I landed in Sevilla, España just four days ago. The city is even more beautiful than expected, with cobblestone streets and marble fountains topped with picturesque red roofs that remind me of Florence.
¡Finalmente, estoy aquí!
The weather is better than anticipated, too, with temperatures even higher than Texas. When I arrived, the air was crisp at 50-something degrees Fahrenheit. (About 10 degrees Celsius–I’m still learning how to calculate using the different measurement.) It’s rained twice since then, but never with the torrential downpours common to Texas.
I met my host family on Sunday (we all got picked up at the hotel one by one, like kittens being adopted from a a cardboard box). Mi familia anfitriona* consists of a young couple, a teenager, and their two adorable young children. They also have a tiny teacup Yorkie terrier que se llama “Mosquito,” o simplemente “Moskie.”**
My other three roommates and I have settled in easily. Even though it sounds crowded, the apartment has plenty of room. The energy of the children keeps us awake even after a nice long afternoon siesta (in a good way).
Yesterday I finally got the Spanish SIM card in my phone to work, so my friends and family in the U.S. can call me on my iPhone. It’s been interesting being so cut off from events in the U.S., but I think I’ll be just fine. Sevilla es tan hermosa, después de todo.***
el glosario pequeño
* familia anfitriona = host family
** que se llama “Mosquito,” o simplemente “Moskie” = named “Mosquito,” or simply “Moskie”
*** Sevilla es tan hermosa, después de todo. = Sevilla is so beautiful, after all.
I figure the best way to keep myself accountable is to set goals for this blog and for my study abroad trip before I leave, so I can’t make excuses later. The items on this brainstormed list aren’t in any particular order.
I can play the camera-happy tourist role, snapping photos of everything in sight, but I always forget to include myself in those pictures. Having a photo of myself standing in the Pantheon would be a lot cooler than a photo of the empty marble floor inside the ancient structure that could’ve been taken by anyone. Because I’m a visual person, I know that taking pics is the best way for me to remember the breathtaking views I’ll encounter.
Respect cultural values
It’s easy to forget that not everyone lives the same way as we do in the U.S. I’ll need to remember that other cultures may have different values or norms that I should respect, even if I may not always like them. Part of studying abroad is realizing that other worldviews and lifestyles exist. For example, Spain is what is often called a “polychronic” culture by anthropologists. Instead of quickly accomplishing one task at a time, people in polychronic cultures juggle several tasks over a longer period of time. In contrast, the U.S. is a monochronic culture that views time as a commodity to be spent or wasted.
Because I’m not much of a regular traveler (my parents’ house is only about 30 minutes from my university), I chronically overpack. I’m also a worrywart–like I really needed eight books for the plane to the Philippines (spoiler alert: I did not). I’m making it my goal to only pack the necessary items for the next six months and buy the rest there. It will be an exercise in self-control.
Speak Spanish – not English!
One of the reasons I chose Spain was to improve my Spanish speaking skills, and I can’t do that if I use English as a crutch while I’m there! Since I’ll be staying with a host family, it’s considered rude to talk to my roomies in English. Plus, only one of my classes will be taught in English. I hope to force myself to learn new Spanish vocabulary and phrases and put them to good use–all the time.
Make new friends
Although I’m naturally an introvert, I want to get myself out there and befriend actual Spaniards, whether they’re fellow classmates or just someone at the grocery store. Speaking with native sevillanos and finding common ground with them will help me learn more about their culture and help me feel more at home there.
Travel outside Spain
As I mentioned before, I’m a homebody. I like to stay in one place and enjoy my surroundings, and I’ll probably be studying and chilling in Sevilla for most of the time. But it’s not every day that I get to live in Europe, and I want to take full advantage of being only a train or plane ride away from the vineyards of France and the museums of Italy.
Be open to new adventures
Like all of us, I get anxious thinking about foreign cities and unfamiliar customs even as I’m hopelessly excited about the very same. But I have to remember that sometimes I need to break out of my comfort zone if I want to explore the world. (I still draw the line at eating crazy stuff like frog legs, though.)
Stay in contact with my family and friends in the States
Sometimes, this goal is the hardest to remember. When I’m snorkeling in the Pacific Ocean, I’m not thinking about my loved ones back home and whether they’re worried about me. But every couple days or so, it’s important to check in with my family and close friends so they don’t imagine horrible plane crashes. It’s also nice to gush about the amazing day I had in words rather than impersonal Facebook photos.
Once I get to Spain, I’ll probably break these promises–both intentionally and unintentionally. At least now, when I’m nearing the end of the spring semester, I’ll be able to look back and see how many of these goals I’ve met.
On my self-imposed study abroad “report card,” I’m aiming for at least a B+.
I’m typing this post from an apartment in downtown Manila, exactly 8,313 miles from my hometown in Texas–a torturous 14-hour flight across the Pacific Ocean. (However, the distance is worth it – the Philippines is beautiful, from the beaches to the mountains.)
But this 3-week winter break vacation with my boyfriend is short compared to the five months I’m about to spend studying abroad in Seville, Spain. In ten days, I’ll be hopping another international flight and landing in Seville. Soon, I’ll start classes at la Universidad Pablo de Olavide, or “la UPO,” a public university partnered with my own university here in the states. I’ll be living with a Spanish family and speaking Spanish almost exclusively; it will be a truly immersive cultural experience.
I’m excited, nervous, and terrified all at once.
All that means that I’m changing the “theme” of this blog to a travel blog. I’ll still be writing posts, of course, but I’ll be focusing less on writing itself and more on my experiences in foreign countries. Consider this my “Warning: New Content Ahead” post. So, if you’re interested in photos of Europe, reflections on the differences between American and other cultures, packing tips, interesting Spanish vocabulary, and sightseeing recommendations, then keep reading.
I was rummaging around the web today, getting pumped up for the trip, and came across some travel-related quotes. They serve as a reminder that I’m studying abroad for more than just improving my Spanish–I’m living in another country to develop new perspectives and experience new things.
Need some inspiration to see the world?
“All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.” – Martin Buber
“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” – Henry Miller
“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” – St. Augustine
“When we get out of the glass bottle of our ego and when we escape like the squirrels in the cage of our personality and get into the forest again, we shall shiver with cold and fright. But things will happen to us so that we don’t know ourselves. Cool, unlying life will rush in.” – D. H. Lawrence