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39 posts categorized "Spain"

Dos Hermanas Feria

Spring in Spain is crazy! Starting with Semana Santa, then Sevilla Feria, and so much more! After the Sevilla Feria, we had a week of school, then another Feria! It only lasted 4 days and was much smaller, as it was just for my town, but it was a lot of fun! The Feria was from Thursday through Sunday, but we only had one day of school all week! Monday and Tuesday were off because of "El Dia del Trabajador" or Labor Day, we had normal school on Wednesday, and were off for the Feria the rest of the week! Wednesday night was the "Pescadito" which is the fancy fish dinner for the parents to start off the Feria. This Feria is less formal, so my family didn't dress up in our Flamenco dresses. Some of my friends dressed full Flamenca for a few days, but many people just dressed formally. I had so much fun dancing and having fun with my friends; I definitley reccomend to anyone coming here to take some dance classes! You can enjoy the Feria so much more when you can participate! Also, people are always very surprised and impressed when they discover that the american can dance Flamenco. There were "cacharritos" or attractions/fair rides at the Sevilla Feria, but I only went on those like twice, while I rode so many of them at the Dos Hermanas Feria! There was one huge one that all my friends were scared of that I really wanted to go on, and it took a good bit of convincing, but I finally managed to convince a few to go with me! Dos hermanas feria friends

On the last night of the Ferias, there's always a Fireworks show! I didn't get to see the ones in Sevilla, as I didn't go that day, but I got to see the ones in Dos Hermanas! One of my friends lives on the top floor of his building right next to the Feria, so a big group of us went there to watch, and we had the best seats in the house! I also had my first experience with a cat in Spain while at said friend's house. He has a cat who is so sweet and fluffy and cute!! I've got 2 cats back home and I miss them! Hardly anyone in Spain has a cat, so they're a rare find. 

The other day was one of the biggest soccer games for Seville, as it's between Seville's two teams; Betis and Sevilla! It's called the Derbi game and everyone was sooo excited for it. My family is all hardcore Sevilla fans, so I've sorta adopted that; well, enough to constantly argue with all my Betis friends! We invited a bunch of friends over for the game and made a party of it. (Luckily most of said friends are Sevilla fans!) It was a great game but ended in a tie. It may be an American opinion, but I think it's much more entertaining when a game has a winner and loser; who's content with a tie?? Not me that's for sure! Many of my school friends are for Betis, so it would've been great to have that win, if for nothing else, for the bragging rights!  

I've got pretty much just school all the way until summer, which starts here at the end of June; where'd all the parties go?? I'll definitley miss the Ferias- I hope I can return to visit one some year! 

If anyone has any questions or wants to talk more about my experience here, feel free to DM me on instagram @martha_dd

La Feria de Sevilla

Saturday finished off the Seville Feria, the festival to celebrate the start of spring. We had been preparing for this week for a long time, and it's finally here! With dance lessons since January and the whole alteration process for our Flamenco dresses, by Saturday evening we were 100% ready for the Feria! The first day I went was Sunday, because Saturday night is just for the adult's dinner. I got all dressed up in my Flamenco Dress, with my hair done up and a massive flower ontop of my head, and headed out with the family.  Feria fam

The first thing I noticed as we walked to the Feria (other than the massive amount of people dressed up in suits and Flamenco dresses!) was the massive "portada" entrance to the Feria. The portada is huge, beautiful, and covered in lights! It changes every year and takes months to build in preparation for the feria. Feria is held in a huge special area that's not used at all the rest of the year. In this area, there are hundreds of "casetas" lining the streets. Each one belongs to a group of families or a club. My family's caseta is called "Los Mosquitos"! Something that I was surprised by in the Feria, was the abundance of horses and horse-drawn carriages, I wasn't expecting that, but it added even more to the whole vibe of it! It felt like I was in a different time period; with structured dresses and carriages, it felt like I had been transported to Victorian England or something!  Portada
Portada Caballos feria
It may sound weird, but during the whole Feria experience, I felt like Mia from The Princess Diaries (love that movie btw!) Coming to Spain, I got a whole new life, just like Mia. I have my special dresses for Feria, and learned how to dance and act in a new way, just like Mia did! 

Feria was an amazing experience full of dancing, eating, and hanging out with friends! The environment of Feria was amazing, with music all around and everyone carefree. I had a fabulous first Feria, and I hope it won't be my last!

If anyone has any questions or anything feel free to DM me on Instagram @Martha_dd

Semana Santa


The past week has been the Semana Santa (Holy Week) here in Sevilla. Everyone had been hyping it up to me since I've been here saying that it was one of the most important parts of Sevillano culture.  My host dad, who is a passionate member of 3+ brotherhoods, had shown me video after video after video (after video) of these "pasos" which are basically these big wooden floats which show gold, silver, and wooden carvings of Jesus and the Virgin Mary. They are decked out in flowers and candles and carried by about 40 men. These pasos are carried around in processions through every street in Sevilla's center and the surrounding villages. They are accompanied by hundreds of people wearing tall pointed hoods (called "capirotes") which frighteningly resemble those of the KKK.



The first time I saw these white-pointy-hooded people carrying crosses and candles around the streets, I had a pretty shocked reaction. My host dad assured me that they had no ties to the extremist group (obviously), but it's still a very bizarre sight for any American. Let's just say I had a lot of concerned friends swipe up on my snapchat story. 

I had prepared for the city to be busy with tourists from all across Spain (and the world) to experience the Sevillan Holy Week, but nothing prepared me for just how many people there were. People take this thing so so so seriously. These pasos go on 24 hours a day for a week straight. One night, I stayed out with my host mom until 6 a.m. to watch the Madrugá (the most important night of pasos). And we went home on the early side! Many of my friends didn't get home until 9 a.m., and some decided that they wanted to stay out watching pasos until 2 p.m. the next day (this further confirms my theory that Spanish people don't need sleep, but that's a whole other subject in itself).


I would be lying if I said that watching these pasos didn't get boring at times. As amazingly beautiful as they are, usually about a few hours in my feet would start hurting, I would get tired, bored, and all of the processions and pasos would start to look the same. Something I noticed is that most Spanish people are SO INTO IT. They carry around little books showing the schedules of the pasos and where they're going. They meet up with friends, dress to the nines, and watch paso after paso after paso after paso. It was so interesting to see just how passionate they are to watch these things. 

On one of the last nights, as a paso was being carried through the streets of my town, I was feeling a bit "over it" if that makes sense. The minutes began to add up and I was definitely ready to go home for the night. Then I saw, standing in the doorway of a home, an old woman. She was holding a red flower up to her heart. The flower had come from the paso depicting the death of Jesus. Tears streamed down her wrinkled face as she watched the procession make its way down the street. 

I asked my host dad, "¿por que esa mujer esta llorando? – why is that woman crying?" His response was one that I'll never forget: "She's crying because she knows that this is the last paso she will ever see. She's thanking the Lord for allowing her to live a full life."  That was when I came to realize just how important this holiday is to Spanish people. Although I am neither Spanish nor Christian, in that moment I began to feel the meaning of these pasos. It's more than just a religious procession: It's a unique and powerful tradition that Sivillanos hold dearly to their hearts. It shows how deeply routed Spanish culture is. Though there are things about this culture that I never seem to understand, that's okay. It's bigger and a whole lot older than me. These pasos have been going on for centuries. This symbol of faith and tradition is so important to them because it is part of them. And I feel beyond grateful that now, the pasos have become a part of me and my own life. That's the beauty of learning from another culture. 


Semana Santa in Sevilla!

I've been with my host family for over 2 months now, but it feels like it has been so much longer but also no time at all, simultaneously! I'm so adjusted into life here it feels so natural. Last week is the end of the second trimester at my school, so two weeks ago, the week was filled with tests and presentations, it was crazy! Last week was nice and chill, though. Tuesday I went on a field trip with my art class to an old folk's home. There, we drew their portraits and just hung out with them for the day. We even danced some Flamenco! On Wednesday we went on a field trip into Sevilla to see "los pasos" for Semana Santa.  Paso 4

Paso 4

The name of the last one is "San Marta"! 

On Thursday and Friday I was too sick to go to school, but according to my friends, they just watched movies and hung out all day. On Friday morning, Lucia (my host sister) and I went to the hospital, because we both were very sick. At home, we don't go to the doctor's much if we're sick, but here they do more often. I was surprised by how easy the whole process was, we were in and out within the hour! The rest of Friday, Lucia and I watched 11 episodes of Pretty Little Liars (11!) Well, we had nothing better to do! 

Sunday was "Domingo de Ramos" the first day of Semana Santa! We went into Sevilla and saw a bunch of "pasos." The streets were packed like crazy, but it made the atmosphere so fun! The pasos, nazarenos, and music were all around; it was all so beautiful! It's crazy to think that there's 40 men under each paso, carrying them, and each man has to carry around 100 pounds!

Ddr paso1
Ddr paso1

Semana Santa truly is an incredible experience, and we're not even halfway done yet! Tomorrow, my parents will come visit! I'm so excited to show them around Sevilla, Semana Santa, and everything in my life here! A bunch of my friends are so excited to meet them too. I can't wait to see my parents, and the rest of Semana Santa! 

If anyone has any questions or anything feel free to DM me on Instagram @Martha_dd

Why Did I Choose to Study Abroad?

Hello! My name is Benjamin Pearl, I’m in eleventh grade, and I am studying abroad in Spain for the academic year 2017-2018 through CIEE. Unfortunately I’m a bit late to this whole blog thing (about 6 months to be exact lol), but recently I've been motivated to share some of my stories, tips, recommendations, etc from my study abroad experience.

Let’s start of with why I chose to study abroad:

I’m someone who loves people. I love meeting new people, I love talking to new people, and I love making new friends. How cool would it be to make A TON of new friends from another country, in another language, while building a bridge between cultures!? The answer is very cool. And coming from someone who has developed and grown these interpersonal relationships over the past sixth months, it has been one of the most incredible experiences of my life.

I also have a passion for traveling. I love seeing and going to new places and learning about the cultures and customs. What better way to satisfy my yearning for travel and culture by living in another country with another family? I have been able to immerse myself and become part of a brand new culture with brand new people and a brand new way of life. This has been a once in a lifetime opportunity which is extremely uncommon in today’s world (even most study abroad programs in college don’t dive this deep into the host country’s culture).

In addition, I also have a passion for the Spanish language. Ever since I took my first Spanish class in middle school, I knew that I wanted to become fluent in this beautiful language. With hundreds of millions of native and non-native Spanish speakers, this language is becoming increasingly more important in today’s global community. I knew that the most effective and interesting way of becoming fluent would be a full cultural immersion -- and WOW was I right. For me, Spanish became a language of a mashup of indifferentiable noises and tongue rolls (and the castellano th sound) to a language that I can almost fully understand and speak. I know I would never be able to learn this skill in a classroom. I can now say that I have developed the ability to communicate and express myself in a new language which is something that I have always dreamed of doing. I absolutely could not have accomplished this hadn't I thrown myself into a Spanish-speaking country for a cultural immersion. And let me tell you, it was not easy to get to the point I’m at in terms of language skills. It’ll be hard, but it’ll be so so worth it.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I was craving something different. I wanted something new. After going through eleven years of the same school system, taking the same classes with the same people, I felt a need to differentiate myself. I felt the need to break the mold and do something new. I knew that studying abroad was so different and unique for a high schooler, and I am proven right all the time. I get a feeling of utmost pride every time someone says “you’re a high schooler studying abroad?!” or “what you’re doing is incredible, especially for just a kid in high school.”

What students worry about and, probably, what I worried the most about while choosing to study abroad was the impact it would have on my college application and academics. I weighed the benefits of a few AP classes and some extracurriculars against the once in a lifetime opportunity of leaving behind my life in the US for a year to immerse myself in a new country, becoming fluent in another language, develop a bridge between cultures, while becoming more independent, building my character, and discovering more about myself and the world as a whole. I chose the latter option. And, in my opinion, that decision will go to benefit me as a person much more in my future than my American 11th grade classes* ever would have. I already see myself reaping the benefits of studying abroad. I no longer question if this was the right decision. I know that this was the right decision for me. I encourage anyone who is considering studying abroad to weigh the benefits of staying in an American high school** just like almost every other American student against taking the opportunity of doing something different. I chose to do something different and unique that will provide me with skills and experiences that will literally last a lifetime. I weighed my options and chose to study abroad and I am so happy that I did.

*I am still getting all of my junior year class credits! I worked with my guidance counselor, CIEE, and my Spanish school to make sure that, one way or another, I am getting my necessary class credits.

**It’s important to remember that studying abroad in NOT a year off from school; it is not a vacation. I still have to work hard to do well in my classes here in my Spanish school. Luckily, they have been very flexible and accommodating to the obvious language barrier.

My instagram is @benpearl. Feel free to DM me with any questions you may have!

The Start of My Spain Story

Hola! My name's Martha Connor and I'm a sophomore in high school from Charlotte, North Carolina. I've been living here in Spain for about 6 weeks but it honestly feels like I've been here my whole life (but in a good way!) I'm all situated into the daily routine and my family here; my new normal. I know it's a bit late to start my blog a month and a half in, but better late than never, right? To get the bad stuff out of the way, I'm going to start with the things I don't like about Spain. It consists of two things; there's no peanut butter, and lotion is called body milk. To be fair, you can find peanut butter, but it's hard to find and relatively expensive. I hate the body milk thing, though, there's no saving grace for that, it's just too weird. Back to peanut butter (focusing on the important things here) I do have a large container that I brought from the US, along with a LOT of Reece's Peanut Butter cups. Snack drawer

So now we can focus on everything I like about Spain, which is... everything! I've made so many new friends (American and Spanish) and had many great experiences all in the few weeks I've been here. I absolutely love my host family, we couldn't have had a better match. 

Host fam 1

This picture was when I first met them and to be honest, I started crying when they walked in the door; I was so excited to meet them! The initial car ride home was a bit awkward, as I didn't know what to say to them or how to say it, I was still in shock! I quickly got over that and began telling them about me and they began telling me about them and Sevilla! The first few days I was getting used to everything and felt very separated from my host family. What really made me feel comfortable was about the third day in I just had a good cry with my host mom, Mayte. It sounds strange but once I opened up (and cried) I felt so much better. The first two weeks I called my mom in the US every night and we talked for a long time, but now I feel much more comfortable confiding in my friends and family here that I don't need to call her so much. Don't get me wrong, I definitely still call my mom and maybe even cry a little (surprise: I'm a crier!) but I don't need to rely on her like that now. I also keep a journal and write everything about my day in it every night and it's been a great way to both reflect on each day and to let my feelings out, so I highly recommend that. In addition to how it's great short-term, I know it will also be very fun to look back on in the future. 

Life here is wildly different from back at home, school included. Apart from the whole language situation (a whole other story) school here is much more fun and I really look forward to going everyday, rather than it being an unwanted requirement like at home. The school environment here is so different than what I'm used to. At home I have about 12 people in every class and we change rooms and everything for each class. Here, there's between 25 and 30 people in my class and mostly all the classes are in the same room. We change rooms for Music, Art, Physics, and of course gym, but everything else is in our same bright teal classroom. Also, everyone here is so supportive and bonded so tightly, that my class is literally like a big family; I sure can't say anything like that for my classes at home. Even with me, only being here for a few weeks, I feel so close to everyone. 

Something super different about Spain that I noticed very quickly, is that everyone is sooo touchy. Not touchy in a bad way like hey get offended easily, no, but touchy in a way like you'll be sitting doing work and your friend walks by and kisses your cheek or grabs your face (yeah there's a lot of face-grabbing it's a little weird). All this touch/human contact is definitely way different than anything I'm used to, but I'm loving it! Another big change between the States and Spain is the eating schedule. Here in Spain we eat breakfast like normal, then a big lunch around 2, then a big dinner around 9:30-10:30, and some snacks in-between. It's different, but I'm getting used to it. 

Every day is an adventure when you're studying abroad, with new people and experiences, so have fun while it lasts!

Plaza de espana group
Plaza de espana group

Honestly I could talk about my life in Spain all day, but I've got to end it somewhere. Hopefully I'll post more than once every 6 weeks, but we'll see! Adios!

If anyone has any questions or anything feel free to DM me on Instagram @Martha_dd

Getting Through The Low Parts

Getting through the low parts!

So far my experience in Spain has been great, but no matter where you are in life there will be ups and downs. I have had a great experience in Spain so far, but I would be lying if I said I’ve been happy every minute. So without further ado here are some tips to make it past the low moments.


  1. Reach out to friends. 

- I wouldn’t recommend talking to your parents or your other CIEE friends at the exact moment your sad. Because your CIEE friends are either happy and you might bring them down or they’re going through the same thing and won’t be able to help. And I wouldn’t recommend parents because ,as good as there intentions, seeing you sad will make them sad and over the phone they will probably struggle to give you the tough love you need. 

2. Laugh

- watch a good comedy or even some old vines. Any video that never fails to make you laugh is always the best medicine. 

3. Get out

- Sitting in your bed ,while it may seem appealing, is the worst thing to do. You can cry it out a little but after it’s important to even just walk around the block or take a nice shower, Sitting in your bed will make you feel stuck and like you can’t do anything to fix your current situation. 

4. Put things in perspective 

  • Remember that your experience here is limited, and while not easy, it’s important to make the best of it. Whether that means talking a little more, or breaking out of your shell a little bit, DO IT

Good luck, you got this!

Instagram: @sienanoel_

^I'd love to chat if anyone ever needs anything!

The Hard Times

    I haven’t posted in awhile. After the program excursion to Morocco, I fell into a rut. I had realized while away that while I wasn’t having a particularly bad time, I wasn’t having a particularly good time either. This was a disappointing realization, after all, who wouldn’t rather have an “eh” time in the comfort of their own home? It was hard. I was constantly asking myself the questions,“Why? Why am I here, and what’s the point of all this?” I was counting down the actual minutes of each class and I found that by the time I was done counting, I hardly wanted to return home. Like I said, it was disappointing and it was hard. For the longest time I didn't know what to do, but after giving it some time and effort, I am once again extremely excited to be studying abroad and I look forward to my next seven months in Spain. However, I still want to share with you what was happening and what I was feeling. To start off my story, you should know that my main challenges stemmed from school, independence, and thoughts of home. 

    My host school in Spain is extremely challenging, even to the standards of my Spanish speaking peers, and while this is something I can appreciate, it is also extremely dull. My Spanish school is strictly lecture and note-taking. We have finals type exams every two weeks, and school days are 7 hours with a twenty-minute break. I entirely understand that I am here to study abroad, but outside of school I was spending the vast majority of my free-time only doing school work. Schoolwork has never been a thing I enjoy, unfortunately, in order to remain even somewhat on track with my Spanish peers, this is what I had to do. It was also the expectation of all those around me, which leads me to my second struggle: independence. 

    When first deciding that I would study abroad, there was never a thought in my mind about what would happen to my independence. If anything, I'd have thought it would grow, but arriving here I found new limitations. My natural parents have always treated me as a capable individual, they have trusted me to make my own decisions, and manage my time. My previous school environments had only facilitated this, and as such, I often forget that much of the world will see me as only my age. Living with a new family and going to a new school, the expectations of how I should act and behave were very different. People expected me to act younger, to not be as independent, and not be as capable. These expectations were coming from my host family, school, and even my Spanish peers. My rules reflected these expectations and I was unable to branch out to do the things I wanted, the things I decided to study abroad for. I often felt treated like a young child. 

    And finally, there were the thoughts of home. While yes, I surely missed my family, and still do, it wasn’t homesickness that was bringing me down. It was the knowledge that with the way things were going, I knew I would be having a much better time at home. I knew I would be in an equally as challenging school, would have to spend less time on schoolwork, and would be getting much better grades. I knew that I would have the independence to do the things I wanted and to make my own decisions. These were the thoughts that were bringing me down, but even so, I knew I still wanted to be in Spain, I just needed something to change.

    Through talks with my family, my host family, and my host school, all of these aspects have improved greatly. I won’t deny that there are still areas I would like to make progress, nor will I say that these next seven months won't hold challenges of their own, but I am working towards my goals each day and I believe that this can be a truly wonderful year. I plan to start blogging much more as my personal writing is also something I would like to improve, so.... bear with me, look forward to more, and until next time, best wishes.


Expect The Unexpected

Expect the Unexpected


Welcome to abroad! The food, the language, the culture, school, music, and just about everything else is different! Right now you are probably expecting everything to be different, but truth be told there are some random things that I Neve would have thought about before that i find helpful now.



In my personal experience i’ve found (especially for girls) that it’s less common for people to play sports here. In the United States almost everyone plays sports for a club or my school. Here they don’t have school sports and since not everyone is able to go to a club, there’s a large group of people who don’t play sports. If you’re like me and love to be active, just consider looking into different options before you arrive at your host family or ask your host family down after your arrival if they have any suggestions. 



The food is obviously different, and although fresh it is A LOT of carbs and meat and not a lot vegetables. Now I love carbs a lot but especially with the change in climate, diet, added stress, (and in my case huge change of altitude) it can take a huge toll on your skin and overall health. But if you expect it you can either counter act it or tell your host family a type of food you would love them to make (or offer to make it for them!)


After School

I was talking to a program friend recently about how important it is to use all of your time here. That doesn’t mean you have to make a cultural excursion to a museum everyday, but even going for a walk around your pueblo is better than staying at home. It’s hard to get in a good healthy mindset sitting in your room after school thinking about stress, missing home, procrastinating homework, or counting down the days until you leave. 


Host Parents

I’m not sure how well you get along with your parents at home, but at least in my situation I spend a lot of time with my parents and have always enjoyed a good family dinner. Here it’s equally as important to spend time with your host parents. They volunteered to host you and they want to help. So as crazy or different as they may seem, the more you embrace your differences and make an effort to converse with them the more your Spanish and experience abroad will improve. 

Abuela Talk - Emma Hilary

From the first day I arrived in Spain, I noticed one thing that was very different – the abundance of old ladies! Or, as we call our grandmothers in Spain, “abuelas.” Simply put, I live in a place dominated and guarded by what I’ll call “the Abuela Culture. I’ve met them, I’ve sung with them, I’ve been corrected by them, I’ve said hello to them, I’ve given them directions, I’ve been pointed home by them, I’ve been complimented by them. The abuelas line the streets like they line our hearts.    

I vividly remember the awkwardness I felt when my host family first introduced me to our very own abuela. She was old and spoke softly and incoherently. I remember standing in the doorway baffled deciding whether to follow suit and use the “tu” form or settle with the safety of “usted”.  We were introduced, exchanged our kisses, saw the garden, and off we went.

I didn’t know that I had just met the most important person in the family and that these visits would become frequent and fun.

Back at my host home, from my window, I see an abuela cluster that congregates every day after the afternoon siesta. In the evenings when my sisters and I put on our little dresses and head out on the town, we pass these local abuela clusters gathered in their plastic lawn chairs. Sometimes we call out “buenas noches!” and sometimes they call out “guapas!” or ask us about how many times we’ve gone to church that week. In Spain, they don’t need “Share My Location” or “Find My iPhone” to track us kids, they’ve got the abuelas to do it for them! In fact, I’ve returned back home late at night, the streets still lined with the security of abuelas, all of whom are able to stay up far later than I am!

It’s starting to get colder but that hasn’t stopped the abuelas.

Just the other day I was out buying a notebook when an abuela stopped me on the street. She put an arm on my shoulder as she saw I was holding my phone and preparing to cross the street, “ten cuidado nina!” she warned with a smile. Not long after, another asked me the time. This afternoon, on our way home from school, an abuela stopped me and my host sister on the street for a chat. As we continued to the house, I asked my sister who she was and how we knew her. Casually, my sister told me it was just an abuela.

By now, I’ve met a good half of my Spanish friend’s abuelas and I promise you that in my town nearly everyone is hiding one somewhere. They’ve taught me how deep the warmth of Spanish culture goes and everyday I appreciate their “hola”’s and “adios”’s. The Spain I’ve gotten to know is full of people waiting to have a conversation regardless of the time or where you're headed or how you feel or whether you’re old or young. They want to know you and they want to share with you, whether it’s a conversation, a merienda, or their abuela.