YOLO (sorry, not sorry).
Okay, so I’m currently sitting at the Madrid Airport, and my flight is leaving in an hour and a half, which is a crazy thought to me. It hasn’t sunk in yet, so I guess I’ll make a post about post-trip impressions and reflections in a few days. Also, I don’t know what picture to post, so here’s one of me in Madrid, I guess, because I’m in Madrid again haha.
I just want to qualify this blog, saying that my experience was not, and will not be, like any other person’s experience. So, if you’re a prospective student that is reading this, take note of the trips I went on and everything, but do not expect your host family to be the same as mine, or the experiences in classes to be the same – it is what you make of it.
The independent trips that I went on were to Granada, Lisbon, and Madrid. I also traveled with an outside program to Morocco and Gibraltar. If you want to take those same trips – go for it! But, there are a ton of other things that you can do. I never went to Málaga, because I didn’t have time and I wish I had. Lots of students did a beach weekend to Lagos, Portugal. I have some friends who went to Mallorca, and Barcelona. One girl went to London! Valencia and Alicante are also relatively easy trips with a long weekend. Bottom line is – it is so easy to get around in Europe. If you have a long weekend, there are so many possibilities of trips that you can take. You just have to plan in advance, it’s what you make out of it. One more thing: I highly, highly, highly recommend trying travelling alone at least once, even if it is just for the day. I didn’t think I would like it, but I think that was one of the most valuable parts of my trip. I felt so accomplished after doing my first trip (which was to Granada) alone.
Additionally, everyone will have a different classroom experience that I had. For example, my second class, Foundations of Culture in the July term, was taught by a different professor than the teacher who taught in May and June. When I compared everything that I had learned in the July term to the people who took the class in another session, the materials covered and classroom vibe was completely different.
After my class was unexpectedly cancelled due to a lack of students, I went to the Center and talked to them about the fact that my school requires the credits for my culture class. Eventually, we worked out a solution of an independent study, and then another girl joined my class. Honestly, this is your trip. As long as you are proactive and remain firm, the trip will turn out how you want it. If I hadn’t spoken up, I would’ve been stuck taking a class that was not going to help me achieve my minor.
My host family experience was very unique, compared to other families. Some houses had air conditioning, I did not. I had a roommate. My house was always full -with three kids and three dogs! Some people stayed with a single woman, or an older couple without children. Every host family is completely different, and I think that truly shapes your experience. At first, my relationship with my host family was a little strained. But I soon realized that I needed to initiate conversations with the family in order to get the experience I wanted. Eventually, I developed strong relationships with the host kids, and grew closer to my host mom. She even made my favorite meal and ice cream on my last day. Living with a host family is different, and as long as you are willing to roll with it, you will have a good experience. Just be open-minded (that’s hard for me sometimes).
The Center may be strict about the Spanish-only policy, which is extremely frustrating at times. It is all to help you, just remember that haha. I’m not going to lie and say I didn’t cheat (frequently), but the times when I was speaking Spanish were the times that really helped me. And, don’t stress if your Spanish seems to plateau. After my first session, I was upset because it seemed like I wasn’t learning or improving any more. It’s all about immersion and practice, though.
One more thing! The culture in Seville is much slower and more relaxed than what I am used to. The cafe culture is very different from NJ/NY! Eating (or drinking) at a cafe is truly an experience, and it can take up to an hour just to have a cup of coffee. The waiters move more leisurely in Seville, and you have to ask (maybe twice) for the check. Also, the drinking culture is VERY different from the United States. Alcohol is seen as more common – people usually have a cup of wine with a meal if you are eating out. But one thing! Because it is so common, the Spanish tend to look down on los borrachos (drunk people), so careful! One glass is normal, being drunk is not! Also, I highly recommend the tinto de verano instead of sangria. If you walk in and order a sangria, they know you’re a tourist. Tinto de verano is bubbly, sangria is not. It’s the drink of the locals.
My advice to anyone doing the program in the future is to plan ahead, and to keep an open mind. It’s extremely hard at times, but you can do it! Just go with the flow:)