This post was written by Jennifer Krems, who studied abroad in Sevilla, Spain.
A week ago, I arrived at the Sevilla airport with my suitcases overflowing with a semester’s worth of clothes, souvenirs and memories. I had booked my flight six months earlier with no understanding of how hard it would be to leave when this day finally came. With only two hours of sleep, I was a bit uncertain why the ticket agent told me in Spanish that my bags were too heavy and I might have to leave some items behind. She was very unfriendly until she learned I had spent the last several months as a resident of Sevilla. She then complimented me on my Spanish and asked if I’d be coming back. I replied in Spanish, “At least to visit, but who knows what the future holds.” Wishing I were just going home for the holidays and returning in January, I ended up reorganizing my bags and paying 100 Euros for the added weight.
Back home in Boston, I am constantly reminded of my life in Spain. It’s been hard being away from Sevilla and the close friends I made while living in Europe. One friend from Italy, who was also studying in Sevilla, reached out to a group of us through Facebook. She wrote “Merry Christmas” in Spanish, Italian, English, French and Dutch, for each of the friends tagged in the post and said, “I hope you have a great celebration in whichever part of the world you find yourself.”
I went into the study abroad experience expecting to form a strong connection with Spanish culture, but I came out from the semester with close friends across the world. It turns out Sevilla is a major study abroad destination for the European Erasmus program, which attracts students from more than 4,000 higher education institutions and over 30 different countries. I was lucky enough to form close ties with many of these students, both through classes and my internship at an international student travel and entertainment company. I was also introduced to a diverse group of Spanish and international students when I became involved in the University of Sevilla chorus.
Although oftentimes I was the only American in the room, blending in was never an issue. I never felt like an outsider, apart from one occasion when an Italian student told me I have a “typical American face” – whatever that means. But on another occasion, in Jerez, Spain, I met my friend’s grandmother who said to him, “She’s not from Spain? She looks just like us.” I suppose my face received some mixed reviews. But as I grew accustomed to European life and the culture of Sevilla, I began to feel as if I had lived there for years.
To say I was lucky to be able to study abroad in Spain, meet people from around the world and travel around Europe and Northern Africa is just scratching the surface. What I learned from this experience and my new friends is that despite our differences in background, they are insignificant compared to the similarities we were able to discover. The next time I travel to Europe, I know I’ll have a friend nearby no matter which country I’m in. That’s a future I am happy to look forward to. And I’ll remember to pack lighter next time.