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Study abroad

Condensed consejos: Studying in Seville

I recently wrote an article with tips for study-abroad students headed to Seville. Of course, I couldn’t include everything I wanted to say—they asked me for 1,000 words, not 1,000,000—but I tried to be as comprehensive as possible without compromising conciseness.

That said, I’m curious: Do you agree with me?

In the article I highlighted four points:

  1. The accent here is rough.
  2. The climate is anything but tropical.
  3. It’s possible to spend six months here without improving your Spanish.
  4. If you want to study in Seville, stay in Seville.

The way I see it, the first three points are just universal truths: Andalucía is notorious for its accent. The climate here is Mediterranean, but in a place where central heat is sparse, the winter is anything but balmy. And of course, if you spend your semester holed up in expat pubs, you won’t see great gains in your Spanish skills.

But I expect some people might disagree with the fourth point. I have my own travel philosophy as it relates to study abroad, which is that a “semester in Seville” really ought to be a semester in Seville—that is, not a hopscotch game across Europe.

I gained a lot from choosing to spend the majority of my time here, from friendships to a sense of direction. It has everything to do with quantity vs. quality: I opted to get to know one city on a profound level rather than traveling every weekend to see a million places and never knowing much about them. Of course, travel has its virtues—I’m hoping I’ll have a chance next year to finally see some of the places I never visited before. But I’m glad I didn’t make my semester into a 5-month-long RyanAir marathon.

Anyways, there are about 19 million other tidbits I could have included in the article, but hopefully the points I made will help a confused college kid or two. But probably not, because what is study abroad, really, if not a time to drink with other Americans?

But please, pray tell: What other tips would you give to students in Seville? I’m talking about tips we haven’t heard before, something other than, “Take a chance! Befriend a Spaniard!” (that’s a good tip, but you know, easier said than done).

If I’m ever asked to write another article like this, here are my topic pitches:

…I’m not expecting to be asked to write another article.



11 Responses to “Condensed consejos: Studying in Seville”

  1. 1) You may describe the Andaluz accent as ‘rough’, I would describe it as local. Rough sounds pretty patronising to me. It’s also the one that most of latin America speaks with. And while Castilian Spanish may pass exams, speaking Andaluz can give you more credence and doesn’t sound like your Spanish has come out of a text book. I found it hard to do to start with, but now it is water off a duck’s back. I don’t consider my neighbours to be ‘rough’ – but maybe I just don’t think that way any more.

    I don’t have any tips. Integration in Spain is as difficult as anywhere else.
    2) The climate has never been advertised as tropical. If anything, some of the coastal areas can be described as sub-tropical where they have a micro-climate. I have been to Seville in the winter. It is wet and cold 😀 Also remember that Andalucia has the area in Spain with the most rainfall despite the scorching summers. Rather than a tropical or subtropical climate, Spain has a continental climate.

    3) Yes it’s possible to spend years here without improving your Spanish, let alone months. Plenty of brits on the Costa del Sol are living proof of that.

    4) Rather than stay in Seville, I would say live in Seville, but at the very least, get to know Andalucia, no-one can miss Cordoba and Granada, and i would add, visit Madrid.

    Posted by rough seas | November 15, 2011, 1:34 am
    • Hi there, thanks for your thoughts. Interesting that you took my first point as patronizing, I feel badly that it could come off that way; when I say rough, I’m not making any judgments about people. Rather, making a statement about how the accent is (for lack of a better word) very cerrado… it’s the way I’ve heard it described by people from other parts of Spain, and I’d say that it’s fairly accurate. Cut off words, dropping of the s’s. It’s simply a quicker and more challenging accent for a Spanish learner to follow, I think. That said, it’s been an ongoing exercise in my comprehension, and I wouldn’t trade it for the Castilian accent or any other. I’ve never spoken “Castilian Spanish,” as I learned Spanish in the U.S., where the language is taught mostly by instructors that speak a dialect of Spanish from Latin American countries.

      And yes, I doubt any advertisements have proclaimed that Seville is tropical… because it’s not. But as someone who came from smack dab in the middle of the U.S., I always thought of the Mediterranean climate as much more temperate. I’d never been to Europe before, much less Spain, and I didn’t expect such chilly winters, naive as that is. I think other students like myself were equally surprised by the inescapable cold in this city.

      Posted by Lauren | November 15, 2011, 1:45 am
      • Lauren, I guess that’s another cultural thing. Where I come from in the Uk, calling someone/their accent/basically anything about them ‘rough’ is insulting. It’s often mixed up with class stuff too.

        Andaluz Spanish is difficult to pick up I think. I initially learned from cassettes which had lovely perfect Spanish, and then ended up living next to a couple of old local people who epitomise the cerrado thing. But they certainly helped our Spanish along. The benefits of a pueblo where no-one speaks English. But at 20 something – there is no way I would have lived anywhere but in the city. You made the right choice IMO.

        Posted by rough seas | November 16, 2011, 6:44 am
        • Forgot to say, Seville isn’t Mediterranean though is it? It’s inland. On the coast, it is possible to live without heating, and it isn’t too cold. Nothing like northern Europe for example. But, and this is a big but, it is much warmer when you have outside space. Living in a cold flat that doesn’t see the sun can be quit miserable.

          Posted by rough seas | November 16, 2011, 6:49 am
          • Good to know about the cultural difference. In the States if you say “a rough crowd” that could mean either a group of criminals, or an audience that is difficult to entertain. I almost always think of “rough” as “difficult,” but I won’t go calling anybody in the U.K. rough.

            And yes, Seville is Mediterranean (from the ayuntamiento: http://www.sevilla.org/city/weather). I’m also sure of this because it’s what I’m currently teaching my high schoolers; I’m getting a free refresher course in climate and geography.

            Posted by Lauren | November 16, 2011, 9:16 am
  2. I agree about the accent, in that I would find it difficult to learn, but perhaps it’s just that I’m so used to Mario’s acento zamorano? And I don’t think his Spanish sounds too much like it came out of a textbook. Accents are accents, neither good or bad, and I don’t think you were saying that they are (bad/good).

    In the big study abroad cities, it’s so easy to not improve your Spanish. However, as a study abroad students, there’s no way I’d want to live in a little pueblecito either. I mean, it’s rough to live in one of those. Some can do it, but I certainly couldn’t have.

    Anyway, still reading. I’ve been busy since Mario’s been here but I try to catch up at work sometimes. (Oh, the scandal!)

    Posted by Kaley [Y Mucho Más] | November 15, 2011, 9:45 am
    • Amen, Kaley. Totally agree with both your points. As an auxiliar I sometimes think that my Spanish could improve by leaps & bounds if only I were in a small pueblo, but I like what being in a city has to offer.

      And agreed about the accents. Some people in Spain have told me they struggle with my accent for English since it’s not British; fair enough. That’s what they’re used to. Just as I was not used to the accento Andalu when I first got here.

      Posted by Lauren | November 15, 2011, 3:15 pm
  3. I totally understand what you are saying about the climate– before coming to Spain for the first time I had heard the winters were quite mild compared to Massachusetts, and although (technically) they are, I’ve never been colder than in Seville!

    The accent really depends on the person. I don’t find the Andaluz accent too difficult to understand, but some very uneducated people not only have a thick accent but also a limited vocabulary/use difficult or different slang and this is nearly impossible to understand!

    I get your point about staying in Seville but agree that maybe it could be modified to staying in Spain… lots of study abroad students Ryanair hop around Europe and heardly see anything is Andalucia or the rest of Spain. This is a shame! I agree that everyone should spend time in the city they’re studying in but the surroundings are amazing too!!!

    Posted by Lauren (Spanish Sabores) | November 19, 2011, 10:10 am
  4. Hi, everybody, I am Kat, and i am travelling to Spain for 3 weeks in Chrismas time to study spanish. I have to choose between Bilbao y Seville (not many schools are opened for Christmas). THe only thing that is scaring me in Seville – is an accent. I have elementary level of spanish (btw A2-B1), and its difficult to understand people talking fast in the streets, so I am afraid that my 3 weeks stay in Seville wont be as effective if for the whole 3 weeks I will try to understand my host family and people around… If anyone can comment on this or give an advice – it would be just great, Thank you!!!

    Posted by Katie | November 30, 2011, 7:15 am
    • Hi Kat, I haven’t been to Bilbao so I can’t be of much help there. I think since you’re here a relatively short amount of time, you should choose the city that sounds most appealing to you in general. The accent is quick here but it’s not impossible, and the Spanish you’ll be hearing in your classes will likely be very different than the Spanish you hear on the streets (in either city). I’m biased—I think Seville has a lot of charm and a lot to offer, and you could easily stay busy here for three weeks—but I know Bilbao has its merits, too. Enjoy your time in Spain, wherever you decide to go!

      Posted by Lauren | November 30, 2011, 9:29 am
      • Lauren, thank you very much for your response, the problem is both cities “appeal” to me, but now I’am close to choose Bilbao, just because the language course is more intensive there, and language is my first objective… Although it seems to me that Christmas time in Seville should be too great to miss it 🙂

        Posted by Katie | November 30, 2011, 10:11 am

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