My first week in Spain is complete! It has been such a pleasure to explore the sights that the beautiful city of Sevilla has to offer. After a night of rest in my host mom’s lovely apartment, welcome week commenced with orientation the following morning. The ICS building has such historic charm, and it was so exciting to meet my new classmates and peers from the University of Hawaii – Manoa. After orientation we made the short walk to El Parque de María Luisa and had tapas at an outdoor café to fuel up for a leisurely walk to the other end of the city.

The next day, our academic director gave us a tour of my new school, la Universidad de Sevilla. The tobacco factory turned university is incredibly large and impressive, so we were very grateful to be given some guidance before trying to find our classes on Monday. After the tour, we walked to Triana for a typical Andalusian breakfast, consisting of café con leche, freshly-squeezed orange juice, tostada, and a variety of spreads and toppings. We spent the rest of the day exploring shops and restaurants in the city center.

The third day of Welcome week was by far my favorite. In the morning, we walked to the ultramodern sculpture bordering the Alfalfa neighborhood downtown: Las Setas de Sevilla, aka The Mushrooms! This enormous wooden structure has created a canopy of activity over some of the trendiest cafes, restaurants, and bars in Sevilla. I had a perfect breakfast of bread with tomato jam and olive oil before having lunch with a friend I met on my flight to Sevilla and her European roommates. The four of us do not share a common language, so I’m sure it was quite the sight to watch us fumble between English, Spanish, French, and Italian. Later on that evening, we went to El Museo del Baile Flamenco to see an authentic flamenco show. This experience was without a doubt the highlight of my time in Sevilla so far. We unfortunately were not able to photograph or record the performance, but the intensity and passion shown by the singers, guitar player, and dancers were something to marvel. That night we all had our first real Spanish Paella!

On our first free day, most of us opted to take a day trip to Carvalho Beach in Portugal with the student travel agency We Love Spain. After a three-hour bus ride with other study abroad and Erasmus students from all over the world, we arrived at a rocky cove with crystal blue (and freezing cold) waters. From there we made the short hike to a small beach tucked between the majestic caves of Benagil and found shade in the natural rock formations on the beach.

Following our first day of classes, Welcome Week continued with a night tour of the Legends and Myths of Sevilla. Our tour guide told us all about the hidden history of the Catedral de Sevilla (the largest gothic cathedral in the world), the Alcázar (the oldest active royal palace in Europe), and the historic Jewish neighborhood of Santa Cruz. We also searched for both the subtle and obvious influences of the Roman, Muslim, Christian, Jewish, and Visigoth populations on the architecture and dynamics of the city. On our final night of introductory celebrations, we went for a relaxing carriage ride to visit the main attractions of Sevilla.

In just a couple of weeks I have already been challenged and pushed out of my comfort zone in the most amazing ways possible. I’m having such an amazing time in Sevilla so far and I am beyond excited to see what else this picturesque and historic city has to offer as I settle into my new routine as a Sevillana for the semester. ¡Nos vemos pronto!