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Gap Year Abroad

4 posts categorized "Kevin Eve"

03/17/2014

Host Family

            The idea of hosting a student in your home always seemed strange to me. It goes against the American idea of the home. Unlike most of the world, the typical American house is only home a single generation, and the children are only there until they are 18. Most other societies live with three or four generations in the same household. In America, we tend to have older generations living by themselves in retirement homes.

            I couldn’t understand what type of family would open their home up to me for four months. Would they be ultra-low earners and taking me on for the money? Would they have kids? Would they be taking me on because I speak English?

            Since I have gotten to know my host family and heard stories about other host families, I have realized that the proposition of taking on a host student is much more honest than I previously thought. Maybe some of the host families do host students because it helps ease economic strain, or to practice their English. But, their motivations have no negative effect on the housing, care and love that you receive from these families. Perhaps my host family has taken me on because the mother struggles to find consistent work, but I would not know that if it hadn’t come up in conversation. The apartment is adequate, the bathroom is recently remodeled, I get plenty of food and she has never seemed overly concerned about money. I think the real reason families host students is not for the money or the service we might provide, but as a way to keep their lives interesting and to hear about our lives and our country. I think it is a way a traveling when you don’t have the time or money to leave home. The host families get to meet and form bonds with students from literally all over the world.

            I probably wouldn’t have such an optimistic view of host families if my relationship with my host family had not worked out so well. My host mother is a caring mother with a great sense of humor and the ability to never taking anything too seriously. While it has never happened to me, my host mother and her daughter often get into animated disagreements, but I have never seen someone go from shouting match to affectionate so quickly.

            When I leave Seville, as much as I will miss the amazing sights and sounds of this city, I will miss my host family. I will miss the jokes and misunderstandings that have left us laughing. I will miss how comfortable I feel around these people after knowing them for such a short period of time. If you ever find yourself lost and helpless in Seville, make your way to Los Remedios and ask for Carmen, she is a saint and would undoubtedly get you back on your feet. 

02/22/2014

Yesterday I watched the sun go down

The weather is warming up in Seville. Jacket weather is giving way to sweater weather and the sky was cloudless for the first time in what felt like a while. Walking home from classes I could feel the warmth of the sun on my face and I was internally chastising myself for forgetting to switch out my umbrella for sunglasses. The puddle in front of my house that I had jumped over for the last week was almost dry as well.

In celebration, my friends living in the clic residence decided to have drinks on their rooftop patio and watch the sun go down. The residence located the tightly packed buildings of one of the older areas of Seville. Each building is pressed up against the next and only the cobblestone alleyways separate the mismatched hulks from each other. But when viewed from above, the roofs seem more like the creation of an artist than a haphazard combination. It would be the perfect location for an action movie chase scene. The outnumbered protagonist could easily hurdle the low walls, slide over roof tiles to shake his heartless pursuers. In the direction of the setting sun there is a bell tower of an old, cute church that rings the time every half hour. Beyond that is the modern art installation know affectionately as “Las Cetas” to the locals because if its resemblance to giant mushroom growing in between the buildings.

 Conversation jumped between French, Dutch and English but I never felt left out as the only one who did not understand at least a passable amount of the three languages. There were no worries, only laughter. We sat and talked until the sun had dipped below the horizon.

In my life, I have collected a few memories that I recall when I am disillusioned. The memories are of times when I am content in the moment; times when I could hardly find a flaw if I tried. When a fleeting moment is captured at the beak of its beauty. When unnatural perfection of the moment has cleared anxieties about the past or future. When you feel comfortable around new friends for the first time.

Now I have another moment.

  Sunset

02/01/2014

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. 

Sunset

01/21/2014

A Walking City

I am lucky. Unlike most of my fellow gap students, I had the chance to spend two weeks in Seville during the summer before my senior year of high school. When I chose to spend my gap year here, it was not on intuition that Seville might be a city worth studying in, it was with the conviction that Seville is a truly remarkable city.

Street

Seville is steeped in romance and European culture. Ornate 16th century buildings are commonplace and each has a different blend of the Renaissance, Muslim and Gothic influences that define Seville’s past. Throughout the city breathtaking views appear in ordinary places. From the Triana Bridge you can see the gentle curve of the river, the roofs of the old sector and the Cathedral poking out above everything, keeping watch like the city’s grandfather. In the Santa Cruz neighborhood, an archway frames the spires of the Cathedral in a way that accentuates the height and beauty of the monument. The streets nearby meander with off shoots and alleyways that resemble the branches of a tree, breaking off into narrower and narrower passages. A few days ago I thought I had a sufficient grasp of the area to find my way to the CIEE study center. Unfortunately, I lost my bearing and found myself wandering the narrow, never named streets east of the Cathedral. Eventually, the narrow paths deposited me in a secluded plaza. At its center was an ornamented cage like structure I can deduce no explanation for. The cage was surrounded by a small garden of neatly pruned bushes and orange trees. At the edges tall, white painted walls surrounded the square. In my haste and anxiety of the moment, I almost failed to realize the beauty and serenity of my unintended destination. Fortunately, I took a brief respite to enjoy the beauty and vow to return the next day for a better look.

Alley

My favorite part of the trip so far has been walking through Seville. I like the feeling of cobblestones under my feet. I like knowing that the soles of my shoes are smoothing the same stones as the people of Seville from past eras. I like that the people today continue this culture on foot and seem content to leave cars to the grid cities. It is a decision to see and smell the orange blossoms in the spring, to know the streets of the city by heart and admire the cathedral as you walk to work. It is a tradition I appreciate and one that I will savor each day in Seville.

 

 

 

 

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