The thought of studying abroad was almost impossible in my mind because of the unprecedented circumstances of Covid. If you had told me a year ago that I would finally be allowed to cross the Atlantic Ocean to study abroad in Spain, I would tell you you’re crazy.
Before arriving in Seville I was filled with excitement, nerves, and anxiety. I met my roommate, Lizzie, for the first time at the Logan Airport in Boston. We gave our parents a quick hug and kiss goodbye and as we walked away Lizzie said to me “Let’s do this”. And just like that we were off on our four month adventure in Spain. The journey to Seville was a 13 hour trip. Starting in Boston, to New York, Madrid, and then finally we landed in Seville. I have been to Europe countless times due to my Mother being from England and therefore felt confident in navigating my way through the different airports. However, it definitely was a much more different experience than I expected. Once I got into Madrid, my anxiety definitely kicked in naturally. Normally when traveling through Europe I am accompanied by family but doing it alone is very different. It may have been just because I was extremely tired but I definitely felt uncomfortable in this new environment.
Once arriving in Seville, we settled into our apartment located on the line of El Centro and Santa Cruz, dividing the older and newer areas of the city. We unpacked all of our things and made our apartment feel like home. After our 13 hour journey, we all desperately needed a nap before we explored our new city. Our next few days consisted of orientation where we met everyone in our program, learned about CEA, and the culture of the city. CEA set up a bike tour for us and we biked around the city with a tour guide. We biked along the Guadalquivir River, Golden Tower, Palacio de San Telmo, La Catedral de Sevilla, and my favorite being Plaza de España. I will never get tired of walking up to the Plaza. It is breathtaking but almost looks fake because of how surreal it is.
Our last day of orientation, CEA graciously took us on our first excursion to Cordoba. We woke up very early in the morning (even though we were still jet lagged) and walked over to our meeting spot. We stopped at a coffee shop on our street, “Santa Gloria”, for a light breakfast consisting of pastries, coffee and biscuits. We arrived at our meeting spot and jumped on the buses for an hour and a half ride. This was the first time I really became aware of how beautiful Spain and specifically Andalucia is. The rolling hills and surrounding towns were gorgeous, which was a good reason to stay awake on the bus and not go back to sleep!
Once arriving in Cordoba, we immediately walked over to the Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba. I thought the outside courtyard alone was beautiful, filled with orange trees and sunshine but boy was I wrong. The inside was filled with the most breathtaking ceilings and architecture I have ever seen. Being a photography student, it was heaven for me. It was a great time to break out my GoPro and put my photography skills to the test within darker lighting settings. Our tour guide Lola was amazing providing us with all the information and history of the building. Did you know: the Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba is the only Mosque in the world not facing Mecca! After walking through the Mosque, we got lunch at a local restaurant trying the famous Salmejero which is a soup consisting of tomato, bread, olive oil, and garlic. The soup is actually cold and it is topped with ham and boiled eggs. If you ever find yourself in Cordoba or Andalucia be sure to try it!
Finding Little Pieces of Home
I had plenty of time to explore the city and my neighborhood, finding pieces of home that brought me comfort. Including a pizza place called, “Pizzeria Urbana”, right next to my apartment. The pizza is to die for and is only 2 Euros a slice (the slices are huge). I have found that the food here and everything in general is very inexpensive and you get your money's worth. Even with coffee, it is so much cheaper to get a really good cup of coffee, where it is also culturally appropriate to sit down and enjoy it rather than taking it to go. Going to a cafe in my hometown or at school in the states always brought me comfort. It was a really calm and safe place for me to get homework and social media content done. So finding these little places in Seville immediately when I got here was vital. It was a way for me to get a routine set in place and feel as though Seville was home, which it is for the time being!
The New Normal
Seville started to feel like the new normal. I started to become familiar with my neighborhood and how to navigate the different parts of the city. Like I said my street divides the older and newer part of the city making it very easy to experience it all. The older part of town has so many hidden gems including restaurants with amazing tapas. Because the older side of the city is harder to navigate due to the smaller and windy streets, you find new restaurants every day from just walking around. One of my favorite places that I have discovered so far is a Spanish/Italian restaurant called “Maccheroni Alfalfa”. The inside is very calming, the food is delicious and the staff is so welcoming.
Not to mention, I have found that most locals and residents in Seville are welcoming. When arriving in Seville, I was welcomed with open arms, kindness, and love. Obviously when moving to a foreign country, there is probably going to be a language barrier. Whether you know none, some, or a lot, here is my advice: try your best and make an effort to learn. I came to Seville with only a little bit of experience with the Spanish language. I had taken it in middle school and high school, however it has been almost 5 years since I was speaking it everyday. Don’t get me wrong, at first it was very intimidating. You’re in a brand new country and you feel like all eyes are on you 24/7. It was definitely nerve wracking and I underestimated my Spanish speaking skills when first arriving here, however I quickly learned to just embrace it and jump right into the culture. If I am approached by a local and they start speaking to me in English, I simply explain that I am a student from the United States and I am wanting to practice my Spanish. Almost always they will be overjoyed that you want to speak their native language and are happy to help you practice, using hand signals and speaking slower. Not only will this help you settle into your city but it will also make you feel like a local as well!
So Now What?
With every emotion I felt through pre-departure, arrival, and settling in, I embraced them all. Through all the nerves, anxiety, and excitement, I allowed myself to feel it all, it's a part of the journey! Moving to a new country for four months by myself is nerve wracking but also so exciting! Feeling every emotion is a part of the process and normal. My first week in Seville has been such an amazing adventure so far filled with meeting new people, exploring my new city, and eating the most delicious food. We can’t forget, however, that studying abroad entails taking classes and “studying”. So now what? Classes will begin with CEA and eventually at my host university here in Seville, called “EUSA”. And until then, I will continue my adventure and continue exploring the beautiful city of Seville. For now, I will leave you with a quote from my favorite author, adios!
“The world is full of wonderful things you haven’t seen yet. Don’t ever give up the chance of seeing them.” - J.K Rowling
Rose Alexander is the Spring 2022 CEA MOJO Photographer in Seville, Spain, and is currently studying at University of Massachusetts.