One month. Four weeks. 32 days. 768 hours. In this short amount of time, I have travelled more, seen more, experienced more, and said ‘yes’ more than I did during my entire Spring semester in college. After my study abroad was cancelled due to COVID, I was offered spots in programs all across Europe, including Germany, Italy, and France. I am so glad I made the decision to come to the south of Spain. The people I have met and the memories we share validate my choice, and if I had to do it over again, I wouldn’t change a thing.
My experience in Spain began at the Barcelona airport, where I met Sara, another student at ICS. We immediately hit it off, as if we had known each other our whole lives. We stuck together on our flight to Seville, and split a cab to our homestays. After a long nine-hour flight, it was a blessing to have someone to navigate a new environment with. Sara would be the first of many amazing classmates and friends I would go on to meet. After getting out of the cab, I was immediately met by my host mother, Isabel. She gave me the biggest hug and welcomed me into her home. There, I met Jaime, a 19 year-old Spanish College Student from Cadiz, and my American roommate, Joel.
Immediately after getting settled in, Joel and I made our way to Seville’s city center. We sat down to meet our new classmates at a restaurant overlooking the Giralda. We bonded over our respective trips to Spain, and expressed our excitement for the month to come.
The following week was “Welcome Week,” filled with information sessions, city tours, walkabouts, and boat rides. Lisa, Catherine, and the ICS staff eased us into life in Seville, and introduced us to local students along the way. This allowed us to experience the city through a different lens, as well as meet people from all over the world.
Shortly thereafter, our classes began. I was in Beginner Spanish 1 and 2, and my classmates were in beginner, intermediate, and advanced Spanish courses. We started at 9 am every day and ended at 1:30, with a thirty-minute break dividing two two-hour classes. My first class was delivered entirely in Spanish, even though none of us had real background in the language. While it came as a shock at first, we slowly got used to the instruction. By the end of the program, we were able to learn the language without any english being spoken. My second class with Mr. John Boyle proved to be just as interesting as the first. While Maria focused on the technicalities of the Spanish language, John taught us more about Spanish culture. We’d start every class discussing our various interactions with Spainiards and how they related to Spanish society as a whole. Next we’d focus on vocabulary, and lastly we would translate texts from Spanish to English and vice versa. The curriculum as a whole was very intensive, but the instructors were with us every step of the way.
Along with classroom instruction, on-site visits were also part of our courses. We visited the Alcazar, cathedral, military museum, and the Jewish Quarters of the city. Our instructors acted as tour guides, telling us all about the history and lore of each place. We also had extended trips to the cities of Cordoba and Granada. Equipped with sack lunches from our house moms, we toured the cities as a class and experienced the different aspects of Andalusian cities. In Granada, we had the opportunity to explore the Alhambra, a centuries-old fortress that served as the headquarters for the Musilim occupation of Spain. Granada was easily my favorite excursion of the program.
When we weren’t in class or on school trips, there was never a dull moment in Sevilla. As a group, we always had something going on, whether it be kayaking on the river, enjoying rooftop tapas bars, or simply spending time with our host families. For our free weekend, we all came together and planned an amazing trip to Albufeira, Portugal. There, we enjoyed the beach, ate at amazing Portuguese restaurants, and even watched England play in the Euro Cup with a group of Brits. It was amazing to be able to travel to a completely different country in just a weekend.
All of these experiences brought us very close as a group. In a way, I feel as if Sevilla wrapped its arms around us and really invited us into Spanish culture. This city still surprises me every day, and I will undoubtedly make my way back to Sevilla in the future. I am grateful to the ICS and my classmates for making this Study Abroad an experience I will never forget, and for giving me friendships and memories that will last a lifetime.