Friday, December 19, 2014

Christmas in Seville

Okay, I'm leaving tomorrow morning, am so I can't actually say anything about Christmas itself. But I did want to say something about the time beforehand. 

Nativity scenes, which they call belenes in Spanish, are in most homes, and are not only the little things that you find in the US, although those do exist, they also include whole villages. They're really quite fantastic, and the pictures above are of the one we set up in the school. 

Christmas trees aren't as popular, I think, although I see them around as well. The pictures above are of the tree we put up in the school and one in a train station, so they're around, but there aren't shops with tree ornaments springing up in the middle of town like the nativity scene shops that are there.

Lights! These are gorgeous. And they're on the main streets in the evening. It makes things feel magical and I love it. 

I don't have pictures for this last one, but music is definitely existent too. If I was out more in the evenings I'd probably find more, but I've  definitely found some groups singing Christmas carols, which they call villancicos in Spanish, and they're lovely.

So that's everything I've actually seen. But just to add one thing I do know about their celebrations, they traditionally receive gifts on January 6, from the Reyes Magos (the magi/three kings), not on Christmas. American influence, however, is making it so that something is given on Christmas, butI think the main gift giving is still on January 6. 

Monday, December 15, 2014


I promised pictures. Here they are. And, no, I'm not a good story teller with pictures by internet. So I'll just give you the link. Oh, and my camera had an almost dead battery, so I took very few. That and the fact that I don't take many pictures when I'm in a tour group like I would if I was alone. Anyway, the link:

And I'll try to make a post about Christmas celebrations here later in the week, because they're lovely.

Ten Comments, Things I Would Change, and Other Thoughts

These are in no particular order and just what come out of the top of my head:

1) Just... Senior year is a bad time to study abroad. I'm kinda dying here between stuff I've got to do in the IS, senioritis, twice as many weeks of school as normal in a row.... Yeah, just study abroad in junior year if you can. 

2) On the other hand, studying abroad when you've had as much language study as possible at home helps you to really get the most out of your experience. So, I really do advise waiting until you've taken as many language classes at home as possible/reasonable.

3) Working in groups with local students can be interesting, to say the least. It wasn't bad, I guess, but since they all knew each other and I'm a foreigner and a stranger they kinda disregarded that I might be able to speak Spanish and I might have interesting things to add. So that was interesting.... But I'm sure that not everyone has that experience, and there are other students who I suspect would be a lot nicer.

4) A lot of people in shops or whatever like to try to practice their English... either that or they just think I can't speak Spanish when I hesitate for a second. Or they're racist. I don't even know, but I try to give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that they just want to practice their English.

5) Getting out there and doing something with the community is a great idea. Especially if nobody speaks English in the group. It gets you involved in the culture in a whole new way. My thing was choir, but I also strongly considered volunteering, and I'm sure there are a million things out there that you could find to do. Just do it, it's something you'll never regret.

6) And don't bite off more than you can chew. A word to people from schools that run on quarters picking classes with semester credits: It's not just when you transfer them back home that 3 semester credits equal 4.5 quarter credits. It's also in the day to day workload.

7) Tutoring was nice, while I did it. Just be okay with asking the parents questions about their kid and asking for help elsewhere too. But if you like working with kids and teaching, it should be a good experience.

8) I'll just repeat what I was told, by one of my favorite professors, in my freshman year of college: You're doing a lot of studying, yes, but find something that's just good for your soul. Whether it's music or escaping to the hills or travelling (if you can afford it) or reading books or anything at all. Just find something that helps you relax and be you and not worry about life as much. (A lot of people like being in the city, but I kinda dislike flat cities, so I've taken plenty of solace in books and choir.)

9) Be open to making friends. So be willing to spend time with people when they invite you to do stuff with them. I'm rather reserved and used to living on a college campus where it's easy to just run into people, so I haven't done that great at that, but just be willing to put some effort into talking to people and making a connection with them.

10) People in this country can be incredibly nice. Like, they actually pay attention if you look like you're having a hard time, or at least some of them do. And it's driven me insane, because I hate crying uncontrollably and I can usually hold it in until I'm alone if people leave me alone. But it's also great, and if you see that someone looks like they might care and you need to talk, you're probably safe to do so. Just don't worry about it. (Also, I've found that the other american students are really nice too when I need a listening ear. People really do care about you who aren't thousands of miles away. Trust me.)

Friday, November 7, 2014

October Trips

So, during the month of October I went on a bunch of trips. There were the required trips with the group, to Córdoba for one day and a weekend trip to Mérida, Cáceres, and Trujillo, as well as the trips I decided to go on during my long weekends, to Granada and Rome. It was a lot of travel, but it just happened to be how the schedule fell together... and I loved travelling alone to Granada and Rome. Here's a quick summary of all of the trips:

Córdoba: We went to the mosque/cathedral, a small art museum, and maybe one or two other places I can't remember. I was tired and kind of frustrated at the size of the group and running around from one place to another, but I think that might have been because I had a headache or some other problem internal to myself. That and the fact that I've been on a few too many group tours seeing tons of sights over the last three months that I've been in Spain. The pictures I took are combined with those from Granada.

Granada: It was the first trip I've done solo, and it was a great experience. I stayed in a hostel between the Albaycín, which is a lovely neighbourhood on a hill and I suspect is somewhat old and the Alhambra. I never actually went into the Alhambra, I just spent my time wandering around the streets and reading, relaxing. I spent the first day in two different neighbourhoods on hills and the second walking around the Alhambra and enjoying the views down from the hill it's on. I especially enjoyed that it was in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, since I've been getting rather tired of being in a flat city and I rather suspect that being on hillsides makes cities forced to be more open and less constricting--something I desperately needed. My pictures are here:

Mérida, Cáceres, and Trujillo: Again, I went on this trip with the group. We were about 35 people, I think, and moving around touring places as a group. However, it didn't feel as bad as it had in Córdoba (probably because I didn't have a migraine or whatever had been ailing me) and I rather enjoyed it. In Mérida we saw some Roman ruins and a museum full of artifacts from the ruins, in Cáceres we saw the medieval part of the city (which remains almost untouched), and in Trujillo we visited the castle and the house/museum of Francisco Pizarro and had an hour left to wander where we wanted to. I enjoyed all of that, but especially Trujillo. It was nice to be allowed to wander freely again, and it was nice that the town was on a hill. (I'm beginning to think that I have a thing for cities on hills....) My pictures are here:

Rome: Well, other than some trouble getting there (I forgot my passport and had to take a taxi back to the apartment to fetch it, which was quite expensive and stressful), it was a great trip. I visited the Roman ruins on the Palatine hill, the Colosseum, St. Peter's basilica, St. Mary Major, St. John Lateran, St. Peter in Chains, and a couple of other churches I found. And... I found another hill on the Sunday afternoon and hung out on the ridge relaxing and reading. Because apparently I relax by finding hills and reading books. My pictures are here:

As far as plans for future trips, I'm going on a trip to Morocco with the group in a couple of weeks and I'm considering travelling to England in December. That depends on if I can afford it, though, so we'll see what happens. (Morocco is definitely going to happen.)

Friday, October 24, 2014

Continuation Period and Travel

If I'm learning one thing about myself, it's that I should never promise to keep up a blog. I appear to be terrible at it. But that said, here's an attempt at an update on my life here in Spain.

As far as classes, they're mostly good, but I'm maybe overburdened. I have lit, history, and linguistics as far as classes with a normal amount of content, and then I also have dance and speaking classes. That would be a fine load if it weren't for the fact that I'm also trying to tutor a kid in English, go to choir rehearsals, and start doing a bunch of work on my honors project. I'm enjoying everything except for one or two classes, though, and the class I like least is one of the most useful when I return to SPU, so I have to work through it anyway. And it's a manageable enough load, although it is stretching me pretty far.

Tutoring is good, and hard. I'm enjoying it, and the boy is learning, although I'm definitely having to stop and think sometimes how to actually make progress.

The choir is fun too, and I'm enjoying the more traditional Spanish music we're working on now. It's a different musical tradition from the one I've grown up in, so it's a great experience.

I'm travelling a lot this month, both with the program and without. So far, I've been to Córdoba with the program and Granada on my own. Córdoba was nice enough, but I'm kind of tired of running around and seeing all the sights, and the larger the group the more stressful it is. When I went to Granada, I went with almost no plan, and just planned to relax and enjoy the city. It was one of the nicest trips I've been on, and it was great to just be able to do whatever. I have a lot of pictures from Granada, and a few from Córdoba as well. I'll share them when I can. This weekend, we're going to Méridad, Cáceres, and Trujillo as a group, and next weekend I'll go to Rome on my own. Then I'm actually staying put for a while.... Again, I'll post pictures when I can. And I'll try to post something with pictures and maybe about our trip this weekend next week.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Review, Romería, and Continuation Period

I named this post after the period that's coming up, but I'm going to start with the period that just ended, the intensive period. We had three weeks of intensive language classes, as the name suggests, and it was good. The classes were well done, so while I was a bit tired of intensive classes (I do not recommend that other people try to do seven weeks of intensive class in a row, it gets rather tiring.), I also kind of enjoyed the classes.

This last weekend, we went to a romería, a local festival that is basically a short pilgrimage to a shrine nearby. It was lovely. The people were garbed in their traditional dress, on horses and on foot and with some carriages carrying food. There were also donkeys carrying stuff. There was music and conversation as they walked, and then I suspect that there was dancing at the end, but we left because of the rain. We watched them set out and then hopped in a bus to go to the end point and wait until they got there, but most of them walked or rode horses or carriages the whole way. Here are some pictures of the romería.
The cart carrying the image of Mary they were taking to a small shrine on their pilgrimage.

One of the food carts.

The part of the crowd that was ahead of us when they stopped to pray at noon. (This was just about where we turned around to take the bus to the end point.

Some people on horseback at the end of their journey. I was sitting on a hillside, looking down.

Now, the continuation period is starting, and I'm going starting my new classes and my tutoring work with an 8-year-old child nearby. I should meet him and his parents this week, and I'm talking to his parents about the specifics of that. Yesterday was the first day of class, so nothing's really happened with that yet. I'll let you know how my classes are in a week or so.

As far as photos, I just uploaded quite a few. There are new pictures of Salamanca here, pictures of Segovia here, and pictures of the romería here.

Friday, September 12, 2014


So, it's been a few weeks since I posted last. I'm in Seville now, and I honestly feel a lot more comfortable here than I did in Salamanca. In Salamanca I didn't really have any friends, and couldn't find what I wanted to in the local churches either, but within a few days of being in Seville I found both. Also, I have been a bit more communicative with my host mom, which helps tremendously in feeling at home.

A few thoughts comparing the International Studies Abroad (ISA) and Spanish Studies Abroad (SSA) programs:
The ISA students never actually practiced Spanish with each other and mostly stayed together, and the other students in Salamanca often spoke English too, so I didn´t actually practice my Spanish with people very much outside of class. There was a reason that when I finally got something approaching friends they were Korean girls who didn't really speak English or hang out with other Koreans. (Okay, maybe the culture had something to do with it to. I don't know anything about Korea, so I don't know.) Not all of the students here in the SSA program actually speak Spanish together, but at least we have a policy saying that we're only allowed to and I have friends who do.
The ISA program was only four weeks, whereas SSA is 16 weeks, so I have much more time to settle down and actually get comfortable with the language here.
The ISA program was smaller, which was both good and bad. We didn't have our classes as a group of students from the US, we had them with people from all over the world, which was fun. But we also were only ten students, so it was easy for groups to form and not be able to find anyone who could be a good friend. Here I can still have some amount of personal relationship with the directors, and it's easier to find friends. We have all our classes in the center (which may or may not be a product of the size of the program, I don't know), which means that we're mostly spending time with Americans, but we all have speaking partners and host families. And Spanish students study English in the center too, so we'll see what happens when their classes start in a few weeks. It should be interesting.

As far as what I'm up to right now, we're in a period of intensive Spanish study. This goes on for three weeks (we have one left), and then we begin the semester. There's a local choir that a couple of my friends and I are singing in, and we went to a rehearsal for the first time last night. We won't be able to perform in their Christmas concert, because we leave before then, but we will be able to rehearse and maybe sing in other events that they sing in. Next week my class at the Universidad de Pablo Olavide starts, and the week after that we begin the other regular classes. I'll write more about those classes when they have actually started.