For the last two weeks, I have been in Sevilla, Spain, studying abroad with a group of 13 from my school. We lived with host families so we ate authentic Spanish foods on a Spanish time schedule (oof), attended classes for three hours a day and then went to two activities each day, ranging from touring the Cathedral or La Giralda to surfing and salsa lessons.
Without a doubt, these were the best two weeks of my life, and I would recommend it to everyone.
1. The history is amazing...
We saw businesses that were founded in 1732 - before America - and touring places that had centuries upon centuries of different cultures, religions and experiences layered on top of each other was mindblowing.
2. ...and you've living within it.
One of the items on one of our scavenger hunts was literally to "go to Calle Marmoles and find the three pillars that were built by the Romans". And we did, we found them between two houses and then we just moved on. ???!??!??!!?
3. The people are so sweet and so welcoming.
Asking for directions? Wanting an answer to a question about a Sevillian legend? Wondering what time it is? Literally everyone will talk to you and help you out, especially if you ask them in Spanish.
4. The food is the best.
Everything is SO FRESH - people go to the markets every day to buy new bread, and ordering juice means that it gets juiced in front of you. Also, bread, coffee, fruit and tomatoes are necessities in the Spanish diet, so you absolutely cannot go wrong.
5. You gain an incredible cultural understanding...
Spanish culture isn't TOO different from American culture, so it is easy enough to relate to it, but it is different enough that you appreciate the fact that the way YOU do something is not the only way to do it - a vital lesson as you enter the workforce.
6. ...and try to assimilate into another culture.
Beyond the fact that it's SUPER COOL you're LIVING IN ANOTHER COUNTRY, it is even cooler when you realize you are starting to become like a Sevillana - bargaining for lower prices at the market, discovering quicker routes through side streets and picking up a juice before class.
7. Adaptability is a real thing.
If something doesn't go your way, you have to do... something. There was a time we were trying to get on a bus to go kayaking on the Guadalquivir River and we didn't realize you had to buy a card BEFORE you got onto the bus. We found out when the driver yelled at us in Spanish that was too quick to understand. Eventually, we realized it and got on another bus with our correct tickets and arrived exactly at the right time to kayak... adaptability!!
8. Walking. Everywhere....
We averaged eleven miles a day (and it was usually over 100 degrees Fahrenheit). Nobody drives cars, either - it's either walking, riding a bike or driving a motorcycle - so, to really live like the locals as we strove to do, we walked too.
9. ...but you really are able to take in everything.
Several times, we stopped and just took pictures of flowers hanging off of balconies or laundry fluttering over the street or the curve of the buildings that somehow was perfect with the faded yellow paint. Everything about this city is beautiful - everything.
10. There is so much to do.
First of all, Spanish culture means late nights, so restaurants are open until at least midnight or one in the morning, but the parks also never close (and Sevilla, at least, is extremely safe), so one can always go walk in the park in the middle of the night. In the daytime, cafes and stores are abundant, and the number of historical stops along the way, as well as extremely low prices for really anything, mean that you cannot ever be bored.
11. You can do your homework on the steps of some of the coolest places in the world.
Plaza de España!!!
Learning about history was so crazy because, like, you pass that palace four times daily on the route back and forth from home.
12. You question your own culture.
All of our teachers, families and guides had never been to America and didn't really speak English, so we were forced to explain a lot of our misgivings, confusion or general amazement in Spanish. And somewhere along the way, while explaining cultural differences to somebody who doesn't understand your country in a foreign language, you start to question... why DON'T we include tax in the price tag, like Europe does? Why ARE our school buses yellow? Why DO we prefer Coca-Cola with processed sugar instead of cane sugar?
13. The friends you make are for life.
Although I went with a group of people from my school, I really did not know most of them, and I left the Atlanta airport feeling as if I was truly leaving behind my family. We had done everything together, and I genuinely feel, in the words of a friend who came on this trip, that "I am excited to know them all forever. To never not know them". And we left many friends behind in Sevilla, people who I know I could return to and be welcomed with open arms.