This semester, I’m across the Atlantic in the country of flamenco, bullfights, and the nonexistence of clothes dryers – Sevilla, España. It’s been a wild ride from the moment I arrived in Malaga the first day of Sepetember, and since then it’s surely had a fair amount of surprises. But the experience truly has been incredible and worth almost every moment.
My first few weeks were spent learning the culture (and it’s a shock for sure, even in another first world country), adjusting to the lifestyle (lunch at 3 p.m., whereas Transy dinner is casually 5:30 p.m.), and working on our Spanish skills. The greatest mystery I’ll never know until I return is how my Spanish has changed. I felt confident before leaving that I could get by aright without too much of a struggle, but after being here two months I have no clue what my abilities are like anymore. Some of my relatives and friends thought that for me to be doing this, I must be fluent or at least will be by the time I’m back. That’s a joke. Learning a language is totally different from being fully immersed in it, and it really is sink or swim. For me, that has meant saying “que bien” every other sentence, whether someone just told me a great story or just asked me how to find the Cathedral. Clearly I’m dependable for any questions people may have.
Sevilla is truly the jewel of Spanish lifestyle. This region is where everything you’ve learned about Spain actually applies, from siestas and extreme heat (it was basically July until last week) to the late nights and rich culture. I’ve had some interesting stories so far, which you’re more than welcome to check out on my blog (http://shaneinspain.wordpress.com), and that can give a much better perspective on what life’s been like living here for the past few months. It’s worth a gander and if you’re considering studying abroad in Sevilla, like most Transy students do, I’d definitely suggest it or asking me any questions.
Studying here is incredible but I can’t imagine anyone agreeing that it’s easy in any country. Some people have thrown themselves into their programs excitedly and without any reservations (most of which I’m guessing went somewhere that spoke English, just saying…) but it’s tough if you go somewhere with a language barrier. Because of my program, I’m taking three classes directly at the University of Sevilla (70,000 students; yes, four 0’s in that number) and it’s a daily challenge.
Back at Transy, language classes are never difficult to understand because you’re so used to the professor’s manner of speaking. Here, I’m lucky to absorb 60% of what is said (I still have absolutely no clue what is going on in my Geomorphology & Hydrology class, like, oo I dunno, when our exam is). You have to work hard to try and listen, and that’s not even the most difficult part. Conversation for me is where everything can turn south quite fast. But continuously making the effort really makes a huge difference and will vastly improve your conversation skills. It’s just the accepting the fact that you sound ridiculous and are making plenty of grammatical errors that makes it hard. But it’s part of the experience, and everyone goes through it.
So far I haven’t gotten to do much travel, but that’s because our program requested we not make any trip plans until we arrived. So far we’ve gone to Barcelona (which was basically another country from Spain; they spoke more English than Spanish since Catalan is the regional language), and Ronda. Both were incredible and I made sure to take as many pictures as a touristy college student could, so check them out on my blog if you get the chance. One of the best pieces of advice I read before leaving from students that studied abroad is to explore your country more than trying to conquer all of a continent, like Europe, in 4 months. You will go broke quickly, whereas if you make some day/weekend trips to small towns or huge cities wherever you’re staying, you’ll save plenty and get a much better perspective of the culture you’re there to learn about.
That said, this weekend I’m making a casual trip to the Canary Islands (because espanYOLO, as many people have gotten accustomed to saying). But my program kindly reimburses us for a certain amount of money we spend on trips within Spain on travel, accommodations, cultural events, etc. Being me, I stepped out of the box and am going to the islands owned by Spain way off the western coast of Africa. It’s sure to be an interesting trip to say the least (just search Tenerife on Google and awe). Other than that, I have 2 other big trips planned to Morocco and England, but it’s crazy how time winds down so fast here now that we’re over the hump. The first part kind of dragged out, but with so many busy weekends coming up it’ll be hard to explore the rest of Sevilla I have yet to see (having no classes Friday is the greatest blessing I swear by it).
Other than that, I hope to add some advice and more descriptions of what life is like here. Until then, thanks for reading!
La Sagrada Familia; most incredible cathedral I’ve ever seen Inside of Sagrada Familia (modeled like a forest) So the statue of Mio Cid got festive for Halloween…(it’s all yarn, and apparently an American did it during the night. How.)