July 22, 2011
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Well, obviously the second semester has FLOWN by, since I haven’t posted since classes began. I leave Sevilla tonight for 10 days of travel before I fly home. For at least two weeks I have been so excited to go home. But now that the time has actually come, I am really sad to leave school, my senora, and the Spanish lifestyle. Exams are over, my suitcase is packed…all that is left to do in Sevilla is to go out for tapas with our professors and attend the fiesta at el centro norteamericano with the other students before saying goodbye.
This past month, I have visited the Metropol Parasol, Hospital Caridad, Ronda, Granada, Malaga, El Alhabmra, and the Picasso Museum, as well as attended a Flamenco show. I have been infused with so much culture and blown away by spectacular views of urban and ancient cities and arid mountains. I learned so much in class this semester. Within 13 days, I learned 4 new verb tenses! From only studying Spanish for one semester before I arrived, I can hardly believe the improvements I have made. Class is conducted in Spanish, and I can understand probably 95% of what my professor says. It is amazing how much you can learn with some instruction and the vast and varied amount of input you receive by being in a foreign country. My senora and I are able to have more conversations, I can speak about past events and future plans, and paritally follow what’s happening on “Supervivientes” (the Spanish verison of “Survivor”).
In the week to come I will travel to Nice, France with a friend and then spend several days traveling on my own to Zaragoza and Madrid again before boarding my flights to the US. I’m worried about being bored traveling by myself. Hopefully I will meet some interesting people along the way to pass some of the hours.
July 11, 2011
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In between sessions, we had a week break to travel around. I hopped the train back to Madrid. When I arrived I began to search for my hostel…and after about an hour of getting lost, found an old lady who was heading in the same direction and walked that way with her. I spoke to her in my terrible Spanish the whole way there (which was another half hour or so). I was so grateful to finally be at my hostel and ready to meet Katie (a fellow King’s student traveling to Madrid and Barcelona before joining me in Seville for session II) in the morning. I spent two days with Katie in Madrid and we visited the Palacio Real, Plaza Mayor, Teatro Real, the Prado Museum, etc. On Sunday we did a free walking tour offered by my hostel. It was amazing and we learned that students get discounts at the theater. So Sunday night we bought tickets for ,60!! We saw Swan Lake ballet for sixty cents in the Royal Theater! We could hardly believe we were there. This was probably my favorite experience of the week.
Monday, I went to Toledo for a few hours and really just wandered around looking at all the old buildings (a lot of things are closed on Mondays) because I could not find a map anywhere. Luckily, I found an open free museum to spend a few hours in, which was really nice. Then I headed back to Madrid. I spent Tuesday in the Parque Buen Retiro in Madrid just relaxing from the few days of nonstop walking. That evening I took an overnight train to Paris. Because all the regular seats were booked up, I had reserved a bed in a sleeper car. The extra money was definately worth the experience! Also in my car were two girls from Madrid who were traveling to Paris for a few days, and I actually bumped into them again at the Louvre!
In Paris, I met up with two friends I had made in Seville at the train station and we began our tour of Paris. We passed by Notre Dame and saw some other churches before stopping in a supermarket for some bread and jam for breakfast. After eating outside Notre Dame, we ventured inside to view the famous cathedral. From there we kept on walking towards the Eiffel Tower, stopping to see other sites along the way. Honestly, from first glimpse, I was slightly disappointed in the Eiffel Tower because I expected it to be much bigger. When we got to the park, I was still disappointed. Then as we started to approach the Tower from the far end of the park I realized that we were walking and walking and how far away it really was. After going up to just the second floor, my disappointment had turned into satisfaction. The Tower is definately impressive and magnificant.
After more walking and sightseeing, we went to meet our couchsurfing host, Juan, a Chilean native who now lived in Paris to learn French. This was another interesting experience of this adventure. He lived in the tiniest apartment I had ever seen with his brother. His cousin and her friend were visiting and staying for 2 months, his sister was switching apartments and moving half of her stuff there, and there was another couchsurfer spending the week there. It was crowded but cozy. In the closet-sized kitchen, my one friend cooked dinner for everyone. The next morning we started out very early to spend some time at the Louvre (where I saw my traincar-mates!), the Sacre-Coeur, and Moulin Rouge before I caught my overnight train back to Spain (this time I had a reclining seat, which was not as wonderful as the bed I had two nights previous).
My train arrived at 9am the following morning in Barcelona and I had five hours to switch stations to catch my train back to Sevilla. So, to kill some time, I got on top of a tourist bus (because Barcelona is a HUGE city) and viewed the city that way. Then back onto the train. To give you an idea of how hot it is in Sevilla all the time: when I left Barcelona (at 3:30pm) it was 33 degrees…when I arrived in Sevilla at almost 10pm, the temperature was 36 degrees (body temperature is 37!).
The next morning I woke up early to get on a bus to Matalascanas (a beach) and meet up with my intercambio, Elia (intercambios are speaking partners). We spent two days on the beach and I got to try all sorts of different Spanish seafood. It was crazy to still be “traveling” but at least it was really relaxing on the beach!
Then Monday began the next session of classes already! I’m taking intermediate Spanish I. Class is great!! Last semester the content of my class was really interesting, and this semester my professor and the other students make the class really fun, so the 4 hours seem to fly by!
I’m “living” in Sevilla, but always traveling. Last weekend we went to Ronda and this weekend we’re going to Malaga and Grenada. Currently, I’m working on planning the 10 days I have to travel at the end of classes. So far the plan is to go to Nice, France and then Zaragosa before flying out of Madrid.
June 22, 2011
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The time here has been absolutely flying by! Today was my last day of class for the 1st session. I have absolutely LOVED my class (the Psychology of Learning a Second Langauge) here the past three weeks. There are only 3 students in my class, all from different majors, so we each bring different perspectives and previous knowledge to share with the class. We have videotaped ourselves in Spanish and in English and analyzed ourselves. We had to introduce ourselves(1.5 minutes), discuss one topic decided by another person (2 minutes), and debate a topic with another person (2 minutes). It was also interesting because we are all at very obvious varying levels of Spanish ability. I have only been studying for 4 months, another student has had 4 years, and the other student lived in Spain with his family for 3 years when he was in high school. We’ve watched several TED videos on second language acquisition (SLA) and learning as well as interviews with researchers and psychologists. Another fun aspect of class is that we’ve gotten to take various tests ourselves such as the Modern Language Aptitude Test (developed by the US Army), the MSCEIT emotional intelligence test (which was in Spanish), Myers-Briggs personality test, the Big 5 personality test, language learning strategy surveys, and learning style inventories. We would evaluate our scores on the test and link them to our own SLA and discuss how each aspect could relate to a person’s SLA. Today our professor listed what we would need to know for the exam, and I was surprised to see that in 3 weeks we really had covered an entire semester’s worth of information. The exam is on Friday and immediately following, we have a week “vacation” before session 2 begins.
The program I am in is great at highlighting various things around town. I have visited Italica (ancient roman ruins just outside Sevilla), Alcazar (the fortress in the city center), Castillo Jorge (museum of the Spanish Inquisition and castle ruins), the mercado in Triana (market in a burro of Sevilla), Museo del Baile Flamenco (Flamenco museum), and Museo de Bellas Artes (fine arts museum). All of these visits are included in our program and the tours are given by our professors, all in Spanish. Depending on the professor giving the tour, I am able to understand a good 70% of the information, despite only having 4-5months of Spanish study.
My favorite excursion so far was an optional leisure activity, going to Algarve, Portugal during a three day weekend. We left on a Friday morning and arrived a few hours later to take a boat to the island of Tavira and spend the day at the beach. Afterwards we left for Lagos and spent Saturday morning on the beach there. My friends and I signed up to go on a kayaking tour of the caves and cliffs for the afternoon. This has been my best spend 25 euros. The tour was AMAZING. I had so much fun kayaking and the views were breathtaking. We got to paddle through some of the arches formed from the ocean and cliffs and into some caves. When we were about 1/2 way back, we stopped at a beach to do some snorkeling/swimming. It was absolutely incredible.
The day kept getting better because that night we drove to Sagres “para ver la puesta de sol” (to see the sunset!). Sagres is “the edge of the world”, the very edge of Portugal where they believed the world ended. Despite being very windy, the sunset was beautiful. The next morning I got up really early to see the sunrise at the beach by our hotel. It was just as amazing, if not better than the sunset. Later that morning, we left for Albufeira, another beach town in Portugal before heading back to Sevilla.
I cannot believe my time here has gone by so quickly; its already half over! I finally got a bike rental card, so my trip to school is now only 20 minutes (as long as I don’t get lost between the bike station and school!). This is great for coming home in the afternoon because it is SO HOT…one thing I won’t miss about Sevilla when I’m gone, but I certainly will miss this experience when I am back in the States.
June 9, 2011
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Wow, I cannot believe today officially marks one week of being in Spain!! Yesterday marked the beginning of the Spanish only policy at the Center. This means that even when speaking with other students, we must speak in Spanish. All of the professors already always speak in Spanish, our tours of places are in Spanish, and instructions of when and where to meet and what to bring are also in Spanish. I’m getting better at understanding and have learned lots of new words. Even speaking with my senora has gotten easier.
We went to La Rabida on Saturday and visited a monastery and the 3 ships of Christopher Columbus. I tried to listen as intently as possible to the tour to pick up whatever informatin I could, but it is very difficult. Afterwards, we went to the beach. Almost all of us came back looking like lobsters, despite using sunscreen and only being there for 3 hours. The water was a LOT warmer than the ice cold Jersey Shore I’m used to. While we were at the beach, there was an enormous jelly fish on the shore! It was like the jellies in Finding Nemo.
The next day (sunday) we went to Donana park and got to ride horses through the park and on the beach. It was absolutely beautiful. I was extremely nervous about being on a horse; they’re so big! I could hardly believe that an hour and a half had gone by when we were getting off. We also visted El Rocio that day. There is going to be a big religious ceremony there this Sunday and lots of people from Spain will be migrating there for it. When we got back, a friend and I wandered around for awhile, since it was only around 7:30 and dinner wouldn’t be for another 2-3 hours! We stumbled upon Plaza de Espana. So far this has been my favorite place. It is this beautiful semi-circle shaped building with a fountain in the middle. The architecture is amazing and there are all of these tiny painted tiles everywhere.
This week also began my first full week of classes. Even though it is 4 hours long, I love it so much that it goes by more quickly than some 50 minute classes I’ve had! There are only 3 people in my class and we do a lot of discussion and sharing of other things that we’ve learned about. We watch a lot of interesting interviews and psychological talks as well as read various papers on learning second language ranging from plain observations to brain studies.
Also, the Center plans LOTS of different things to do in town. Every Monday and Wednesday, we get dance lessons from a professor; we’re learning Sevillanas, a kind of Flamenco. On Tuesdays we split into groups and go visit something. This Tuesday my group visited the Cathedral in Seville, the third largest cathedral in the world. It was huge! It used to be a mosque and a rider on horseback would go up the tower 5 times a day to tell the people in town it was time to pray. Later that day, we went to Plaza de Toros, the bullfighting ring, and learned about the history of bullfighting in Seville. Wednesday we had someone talk to us (in English for once) about the art of bullfighting. Today we’re going on a tour of one of the neighborhoods in Seville. And tonight there is a Fiesta for us and our Intercambios (Spanish student speaking partners, we help them with English and they help us with Spanish). So we’re always really busy! Hasta luego!
June 3, 2011
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My planned time of arrival for Seville was 3pm on Tuesday…but after much plane trouble, lost luggage, and luckily catching the final train from Madrid to Seville, I arrived around 10pm. After taking a taxi to the hotel the group is staying in for orientation, I checked in at the front desk and met some of the girls in the lobby who were also there for the CC-CS program. Then I went up to my room and crashed, very exausted and luggageless.
The next day, we did a walking tour of the city to the CC-CS center. When we got back to the hotel, there was good news and bad news…I found out that my luggage had made it to Sevilla!! The bad news…I had to pay a taxi to get there and then to my homestay family. 48 euros and two cab rides later, I had my pink suitcase and was at the door of my host family.
Upon ringing the bell of an 8th floor apartment, my senora answered the door and greeted me in Espanol. I also got to finally meet my roommate! I definately got lucky, because my roommate has already been here for a semester so she already knew the rules of the house and was able to show me how to get to school from home. …she also speaks Spanish, which is convenient for communicating with my senora right now when we don’t understand one another. On top of only having had one semester of Spanish, Sevillians have extremely thick accents. Other students in the program who have been studying Spanish for awhile were having trouble understanding their families.
Senora is a good cook. So far I have enjoyed everything she has cooked. It is just senora and her son, Carlos, living here. It is difficult for me to communicate in Spanish, but hopefully by the end of the program I will be able to have a conversation in Spanish and get to know Senora better.
Today was my first day of classes, and aside from being a little late (it takes 40 minutes to walk to school), it was AWESOME! The course I am taking is the Psychology of Learning a Second Language, and I absolutely love it. It is me and two other students and our Spanish professor, Frank. He is a linguistics professor/researcher at one of the two universities in Sevilla. We had class for 4 hours, but it went by SO quickly. The readings we did in class were very interesting. Class is discussion based and not lecture, and its very easy with the 3 of us to discuss. Also, the class is very relavant to what I have been studying at King’s in the Education Department. I was able to use much of my previous knowledge of pedagogy and educational psychology, even on day 1 of class! Already I have readings to do, an essay to write, and a powerpoint presentation to make with an activity (not all due on Monday though!).
Later tonight, I’m going back to the Center to watch a movie. Tomorrow we’re going to La Rabida beach and to do some sightseeing. On Sunday, I get to go horseback riding!! Both will be early days, but certainly worth it!
May 30, 2011
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Tomorrow I venture off to Spain! I can hardly believe that this trip has finally arrived, because I’ve been anxiously awaiting it for about 8 months. I have been all packed for about 2 days now, in the hope that the extra time will allow me to remember anything I’ve forgotten. I feel I’ve packed everything I’ll need, but still not ready. I’m nervous about having to speak Spanish for two months, considering last semester was my first ever semester of Spanish. I will definately learn quickly; it’ll be sink or swim.
If I catch my connecting flight in Brussels, I’ll arrive in Madrid on Wednesday around 11:30am. From there I’ll find my way to the train station and travel down to Seville (hopefully in time) for orientation at 6pm before meeting my host family the following day. I cannot believe I begin classes again on Friday!
Hopefully all of the flights are on time and I manage to find the right train!!