Why did you choose this program? I chose this program because not only did I want to advance my Spanish proficiency skills, but I wanted to do so in a more intimate environment. Seville is a smaller city with fewer tourists than Barcelona or Madrid. Also fewer people speak English so this makes it harder to “cheat” and avoid practicing Spanish. Overall, Seville allows you to have a more authentic Spanish experience.
Describe your favorite class(es) abroad. My favorite classes abroad were “Andalusia, the land of Artistic Geniuses: History of Arts In Andalusia” and “Culture and Cuisine in Spain”. In the first class, we learned about Sevillano and Andalucian art. We toured Seville, examined historic and artistic structures, and went to art museums. In the second class, we learned about the history of food and diets in Spain, but specifically in Andalucia. Like in my art class, we toured Seville, saw at old Roman markets, temples, and civilizations. In class we also had tastings of meat, cheese, wine, bread, chocolate, etc. to help us become more familiar with the topics at hand.
What was the housing like on your study abroad program? For my study abroad program, I had the option of living in an apartment/dorm or with a host family. I chose the host family option because I wanted to advance my language skills and be immersed in the Sevillano culture.
What advice would you like to give to future study abroad students? Get out of your comfort zone, don’t take yourself too seriously, be aware of your surroundings, try new things, meet new people, allow yourself to learn.
What’s your best memory from your time abroad? My best memory from my time abroad is spending time with my host mother. She was the best host mother that I could have asked for and she was a major contributor in making me feel at home while I was there.
What was your biggest surprise about the location, culture or other aspects of your program? My biggest surprise about the culture was the sense of community that Sevillanos have. For instance, I was walking to class and saw a little girl fall down and the next thing I know there were around 10 people rushing over to see if she was okay. In my experience, if this were to happen in the United States, people would look, but keep walking.
Describe your experience with culture shock or reverse culture shock. I had already been abroad before my study abroad experience, so besides the language difference, I did not receive much culture shock. However, one thing that did make me feel a bit out of place was the fact that Seville does not have as much diversity as in Barcelona or Madrid. I was the only Black person that I saw besides African immigrants that were usually street vendors. I am used to being one of the few Black people in many situations but having that experience on a larger scale was eye opening. However, this did not make my experience negative! I understand that Spain has a different history than that of the United States and people were welcoming of me regardless.
What do you know now that you didn’t know before you went abroad?
Before I went abroad, I did not know how hard it would be to find hair products for curly hair. It seems silly, but in retrospect I definitely would have stocked up before I left.
What do you wish someone had told you before you left? One thing that I wish someone had told me before I left is to not put too much pressure on yourself to learn the language. If you are patient with yourself and allow yourself to learn little by little, by the end of your study abroad experience, you will have learned much more than you realized.
If you participated in an internship while abroad, would you recommend that future students take an internship and why? I did not complete an internship while I was abroad, but I was a volunteer English teacher for sixth grade students. By doing so, I not only learned how different the school systems abroad are, but I learned about professionalism in a foreign country.
What was your greatest challenge? My greatest challenge was adapting to the language. All of my classes were taught in Spanish and I quickly learned that I processed information in much slower in Spanish than I did in English. This was a frustrating experience, but overtime, I adopted new strategies and study habits to help me overcome this challenge. Looking back, I am glad that I encountered this challenge because not only did it improve my Spanish proficiency skills, but it made me a better student as well.
Going abroad vs. staying on campus In my experience, many prospective study abroad students are a bit intimidated by the idea of studying abroad, especially if it would be their first time out of the country. Instead, they would rather stay on campus to receive their education. While Indiana University is a wonderful institution that can teach you a lot about the world, it does not provide the same worldly experience as physically going abroad does. Worldly knowledge can be taught in books, but it is best taught in person through experiences. It can help you become more culturally aware, it can spark new interests and joys, it can help you learn or advance in a language, and it can provide you with new perspectives that you would not have gotten if you did not go abroad. Going abroad is supposed to make you feel a bit nervous, but it is also supposed to make you feel excited. By studying abroad you are getting out of your comfort zone and growing as a student and as a person.
What fact about your host country do you think people would be surprised to learn? One fact about my host country that people would be surprised to learn is that Spain is the healthiest country in the world as of 2019. (Also many Game of Thrones scenes were shot in Spain, especially in Seville.)
How did you find scholarships for study abroad?
I found scholarships abroad through the IU Office of Overseas’ website and on CIEE’s website.
Would you recommend other students pursue any specific scholarship opportunities? If you are doing a CIEE program, they are very generous with the scholarship money that they provide. For instance, my flight fees were covered which saved me a ton of money. Also CIEE will give you a nice chunk of change if you showed them that you applied to the Gilman Scholarship (you do not have to be accepted into the scholarship for CIEE to give you scholarship money!).