As of today, I’ve been in Europe for exactly 30 days. And in seven, I won’t be a W&L student anymore. In one week I’ll be able to say that I have received my Bachelor of Arts degrees in Economics and Spanish with a concentration in Latin American and Caribbean Studies from Washington and Lee University.
On our long drives and train rides to Toledo and Granada, I’ve been able to not only reflect on my four weeks in Seville, but on my entire four years in Lexington. And on one hand, I’m so sad to be leaving Seville and my host mom. I know that I’ve learned a lot about myself on this trip. Our art history professor, Conso, has said time and time again: perfection is boring. For as much fun as we have had on this trip, we have also worked very hard along the way. Spring Term, like any semester at W&L, often follows the work hard, play hard mentality; this class was no exception. But in Spain, there’s no pressure to be perfect. Everything rolls along and everything gets done without the stress that’s common in the United States. People stop to eat cheese and drink wine with friends, and stuff still gets done.
But on the other hand, I’m so excited to get back to Lexington. I’ve missed spending time with friends that won’t be living next door to me anymore, and I’ve missed the classic Lexington Spring Term experience. Right now, I’m excited to graduate (in a week, I’ll probably be balling my eyes out on the Colonnade, telling my parents I don’t want to leave). I’m excited to get back to the States to start prepping for my job as a National Consultant for Chi Omega. And I’m excited to see my family members who I haven’t seen in months.
During my first two weeks in Seville, I had a roommate named Alexis. She had been studying in Seville and living with Merchi, my mom, since February. When we were around the house together I would often hear her singing the lyrics of a Sevillan song, though I never knew which — that is, until a week ago. The song is the Himno del Centenario, and it is the song of the Sevillan fútbol club. The two verses below are the verses my old roommate used to always sing around the house, and now I finally understand why.
Y es por eso que hoy vengo a verte,
sevillista seré hasta la muerte,
La Giralda presume orgullosa
de ver al Sevilla en el Sánchez Pizjuán.
Y Sevilla, Sevilla, Sevilla,
aquí estamos contigo, Sevilla,
compartiendo la gloria en tu escudo,
orgullo del fútbol de nuestra ciudad.
Sevillista seré hasta la muerte, sevillista I will be until death. Though the words are more directly linked to the Sevilla Fútbol Club S.A.D., I like to interpret them differently. Sevillan I will be until death. Though the past four weeks have flown by, I will never forget the people I’ve met here, like Conso and Merchi, and the experiences I’ve had. Sevilla will always have a special place in my heart.
Reflections on our Trip
Through almost daily visits and three larger excursions, the Spanish 312 class was able to experience as much of Andalusia as possible during our short four-week stay. Our visits during the week typically consisted of tours in Seville. We visited the Cathedral, the Royal Palace, the Fine Arts Museum and more. On the weekends, we took three larger trips to Cordoba, Toledo and Granada, to visit various historical and cultural monuments. We were able to see the El Escorial monastery, the mosque of Cordoba, paintings done by “El Greco” in Toledo, and La Alhambra in Granada. The majority of the class took advantage of our one cancelled class by spending the day on the beaches of Cadiz. Throughout it all, we ate cheese, tried bull’s tail, went to bull fights and took lots of selfies. This video is a compilation of all of our adventures throughout Seville and beyond. Enjoy!
The Time We Tried to be Cultured
Professor Bailey came to class one day raving about a flamenco show he had seen the previous night. He offered to take us if we were interested in going — his treat (one of the many perks of the W&L community and Spring Term abroad). We agreed to meet at the Center at 8:15 that evening to walk to the theater together. I will preface the remainder of the story with this: Erin and I were out shopping, so we didn’t receive Professor Bailey’s email about the meeting time changing to 8:00 p.m. (so we could walk over to the theater at 8:15 p.m. sharp). The show started at 9:00 p.m. We were the last to arrive at the Center, maybe two minutes behind the original schedule. And together we began one of the longest walks I’ve probably done during my two weeks in Seville. Initially, it began as a normal Spanish walk — chatting and walking at an upbeat pace. 8:35 p.m. We decided to walk along the river since the weather was so nice. 8:45 p.m. Those of us at the back of the pack slowly drifted farther and farther away from our professor and the rest of the group, who walked at the pace of a Spaniard, times ten. By the time we arrived at the bridge to cross the river (8:55 p.m.), I completely lost sight of Professor Bailey and a few other students as they took off running toward the theater. The rest of us jogged across the bridge with no sense of where we were going to catch up to the others. It was probably about 9:05 p.m. when we finally arrived at the theater, most of us dripping sweat in the dresses, skirts and polos we had worn for the occasion (except for Matt and his Chubbies, because Chubbies are a lifestyle, I guess). We even arrived with enough time for a restroom break before the show began, and ultimately, I think the show put on by the Ballet Flamenco de Andalucía was well worth the exercise.
Córdoba and Toledo
After our morning classes during the week, we often take short visits around Seville with our Art History professor, Conso. We’ve seen the Real Alcazar, the Catedral, barrio Santa Cruz and have explored various parts of Seville through these visits. Weekends are typically reserved for free time and longer overnight trips to places like Córdoba and Toledo. I think many of us enjoy these longer trips because they give us an opportunity to explore more of what Andalucía has to offer. We just got back Saturday from a two-night stay in Toledo, a city that I absolutely fell in love with. Additionally, Professor Bailey *reluctantly* cancelled class today so we could spend the rest of our weekend in Cádiz (another perk of Spring Term abroad)! If you need us, we’ll be laying on a beach somewhere…
Our Favorite Songs
Though Seville is a fairly large city, it is also an extremely walkable one. Everybody walks here (at least right now while the weather is still tolerable). Many of us live approximately a 30-minute walk away from the Center. Initially, it was hard to adjust to all the walking from my apartment in Triana on one side of the Guadalquivir River, to the Center on the other side. Many of us are pro-walkers now (sign us up for Olympic Race Walking—Brazil 2016, here we come!) and we rock out on our way to class each morning. Want to be like us? Here are some of our favorite jams:
“El Taxi” by Osmani Garcia (feat. Pitbull, Sensato)
“Stinker Muffin” by Vertigo Jazz Project|
“Take Five” by David Brubeck
“Overload” by Life of Dillon
“Que Viva la Vida” by Wisin (feat. Michel Teló)
Snapshots from Seville
Buenas from Seville, Spain! Now that we’re all settled into our homestays, here are a few snapshots of our first few days in Sevilla.
The Lone Ranger (a.k.a. The Lone Senior)
It’s not common for seniors at W&L to take classes their last spring term, let alone ones that travel abroad. @wlulex makes their “Senior Bucket List” for this one moment: senior year spring term. But I know a few students who have taken that last opportunity at W&L to experience a completely different culture, a completely different life. I am one of those students.
Initially, I didn’t plan on being in Seville the spring term of my senior year. I knew I would need to take a class to finish my double majors and minor, but I always imagined the class would be on U.S. soil. By the end of fall, I realized I had no choice but to sign up for the Seville trip. Though it came about rather unexpectedly, I’m so grateful to return to a country I fell in love with five years ago. As many of my professors said when I came to them for advice, there really is no better way to finish up my Spanish major at W&L than with a trip to Spain.
Friends and family of mine who have visited Spain always say that Seville is their favorite city. Tourists who visit Seville fall in love with the city, and often, they won’t stop talking about it. Sevilla this, tapas that. Maybe the obsession comes from the pueblo feel of Seville, even though the city is one of Spain’s largest.
But for me, and probably many of my peers, what really makes Seville unique is one thing: the accent. Right now I would say the entire Spanish 312 class understands about 80 percent of what our family members say to us. The other 20 percent is some sort of Spanish mush. The look on our faces probably says it all: “I have no idea what you are saying to me, so I’m just going to look at you blankly, nod, and smile. You can never go wrong with that, right?” But we’re an optimistic group, and I’m hopeful things will improve over the course of the next three weeks. Be sure to check back on May 11th for a progress report!
In our first class at the Spanish Studies Abroad (SSA) Center for Cross-Cultural Study (CC-CS, a.k.a. the center), we were asked to sign the “Spanish-Only Language Policy.” We know a lot about pledges already, and this one is no different than the one that upholds the Honor System at W&L. The policy is one that can only be upheld through a collective effort by every group member. It complements and contributes to the progress of every student who makes an individual commitment to use only Spanish.
At times, the pact is ironic, because it’s in English. The contract is in English, the WiFi password is “spanishonly” (in English), and various miniscule details around the center are in English. But check my Facebook, check my What’sApp. Though the conversations may be in broken Spanish, there is 100 percent effort, 100 percent of the time. When we walk from one place to another, we speak Spanish. When we’re in class, we speak Spanish. We’re always asking one another cómo se dice and stopping mid-sentence to think out-loud about a verb conjugation.
And apparently, we’re not too shabby, at least when we’re around the center. SSA held a small welcome party for our class (with tapas!) and other students at the center were allowed to mingle. One of the members of the Spanish 312 class overheard a conversation between two non-W&L students asking one another if we knew English, because we were only speaking Spanish at the party.
I don’t think I speak for myself when I say that experiencing Seville (at first) is hard. Our host families are wonderful, but the adjustment hasn’t been without its challenges. But the fun has only just begun. Stay tuned as the Spanish 312 class attempts flamenco dancing, ventures outside of our Starbucks coffee comfort zone, and travels to Córdoba, Madrid, and Toledo.