As I stood in line waiting to board the plane, I couldn't help but think of how surreal the whole idea of me being a meager student from Belmont, WI flying 4,200 miles to another continent to live and study there for several months would be. On top of that, the whole idea of our world and the societies and cultures we have built is just a phenomenal, unbelievable idea. Shaking off the butterflies as a lady announces it’s our time to board, I proceed to enter the plane and take my seat.
Seven hours, six time zones, five countries flown over, four hours of sleep, three chapters of my book, two glasses of wine, and one movie later, Logan Berseth, another student from UW-Platteville, and I found ourselves entering the London Heathrow Airport with only 30 minutes to get through security, go to another terminal, and board our plane before the doors shut. Fortunately for us, an angel from Global Support was waiting at the gate to help us navigate the airport and get us onto our next flight. Instead of using the security everyone else was using, we went to a separate one that was empty, so me getting searched at security (again) wasn’t AS big of a deal. (You see, in Chicago, they were concerned about the present I had for my Señora since it’s made out of horseshoes…but more on that later). In London, they were concerned about the “aerosol can” in my bag (spray for boat shoes to help make them smell better). Of course, they have to empty the entire contents of the bag while searching for one object. Once that was over, we were taken through an underground passage way only the cool travelers get to take, which helped us bypass all the people above and get straight to our terminal. Upon arrival to our plane, we thanked the lady who saved us from having to have our flights re-routed by getting us to our flight. If only the same could be said for our checked luggage…
Once on the plane, it only took a little bit of time, and we were on our way to Madrid! The flight was pretty mellow: just some more reading and a small siesta. After touching down in Madrid, we had to go to the Information Desk because we weren't given boarding passes in Chicago for our final flight. I was pretty excited to jump into using my Spanish, so I start off “Cuando fuimos en Chicago, sólo recibimos nuestros pases de abordar para…,” at which point the lady cut me off, saying “Buenas tardes. ¿Como estas?” Lesson number one learned: it’s always polite to say hi and make small talk with people, especially when you want help from them. (Apparently it’s not just a Midwest thing…how did I forget my training…I mean manners…) Also at the Information Desk was a young man who looked like an American, spoke broken Spanish, and mentioned Sevilla, so I put 1, 2, and 3 together, not to make 6, but to guess that he’s probably a student also studying in Sevilla. He also looked vaguely familiar, so I thought I potentially had seen him on our school’s Facebook group, so I decided, after we got settled next to an outlet, to search him out and introduce myself. His name is Matt, he’s a junior at Penn State, and he’s going to study broad at the University of Seville, not SAIIE. Oops…but at least I made a new friend!
After chatting with him, I hopped on WiFi and chatted with some people from home quickly before our next flight. I also noticed a bag fall off a luggage tram, and it took a solid 10 minutes for it to get picked up off the ground. Hopefully there was nothing breakable in it! After noticing people going through the gate (they don’t make announcements in Madrid), we packed up our belongings and went and also checked in. We weren't following anyone though…and we kind of took a wrong turn because an airport staff member had left a door open... and we found ourselves with a small group of select people who also took a wrong turn on the runway. Well, a lady noticed us after a couple minutes and instructed us to go back up the stairs and to take the other route down to the bus that was going to shuttle us to our plane. Well, who would’ve thought of that? One bus ride later, we found ourselves on the last leg of our flight to Seville.
After landing in Seville and making our way to baggage claim, Logan sat down next to her carry on and I set my laptop bag down next to her so I could go look for our luggage. After we were 100% sure our luggage was not there, we went to the Luggage Help Center to report it missing. While we were able to make our connecting flight in London, our luggage was not. Fortunately, it was coming in that night on another flight, and they could deliver it the following morning to our homes. After that, we made our way to Hotel Abril, showered and cleaned ourselves up, and, as I went to look something up on my laptop, I realized it wasn’t there…I had left it at the airport in the baggage claim. Freaking out that someone had stolen it, I talked with the hotel front desk lady, who was AMAZING and called at least 15 different numbers to get the correct person on the phone to track down my laptop. FORTUNATELY, la Guardia Civil found it and it was in their custody. After arranging for me to come and pick it up the following morning, we went out for some tapas, sangria, y desierto. Por Dios, ¡estas estaban deliciosísimas! What a great way to end an…interesting…day.
The following morning, I woke up early, messaged a few people back (though they didn’t respond because, while it was 8:00am in Sevilla, it was 1:00am in the Midwest), got ready, and left 40 minutes early to make a 15 minute walk to la Iglesia Santa Cruz to meet up with the SAIIE staff, who were going to take me to the airport with them to get my laptop. Well, somehow I got lost…well, I know how: the streets are confusing, there are no street signs (streets are marked, most of the time, on the sides of the first building at the beginning and end of the street), and I wasn’t paying that close of attention to my map. After 25 minutes of walking and me not being able to find a SINGLE street on the map that I was walking down, I asked a nice lady who was eating some breakfast how to get to la Iglesia Santa Cruz. She pointed out where we were on the map and pointed me in the right direction. At 9:15, I arrived at la Iglesia, 15 minutes after I was supposed to be there, and 8 minutes after the staff had left. Annoyed at myself for getting myself lost, I hopped a cab to the airport, forking out another 22.15€ for a 20 minute cab ride. After much confusion with la Guardia Civil, they finally realized they indeed were in custody of my laptop, it was not in the lost and found, and they were able to process the paperwork so I could take it with me. I also checked, and my luggage had already been delivered to my Señora’s home, aka it beat me there, so I headed back to the school in a cab with another student, enjoying good conversation with the driver along the way. Three flights of stairs later, I found myself at the school, which is in the heart of Sevilla in the old part of town. I got my information packet and took the 20 minute hike to my Señora’s home.
Upon arrival, I met Victor, her grandson, and my two roommates, Nick and Kevin. My Señora, Chari, had stepped out to get some groceries to cook us lunch. She returned shortly thereafter, and I got to know her some as we chatted. She’s a widow and has been hosting students in her home for about 10 years. For anyone who may be worried about my health, she’s also a retired nurse! She’s very kind, a great cook, and told me not to use Usted with her, but tu, because she considers us family and Usted is too formal. I gave her the bullfighter and bull my dad and I had made out of horseshoes (which had caused me grief at airport security checkpoints), which she loved and her daughter, Chari, thought was amazing, very unique, and generous. Chari, my Señora, not her daughter, cooked us lunch, I unpacked, and then it was time for siesta. Boy, I could get used to that! After waking up, my roommate and I made our way to El Corte Inglés to convert my dollars to euros, then we met up with a bunch of the other students for a tour of our neighborhood.
As we walked around the barrio, one thing I noticed is that I could count on two hands how many people I saw who were taller than me, and none of them were Spaniards. I knew I was going to stick out like a sore thumb here! This was also the first time I'd met a bunch of the students too, so everyone was chatting and having a good time. I could tell this is going to be a fun semester.
Toward the end of the tour, my roommate Nick wanted to check out the fútbol stadium that's 15 minutes from our house, and we found out Sevilla was playing a game that night at 10pm against Grenada. We could get tickets for only 15€, so why wouldn't we go?! Every time Sevilla scored a goal, it was like they had won the Super Bowl. The student section was singing songs for at least 3/4 of the game. In the end, Sevilla won the game, 4 to GraNADA! What a great way to end the first couple days!