Settling, Experiencing, Home

It’s been just over a month since I arrived in my newly-beloved Spain! From the earliest of my travel days leaving San Diego and flying 5,000 miles across the globe, to the unknown extent of my allusions with what this experience would bring me has definitely come around full-circle. The period of angst revolving around the uncertainty of any solo abroad experience is a usual and normal one. For me, this was soon met with a sincere feeling of comfort and ease as I’ve grown to love this beautiful city.

Spain: a country whose strong cultural value permeates into any foreigner’s conception of culture. A country where laughter, cuisine, art, and family are some of the most prized notions in life. A country where a simple smile to a stranger carries a thousand meanings. This country I’ve called home for a little while has managed to already find it’s place in my heart. It’s no wonder why Spanish, and local Sevillians in general, never leave — an enthralling place to visit, an even better place to live.

Three weeks ago I went on a trip to Gibraltar, a British territory conveniently nestled at the southern tip of Spain! It was a weird clash of two worlds conjoining, clashing more like, hearing Spanish and British English being spoken all around me. The views were amazing.

Settling in over the past month in Sevilla has definitely been an experience. While I wouldn’t say I’ve experienced culture shock, this new chapter has shown me many a thing. Next to the new culture of eating late, speaking with the Spanish lisp, experiencing the passionate energy of the city, dancing in outdoor markets, and traveling weekend to weekend, it’s been the rhythm of my life that has seen a shock. It’s true what “they” say about studying abroad, living abroad, moreover — it will change you: it will allow you to feel things you’ve never felt before. As with any turn of events, living abroad has its numerous peaks and plateaus: both are integral parts of the process. Luckily throughout my experience thus far, Spain has awarded me more highs than lows.

This past weekend I was in Lagos, Portugal! Located on the Southern coast of the country, it was interesting how much this small beach town reminded me so much of home. From the relaxed, hospitable attitudes of every local we met, to the beautiful beaches and refreshing water, it definitely felt as though I’d been living a dream. I definitely think that weekend travel is important while living in Europe. With easy access to nearly any EU country, it’s next to a sin not taking advantage of a quick hop on a bus or jumping on a cheap RyanAir flight! Live outside the box!

Life in Sevilla has been legendary. With midterms happening this week, I’m nearly in awe at how fast the time is passing. It definitely does fly when you’re having fun! Classes at the university have been interesting. Each one of my four classes is situated within two-hour blocks. I go to class Monday through Thursday; Mondays and Wednesdays I’m in class from 9am-3pm, and Tuesdays and Thursdays I have one class from 9am-11am. (Great decision that allows me to start my weekends early! Thanks, USEV.) The higher-education system in Sevilla is very different than that back home. The professors are much more hands-off when it comes to classroom environment and it’s primarily all lecture-based, and every professor of mine loves to throw in personal opinions aside from usual curriculum. It’s an interesting experience being a foreign student at the university, but definitely one I wouldn’t change for the world.

Some things that being abroad has taught me so far, and some words of wisdom for those who will follow:

  • Say YES! This small word can carry so much weight, and will undoubtedly open you up to amazing experiences.
  • Don’t be afraid to jump outside of your comfort zone! I went into my semester abroad with the mentality of starting to live life outside of the comfort I’ve grown accustomed to. Going nude (for thirty seconds) on a beach in Portugal? Did that last week. Paragliding in Switzerland? I’m doing it this week.
  • Create a journal! Before leaving for Spain, I knew I needed to document my time for myself by writing in a journal. Not only has it been allowing me to write about places I’ve been going and things I’ve been doing, it’s also been helping me reflect on important experiences. In the future, I can always go back to my journal and remember that time in that place with that person(s) experiencing that thing. Priceless, if you ask me.
  • Put yourself out there! You have to be your own spokesperson when it comes to studying abroad. It’s refreshing and humbling when you’re able to be yourself by placing your best foot forward and talking to new people. Conversations with others, from students to locals, surprisingly strike up so organically while abroad. Be yourself, be honest, and be happy — the rest will follow.
  • Call your family! They miss you. Your grandma will ask if you’re eating everyday. Your mom will text you a random good morning GIF to remind you of her existence. Your aunt will ask for more pictures on Facebook. Everyone will want to know something about you. While it’s easy to get wrapped up in day-to-day happenings while 5,000 miles away, take the time to carve out a little time to feel the love. It’ll make you feel good. (Hi mom.)

Last, but surely not least, remember to enjoy your time abroad to the fullest! This weekend some friends and I sporadically bought tickets to see Paulo Londra live in concert, here in Sevilla — if you don’t know who that is I promise you’ll want to. His music slaps. Funnily enough, it was forecasted to rain the night of the concert. I kept thinking over and over again that I didn’t want to be standing in the rain probably about to catch my death; but then I realized what a story it could be, so I put on my rain jacket and enjoyed the hell out of it. Moral of the story: live outside of the box. I said yes to an outdoor concert in the rain and guess what – I loved it.

All in all, going abroad is in and of itself an experience that pushes you to overcome obstacles you may not even know exist. Embrace it.

Say yes and live!

078A0143aKevin Cotant is a fourth-year English major/ International Studies minor studying at the Universidad de Sevilla in Seville, Spain for the fall semester


One thought on “Settling, Experiencing, Home

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  1. Spain is on my “to do” list. Easter Eurooe last summer. Ireland this March, The world has so much to offer, even after you go back home.

    Enjoyed your post.
    Keep on travellin’


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