First off, I would like to point out that I did not choose Spain, Spain chose me. That sounds cheesy, but it’s actually true. I had no idea that I would end up doing my study abroad in Spain, but I am so glad that I did. Originally, I was going to study in Thailand for three months, but that was canceled due to the pandemic. Then a new opportunity came about, along with a large grant, changing my plans to a four week long study in Rome, Italy. As I was getting excited for Rome, I was informed of the two week quarantine requirements for entering the country which I was not willing to do for a month long study abroad. Once again, I had to change my plans. Spain was the only country that did not require a two week quarantine upon arrival; however, I could not live with independence like I wanted to, I had to live in a homestay which made me very nervous. Although I was a bit leery of living with another family, I changed my study abroad location to Seville, Spain because nothing was going to get in the way of me
studying abroad in the summer of 2021.
Day to day Life
I lived in downtown Seville or “el centro”. Everything was at a walking distance such as stores, my school, museums, parks, and the train station. I lived with one other student and we had a host mother who was amazing and was the primary person that took care of us. Our host mother had a husband and two adult children who would occasionally eat meals with us. Our host parents did not speak any English, my roommate spoke 3 languages, none of which were Spanish and my level of Spanish fell between beginner to intermediate. I am really glad that my host parents only spoke Spanish because it forced me to practice the language and learn along the way. We did not always understand each other and we did not always have long and interesting conversations, but eventually we caught on and we still enjoyed each other’s company. As far as food goes, we had three meals a day which our host mother would prepare. I am vegan so pretty much all of my meals were vegan (I did eat eggs, and I don’t regret it). I ate the traditional Mediterranean diet and many Spanish dishes such as paella, salmorejo, and spanish tortilla and they were all delicious.
I only took one class which was held in the morning 5 days a week for about an hour and a half. It let out before 12:00 giving a nice amount of time to explore the city before lunch time, which in my household was at 2:30 (This sounds late for lunch but 2:30 is actually kind of an early lunch time for Spaniards). After lunch, I would relax or take a nap. Because Spain is so hot, with Seville being one of its hottest cities, the Spaniards came up with this genius idea to incorporate a designated “nap time” throughout the whole country during the hottest part of the day. This “nap time” is called La Siesta which literally means, “the nap”. La Siesta takes place right after lunch time from about 3:00pm- 5:30pm and most shops are closed during this time. La Siesta is great for beating the heat outside, however, air conditioning in homes is not common in Spain, you might only have a fan. Somehow I was extremely lucky and got a homestay with air conditioning.
Furthermore, the workload for my class was not difficult at all. On weekends I would go to other cities traveling by bus, train or plane. I was able to go to Granada with friends and I went to Cordoba and Barcelona solo. Everywhere I went was magical!
I come from a single parent middle class household and I never thought that studying abroad in Europe would be an option for me because of how expensive it can be, but then an opportunity came along called the CIEE Frederick Douglass Summer Scholar Grant which awards applicants a $1,500 grant to any of their summer programs just for applying. Additionally, UTC’s study abroad office matched this amount. On top of that, I was able to get a $500 plane voucher from CIEE as well. So now, a large majority of my program fee was covered, about half the price of my plane was covered and because I would be taking 6 credit hours in the summer (study abroad and UTC credit), my school tuition would be included in helping me aid my trip. Keep in mind, I did only study for a month, if I would have studied longer, then it would have gotten more expensive. I did not apply for other scholarships, such as the Gilman Scholarship, but that is always a great option. I did spend a lot of my own money and money gifted to me by my family, but it was mostly spent on travel throughout Spain, clothes, gifts, and excursions. I had a set amount of money saved for the trip and I didn’t expect to spend all of it, but I did and I think that just means that I had a lot of fun.
This was my first time traveling alone and my first time going to another continent. Upon arrival in Seville, while riding in my taxi from the airport to my homestay, I remember looking out the window admiring the city and just feeling normal. I wasn’t nervous, I wasn’t overly excited. Everything felt normal. Everything felt right and like I was doing exactly what I was supposed to be doing. I felt a lot of “firsts” while in Spain:
My first time feeling confident:
A couple of things contributed to this. One, I was on my own a lot in a new environment so I couldn’t rely on someone else to solve problems for me, I had to do them myself. Two, I don’t like to stand out and I would usually hide behind my clothes, but because it was so hot in Seville I had a lot of my skin out and I no longer had the option to hide behind my clothes. Feeling seen made me put more effort into how I wanted others to see me as well as how I wanted to see myself. I felt like a confident adult for the first time.
First time feeling American:
As a Black woman in America, I have never gone a day without thinking about my blackness, naturally code switching when talking to different groups of people, or feeling uncomfortable in certain parts of town. In Spain, I felt none of that. People in Seville do stare a lot, (like A LOT) but they stare at everyone who doesn’t look like a local no matter their race, and they weren’t hate stares, they were just “oh you’re not from here” stares. Of course I still felt Black while in Spain, but in a more positive way compared to in America. My skin never felt like a burden, it felt only like a skin color. It wasn’t until I came back to the U.S. that I realized that one of the reasons why I felt so comfortable and free in Spain is because I actually felt
welcomed. I felt more like an American in Spain than I do in the U.S.
First time not missing home:
It wasn’t until I studied in Spain that I realized, I don’t actually hate life, I just hated how I was living it. Prior to the trip, I just felt stuck and not all that happy. My comfort zone was beginning to feel more like a cage and I needed to escape it. Spain was a fairytale come true and I was the happiest I had ever been while there. Everything felt so new and refreshing and I felt so free and excited to wander. I didn’t miss home at all, because I knew that this was the beginning of my new lifestyle of traveling the world, meeting new people and experiencing new cultures.
Treasure Rowe is majoring in Anthropology and spent Summer 2021 interning in Seville, Spain through CIEE.
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