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Gap Year Abroad

7 posts categorized "Food and Drink"


my city

Sevilla is, how they call, a “pañuelo de papel”. You really can’t go anywhere without seeing someone you know. For me, this was a big change from my big city of Atlanta, to this “big small town” or “pueblo grande” of Sevilla. The small town feel is probably one of my favorite things so far about this city.

Something I was never good at at home was getting out of my house and enjoying the city. Here in Sevilla I feel a bit of a time pressure as my months slowly trickle away. I have tried very hard to get out and about, which has really made Sevilla my own. I’ve made friends with the people who are also studying abroad with CIEE, and we are a pretty big group. Whenever we go out, we cause quite a scene. About 20 American students fitting around a restaurant table or squeezing into a local bar causes a bit of a ruckus (and then of course we all want to pay separately which creates a whole other commotion). We’ve found a bit of a niche in a bar called “Phoenix Pub” which is close to our houses and can accommodate our large numbers.


This is the CIEE group from the Spring Semester!

I’ve also signed up through CIEE or through the school we go to, CLIC, for an “intercombio.” This is a language exchange opportunity where you meet a Spaniard who is practicing their English, and they help you with your Spanish, too! My intercombio has become a close friend and exchanging languages doesn’t even feel like work! We talk about books, politics, our siblings, our dogs…. Whatever suits our fancy!


Gonzalo and I with our friend Seil when we went out for tapas in Plaza Alfalfa

My host sister goes to a school right next to my house, so I asked my host mom if she could talk to the English professor there and maybe I could meet some of the girls my age. Some confusing technological issues later and I was talking with two girls who wanted to hang out with me! I went out with them one Friday night and met more people than I can remember. As I as walking home from school the other day, I ran into three of them who I recognized from that night, and as custom says, I stopped and kissed them on the cheeks and we had a small chat before I headed home for lunch.

Some of the girls that I met and I

Another activity that I have added to my day is a daily visit to the gym. The instructors there are so sweet. The instructor that I go to mostly is Ana. She has a very strong accent from living in the south of Spain. It’s called an “Andaluz” accent. I love it. One time she said to us “vamoa eh-tira” which had little to no significance to me until I thought a little. She said “vamos a estirar” which means ‘we’re going to stretch’. The other girls, Silvia and Virginia, are also sweet and helpful. It’s so nice to go there where they care about you and know your name (and mine is a rather difficult one).

Ana, my friend Elizabeth, and I at the gym for Valentine’s! (She wanted us to look festive)


I feel like I have worked really hard to become a part of the city of Sevilla. I am integrating into the culture and the community. When I see someone I know on the street I instinctively greet them, and as I spend more and more time here, I meet more people and stop even more! I feel like this city is mine now, a part of me, and I’m so lucky to have such a great home.



my city



International Cake

    The patio of Clic is an incubator of friendship, especially on Mondays. Nobody has a completely saturated group of friends and I have yet to encounter someone who does not welcome a new face. Simply smiling and asking where someone is from is all that’s needed to start a conversation. After classes end, it’s easy to find those acquaintances and make plans for lunch. This Monday I went get lunch with a guy from Scotland and another from Norway. Tom, they guy from Scotland had studied in London, then worked in Berlin and is now studying in New York, but in Seville for a week to learn Spanish before he goes on a research trip to Venezuela. Jon, the guy from Norway is on the under 21 rowing team for Norway and was competing in a regatta in Seville later that week. Tom talked about how Berlin in one of his favorite cities in Europe and turns out Jon is an extremely humble world-class athlete. I would be lying if I said I expected either of them to have as interesting of backgrounds as they do. Clic offer us remarkable classes with great teachers, but perhaps its most valuable resource is the inexhaustible supply friends, stories, and foreign perspective found in the other students.

    Last semester I really missed the change of pace that international friends provide. On a semester at sea, I lived on a school ship that lacked any resemblance of diversity. We had a lot in common, but I would rather pick out facets of life that overlap between different cultures, than rattle off continuities between life in San Diego and Miami.

    Sadly the first round of friends I made at Clic said their good byes last night. A group of Australians and a Dutch friend are leaving tomorrow. We met for drinks at the Plaza Mayor and they enjoyed their last look at the skyline of Seville. The sun was symbolically setting on the day and their time in Spain. One of the Australians said a poem that went something like this:

Good byes are not forever.

Goodbyes are not the end.

They simply mean I’ll miss you.

Until we meet again.

    Although it is incredibly cheesy, I thought the poem fit the sarcastically somber mood. Beyond the message of his poem, I tried to focus on the fact that almost simultaneously, new students for the following week would be arriving. I don’t think that new friends can simply fill the place of ones who leave. That way of thinking disregards each person’s individuality. Instead, I think memories of friends will be added up, like layers on a cake. When I leave Seville in April, I’m going to have a lot of cake. 



Pomegranate ❤

My program here in Spain with CIEE not only gives me the opportunity to live in another country; I really get to learn about it, too. We take excursion trips to royal palaces in Sevilla and to the Cathedral and neighborhoods all rich with Andalusian history. (Sevilla is the capital of Andalusia, the southern province of Spain). We also have the wonderful opportunity of travel. Last weekend we went to the town surrounded by the mountain range Sierra Nevada-- Granada.

It. Was. Amazing. Breathtaking. Like a fairytale. I want my house to be in the style of the Carmenes of Albaicín. I want blue ceramics and white walls and beautiful flowers overhanging balconies. I love Granada. The cathedral in the center, the apartment buildings with architectural decorations painted on, the Moroccan marketplace and the Arabian teashop were all incredible. The pomegranates everywhere were so cute and fun! The sunrise over the Sierra Nevada’s was phenomenal. The view of and from the Alhambra was unreal. Not only was it rich in beauty, but also it was rich in culture.

I should explain:

Granada was the last city in Spain occupied by Muslim rule. It was conquered by the Christian rule by Fernando and Isabel in 1492. It was the most important battle for Fernando and Isabel in the final conquest for all of Spain. Each city they conquered was a gem and Granada, the Moorish pearl.

After their conquest of Granada, Muslims (Moriscos) and Jews were allowed to stay under the treaty of Granada and lived in the neighborhood in the mountains, Albaicín. Each house or apartment building is called a Carmen and they follow the rules of architecture of a Muslim palace or even mosque. “Regular on the outside, with all the beauty within.” This is also how Muslims viewed how a person should be: deeper than that of surface beauty. 


(If this is the regular, and the inside is beauty…. The inside must be ridiculous)


Because of their pride in the conquest of Granada, Fernando and Isabel decided to stay there forever, as their final resting ground. They are buried in the Capilla Real alongside their daughter, Juana, their son-in-law, Filipe, and grandson.

When we went inside the Capilla Real, the royal chapel of the Cathedral of Granada, the first thing you notice is the giant iron gate in front of the burial room. The gate is made and shaped by hand with only iron, fire, and hammer.  The gate serves as symbolic protection of the tombs of Fernando and Isabel. When we entered the room, I noticed that there were two separate statues that were distinctly different. They were both of “plataresco” design and incorporated historical, religious, and mythological symbols.

Isabel was one of the first queens in her time to have equal power as her male counterpart. People believed Isabel to be very intelligent and witty. A little joke by the sculptor is that her head is portrayed as weighing heavier than that of Fernando. Perhaps to symbolize intelligence, or self-absorption… no one knows!

In my opinion, Isabel was badass. She was a strong-willed woman who loved to express her power. Let me explain. Granada= pomegranate. In the crest of Spain, the bottom portion is a pomegranate to represent the conquest of Granada. Isabel wore pomegranates even in her crown. The royal crown of Isabel of Spain….has pomegranates on it. The scepter of Spain of Fernando and Isabel… pomegranates on that as well. Girl liked to flaunt her victories.


(Excuse my google image, as the royal chapel did not allow photography).


After we visited the final resting place of Fernando and Isabel, we took a tour through the Moroccan market place and saw the Alhambra from a distance (picture above). Our tour guide told us we would go there the next day, as it is a 5k walk from one end of it to the other! We then went to a teashop where we ordered almond pastries and of course, tea. I had vanilla-orange tea, in honor of the bitter orange of Sevilla. The ambiance was quite relaxing and the tea, delicious. 


Early the next morning we took a bus into the mountains and visited the Alhambra, which originally was the royal palace for the Muslim kings. It was constructed at the beginning of the 13th century. The last Muslim king to live in the palace was Muhammad XII, and in 1492 Isabel and Fernando took over Granada and thus, the Alhambra. Isabel and Fernando conducted restorations, but left the palace in its original design with original architecture. The detail is amazing.


This is a view from one of the windows; you can see the detailed designs about the windows, and of course the beautiful view of the town.  The gardens here were almost as large as the building itself and filled with beautiful flowers, roses, and fountains. I have to go back. 


On the bus ride back to Sevilla, I realized that the thing that I loved most about Granada was not the history and the views, but that it was a vacation. Coming back to Sevilla felt like I was going home. Spain keeps taking me by surprise, and I like it.  


My Sevillano Family

One of the hardest things about the weeks leading up to my flight to Spain was that I did not know who my host family would be and where in the city I would live. We filled out a survey when we applied explaining what we preferred and then our coordinator placed us with a Sevillano family.

 I got really lucky. I have the most understanding, kind, crazy, wonderful family I could have hoped for. When I got the email that I was living with Maria Eugenia, Jesus and Maria Eugenia(8) I was ecstatic. I began thinking back to when I was eight, trying to think of the perfect gifts for my new little sister. It was hard because despite knowing her name and age, I knew nothing about my new family until the day I arrived.

The way I was introduced to my family was quite interesting. I took a taxi to the address and my host mom was waiting for me on the street. “Estás Reilly?” I remember her saying; only no one here can pronounce my name so it was more like “reelly”.

 After we got my giant suitcase up to the fifth floor apartment, I briefly met my host dad in passing as he went to pick up my host sister, Maria Eugenia. I settled in to my room a little bit. This is a picture:

When I finished my room, Jesus came home and I met the energetic bundle of joy that is my host sister. Now, what I forgot about being eight is how absolutely random and crazy you can be. Maria Eu (as we call her) is both of those things. I gave Maria Eu a miniature “American girl doll” as a gift, and some of my favorite candy, sour patch kids. They were perfect. I loved watching her face light up when I gave them to her.

The first day I was very tired and didn’t learn much about my family, but as the first week has passed I have learned a lot about them. My host mom owns a store just downstairs that sells tobacco, paints, frames and other art supplies. She and her sister trade shifts so they can also do household things. My host dad works from the house, and he is also a photographer for Google Startup. He painted most of the artwork in the house and there are tons of photos on the walls of Maria Eugenia and Maria Eu that he took as well. It must be a coincidence that I love art and taking pictures. We will have a lot to talk about in the future!


The first morning my host family got up and left the house before I was awake. I went into the kitchen and found this:

 My host dad was so kind! I had even forgotten that I told him I couldn’t drink milk. I ended up having bread with butter and sugar and a glass of soymilk. It was wonderful!


Another thing that is really awesome about my host family is how much they cook. I’ve tried so many new things; Gazpacho, Paella, Caballa (mackerel), Tortillas de patas, and many other dishes. Both my host dad and mom cook. Jesus is from Valencia, so his paella is the best thing I have ever eaten. I have most of my conversations with my family over meals, so they are very important. I listen a lot when they talk, and Maria Eu talks to me all of the time. She puts on quite the show at the table. 

 Maria Eu, I have decided, is worth the craziness.  She talks about the most random topics, which is really really good for my vocabulary. I’ve learned that the word for bugs is “bichos” and that the word for puzzles is “rompecabezas.” We had a conversation about her sleepwalking turtle and about cooking pigeons at the park so now I know that to sleepwalk is “ser sonámbulo” and pigeons are “palomas.” Despite how much I can pick up on, there are some instances where I can’t follow her thoughts at all. One time she said a whole story and then turned to her mom and said “no entiende un pata” which means, “she doesn’t understand a potato.” I think it’s an idiom that she just made up on the spot, but it was hilarious. 

I also got the opportunity to go rollerblading, “patinar,” for the first time in my life. I wore so much padding: elbows, knees, and even hand/wrist guards. I was not about to get scratched up in my first week. Luckily, I didn’t fall! I had an awesome time racing against Maria Eu, but I always lost because she ended the race whenever she was ahead of me. (:


This is my host sister and me rollerblading at Parque Maria Luisa. I live only about 10minutes walking distance from this beautiful park! 



Practice makes perfect

I really have jumped in, head first, into water that I didn't know the depth of. So. Much. Spanish. The taxi ride home? Spoke in Spanish. My family? Hablamos en español todo tiempo. (We talk in Spanish all the time). The water seems a little deep, but it also is marvelous. Sevilla is the most beautiful city I have ever seen. The buildings are all very old and the architecture is so intricate. I've only been here for two days and I'm already in love. 

The first night we went as a group to a restaurant and had salad, jamón, and pork. Everyone was experiencing similar difficulties and senses of accomplishments with communication. We all had trouble communicating exactly what we wanted to say with our host families, but we got creative with hand gestures and talking around words in order to get our point across. My family is very encouraging. When I don't understand something, my host mom or dad will explain it until I do or even go get the object so that I learn the new word. When I understand a full sentence or idea, I feel very proud of myself. 

The other students on the trip are all nice and welcoming. We have already gone out as a group without a guide trying to get a sense of the city. I went with a friend from Seville yesterday afternoon and got to talk in Spanish and English about the different parts of the center of the city (centro) that I hadn’t really seen yet. That helped a lot because I feel like I know where I am going a little better, so come Monday when I have to walk to class alone, I will know my way.

This is a view of one of the streets I walked on in the center of the city. I told my friend: "please excuse me while I be a tourist," and then took a ton of pictures. 

Being in Spain is amazing in itself, but I’m also very glad that I will be taking grammar and conversation classes. The main reason that I came on this program was to become fluent in Spanish. I really feel like I could use a brush up on grammar tenses. I got some really good advice before I came: just try to talk at the beginning, don’t worry about what tense you use, people will try to understand and get most of what you say, but if you spend all of your time trying to remember the past tense form of a verb, they will get be confused and you don’t get to talk as much. That’s very hard for me. I really want to say each sentence perfectly. Hopefully the mentality of saying the first thing that comes to mind mixed with the classes to go over the grammar forms will create the perfect formula for fluency. 

Well, I’m going to buy a cellphone now so that I don’t get lost in the streets at night! I’m a little nervous about trying to make this purchase in Spanish, but hey it’s another chance to practice!





::Home vs. Here::

I don't want to compare Spain with the United States... but let's be honest. After the "honeymoon" period of studying abroad (the first few weeks where absolutely everything is just soooooo awesome!!!!...) you start to miss the comforts of home. 

So here goes:
  • Coffee Creamer - I can't find this in the grocery store, and putting "leche desdenata" isn't much better than water (skim milk).
  • Clean or spacious bathrooms - All the buildings here are old, and the bathrooms are absolutely TEENY. If you have more than a foot between the toilet and the door, you're lucky. And as a general rule, they're not very clean. Not sure why.
  • Being barefoot - wall-to-wall carpeting? What's that? .... There are no rugs in my house, and my host mom insists that I will get sick if I go barefoot on the cold marble floors. So, slippers and socks all the time.
  • Yoga pants - I haven't seen a single spaniard on the street in sweatpants. Sigh. Oh well, I have college to look forward to! 
  • Peanut butter - I found ONE brand in ONE grocery store... and it's so expensive :( But there is SO much Nutella... so I'll survive until I get home :)
  • I like eating lunch at noon and dinner at 6. Even though I've been here a month and a half, I'm still not used to eating a huge meal at 2:30 and a little dinner at 9.
That said, I love it here. 
  • Sidewalks are wider than the streets - It's so much easier to walk or bike to your destination than to drive! 
  • Sevici - In Sevilla (and many other european cities) the bike exchange initiative took place several years ago. Right now, there are over 2,500 bikes available at over 200 locations all over the city. For €30 a year, you can bike pretty much anywhere, at any time, for free if it's under 30 minutes! THIS IS AWESOME. 
  • Heladerías (ice cream stores!!!) on every corner! - The ice cream/gelato here is fantastic. And with flavors like Venetian Cake (chocolate with vanilla cake and orange pieces) and Stracciatella (vanilla gelato with chocolate shavings), how can you resist?
  • The food. OH MY GOODNESS THE FOOD. Paella, Spanish Tortillas, Chocolate con Churros, to name a few. Everything is delicious! 
  • The history - "antiguidad" - In comparison to the Roman Ruins of Italica (around 3rd century), or even the Cathedral itself (15th century), the US is like a baby. 
... I'm sure that more will be added to the list later!
FUTURE EXCHANGE STUDENTS: Make sure that you read a few articles on homesickness, or read what your study abroad program has written for you about it - just to prepare yourself for the feelings that you will have. It definitely helps to know that pretty much everybody goes through the same cycle of feelings!


::The Other Universal Language: Food::

CLIC (Centro de Lenguas e Intercambio Culturales) is a haven for international students. At one point in time, you can be sure that in CLICs three buildings, a student represents nearly every nationality on the planet.

I am in Aula 3, and my class (as of last week) consisted of Swede, two Koreans, and five Americans. In my five weeks of class, I have been in class with a Swiss, two Italians, a Hungarian, a Scot, a German, and a few other Americans. My friend Ellika (the Swede) had been with us for a month, but today was her last day, so we decided to celebrate by having our own international day.

We came to class and promptly went to the Corte Ingles (the local "everything" store - it's like a mix between a supermarket, Bed Bath and Beyond, and Macys) to buy our ingredients. Our food? Puppy Chow and Kimpab.

Quick Quiz: True/False: It is harder to find ingredients for Puppy Chow than for Kimpab.

For all you non-Koreans, Kimpab is essentially a korean style of sushi, without raw fish, made with seaweed, rice, carrots, cucumber, sesame oil, something that I didn't know the name of, eggs, cheese, tuna, ham, and something else that I didn't recognize. For all you other people (Americans: you should know this!) Puppy chow is a traditional Christmas (or any other time you crave it) snack/dessert, made from Chex Cereal, Peanut Butter, Chocolate, and Powdered Sugar.

Believe it or not... We could not find Chex, Crispix, or anything else that even resembled the little rice waffles. So we substituted bran flakes and some cereal like Mini Wheats. Spaniards (and Europeans in general) don't eat peanut butter (that's what Nutella is for!) so we found exactly one brand of peanut butter in the grocery store. Powdered sugar was another adventure - because the "Azucar Glass" was in a separate section from the regular "Azucar." And the chocolate? We bought a few bars of melting chocolate because chocolate chips don't exist here either.

So the answer to our little quiz? TRUE.

We went up to CLICs kitchen, my American friend Alex turned up the volume some tunes, and we all had a blast preparing our food together. This is one of the things I appreciate the most about my classes here in Spain - even though most of us speak different native languages, we can share and enjoy experiences together because we all speak spanish.

Next to Math, Food seems to be the next universal language. I am now a Kimpab convert, and our Korean friends snagged the Puppy Chow recipe that we converted into Spanish. International day? Success :)

FUTURE STUDY ABROAD STUDENTS: Before coming to Spain, I thought that it would be fun to make some traditional american food for my host family... but I hadn't realized how hard it would be to find the simple ingredients. Dont get me wrong! The grocery stores have nearly everything you want! But if you want to make chocolate chip cookies, bring chocolate chips from the United States. If you want to eat peanut butter, bring some with you. That might seem counter-intuitive, because both of those weigh down your suitcase - but when it's time to return home, you will be glad that you have the extra weight/space in your suitcase. ALSO: While we're on the subject of stuff from home: bring your own razors! They are INCREDIBLY expensive here!

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