Studying in Spain? Sangria, flamenco, and staying out til 6am?!?
This week’s edition of Abroad Life features our very own HCBC writer Gabby Alleyne. See what she has to say about studying abroad in Spain, living with a host family, and her advice to anyone thinking of doing a semester abroad.
Name, Year, Major, Hometown: Gabby Alleyne, 2015, Marketing, Hartsdale, NY
Where are you studying abroad? Sevilla, Spain at Universidad de Pablo Olavide.
What is the university you are studying at like?
It’s a public university, so they don’t have a big endowment to make the school beautiful like BC. Let’s just say that I won’t be taking any #UPOgrams any time soon. BUT, there are palm trees so that makes it all better.
What classes are you taking? Do you like them?
I’m taking Intercultural Communications, Advanced Spanish, International Marketing, Spanish History and Culture Through Film, and Social Psychology. I like all of them! I’ve spent the last 2.5 years at BC working through the CSOM and University Core, so this is a nice change. Also, none of my classes involve math, which I’m so okay with.
Are your classes different from how classes are at BC? How?
Classes in Spain are much less structured. Teachers tell you to do a presentation on a topic and give you nothing else. No guidelines or expectations. As Americans, we’re used to being given very clear guidelines on projects and papers, so this is new and not exactly fun for us. On the other hand, there’s little to no homework on a nightly basis, just bigger projects and papers, which can be lot of work. Classes are also an hour and twenty minutes per session, which sucks. At the same time, we only have each class twice per week (no class on Fridays), so that’s a big plus! Ideal for traveling. The grading system is really different here; instead of the letter system, we’re graded on a scale of 1-10. A 7 is a B and a 10 is nearly impossible to achieve.
What do other types of students study at your university? Are they friendly? Do they like meeting students studying abroad there?
There are students from all over the world and schools that I’ve never heard of. It’s nice to be exposed to people from different backgrounds; I can now say that I’m friends with someone from Wyoming, which is a big deal. The Spanish students at UPO are really friendly! They’re happy to help us when we’re lost and pathetic. I think the guys welcome us more than the girls. Spanish girls are a little more sassy and you definitely have to earn your way into their circles.
Where are you living? Do you like it?
I live in an apartment with a single host mom. She’s 62 and we get along splendidly. I think I’m about 62 years old at heart, so we’re the perfect match. We do a lot of news watching, which keeps me in the loop. My host mom and I are slowly piecing together this plane disappearance. We will solve it, I’m sure. Also, Crimea is so hot right now. I really enjoy living with a host family because I´m definitely improving my Spanish and my host mom and I have a great relationship. Because we spend so much time together, we’re learning a lot from each other–I help her with her English!
Do you do any other activities? Internship, clubs, sports, etc.?
Sadly, I don’t. But it’s a nice break from the insane BC life. If you consider getting coffee on a daily basis an activity, then yes, I partake. A number of students here teach english to Spaniards, which I totally would have done if I were more proactive. Alas, I’m just going to say that café-ing is an activity. Solid resume builder.
How is the food in your city?
The food in Sevilla is awesome. That is, if you like carbs and jamón. There are vegetarian options, but Spain isn’t the most veggie-friendly city. I got really lucky in that my host mom loves vegetables, so I eat them a lot. Spanish food is great; croquetas, espinacas con garbanzos, tortilla, churros. They’ve got it all. And Spaniards love potatoes. Can’t get enough. You’d think they were going out of style.
What is a typical day like for you?
I´m lucky enough to have a gym around the corner from me, so I like to go there in the mornings before class. I miss my BC spin classes, so I’ve started making my own playlists and pretending that I’m at the Plex surrounded by my wonderful peers. My commute to school is on the longer side; between walking and taking the Metro, it takes me about 50 minutes to get to school. After class, I speed home for lunch, which is the most important meal in Spanish culture. After I gorge myself on whatever my host mom has made, I usually need to sit for a while. I love going to cafés to do my work. I will admit that I go to Starbucks occasionally; it’s an addiction. Dinner in Spain is around 9pm, so I’m usually back by then. Dinner is always followed by a piece of chocolate and homework. Then I start all over again!
What do you do on the weekends?
We have 3-day weekends every week, which is lovely. While I love traveling, it’s so nice to be in Sevilla relaxing and enjoying the city. We love to drink wine by the river at one of the many chic bars that I’m definitely not chic enough for. The club scene is so different here; you go out around 12am and come back at 6am. Maybe 7am. That has been the biggest adjustment for me because I’m a day person and don’t always have the energy for that club life.
Where else have you traveled so far?
Within Spain, I have visited Madrid, Córdoba, Toledo, Aracena, Granada, and Cádiz. I have also visited Paris and London, both of which are incredible. Future trips include Extremadura, Morocco (hello camel selfie), Portugal, Berlin, Munich, and Madrid again for a half marathon.
What has been your favorite experience so far?
We had wonderful weather when I was in London, so I went for a walk through Hyde Park the morning that we were leaving. I don’t know if this was caused by the baby crying near me, the beautiful men all around, or a little homesickness, but I started crying. Everyone has a moment when they’re abroad when it finally hits them that yes, they’re actually abroad, living one of their dreams. All of your emotions sort of hit you at once and it’s glorious. My other favorite experience was the pistachio macaron and life-changing hot chocolate from Angelina’s in Paris. My best friend from home is studying there and we just sat down outside and sipped and nibbled and it was a beautiful thing.
Advice for students thinking of studying abroad?
If you have the opportunity to study abroad, do it. BC or whatever school you attend will always be there. Marathon Monday and St. Patty’s Day and football season will come again. Abroad won’t. Go abroad with an open mind and stomach. Know that the emotional stages of studying abroad are real; excitement, feeling lost, loneliness, homesickness, and immense joy all occur and they’re all totally normal. And if you’re going to study in Spain, I highly suggest Sevilla with UPO. The program is awesome and so is the ciudad.