This post was written by Lauren Katz, who is studying abroad in Sevilla, Spain.
Six years ago, I said “adios” to my brother Jordan as he left the U.S. to study abroad in Madrid. Ever since he returned, I have been itching to follow in his footsteps.
Now, I find myself writing this blog post from Sevilla after spending three weeks adjusting to the language, culture and lifestyle of a new country.
I chose to study in Sevilla because I wanted a smaller city that wasn’t as popular for tourists. One where I knew I’d be forced to speak Spanish. So far, Sevilla has exceeded my expectations. I have yet to speak to a single adult in English – even at the hospital for a minor foot injury – and I have fully adapted to the traditional meal schedule of a 2 p.m. lunch and a 9:30 p.m. dinner.
In just two weeks, I have already managed to see some of Sevilla’s main attractions, including the Sevilla Cathedral, the world’s third largest church; El Alcázar, an ancient Moorish palace that still hosts the royal family when they visit; and Las Setas, an architecturally amazing and innovative free-standing structure that resembles a group of mushrooms. If the rest of my semester in Spain pans out to be anything like my first few weeks, I will leave here feeling as close to a cultured Sevillan as possible.
That is, if I stay in Sevilla long enough to experience it all. Having already booked weekend trips to Morocco, Portugal and Barcelona, I doubt whether I’ll be able to truly become familiar with my “home city.” The one thing I have been told by friends of mine who have studied abroad is, “I wish I would have stayed home on more weekends.” But with my light course load, I think I will have ample time during the week to do all the exploring I might miss while I’m traveling.
My abroad experience will be different than the majority’s, though, because I have chosen to live in “La Residencia,” dorm-style housing, as opposed to living with a host family. I chose this option because I wanted the freedom I’ve become so used to back at GW. While I’m missing out on home-cooked meals and living in a real house or apartment, I have the social schedule of my choosing, can be as loud as I please and can shower at any time of the day for however long I want – many Spanish families limit their showers to five minutes.
My tiny apartment is equipped with a bathroom, mini fridge and microwave. Bunk beds and one armoire occupy most of the wall space, and I am expected to do my own laundry and hang-dry my clothes. The upside? All I have to do is open my door and walk onto a beautiful rooftop patio that sits directly beneath the warm afternoon sun. I am already counting down the days until the weather is nice enough for me to sit outside and relax on the lounge chair.
So have I fully adjusted to Spanish life, you ask? Probably not. I have, however, been pleasantly surprised at how easily I’ve been able to transition. I am looking forward to the next three months, and I already know coming back to the States will be a little bit more challenging than I had planned.