Cold weather has finally come to Sevilla. And by cold, I mean less then 70 degrees most days. This doesn't actually match my idea of Winter weather, but if I can wear a sweater, it's good enough for me. The changing of seasons also reminds me that days are coming and going, i don't like keeping track of time here, because it tends to either make me realize how much I've missed at home mixed with the feeling that my time here is running out. The perfect definition of melancholy. However I do know I've been in Spain enough to learn a few things (besides obviously spanish), and so I thought I'd tell you about a few of them. Some of these are things I'd wish someone had told me before I got here, some may seem so obvious that you'll think "why would this girl even bother writing this",but they're relevant to me, and I have a feeling they'll be relevant to someone else out there too. So here yah go.
Bring a water bottle. The beverage of choice here is soda, and your skin and body will thank you if you put something other then sugar into it 24/7. Keep it in your bedroom and bring it to school.
The metro is your best friend. Assuming your public transportation is as bad as it is in Seattle where I'm from, you will be pleasantly surprised by Sevillas metro system. it's clean, it's simple, it's efficient, it's on time and it goes everywhere that's anywhere. Ask your host family to teach you how to use it as soon as you can.
School days are days too. Obviously this depends on where you live and how your host family feels, but if you have the freedom and access to transportation, DO THINGS! Sevilla is a ginormous and incredibly beautiful city, and in my opinion two days out of the week is not enough to see it. Most of the schools here get out around 3 o clock, that gives you plenty of time to eat lunch with host fam and then hop on a bus, take a train , or walk to the city. School comes first, I'm not trying to take focus away from that, but if you don't have homework or an exam, please I beg you do not just sit around your house every afternoon. Time here goes by faster then you think, and you don't want to leave having any regrets about not going there or doing that. Grab a friend or just go alone, it'll help beat any homesickness and you'll learn more then what they could possibly teach in the classroom.
You're gonna gain weight, and that's ok. The "Spain Gain" as my program friends and I call it is REAL and inevitable. You're in the land of paella, jamón, and my personal fav, croquettes. so embrace that extra 10 pounds and never say no to helado.
don't feel guilty about hanging out with Americans. Everyone and their dog told me before I left, including my own dad, "Don't hang out with Americans at all, ever, or you won't learn anything". While there's some truth that you need to speak spanish to learn spanish, friends are friends. The other Americans in your program are gonna be the only people that fully understand this experience. I've met some of the most incredible friends from CIEE (s/o Ben, Jacque, Emma Hilary and Siena to name just a few) and I'm not about to avoid their company just because they speak the same language as me. They'll be there for you through homesickness, or when you just need someone to ride the boats in the Plaza de España (b/c no spanish person really wants to do that touristy stuff). I'm living proof that you can in fact hang out with Americans and still learn a ton of spanish, and you can too.
But spend time with spanish people too. Spanish kids are the BEST! I've never met people who can make something so mundane as sitting in the park so much fun. they love to sing and dance and laugh and i 10/10 recommend you join in. For the rest of my life I can say I was taught to Flamenco dance in the backyard of my host sisters best friend, barefoot and still a little damp from swimming in his pool all afternoon. make as many friends as you can, most spanish kids aren't shy and you have no reason to be either.
Write it down. about a month ago I started bringing a little notebook to school, and whenever I hear a word that I don't know that seems halfway relevant, I write it down. when I have a chance I translate it and put it into a flashcard app on my phone. This has helped me so so much with vocabulary and I swear if you aim for even 10 new words a day, you'll find yourself saying "Como se dice?' a lot less.
Say yes. Ok I don't mean to jumping off a bridge or anything like that, but if your given the option to partake in something safe, do it! don't let whatever fear you have about meeting new people, going to a new place or speaking a lot of Spanish scare you away. Saying yes when everything in my body was screaming no got me a trip to Milan, helped me make countless friends and make some of the best memories. so please please please SAY YES!
These are pretty Sevilla specific, but think they can apply to a broad range of situations, wherever you might end up. DM me on Instagram if you have any questions! @alexgmcook