Los primeros días

Hi, everyone! I am thrilled to announce that I have arrived safe and sound in Seville, Spain! It was my first time traveling alone internationally, so I was pretty scared about checking in bags, going through passport security, and finding the right gates. Unfortunately, I had a rough start in the Chicago O’Hare airport; I ended up riding the transit to three different terminals before finally finding the Iberia flights check-in. It’s terminal 3 in case you were wondering. I then successfully made it to my gate where I met some other students who were also traveling to Seville for the CIEE liberal arts program. We were all so excited to begin our adventures!

When I arrived in the Seville airport, I was greeted by the CIEE orientation guides who are students at the University of Seville. They gave me the orientation folder which contained the orientation schedule, the address of my host family, my CIEE student ID, and a map of Seville. They also helped me and 20 other anxious students fill out the missing luggage form. (Thankfully, my suitcase arrived 2 days later.) I now understand why people pack extra outfits in their carry on.

From the airport, the CIEE bus took me to my alojamiento (homestay) where I met my señora, Maria. I am known as Alison to Maria because Alli is difficult to pronounce. Maria lives alone, next door to her older sister, and has one married daughter who has kids. Because Maria’s daughter lives nearby, she enjoys walking there to play dolls and soccer with the grandchildren.

When I met Maria, we greeted each other with dos besos (two kisses) and she welcomed me to Seville and to her home. In Spain, it is culturally appropriate for women to greet men and other women with dos besos and for men to greet other men with a handshake or dos besos if they are family or good friends. Like most sevillanos, Maria lives in a small apartment equipped only to sleep, eat, and do laundry. Entertaining guests at homes is not a thing here like it is in the U.S. If a group of friends want to hang out, they will go to the bars or the plazas.

For breakfast, Maria and I normally eat toast with olive oil and jam or a muffin and drink milk or juice. Lunch and dinner has varied from veggies to pasta to soup to fruit, but I can always count on a basket full of bread or pretzel-like breadsticks…sorry Coach Cole. Maria and I eat lunch and dinner in the living room while chatting (in Spanish of course) and watching some of her favorite TV programs: “Yo soy del sur” (a singing competition for southern Spaniards), “Parejas” (contestants go on a blind date hoping to start a relationship), and “Cámbiame” (contestants receive an extreme makeover and wardrobe alterations). It has been so great getting to know Maria and she has been very sweet and understanding about my imperfect Spanish. I’m excited to spend more time with Maria, learn more about the culture, and improve my Spanish!

Orientation fun and sightseeing will be coming up soon!


Sevilla y Más

¡Amigos! ¿Qué Tal?

So I have one last Spanish city adventure to share with you. This one again, provided and hosted by my CIEE program. The last trip they organized was Valencia, this time Seville! The bus ride was quite a bit longer (8 hours compared to 2), and with lots to do in the city, we spent two nights there.

Seville was absolutely gorgeous! Just after arriving, about half of us students went down to the river for a boat cruise and we just so happened to be there for sunset. The beauty of the sunset and city’s monumental bridges and buildings was unexplainable. From there we went as a whole group (about 40 of us) to a traditional Flamenco show. It was so cool to experience a more traditional version of the music and dance, rather than the oh-so-commonly revolutionized tourist versions. The way those dancers move their feet is ridiculous! If you have absolutely no idea what I’m talking about, consider looking it up. It’s quite amazing.

Sunset in Seville

Our second day there we toured the city. CIEE has another program based in Seville, so two of the very kind professors from Seville’s CIEE campus joined us and took us to one of the largest Cathedrals in the world where we climbed the “Giralda,” and to the Palace of Alcazar, a royal palace still used today.  With as much touring as I have done these past three months, I’d started to say things like, “It’s all starting to look the same,” but I could not even form those words in Seville. Something about the city was just so much different.

The view of the city from the top of the Giralda
Alcazar Palace

Our final, shortened, day we visited the Plaza de España. A large plaza built in 1928 for the 1929 World Exposition, held in Sevilla. The building is stunningly beautiful and today houses a museum and various city hall and government offices. After that quick visit we hoped back on the bus and made an 8 hour trip back to Alicante.

At the palace, there are deications to each of the Spanish provinces.
Plaza de España
Plaza de España

I have loved the trips that my program has coordinated whether they be quick day trips or overnight stays like Seville. It’s so nice to travel with a knowledgeable plan of action. And… I guess traveling with 40 friends isn’t too rough, either.

Upon arriving in Alicante, I was greeted by more family members here for a visit! This time my dad and step mom. They, too, came over for a meal at my host family’s home and again I was overjoyed by the words and actions by both of my families.This time during our meal, a little more than last, I was a translator.. .and wow you don’t know the difficulty of switching between two languages until you do it for more than a few minutes. We all talked briefly about my return to the States which made my dad and step mom very excited, but my host mom and sister so sad to think about. It’s truly amazing how strangers can become family in such a short amount of time.

Come Monday I was back to the school routine. Meanwhile, my parents were off to visit a few other Spanish cities and my whole world transferred back to speaking Spanish. I’m thankful now, for a few calm weeks of school work before the rush of final projects and papers and exams to come amongst the getting ready to leave and enjoying my last days in Spain.

I can’t help but be honest in saying that I’m getting anxious about returning to Hope College. With registration having just passed, planning for Holidays in the States, and recently receiving a housing placement on campus, there is so much to think about back at home. But then again, thinking about pulling my suitcase out from underneath my bed and packing my Spanish adventures away and leaving my host family and friends is even harder. Or to think that I can’t sit in my bed while writing or doing homework- listening to my host sister and cousin sing old American songs in their silly Spanish accents, as I am doing now, could literally bring me to tears. This time is flying by and it’s almost impossible to believe that I have just over a month’s time remaing here.

I wouldn’t trade a single second for a thing.


Until next time.