To Be a Spaniard in Sevilla

Karen Coates is a student at Rowan University and an ISA Featured Blogger. Karen just finished studying abroad with ISA in Sevilla, Spain.

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La Giralda Cathedral, Sevilla

In the two short weeks that I’ve been in Spain, I’ve experienced a whole lot of the culture. Our group has toured nearly half of the country’s major cities, including: Madrid, Toledo, Córdoba, Granada, and of course Seville. Madrid tops my list for the most modern city, while preserving much of the old architecture and tradition. For decades, soccer fans have gathered around the fountain of Neptune in central Madrid to celebrate victories of their beloved teams.

Toledo is an old city with a lot of rich history. It has three distinct cultural influences: Christian, Muslim and Jewish. The city has a unique blend of cultures that has existed for several centuries.

Córdoba is beautiful, and I love its tradition of having a flower contest. The people of this city love to decorate their houses with hundreds, even thousands, of flowers and flower beds. This year’s winner had 1,000 flower beds decorating their residence.

My most recent stop was Granada. Granada literally means pomegranate in Spanish, and this fruit is a symbol that is seen throughout Spain and its history. The Alhambra is absolutely exquisite. The richness of cultures that coexist now, after centuries of fighting, is amazing to me. Everything that I’ve experienced historically, culturally and aesthetically all come together when you visit the Alhambra. Words can’t describe this place. I can’t imagine this place being owned (throughout history) by a single sultan or royal family. It’s just too breathtaking to not share with the world.

It was also in Granada where I experience my first authentic Flamenco show. I was not disappointed! But now, let’s talk about my new “hometown” of Sevilla. Sevilla is a wonderful city. I’ve already established a routine. I usually get up between 9 and 10 am (because I don’t have class until 4 pm, I can afford to sleep in a bit in the morning). After having desayuno (breakfast), I leave for a few hours to explore the city, check out shops or just take a walk. Have I gotten lost in the city? Yep. Was I freaked out? Yep. But really, there’s no need to worry. Sevillanos, people from Sevilla, are more than willing to help a lost visitor find their way through the city.

I return for lunch, (which is always delicious, a perk of living with a chef) then gather my things and head to class. If class ends early, I’ll take the scenic route home, occasionally allowing myself to get lost again. Sevilla may seem intimidating but once you get over that initial fear, you’ll realize that it is an inviting place. Additionally, it doesn’t get dark until after 10 pm so even when experimenting with different routes home, I had time to recover my sense of direction before the sun went down. After dinner (usually after 10 pm), there is time for a phone call, any school work or writing or hanging out with my roommate whose music collection is as impressive as my own.

I have a Spain bucket list, which includes, but is not limited to the following:

Climb La Giralda
Take pictures on top of “Las Setas” (which is right near our apartment)
Try pulpo (octopus) and cola de toro (bull’s tail)
Have a Spanish friend
See the Mediterranean/Costa Del Sol
Have a Halle Berry moment (she swims in the ocean in Cádiz in 007 Die Another Day as James Bond watches from a cabana)
See authentic Flamenco
See a bullfight
Have other Spanish cultural experiences

I hope to accomplish all that is on this list,. But for now, I can check off flamenco and a bullfight — two very cultural events that one needs to experience in order to feel like a Spaniard.

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