First of all, I am so excited for those of you going abroad. Being in Seville and traveling through Europe was seriously the best experience of my life and it gave me a whole new level of confidence in myself. Booking my own flights, figuring out the transportation systems, navigating the streets with a good ol’ map, and learning languages and cultures were all things I didn't know I would be able to experience while in college. Although I got lost for an hour on the first day in the narrow streets of Seville, by the end of the trip, I knew these streets like the back of my hand, and Seville felt like home. I won’t get super sappy, but bottom line is you're going to love it!
Here are some things that I experienced and learned while on my CEA study abroad program in Seville, so that you can be sure to get the most out of your experiences too.
Learning Lola’s Rules
My house mother, Lola, was the best! I chose the CEA housing option called Casa de Sevilla, where eight girls were placed in our apartment and Lola lived upstairs. She often came down to cook lunch and dinner for us and even did our laundry; we were spoiled. I would definitely recommend this living option to everyone because having a house mom allows you to try new foods and practice your Spanish in your home, while also having other peers your age to hangout with on a daily basis. Lola also taught me to be more conscientious of electricity and consumption by turning off the lights whenever I left a room, taking shorter showers, and filling up the dishwasher fully. Having a mom-figure in Spain was very beneficial, and although there was a small language barrier, my experience would not have been the same without her because she was always there for "her girls."
Before arriving in Spain, I didn't know if there was a certain stereotype that Spaniards held of Americans, but within the four months of living there, Spaniards were very warm and welcoming. Many of them were curious about the American culture and some of my favorite moments were from cultural conversations with locals. I encourage all of you to step outside of your comfort zone, and learn as much as you can from the locals. It’s easy to just go back to your apartment after school for a siesta. Instead, take the metro out to a different neighborhood, or take a different way home to get to know your city’s streets. This is how I discovered some of my favorite places in Seville, including Las Setas, Parque Santa Luisa, and various cafés. My roommates and I made friends with the ladies who owned a café on our street, and friends with the barista at a café by our school. It was fun to make these connections because it made our days more exciting, knowing that they would have an answer for all of our silly “American questions.”
Get involved with something you love with the locals, such as sports. CEA hosted an informational fair on campus for us to meet a variety of companies related to travel (that offered discounts for excursions) and events like Outdoor Sevilla, who hosted weekly soccer, volleyball, and crossfit activities at the park. I got involved with Outdoor Sevilla early on in the program because it was a great opportunity to meet locals. If you love to workout, do it! Just because you are in a different country, doesn’t mean you have to give up your normal routine. Even though I quickly learned that women in Seville typically don’t run outside, running along the Guadalquivir River in the evenings was one of my favorite parts of the day. Yes, I may have gotten a few funny looks from locals, but this time at the river allowed me to see the city in a different way and it helped me appreciate my experience even more by giving me a place to clear my head.
I’m a picky eater, so I believe that if I was able to find food I liked in a different country, anyone can find delicious food wherever they may be. My new motto is “Try everything the way it’s served.” I learned to expand my tasting palate by trying everything the way it is given to me. Throughout my travels, I learned that even if it looks or smells strange, there is a reason the chef put it together that way, and the worst thing that could happen is that you end up not liking it. Living by this motto in Spain forced me to try everything that was served to me and I was surprised that I liked mostly all of it! My favorites became paella (Lola’s was the best), berenjena fritas con miel (fried eggplant with honey that tasted like donuts), huevos y patatas fritas (eggs with fried potatoes), jamon iberico (like prosciutto), and shrimp! I was very lucky to have Lola, who introduced me to many traditional Spanish meals. But on the days she didn’t cook for us, it was always fun to discover new restaurants where we would order “tapas” during dinner time. Tapas are small portions of different plates, that are around 2 euros each. My roommates and I fell in love with a restaurant called Dos de Mayo, where the atmosphere was lively and the food was amazing. Just try everything, even if you don’t know what exactly you are eating!
Preparing to Live Abroad
Bring a carry-on-sized suitcase. When you get to Europe, you can find cheap flights to other countries for weekend trips. You will not want to have to pay the extra cash to check a bag; plus it’s easier to travel light with a small suitcase.
Carry cash. Always keep some cash on you in case you need a taxi, food, etc. Also, ATMs can charge an unnecessary and large fee when you make cash withdrawals, so withdraw in large amounts and keep some of your money in a safe place at your home. Just take what you need.
Bring both summer and winter clothes. When I was abroad in the fall from September to December, there were drastic weather changes. In September, it got up to the 100s, and once early November hit, I wanted warmer clothes like scarves and gloves.
Get a Spanish cell phone. I bought my Spanish cell phone at a store called “Orange” and I’m so glad I had it for when I needed to call my house mom, Lola, or my friends for where to meet. American cell phones will only work with wifi, so my Spanish flip-phone came in handy!
- Plaza Espana
- Las Setas
- Guadalquivir River, Triana Bridge & Torre del Oro (lit-up at night)
- Seville or Betis Soccer (Estadio Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán or Estadio Benito Villamarín)
- The Cathedral
- Seville Bullring
- Parque de Maria Luisa
- Sierpes Street
- Alameda de Hercules
- Italica (Roman Ruins)
- A Flamenco Show
Monique Martinez is a CEA Associate Alumni Ambassador and a junior at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. Monique studied abroad in Seville, Spain during the Fall 2013 semester.
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