Self-evaluation – A day in the life of a Seville study abroad student…

By Julie LaBelle

Julie is studying with API in the Spanish Language and Humanities Program at the University of Seville. Julie is also participating in the API/MatadorU travel writing program. The post below is one of her essays from that project.

View of Seville from atop the Giralda - Lauren Sboto

Monday, 8:30 AM in Sevilla, Spain.

My hand instinctively slams the alarm clock. Usually my most conscious thoughts are the reasons I should stay in bed, but today I actually sit up.

10 AM.

I decide go for a run to explore a different area of Sevilla. The scent of orange blossoms fills the crisp air. The run takes me all over. At one moment, it is the typical metropolis- apartment complexes, local cafeterías, a billboard for sneakers, only 6 Euro (mentally noted). I turn a corner and instead see small houses with more ornate tiles than the royal palace itself and the gold dome of San Juan de Dios hospital.

My interest takes me deeper and deeper into Barrio Nervión. After about an hour, all houses start to look the same. I can’t smell orange blossoms anymore. If there are any gold domes, I don’t notice them. The winding of maze-like streets goes on forever, until at last, my beloved Calle Ramón y Cajal is in sight! Never have I been so happy to hear its daily metal-to-metal screech of construction as I approach my neighborhood.

Blooming Balcony, Seville - Jennifer Hare

11 AM.

I return to the apartment. The silence is refreshing. After groping through the dark hallway to my room, I open the door to feel the breezy sunshine from the open window welcoming me back. As I prepare for the day, I listen to music: I want more than just ok/ more than just ok/ I’m not giving up, giving up/ not giving up now.

It is mid-term week at the University of Sevilla, and today needs to be a serious study day, especially after last week. The week before had been the climax of my progressively lax use of time. After three days of going out every night to Flamenco, Art Exhibit, bars, on top of no exercise, and too many visits to the sweet shop, Thursday morning was like trying to go to class after taking Nyquil (not advisable). I went out that evening with my new Spanish friends. However, I was so tired that I could not focus long enough to participate in the quickly paced conversation.

The next morning over jam and butter toast, my roommate shared with me all about her time with our host family. “Yesterday I was helping Ana and her friends get ready for the party, and they were so cute getting ready! She asked me if I wanted to go food shopping with her one time. That means a lot to me because I usually shop with my mom back home. I told “little Ana” about my plans to study in the park, and she was making fun of me for studying outside! I guess they normally don’t do that here.”

I kept a fixed smile as I listened and nodded, adding the appropriate responses, like “Yeah?”, “Hah!” but all I could think to myself was, “Where the heck have I been? Why didn’t I know there was a party! Little Ana never jokes with me!”

I felt like crap. What ever happened to the goals I had made at the beginning of study abroad?

  • Take school seriously this semester.
  • Spend quality time with my host family.
  • Improve my Spanish.

While my days had been filled with some meaningful things, like volunteering at the nursing home, coffee dates with friends, going to class, they were overfilled, overstuffed, and I had this overwhelming feeling that my life lacked purpose. Saying yes to everything gave me a greater quantity of activities, but not necessarily greater quality experiences. I knew things had to change.

It’s 1:30 PM, and I have the afternoon to complete an assignment and study for my Flamenco exam. After class tonight I hope to come back and watch a little TV with my host mom before hitting the books once more. This is my plan. For the first time in a while, I am going to spend my time intentionally. Like my run, sometimes it just takes getting a little lost to realize that it’s important to go back to where you started.


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