The first thing I notice is the warmth. I’ve never felt such a warm February until today. As the airport doors close behind me, I make my way over to the taxis queued up to take me to my new home for the semester. The drive is short, so I close my eyes and feel the warm Sevilla sun warm my face. I open my eyes and see color. There is so much green, from palm trees to evergreens to shrubbery. Orange trees line the streets, and the sweet smell of oranges fills the air. Flowers grow in every pot on the windowsill and colors outline the rims, doors, and windows of the buildings, each one different from the last. It all seems so inviting and I have never felt more welcomed in a town.

My host mother greets me at the door and waves me in. I am settled into my room and soon it’s time for lunch. I’m looking forward to tasting the authentic Spanish cuisine of paellas, gazpacho, and more, but for my first day, it was thoughtful of my host mom to make a simple and familiar meal like pasta.

We sit down at the dinner table and make conversation with the little common language we have. There are lots of hand movements, gestures, and puzzled looks, but also lots of laughter, smiles, and understanding. Despite us not knowing each other’s language, there is a connection, and I know we’ll have lots more time to get to know each other in the next three months that I am here. I am in Sevilla, a town I have only known for a few days, but already, it feels like home.

One of the most daunting things about studying abroad is leaving the familiarity of the place you call home. Happy as I was in my new homestay, I was still somewhat nervous about how all the other details of my experience abroad would play out. I was surprised to learn that ICS had a Welcome Week planned for us and thankful that I had a weekend to gather my bearings before classes started.

Our first walk downtown led us through the María Luisa park and along the river. The park was much bigger than I could’ve imagined. There were so many paths to take to the gardens, fountains, and swans, but to see it all, we will have to come back another day. After the tour, we settled into a café to sample a typical Andalusian breakfast “Desayuno Andaluz”: toasted bread with olive oil and tomatoes. It was a simple breakfast, but very delicious!

Saturday morning’s walk took us through Seville’s monumental downtown and historic shopping district. As I would soon come to learn, walking is the main form of transportation, so it’s a good idea to buy a comfortable pair of walking shoes! We once again met as a group and explored the streets together. The last stop on our walk was at a café that served the best churros in Seville. They were delicious on their own, but even better when dipped into thick and creamy chocolate. In the evening, everyone met up once again to watch the most spectacular Flamenco show and afterward we got tapas. We shared pizza, jamón, and, my favorite: espinacas con garbanzos.

On the last day of our welcome weekend, we took a peaceful cruise down the Guadalquivir River. The refreshments and music really helped us relax before our first day of classes. Everyone got to know each other a lot better, and we felt like friends in no time. After getting to know the city and the people that I’d be spending my semester with, I no longer feel like a stranger to Seville. With each day, the city is becoming more familiar, even though there is still so much to see and do. I’m looking forward to spending the next three months here and I can’t wait to see what they will bring.

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