From Admissions Essay to Reality:
During Halloween of 2015 I sat eagerly typing an admissions essay for UW-Madison to meet the November 1 deadline. The prompt was: “How are you going to enhance your Wisconsin Experience?”. Naturally, as an avid fan of traveling and history, I quickly researched the IAP website and wrote an essay about studying abroad and taking a course on the influence of Islam, Judaism, and Christianity in Southern Spain. What better way for an aspiring history major to enhance their Wisconsin experience than taking a history class in the region where that history occurred? Fast forward to now, and I’m less than 2 months away from embarking on a semester long program to Seville and am enrolled in a course about the exact subject I had written about for my admissions essay. I never would have guessed my admissions essay would become a reality!
In a mere 70 days, I’ll officially be 4,228 miles away from Madison in my new home, Seville. The comforts of Babcock ice cream and the Old Fashion’s cheese curds will be traded in for churros con chocolate and paella. I’m over the moon for the opportunity to live with a host family, improve my Spanish, and immerse myself in Andalusian culture. As excited as I am, I’d be lying if I didn’t mention that I’m slightly, okay maybe majorly, freaking out about travelling solo. Navigating a new country in my second language will be an unprecedented challenge. Luckily, my Spanish professors here have assured me that I’m fluent enough to navigate my way around the Spanish airports and streets. Their faith in my Spanglish has reassured me, but I’m sure I’ll be writing about Spanish faux pas a few months from now. What’s traveling abroad without some miscommunication and entertaining adventures?
For those who don’t know me, I’m a huge history buff. I grew up watching Rick Steves’ Europe and Ken Burn’s documentaries, so excuse me as I dive into a quick explanation of Seville’s history. Seville is the 4th largest city in Spain and is the capital of the Andalusian region in south. Seville was originally founded by the Romans as Hispalis, later became Ishbiliya after the Islamic conquest in 712, and finally became Seville upon its incorporation into Ferdinand III’s kingdom in 1248. As you can see there’s been heavy Christian and Islamic influence in the region since Seville’s inception. Moreover, Seville used to host a large population of Sephardic Jews until the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492. It’s rare to find a region so heavily influenced by all 3 major monotheistic religions! My final fun fact is that Seville is home to 3 UNESCO World Heritage Sites: the General Archive of the Indies, the Cathedral of Seville, and the Alcázar palace. If you can’t already tell, I’m enthralled to be living in a city with this rich a history!
In between filling out visa forms and booking plane tickets, I’m dreaming about all the opportunities I’ll have once I arrive in Seville. Course registration doesn’t’ actually happen until I arrive at the CIEE Center, but I’m planning to take classes like “The Projection of the 3 Cultures in Andalusia” and “Flamenco as a Means of Communication”. By the time it’s May, I’m hoping to be an expert in all things about the Andalusian culture! Perhaps I’ll be able to dance a little flamenco too! In addition to courses, I’m also thrilled to travel around Europe, and especially to see my new baby cousins! Having family in Belgium, Italy, and France means I don’t get to see them often, but when I do it’s all the more special. It’s going be incredible living merely 3 hours away from my cousins instead of an ocean apart. For now, I’m going to ride out the remainder of fall semester at UW and eat all the cheese curds I can. The next time you’ll hear from me, I’ll be on the other side of the ocean. ¡Ciao!