After my first experience abroad when I was 17 and then a summer abroad as a foreign exchange student when I was 18, I expanded my horizons further by living abroad for my entire junior year of college through the University of Sevilla program in Seville, Spain. The University of Sevilla has agreements with many domestic universities for study abroad in Sevilla and I went while I was at Michigan State University. What makes this program different from some other study abroad programs is that all the classes we took were on campus at the University of Sevilla and they were all in Spanish.
Our group was fairly large and included students who were in Sevilla for an entire year, like myself, and others who were there for a semester. We all arrived in Sevilla independently and some on different days, and then had a collective orientation in Sevilla where we reviewed some cultural information but primarily studied intense Spanish. The perquisite for the program was some fluency in Spanish, which we all had, some to more degree than others. The intense Spanish classes lasted about two weeks, during which time we were all getting accustomed to living with our host families or arranging other housing.
Originally, we were all placed with families but we were given the option to find our own housing if we desired. I moved out of my host family after a few weeks and into a boarding house. After a month there I moved into an apartment with two other students in the program and our piso (apartment) housed several students throughout the year who were in transition from a family or other living arrangements.
Our classes at the University of Sevilla were amazing – they were all in Spanish and taught by Spanish professors. All the exams, papers, homework – everything – was in Spanish. This was not a sugar coated version of Spanish classes, but actual courses at the University – like an agricultural class that taught all the ways to get olives from olive trees….reading El Mio Cid and Cien Anos de Soledad in Spanish, with papers and discussions in Spanish. Assimilating into life at the University meant meeting professors after class in the bar for office hours to discuss homework or questions. We met many students from other programs but none of them had the classes actually at the University and taught by university professors. This program was the real deal.
While we studied a lot and worked hard at class, the social aspects of living in Sevilla were phenomenal. We had a lot of vacation and most of the students traveled all over Europe on break, as well as throughout Spain. It was a long year and when I was over we were all ready to go home. Sevilla is an enchanting city and the University was wonderful. On my most recent visit to Seville, I actually ran into the coordinator of the program. It was a blast from the past and reminded me of how small Sevilla really can be, while having so much to offer, back then and still today.