Lifelong Friends in Seville
Let’s take a trip back in time. I arrived at Cornell undecided and a little intimidated by the many majors offered. It was easy to feel overwhelmed among the “I’m a pre-med engineer and I think I want to double major in computer science” freshmen around me.
Because I was undecided, I ended up taking all my distribution requirements early on, which was useful because I dabbled in all the areas in which I had any interest. This proved to be serendipitous. They say undecided majors have the most freedom to figure out what they love, and I couldn’t agree more.
That first semester, I placed into a Spanish course that reviewed what I’d learned in high school, effectively knocking the A&S language requirement off my DUST Report. I considered dropping Spanish after fulfilling the requirement, and then realized how disappointed I’d be to leave it behind, so I signed up for the next semester as well. Soon enough, I declared the major and haven’t looked back once.
The best way to become completely comfortable with a language is to immerse yourself in a culture that speaks it. At Cornell, there are hundreds of opportunities to do just that all over the world.
I chose to study abroad in Seville because it was a small city in comparison to the large urban areas in which many other programs are centered. I could walk everywhere but could always grab a bike, bus, taxi, or metro line that could safely bring me anywhere in the city at any time of the day or night. I had no idea, however, of all the incredible adventures awaiting.
The program places each student in the care of a homestay for the entirety of their time in Seville, which offers an authentic student experience—most local university students live at home while in school. We ate breakfast and dinner with our host families, and most days I went home for a hot lunch, too. After all, I only lived a mere 10 minutes from the beautiful building where my classes were held!
The first month of the program takes place before university classes begin and serves as an introduction to the city and surrounding areas. Together with the team of program directors, we explored artisans’ studios, visited popular local shops, and learned the history within the city walls. During this time, we also completed an extensive language course to bring our Spanish up to snuff, which proved useful for the remainder of the semester.
Our program encouraged us to introduce ourselves to Spaniards early on. Every day for the first week of school we tried to talk to at least one classmate, which is how we met our best friends! In Seville, it is common to ask someone out for a coffee date after class, and we filled our free hours getting to know the local students. After all, they had insider scoop on the best cafes and sights in the city!
It was shockingly easy to make good friends, because the students were as curious about us as we were about them. We’d meet up on Thursday nights and go dancing. To this day, we keep in touch via Whatsapp messenger. They practice their English while we practice our Spanish, and we all reminisce about adventures in the streets of Seville.
When you study abroad, sometimes you don’t realize just how close you will grow to other students in your program. Sarah, my roommate, became like a sister to me. We shared the goal of diving into a new culture and language wholeheartedly. We kept the language pledge and spoke exclusively Spanish for the semester, even when it was just the two of us. Adhering to that pledge was difficult at first, and frustrating because I knew my communication skills were lacking, but it ended up ensuring improvement and increasing my comfort in the long run.
I knew spending the semester in Spain would be beneficial for me as a Spanish major, but I hadn’t realized how valuable experience in a foreign country, and specifically a non-English speaking country, is to employers.
This summer I landed a job at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, but only by coincidence. I applied for another position there, and because my resume listed that I was fluent in Spanish, it was passed along to the Celebrate Urban Birds (Celebra las Aves Urbanas) team. I’ve spent this summer writing blogs, translating, and doing research with the project, a bilingual effort to bring Citizen Science to under-resourced communities. I know the work I do is important, and I’m thrilled that my study abroad experience helped introduce me to the program.
I know that, as you land on this webpage, you’re probably intrigued by the wealth of opportunities that exist on this campus. I have to say that if there is only one opportunity you pursue on campus, make it studying abroad. I can only offer you my testimony, but there are thousands of other students willing to gush about their experiences. Every program is different but they all prove, time and time again, that it is possible to find a home away from Cornell, sometimes halfway across the world.