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Gap Year Abroad

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01/24/2014

España

"Travel and change of place impart new vigor to the mind." Seneca 

Wow, here we are, and it’s already January 23rd! This past month of supposed winter “break” has gone by incredibly fast. After getting back from Peru I spent an amazing 3 weeks seeing my family and friends, adjusting to the winter, packing up and getting ready for Spain. Being back was great but spending that short amount of time at home made leaving again that much harder. I felt like right as I got comfortable being back home it was already the night before I left for Spain. A quick tip for anyone thinking about doing the dual gap program: make sure if you are going to Spain you get your visa before you leave for your first semester program. I spent more time than I wanted at the Spanish embassy, so figure out your visa situation over the summer before you leave.

Fast forward 4 plane rides and a number of hours later, and I am in Sevilla!! Sevilla is the capital of the Andalucía region, or southern area, of Spain. It is absolutely beautiful, and even after only being here a week I really really like it. I arrived two days before my program started so was able to adjust to the time difference (6 hours ahead of Washington DC) and walk around and see the area a little bit.

After hanging out for 2 days with a friend I packed up my things and went to my host family. In my family I have a mom (Georgina), dad (Joaquin), sister (Marta, who is 19), and brother (Joaquin who is 21). This is a complete switch from my one younger brother, Max, who I’ve grown up with, and my family in Chile but I am really excited to have kids in the house around my age. So far my host family experience has been wonderful! My Spanish is so much better, and because I already have the experience of living with a host family my acclimation into the family wasn’t as difficult. Only a week has gone by, but I really do feel part of the family. I am able to actively participate in meal conversations and not just smile and nod my head like when I arrived in Chile 6 months ago. And after a couple of nights bonding over silly Youtube videos, comparing music and just talking, I feel like my sister and I have already gotten pretty close. The host family is a major part of the experience so I feel fortunate to have already connected with my new family.

First Impressions of the City:

The first thing I noticed was how incredibly beautiful the styles of the buildings are. You can quickly sense the historical importance that each building holds and the architectural detail is incredible. Also looking around in the streets everyone is dressed in the latest fashion trends and you can tell appearance is taken very seriously here. Everything is within walking distance so already I’ve been able to get a good feel for the city by just walking around to and from class and by exploring each afternoon. Aside from the incredible amount of shoe stores there are a number of beautiful plazas that are dispersed throughout the city as well. 

Here are a few pictures from various places around the city.

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The first couple of days of the program were long with numerous orientation meetings and tours. We went on a short tour of Plaza de España, the main plaza in Sevilla, an absolutely stunning area. You feel as though you have almost stepped out of the city, into a completely new area. You make your way into the park and then all you see is this grand building with a number of pillars, balconies, and towers as well as a huge patio out front with a fountain surrounded by a canal where you can rent a row boat and row around. Around the base of the building there are little stations called azulejos which are ceramic tiles and represent the different regions or provinces of Spain. Fun fact: Plaza de España was where parts of the Star War movies were filmed.

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Azulejo of Coruña

After that we walked through the park, Maria Luisa, to another plaza called Plaza de América. Right away we all noticed the enormous amount of palomas or pigeons that were surrounding the plaza. If you simply hold out your arm you can easily get 2-3 pigeons to fly up and say hi, intimidating enough. However, if you buy some of the nuts you could seriously have up to 7 pigeons resting on your arms! 

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Classes started on Monday and it has been a bit of an adjustment: 1) waking up at 8:00(yeah I know ¡que horror!) and 2) focusing in Spanish for a whole 4 hours straight with an exception for our 20 minute break. But I’m excited because that’s the best way for me to improve my Spanish.

Being in Europe is overwhelming. You feel like everything is so close so you want to take advantage and travel to many countries, yet I am in Spain and also want to really get to know the country I am living in. Poco a poco, little by little, I will figure out my plans, but I know my time here will be adventure-filled!

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walking tour through the neighborhood of Santa Cruz 

Ciao for now! 

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