Saludos de España! Greetings from Sevilla, Gusties! Before making the choice to study abroad, people often shared this cliché with me: “Choosing to study abroad will be the best decision you will make in college.” Though I wish I could mix things up a little bit, I will probably be coming back to campus saying the exact same thing.As the weeks and months pass by, I realize, how could I not say it was the best decision I made?
Sevilla, located in southern Spain, is known for its flamenco dancing, ancient mosaic art, colorful buildings, festive nightlife, and its diverse culture. Spanish culture is rich in and of itself, but the Muslim and gypsy influence–given that it is so close to the African border–gives this city an even more unique and intriguing flavor.
Between classes and exploring, I have had time to think about the term “home” a lot, and what it really means to me. I remember when I first made the move from Minneapolis to Gustavus, and what a scary transition it felt like at first. But not much time had passed before I was using the word “home” to refer to Gustavus. It was the people, the community, and soon the comfortable routine that made it feel like home.
Fast-forward to my junior year, when I had to make the transition from life on the Hill to seven months in a foreign country. I approached it with the initial skepticism I had as a first-year coming to Gustavus. Everything was new and unfamiliar. But now, having made new friends and found a new community and routine, this old, Spanish city has become a place I can call home.
Walking to school through narrow, cobblestone streets, listening to Spanish guitars strum, watching gypsies do strange things to tourists like throwing fake babies at people while they steal purses, seeing an obscene amount of kissing (far beyond the stoic Minnesotan comfort level), or sucking the uncooked heads off shrimp somehow are now “the norm.”
Going into Spanish immersion teaching, it was my goal to speak and think in Spanish at every chance I could get. Before arriving in Sevilla, I knew that having all my classes in Spanish would not suffice, so I made it a goal to be extremely proactive about making Spanish friends instead of taking the easy route and hanging solely with Americans. Although it wasn’t the same “Minnesota nice,” as I’m used to, making Spanish friends was the easiest thing I’ve done here. The people are beyond hospitable and open that it didn’t take long before I got accustomed to the dancing in the street till 7a.m. biking around from one hidden neighborhood to the next, and exploring the diverse cities around Spain.
Being able to call a place like Gustavus or Sevilla home is an absolute blessing. But it doesn’t take long to take these experiences or these communities for granted, or to lose sight of the unimaginable magnificence in every day. I hope that in these next months, as I continue working on my Spanish, creating new relationships, exploring more of Europe, and learning about cultures vastly different than my own, I will keep close the memories of my Minnesota home, but also take joy in the fact that I have found a new one.