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!!!
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 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.
On Wednesday, I left the Arctic temperatures of Chicago (-30 F) for Barcelona. Somehow I got lucky & my flight was only delayed 3 hours rather than canceled like the the rest of the flights departing that night. I was immediately thankful for my 4 hour layover in London so even thought with the delay, I still had plenty of time to catch my connection to Barcelona. I landed in Barcelona at 1:30 pm on Thursday. My boyfriend, Jason, is studying abroad in Barcelona this semester & I figured it would be a perfect pit stop on my way to Sevilla since I have not seen him since he left on January 2nd.
Once Jason was done with class at 3, he picked me up from the airport and we somehow found our way back by taking several different metros. I was so lost, it was a good thing I had him to navigate me through the city. The first thing we did was go to dinner at a tapas place he had wanted to try called Viana. That was the moment that I decided I was going to like the food just fine here, maybe even better than home. After dinner, we walked around La Rambla, which is a very popular street in Barcelona. The street is very touristy with many vendors selling flowers, souvenirs, and other things of that sort. Since I was exhausted and not used to the time change, I went to bed at 9 pm and woke up at 3 am, unable to fall back asleep…so let’s just say I was very tired for the extremely busy day I had ahead of me.
For my first full day in Barcelona, we began at La Boqueria, which is the most amazing market I have ever seen. There was everything from juice, cheese, fruits and vegetables, to (maybe a little too raw) seafood and meat. You name it, and La Boqueria had it. After walking around for a while and trying several different juices, we shopped around in some of Barcelona and all of Spain’s most popular clothing stores: Pull & Bear, and Zara (don’t worry Mom, I did not buy anything). From there, we took the metro to Sagrada Familia and took lots of pictures while waiting for our time slot to go inside. La Sagrada Familia is a beautiful Roman Catholic Church that has been under construction since 1882. Gaudi was the original architect for the church until he died in 1926 and it was taken over by several other architects over time who share his vision. I love the fact that La Sagrada Familia is made by the people and for the people as it is funded solely from donations. Even after all this time, the church is still under construction and will be until 2026, 100 years after Gaudi’s death. After walking around the gigantic church, we went back to take a siesta before grabbing dinner and experiencing the nightlife in Barcelona. My favorite part about the club we went to is that after we were tired of dancing, we walked out back and walked along the Mediterranean Sea as many of the clubs are directly on the beach.
After learning more about Gaudi, I wanted to see more of his architecture throughout Barcelona so we spent the next day walking all over and admiring his buildings. From there, Jason took me to a popular spot that a lot of the local university students go to that overlooks all of Barcelona called Bunkers del Carmel. We watched the sunset from up there and it was absolutely beautiful. After the sun had set, we went to this amazing Italian restaurant, yes I know Italian food in Spain???, but it was seriously the best I have ever had (yet).
Finally, for my last day, we went to the largest tourist attraction in Barcelona: Park Guell. Part of the park is free, which was honestly my favorite part. All of the sculptures were made of stone and the further up you climbed, the better views there were. The part that you pay 8 euro for is basically just paying for an Instagram photo lol. Don’t get me wrong, the mosaics are beautiful, however, there are just too many people with cameras everywhere you look that it is not as enjoyable and peaceful as the other section of the park. To end the night, we watched the sunset at the beach and then went to Jason’s host mother’s house for dinner. It was a great experience since it gave me a sneak peek of what my life in Sevilla will be like since I will have a host mother as well. Overall, my time in Barcelona was perfect and it allowed me to practice my Spanish before heading to Sevilla.
Out of any place in the world that I could have studied abroad, why did I choose Spain you might ask?? Well, to me, the choice was obvious. Ever since 7th grade when I first began Spanish class, I have been fascinated with learning another language. My interest and passion for the Spanish language continued to grow throughout high school. As a result, I decided to double major in Spanish and Business as I began my freshman year of college. Studying abroad has always been a major component for me while choosing colleges and Saint Mary’s College proved to be my dream school for this reason. Now, here I am, preparing to leave for the semester of a lifetime in Sevilla, Spain in less than a month. I will be studying through an excellent program called Spanish Studies Abroad where I will be taking 17 credit hours all in Spanish at the Center for Cross-Cultural Studies. I will be living with a host family and being fully immersed into the culture while (fingers crossed) becoming fluent.
Even though I will experience major FOMO (fear of missing out) while most of my friends will still be Saint Mary’s this spring, I am excited for the many new experiences and memories I will create this semester abroad. It feels like I am starting college all over again as I will be adjusting to a new place and meeting new people. I know it will be difficult at first, just like adjusting to anything new is, however, I know I will be calling Sevilla home in no time.
So follow me on my journey through this blog as I will be sharing all of my adventures including the bad ones with all of you! Updates soon! ¡Hasta luego!