Abroad in Seville: Living in Nervion

A homestay is an integral experience to truly immersing yourself into a foreign culture, living with a senora and living as the locals.

After one night in the hotel and a day of orientation, we met our senoras and were welcomed into our homestays for the next four months. Crysta and I took a 15 minute taxi ride to Nervion where our homestay is situated. The only things that we knew about our homestay senora were her name, her address and her phone number. As you could imagine we were excited and nervious to see our home and meet our Spanish mother. On a narrow one-way street, the taxi driver unloaded our bags to sit in the street alongside parked cars. After paying I dragged my bags from the street onto the sidewalk before knocking on the door and greeting our senora.

I brought two bags – one that weighed 70 pounds and the other that weighed 50 pounds, both barely passing their weight limits. Immediately when I met Dolores, the first thing she commented on other than how guapa, or beautiful, I am was the size and weight of my bags. Nonetheless I responded to her comment and then immediately changed the subject. First Dolores (who later told me she likes to be called Loli, not senora or Dolores) showed Crysta upstairs where she took her first smaller suitcase and then I helped her with the large suitcase. As I walked up the stairs, Loli warned me to watch out for my head because the ceiling was low in one area on the stairway. Being tall is not a classic characteristic of Spanish people; that was the third thing Loli commented on – my height.

Upstairs Crysta and I found our room that we share with two twin beds, two wardrobes and a table. Size-wise there is plenty of space for both of us to make it feel like we have somewhat separate areas. One twin bed and wardrobe sit at one end of the room and the other set sits at the other side of the room, separated by the table in between. We also have our own bathroom separate from hers, so we don´t have to worry about being disrespectful of her space or using the bathroom when she wants to.

Since I live in the farthest neighborhood from the CC-CS center (I think the second farthest of anyone in the program), figuring out transportation to school was of prime importance. Loli took Crysta and me to aestancos, also called a tabacos, to buy a public transportation card. With this little green card which costs 1.50 euros, the cost of a single metro trip or bus trip is cut in half; a small price to pay for such a large discount! The first method of public transit that I tried was the metro since it seemed the simplest to me and I didn’t have much time to get from my house to the center. Loli walked me to the metro station, but since she had never taken the metro she asked a security guard to show me where to go and how to use the metro. While it was little embarrassing to be shown how to use the metro (which is very similar to the subway in New York and other forms of public transit that I’ve taken before), it was nice to know that Loli cared so deeply about my safety and about providing me with as much help as she possibly could. I took the metro three stops and disembarked at Puerta de Jerez which is situated on la Avenida de la Constitucion. Walking from the metro station to the center was a short 15-minute walk during which I experienced my first real immersion experience on my own, without the large CC-CS group of Americans and without Loli or Crysta by my side.

While many students live close and can easily walk to and from the center, I have to plan how I am going to get home, whether it be by bus, metro, foot or bike. We finished our activities at the center fairly early so Brooke, Sarah and I decided to walk back to Nervion, knowing that we could potentially get lost and not minding at all. Living in a new country is about getting to know the area and the best way to do so is to explore and get lost because that gives you a sense of place. The streets of Seville are very similar to the streets throughout European cities; they don’t intersect perpendicularly and the street names are very difficult to find. The street names are typically located high up on the building that starts the street, however some don’t follow that standard. After walking in circles for an hour and not really knowing where we were on the map every time we looked at it, we decided that it was time to ask for help. We approached a shop clerk and asked her, “Donde estamos?” meaning where are we? We were obviously not from around there at that moment. She showed us on the map where we were and a direct path to get to where we wanted to go. Once back on path – or more likely on path for the first time – we recognized shops and cafes that we had passed before; at one point we were headed in the right direction but just doubted ourselves. A walk that we were told should take 30 minutes in reality took 2 hours and 15 minutes but we didn’t mind it one bit. It’s all about getting a sense of place and a sense of oneself in a new, foreign city.

A student at Lehigh University, I studied abroad in Seville, Spain, during the spring semester of 2012. I posted about my adventures and cultural experiences at SenseSeville. Please note that these posts were written during my time in Spain.

Next I will discuss people I encountered. 

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