The city of Sevilla is spattered with orange trees — planted along most sidewalks and found in all parks, they symbolize the beauty, warmth and vibrancy of my temporary residence. They never fail to remind me of the high-spirits and contentment I am constantly surrounded by.
Happiness is fabricated into the lives of Sevillanos. Even though Spain, like all places in the world, has societal issues like high unemployment and a fairly unstable political environment, it is remarkable how content the general population remains. If my experience could be summarized in one word, I would choose “refreshing.”
Until last week, my morning commute began at 8:25 a.m. The streets are generally quiet at this time of day, yet I always spot a few early risers out with family or friends for café con leche or to walk their dogs. Once I make my way out of Los Remedios, the neighborhood I stay in Southwest Sevilla, I cross Puente de San Telmo (San Telmo Bridge) and stroll through the neighborhood Santa Cruz.
As I head through Santa Cruz to class, I walk alongside the Catedral de Sevilla, one of Spain’s most famous cathedrals, and admire the 443 feet of Gothic style architecture. It is difficult to find monuments in the United States — especially in rural America — with the same intricacy.
I would arrive at Centro Norteamericano and begin my classes at 9 a.m. and continue until 1:45 p.m. Other than a short break between 10:30 a.m. and 11 a.m., our 4 hours and 45 minutes are filled with Spanish grammar. Our professors were certainly correct to label it the “intensive period” of our program.
Spanish is and has always been my favorite subject in school, but there is something refreshing about genuinely immersing myself in a foreign language. I love language and being able to converse with others, and right now I am learning a new way to do so.
After classes, I head back to Los Remedios for lunch, the largest meal of the day. On my way back,, the streets are buzzing with tourists who gawk at the cathedral and shop along Avenida de la Constitución. This is one part of my day that gets a bit overwhelming, like it would in any large city.
But any headache I might have from my walk home quickly disappears once lunch begins. My host mom, Maria Josefa Serrano Borden, is serious about her cooking. Microwave pizzas and ramen noodles are never on the menu; she is constantly surprising my roommate and me with fresh produce and meats from the local market.
Astonishingly, having wonderful food served to me on a daily basis is not even the most relaxing part of my everyday life in Sevilla. Yes, I have been spoiled by Spain’s famous siesta.
Unlike my roommate, Elon, who loves to sleep like any college student, I enjoy the break from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. for other reasons. This time of day allows me to get lost in my own thoughts in my room, under an orange tree in one of Sevilla’s beautiful parks or anywhere I choose. It is a time for me to take a mental break.
Following the siesta, my friends and I explore the town and practice our Spanish. We have become regulars at cafe’s like 5 De Tapas, where the middle-aged owner, Antonio, serves us café con leche, sandwiches and helps improve our Spanish. Having community members, like Antonio, who I feel comfortable around has been the main source of my Spanish improvement. He and many others are understanding and never afraid to nudge me in a different direction if I say something wrong.
I am living in Sevilla, but it is not my home, and that is not a bad thing. I am at least somewhat uncomfortable every day, but that is how I know I am learning about this new culture and myself. Every day I am misunderstood by multiple people and exploring new territory, but I know I am growing because of it.
Now, my intensive period is over, and more changes are to come. On Monday, I started new classes for the continuation period, and the schedule is a bit more spread out. I no longer have classes on Fridays which means I can take more adventures around Spain and Europe in general.
Just like the oranges I pass every day, Sevilla is beautiful, pleasant and breathtaking. As I begin the continuation period of my program, I am excited to learn more about the language, customs, people and spaces this wonderful place has to offer.