Hola amigos, it has been two weeks after returning from my exchange at University Pablo De Olavide (UPO) in Seville and to be honest I am having serious withdrawals… Seville is the capital city off Andalucía, which is a southern province in Spain. It is arguably the best place to eat and the birthplace off flamenco, which captivated me every time. That alone was enough to have me hooked, but if you’re not convinced, let me tell you a little bit more.
I started my exchange in Seville at the end of January 2017; it was wintertime, a little bit colder then our winters here on the Sunshine Coast. A week before I arrived I had no idea where I was going to live so I opted to stay with a host family for the first week until I found my feet. The host family was a great experience, despite the fact they didn’t speak a word of English and I not a word of Spanish, we still managed to communicate with hand gestures and thank god for Google translate. It was a great insight to see how some of the Spanish live, I met their family and friends, ate their Iberian ham and chickpea soup and told stories of each others lives (through Google translate and pictures). They did offer for me to stay for the whole semester, which is what a lot of my friends from the exchange program did. However for me as a nutrition student, coco pops for breakfast and potato chips with dinner was not going to cut it, I needed my own space, in particular my own kitchen. Although some of my friends had great experiences with their host families, allowing them with opportunities to practice their Spanish and have authentic Spanish experiences. A lot of the students found the strict eating times and family rules a little bit hard, especially if they had already lived out of home.
I spent a week in between classes searching for apartments, and eventually I found the one that would be my home. It was great and the people I lived with even better. I had one German roomie, one French, one Italian and the Sevilliano drop in, who proved to be the best Spanish family I could ask for. In winter we would huddle together in our lounge room and drink beer and red wine while eating Selu’s (my Sevilliano friend) home made croquettes and singing along to ‘Despacito’ while someone played the guitar. Come summer when it was very hot, I would sit on the roof top and watch the sun go down over the city, watching birds flying around the countless amounts of churches in every street, listening to the church bells ring or someone playing flamenco guitar in the distance.
I grew to love this city, and the tapas bar on every corner, the live flamenco until early hours, the beautiful monuments all around the city and the beautiful parks and peaceful river. But most of all I loved the people, that’s what really made the biggest impression, Sevillianos are very friendly people despite the fact that they speak ridiculously fast (don’t count on understanding them even if you can speak Spanish), they siesta during the day and come out at night filling up all the tiny cobbled stone streets with there laughter, music and ridiculously good fashion. But not only the Spanish were great, besides my roommates, I made lots of friends from all around the world that made my time in Seville so special.
However take this as a friendly warning, but my exchange program at UPO, is separate from the normal Erasmus students, meaning that 90% of my classmates were American and the other 10% Canadian. Don’t get me wrong, I love Americans, my classmates were great people, and I can’t imagine what it would have been like without my Canadian friend Dylan. But don’t expect to get cultured in a class full of 19 year old Americans where a lot of the programs are tailored around the American students. And don’t expect to make Spanish friends unless you can speak Spanish or you put in a big effort with extra curricular activities. Class discussions were often related back to American culture and university life, I’m not going to lie but sometimes I felt like I was a little left out of the sorority club.
That being said I enjoyed my classes they were interesting and my lecturers were great people who really enjoyed teaching and sharing with us information about Spanish life. I highly recommend the Spanish language course, even though at the beginning I was nervous to speak, by the end of semester I was looking forward to class and managing to maintain simple conversations in Spanish. This was so beneficial as not many Sevillianos speak English and it allowed me to communicate to a certain extent in Spanish. The other great thing about the exchange program was that there were no classes on Fridays, which meant that every weekend was a long weekend. Given Spain’s great location in Europe and Ryanairs cheap airfares, it gave me the opportunity to travel on weekends. I started off visiting different parts of Spain I had not previously been to, relaxing on the beautiful beaches of the Canary Islands or hiking around hidden villages in the Sierra Nevada mountain range. Eventually I was exploring other countries like Portugal, Morocco, England, Scotland, Hungary and Denmark.
A highlight of my time in Seville would have to be the ‘Feria de Abril’, a week long festival where the whole city comes alive, including your Spanish neighbours great, great grandmother. The men dress smartly and the women dress up in the traditional flamenco dress. They parade around the city on horse and carriage making their way to the festival venue which never closes, people are literally there 24/7. It is here where there are hundreds of tents filled with Spanish people, eating, drinking, smoking, dancing, singing and parading around on horseback and carriage. I had so much fun and a huge wake up call that this city never sleeps, regardless of your circumstances.
Living in Seville is cheap compared to other places in Europe and especially Australia. You will find yourself whinging about prices of wine in different countries after living there. I chose to pay a little bit extra in rent so that I could live in the old Jewish quarter basically in the centre of the city. It was so worth it, I was a 2 minute walk from everything I needed and a 10 minute walk from basically everything else. And if I really needed to get somewhere further I rode the city bikes or caught the metro, its really simple.
If you are interested in culture, food, music, dance, hiking, exploring and basically anything else that’s fun I highly recommend doing this exchange program. Don’t expect to get much sleep but do expect to make amazing memories that you will never regret or forget… Me encanta Sevilla (I love Seville)!