Maggie Reade is a student at the University of South Carolina and an ISA Spring 2015 Photo Blogger. She studied abroad with ISA in Sevilla, Spain.
1. Describe the place where you studied abroad in 140 words or less.
Sevilla was an absolute fairytale. From the culture to the people, it felt like a dream from the day I moved in until the day I said goodbye. It had a small town feel, but there was so much to do and see that I never felt bored. There’s a certain romance to Sevilla that I never found any other city in Spain or in Europe. I truly felt like I got the Spanish experience I was looking for because I studied in Sevilla. It has an old-world charm that never ceased to amaze me, and I never grew tired of its small winding roads. Sevilla was, and is, a home away from home and my study abroad experience was a dream come true.
2. What was your day-to-day life like as a student?
I was enrolled in four courses while at the University of Sevilla: Photography, Phonetics, Cultural Anthropology of Andalusia, and Wine. Because the university understood we were foreign students and wanted us to make the most of our time in Europe, classes lasted two hours each from Monday to Thursday. As my schedule worked out, that meant I had three classes on Mondays and Wednesdays and one on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Due to Spain’s more relaxed culture, the classes didn’t begin until 9 am and there was a break in the middle of the day for lunch and siesta.
On an average day, I would attend class, go to a café to edit photographs and hang out with friends, return home for lunch and siesta, return to class, and then hang out around campus with friends until dinner at 9:30 pm. After dinner everyone would meet by the river or go to one of the popular plazas to meet up with local Spaniards and other foreign students. Everything is in walking distance in Sevilla, so my friends and I never had trouble meeting up or finding something to do. We didn’t have to rely on a metro schedule or worry about paying for taxis to get across town, which was great.
3. What was the “vibe” of your city?
It’s really hard to describe Sevilla because it really feels like it has a little bit of everything. You can find a big, business oriented city in el Nervion, or a small, historic city in the main center. However, to compare with Madrid and Barcelona: it’s smaller, more homogeneous, and more casual than both. It’s also more historic than the other two cities, but not as historic as other cities in Spain since there is still a large young population with many areas and activities directed at college-age students. It’s relaxed in that you are comfortable walking in jeans and a nice shirt, but metropolitan enough in that most people dress to impress every day. You truly get a little bit of everything with Sevilla as far as culture and parties go. The same man you see carrying a candle during a Semana Santa procession will be drinking a rebujito, dressed to the nines, dancing flamenco two weeks later during Feria de Abril. They take their religious culture seriously but aren’t afraid to let their hair down and dance for a week straight.
4. What types of activities did you do with your friends in your city?
My friends and I spent most of our time in small cafes, restaurants, or relaxing by the Guadalquivir River by the university. During the school week, the cafes were a great place to do work or to simply grab a coffee and snack. Our favorite café was this cute place right across the street called White Bar. By the end of the semester I think the owners expected us at 11am to order a coffee and toast with honey, we became regulars. We also loved spending time by the Guadalquivir River, especially during sunset, because the bank would be filled with tons of people our age. It was a great spot to meet people from all over the world.
5. How much Spanish was spoken your city (as opposed to Catalan, English, Arabic, Basque, Klingon, etc)?
I rarely spoke English to a native Spaniard when I was in Sevilla. I would occasionally overhear people speaking English in restaurants to waiters, but that was only when the foreigner didn’t speak Spanish. I was happy to see that non- Spanish speakers were never met with frustration or anger, but instead the waiter would do everything they could to understand and communicate. I came into my study abroad experience with the goal to improve my language skills, and I definitely feel that I achieved that with the help of the Sevillans. When I traveled to other cities within Spain and they noted I was foreign, they immediately began speaking to me in English without waiting to see if I spoke Spanish. Some may have just been excited to practice their English, but more often than not I felt as though they just assumed I wouldn’t be able to communicate with them. It was incredibly frustrating when that happened, which is why I’m so glad that never happened when I was in Sevilla.
6. How many hipsters did you see in your city?
I’d definitely say that there are some hipsters in Sevilla, but not nearly as many as I saw in Barcelona. They take their appearances very seriously in Spain, but I think especially so in Sevilla, so they tend to dress very stylishly wearing brands such as Zara with very sleek designs. It seemed as though they were all walking some invisible catwalk whenever they left their house. I noticed that while some trends were more popular (tights under shorts, ked-like shoes, etc.) there wasn’t a certain trend that everyone was following, they all wore what they wanted and had the confidence to pull it off. Study in Sevilla and you’ll learn that confidence makes the best accessory to any outfit.
7. Did you visit other cities in Spain? If so, what would say made your city unique? Why should a someone study there?
I was lucky to visit many cities in Spain including: Madrid, Toledo, Cadiz, Cordoba, Granada, Rota, Aracena, Malaga, Alicante, Albacete, Barcelona, Zaragoza, and Algeciras. Being able to see so much of Spain made me so happy with my decision to study abroad in Sevilla. In all of my travels I never found a city as warm, historic, lively, and just all around perfect as Sevilla. Soon after arriving, I realized how easily I was able to call this foreign city my home, and how after every trip away I was so excited to get back.
I learned so much about myself and met so many incredible people while studying abroad in Sevilla. After seeing the rest of Spain and many other countries in Europe I can safely say that none come close to what I found in my city. It had everything I didn’t even know I wanted but that I now know I couldn’t have lived without. I remember walking through the city on my first night with stars in my eyes, seeing the streets lit up filled with people walking with no exact destination in mind and thinking how beautiful it all was. I had hoped that it wasn’t just the excitement of being in a new place about to embark on an exciting semester. But it’s just the same seven months later; the stars are still there.
I’m so happy to have discovered this blog! I went to Spain for the first time when I was 18 years old with ISA (a summer abroad at the Universidad de Salamanca). Now, 10 years later, I have lived there two more times – Madrid for two years and Bilbao for six months – and write all about Spanish food and culture on my blog, Back to Spain. I hope you continue to help young people experience foreign cultures. It can truly be life-changing. Saludos!
Thanks for reaching out, Caitlin! That is exactly what we LOVE to hear! I am so glad that your time in Spain was such a formative experience for you. I really love the aesthetic and content on your blog. Don’t ever hesitate to reach out to alumni relations if you have questions or need anything from us: firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the meantime, keep doing what you’re doing! :)
Thank you so much for that. I’m 16 years old in 8 months I’m going to graduate and it is nice to see what kind of options you have. And honestly now I really wanna visit spain at least because this sounds so amazing.
One question I’m so new to this ( 2 days) and I would love to have a little tip from you because you are already so experienced.
Looks really nice! I’m also living now in Spain. Came here to study but I live in Barcelona! I want to visit different cities while I live here! Sevilla will definitely be one of them!
Where is the picture in the park with the bridge?? It’s so pretty!🤩