biblical scene being displayed, which was a very emotional experience. I wish I could attach videos to this blog so you could all see for yourselves what it was like, but unfortunately I cannot so I am trying to explain it all as best I can. It was incredible as well because the streets were completely filled with people, however, during the processions, it was absolutely silent, which shows how important & precious this tradition is not only for locals, but tourists & visitors as well. I also had the amazing opportunity to attend mass at La Catedral ( the famous cathedral that I have talked about in previous blog entries) for Easter. I love my life!!!
Across Europe in 3 Weekends
Wow what a busy past couple of weeks I have had! The month of March has flown by with all of the presentations and tests in my classes along with traveling to London, Amsterdam, and Paris in the span of 3 weekends. I am very lucky to be studying abroad at the same time as my boyfriend because not only am I able to see so many amazing places, but I am also able to experience and share these awesome memories with someone else! Instead of going through my entire itinerary from the past 3 weekends, I am going to let you all live vicariously through the ample amount of photos I have posted below. I honestly cannot pick a favorite out of the three cities. London, Amsterdam, and Paris are all beautiful in their own way and have so many unique cultural and historical aspects.
March 8-10: London
March 15-17: Amsterdam
March 22-25: Paris
Hopping on an airplane & flying somewhere new every single weekend is not only exciting, but exhausting at the same time. I love seeing new places in the world & continuing to make amazing memories, however, I am beyond lucky to have such a beautiful place to come “home” to after every perfect weekend of traveling. Sevilla makes me excited to return rather than sad to leave whichever place I was in that weekend.
Truly a Moroccan Fantasy Weekend
2 weeks ago, my friends & I traveled to Africa….that is a sentence I never thought I would be able to type. 2 weeks later, I am still in disbelief of how incredible my experience in Morocco was. Morocco has always been a place that I have been curious about visiting & since I am studying abroad in Sevilla, which is close to the African border, I cannot think of a more perfect opportunity to go. My friends & I decided to travel through a local tour group called We Love Spain, which I highly recommend to anyone studying abroad in Spain who is thinking of traveling to Morocco. They are highly experienced & plan the entire trip with hotel accommodations & food included so all I had to was show up & enjoy the weekend. Also, I felt 100% safe the entire time while traveling through Morocco. The bus picked us up from Sevilla on Friday morning & made a pit stop in Gibraltar on our way to Africa. Gibraltar is located in Spain but is British territory so it was another country to check off my list! We spent our free time in Gibraltar climbing a mountain & playing with the wild monkeys that we discovered at the top of the mountain. Just another typical Friday afternoon!
After my workout in Gibraltar (according to the health app on my phone, I climbed 116 flights of stairs), the journey continued towards Morocco. In order to get to Morocco, you have to take a ferry & I have never taken one before besides to get to Mackinac Island so I had no idea what to expect. Let’s just say the ferry surpassed all of my expectations & reminded me of a cruise ship. Maybe all ferries are like this & I just had no idea but either way the ferry ride was a great experience for me & I was very excited about it LOL. Once we arrived in Morocco & got through customs (another great reason to travel to Africa with a tour group because they do all of it for you & make the process, which is normally very difficult, a piece of cake) we arrived at our hotel in Tetuan. The hotel we stayed at was BEAUTIFUL. My friend Sofia & I shared a room & had our own private balcony that overlooked the Mediterranean Sea, which was absolutely breathtaking to watch the sunrise from Saturday & Sunday morning since we had to me up so early for excursions.
On Saturday, we got back on the bus & traveled to Tangier to ride the camels on the Atlantic Ocean (yes Morocco has access to many bodies of water lol). This was the highlight of the entire trip as I never thought a camel could bring me such joy but I was proven wrong. Again, as I am writing this blog, I am still in awe that I am able to say that I rode a camel in Morocco on the Atlantic Ocean…after that great experience, we traveled to Chefchaouen, or also known as the “Blue City”. Fun fact: all of the buildings in Chefchaouen are painted blue to keep away mosquitoes. Also, the city was built by Muslims from areas in southern Spain, like Granada. The city is situated between the mountains, which offers some amazing views. While there, we visited a fabric co-op where we had the opportunity to see where the local women make scarves, blankets, & many other fabrics. To end the night, we traveled back to Tetuan & went to a restaurant for dinner that had Arabian dancers & the most popular Moroccan dish, couscous!
On the last day, we explored Tetuan, which is where our hotel is located. It was a very interesting experience to say the least as we were led through an authentic local market & my oh my was it authentic. Also, we visited a local pharmacy where we had the opportunity to buy oils & spices. My experience in Morocco was truly once in a lifetime & I am so lucky that I had the opportunity to go. Also, it made it even better traveling with a tour group because not only did I never have to worry about my safety or planning anything, I also learned so much. Our tour bus had one guide that was from the United States & then we also had a guide who was from Morocco. So while we would be traveling on the bus & looking out the window, he would explain the history behind everything, which was so so interesting. I would recommend traveling to Morocco to anyone because I truly took so much out of the experience as well as created so many lifetime memories.
First Week of (Official) Classes
The beginning of March marks the end of the intensive period (where I was in class Monday-Friday from 9-2) & the beginning of the continuation period, which is the bulk of my classes. During the intensive period, I was taking an advanced present day Spanish usage class along with an advanced listening class, which allowed me to receive 4 credits in the span of one month. With that being said, I was constantly busy & I was very relieved for the intensive period to be over. However, nothing could prepare me for my dreadful Monday schedule during the continuation period…
I am taking 6 classes total & they are either Monday-Thursday, Monday & Wednesday or only on Monday, so lucky for me, I have the longest Monday ever!!! Since my apartment is a half hour walk from the Center, I do not have enough time to go back during my breaks so I end up staying at the Center from 10:20 in the morning until 9:30 at night. This definitely sounds a lot worse than it actually is because of the fact that I absolutely LOVE all of my classes.
- 10:20-11:15: Spanish Civilization- I am no history buff but this class has surprised me so far & to make it even better, we go on weekly field trips since Sevilla is such a historical place. (Monday-Thursday)
- 11:45-12:40: Women Writers of Spain – I have taken a Spanish Literature class before but I like this one so much more because it focuses solely on women writers from Spain, which is super relevant (Monday-Thursday)
- 1:45-3:00: Advanced Oral Communication- This is definitely the most helpful class I am taking since every day we focus on a different relevant topic & just discuss amongst ourselves in order to practice our Spanish pronunciation & fluency (Monday)
- 4:15-5:15: Flamenco- Flamenco is such a difficult dance to master but I am improving every time!!! There is a flamenco festival in Sevilla in May called Feria & I am very excited for that (Monday & Wednesday)
- 7:30-9:30: Spanish Cuisine- Yes, this class is extremely late at night, however, I think the name of the course justifies that. Each Monday we learn about a different food from Spanish culture like wine, cheese, bread, olive oil, chocolate, pastries, etc. & then on Wednesday, we do a taste testing of whatever we have learned about that week & discuss the flavors, textures, & more. Grandpa, you would love this class!! (Monday & Wednesday)
Since all of my classes are taught in Spanish, I notice myself gradually improving every single day, especially after my long Mondays. My conversations with my host mom are more in depth & I am beginning to have a sense of humor in Spanish, which is super important to me. Also, a couple weeks ago, I experienced first hand the whole reason why I am studying abroad. I went out with my friends to a local bar & we met these other girls who I assumed were from the United States as well. However, I quickly found out that they did not speak any English & that they were from France. So since I do not know any French & they did not know any English, we communicated & got to know each other while speaking in Spanish. I just thought that was a really cool thing that knowing a second language, no matter what it is, can help you find common ground with so many more people from anywhere in the world.
My program took us on an overnight trip to Granada this past weekend. It ended up working out well because my friend, Isaiah is studying abroad in Granada so not only did I get to enjoy the views of Granada, but I also got to see a familiar face, which was very nice. On Saturday, when we arrived in Granada, we had a lot of free time so Isaiah took my friends & I to go get tapas. By the way, if I have not explained what tapas are yet, it is an appetizer or snack with the idea that you order more than one & share with everyone at the table. Anyways, what is unique of Granada is their very good deals. For example, at the tapas place, you got one free tapa when you ordered a drink…& the drinks & tapas were HUGE, I couldn’t even finish mine, which is very rare.
The next morning, we had to wake up very early to go to the Alhambra. We found out very quickly that our sleep deprivation was well worth it because how incredible the Alhambra is. So just some quick background info that I learned during my completely Spanish guided tour, the Alhambra is a palace & fort that was occupied by the Catholic Kings, Isabelle & Ferdinand, in the 1400’s & is also where Christopher Columbus received royal endorsement for his expedition. The tour lasted around 4 hours & we definitely still did not see the entire palace…so long story short, the Alhambra is MASSIVE. Please enjoy the excessive amount of pictures I took while visiting the Alhambra 🙂
Visits to La Catedral & Real Alcázar
The past two Wednesdays, I have had shortened class days in order to visit very iconic destinations in Sevilla including La Catedral & Real Alcázar. Last Wednesday my program took us to La Catedral, which just so happens to be the building that I pass every single day on my way to class. Luckily, this time I actually got to go inside! From the moment I entered the cathedral, I was overwhelmed by the beauty of it. First of all, Sevilla Cathedral is the world’s largest Gothic church & the overall third largest cathedral behind the Basilica of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida and St. Peter’s Basilica. So you can imagine the utter amazement I felt while inside this incredible cathedral. Also, as if the beauty of the cathedral is not enough, the Tower of Giralda is connected to the cathedral as well. The Giralda is the bell tower of the cathedral & you can see it from just about anywhere you are in the city of Sevilla. My favorite part of the entire visit was definitely climbing to the very top of the tower & overlooking the entire city. While I was up there, all I could think about was how lucky I am to call this beautiful place home for the semester.
This past Wednesday, I visited the Real Alcázar with my program. This is a very popular tourist destination because it is where Game of Thrones is filmed. Personally, I wish I have because every guided tour I have been on in Sevilla has mentioned “Juego de Tronos” (Game of Thrones) at least once. The Alcázar is like nothing I have ever seen before. While I was inside, I truly forgot I was in Spain because the architecture was so different from everything else I have seen here. The Alcázar is a royal palace that was originally built for Christian king Peter of Castile & the upper levels are still used today by the royal family. The Alcázar is the oldest royal palace still used in Europe. If you have not noticed by now, Sevilla contains so much important history that I was not aware of before coming here. Overall, I am so glad that my program includes these visits because I learned so so much from the guided tours at both the Alcázar & La Catedral! That is all for this week’s history lesson!! Until next time!!!
Cordoba & Cadiz
Wow I’ve been busy lately!!! I have not had much time to write as homework has been piling up & I have been spending each day exploring more of Sevilla, so sorry for the delay of this post! Last weekend, Jason visited me & I got to show him around Sevilla, which was so much fun! However, this post is about the weekend before..On Saturday, February 9th, I traveled to Cordoba with my program. It was about a 2 hour bus ride to get there. We spent the day touring all of Cordoba, including the Alcázar (fort), Mezquita (Mosque) Catedral, and Sinagoga (Synagogue). Cordoba is a very interesting and beautiful city as it represents a variety of cultures through its architecture with Roman, Muslim, Jewish, and Christian influences. I would describe the beauty of Cordoba to you all but I figured it would be easier to see for yourselves:
The next day, my friends & I took our first independent trip to Cádiz. Cádiz is a small city right on the Mediterranean Sea & is only an hour train ride from Sevilla. Obviously we could not go in the water or even wear a bathing suit for that matter but it was still nice to be on the beach since the weather was nice and sunny. We spent the day by the sea & climbed to the top of Torre Tavira (Tavira Tower). From the top of the tower, there was a 360 degree view of the city, which was absolutely breathtaking. While I was there, I learned the significance of Cádiz as it is where Christopher Columbus set sail towards America as well as being the main trading port for all of Spain wayyy back in the day. I am so glad that I was able to see two amazing cities in a 2 day span!!!
My First Week in Sevilla…A Reflection
My first thought when I arrived in Sevilla was: “What have I gotten myself into??” Immediately after I landed at the airport in Sevilla on Monday, I was rushed into a cab and was off to my homestay. The 20 minute taxi ride was when it finally hit me that I was actually studying abroad and that this was going to be my home for the next four months. I was dropped off at my homestay COMPLETELY unaware of my surroundings or what lied ahead of me. I was greeted at the door of the apartment by my host mother’s daughter as my host mom was out running errands. She made me hot chocolate (which is called Cola Cao here, it took me a while to figure this out lol) and I realized how rusty my Spanish was as I could not understand much of what she was saying to me or how to respond. Finally, after what felt like ages, my host mom arrived along with my roommate. I am sharing a room with another girl in my program, she goes to the University of Maryland. My host mom walked with us to our orientation in order to show us where the school is from the apartment. My apartment is in a neighborhood called Los Remedios, which is a 20-25 minute walk from the Center, which is where my classes are. Even though the walk is a bit long, the views along the way could not be any prettier. I pass many pastry shops (very tempting) and the Cathedral along with crossing over the Guadalquivir River every single day.
The first few days for me were the most intimidating days of my entire life. My school has a Spanish Only policy where we can only speak in Spanish whenever we are on mandatory trips or in the building unless it is a drastic emergency. So imagine meeting the other students in my program and attempting to get to know them while speaking a foreign language. Long story short, I was very overwhelmed and frustrated. It was like freshman year of college all over again, except this time, all in Spanish. Even though the first couple days in Sevilla were very difficult, the natural beauty of the city reassured me that everything would come together eventually.
Fast forward to a week later, I am absolutely in love with Sevilla. I have made a great group of fast friends and every day I look forward to exploring a new place in my city. Meals with my host mom continue to get more in depth and go beyond basic conversations and she is a GREAT cook. In Spain, the most important (and largest) meal of the day is lunch, which is my dream come true. So we always have salad with olive oil and vinegar and then some sort of meat for lunch and then for dinner, normally we have soup and potatoes cooked in a variety of different ways. So in conclusion, my feelings towards studying abroad have done a complete 180 from the beginning of the week to the end of the week. Now, I am so excited continue to improve my Spanish and make lifelong memories during this four month long journey.