Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Winding Down

So our program is coming to an end so I have spent most of my time lately trying to finish up work I have put off all semester while traveling around. I am definately getting read to live in my own apartment again, going from living on your own to living with a "family" (in my case a senora) again is not easy. She has gotten upset with us a few times recently for things that were accidents or out of our control completely and I am about ready to leave. It is interesting because in one of her rants about how immature we are she bragged about the fact that her daughter moved out of the house at 28! My roommate and I didn't tell her that we lived alone at home already. It is actually completely normal here to live with your parents until you are at least 30. All of the people at our university that are Spanish are living with their parents and if they're not (a very small percentage) they are living with other students because they actually left their home city to go to school (like I said, very rare).
Well I will try to keep you updated as I travel around after my program, I am leaving Sevilla on May 23rd to go to Greece, Italy, and Switzerland where I will be skydiving!!!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Quick Updates

So I just got back from a weekend in Lagos, Portugal which is basically just a small beach town that fills with tourists during the summer months. The beaches were really nice with cliffs and lots of places to explore or just relax.
However, the big news is that Feria was last week. Feria is a festival in Sevilla where people come from all over to basically just hang out with friends and family and eat and drink for a week. Huge tents are set up in a large open space and companies or families can rent a tent for the week (it's not cheap). With the tent comes a bartender and a cook and they basically spend the week there eating and hanging out with their friends. It is quite an affair seen as no one works and everyone basically just takes the week off to party. Women wear their colorful flamenco dresses and dance the Sevillano which is a local dance and everyone just basically relaxes for a week. There is even a fair on the grounds for the kids, including rides and two ferris wheels.
I have to go now though because I am using my short time on the internet to reserach for a project. More updates soon!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


Barcelona was a lot of fun but I am definitely glad that I decided that study in Sevilla. Although there was a lot to do in Barcelona seen as it was a bigger city, more like Madrid, I think that after a weekend or a week it could get old. We did get the opportunity to see some really nice museums and architecture but the city itself was a lot like other big cities around the world. On the first day we took a bus tour through the city and got to see the different areas, including a park designed by Gaudi which was really interesting. We also went on the first day to the Picasso museum which was different than you would expect. The collection on display was not his usual work but a lot of his earlier work (starting from when he was 15!!). The museum went from room to room with different periods of his life explaining how learned and became the type of artist that he was. It was really interesting to see the progression of his work and to see how he started out mostly copying other famous artists.
On the second day we walked around a lot and visited some of the Gaudi houses. Although we only got to go in one because they were somewhat expensive to get into it was really awesome to get to see his work. We went in the Casa Mila which is probably one of his most famous buildings and was actually designed as an apartment building and is still used partially as apartments today. It was amazing how he had designed the building so that there were no supports in the walls so people could move the walls freely to design the space to their liking. My favorite part of the apartment building was definitely the roof. There were a ton of chimneys but they were all designed so differently that I did not even know they were chimneys until they told us.
That’s all for now, I am currently trying to catch up on all of my work that I have put off. This coming weekend I will be in Valencia, the third biggest city in Spain and then the following weekend will be in Lagos Portugal! Hopefully I can get rid of the cough that I am getting before I continue traveling!

Morocco and Semana Santa.. (a little late)

I wrote this a little over a week ago but have been unable to post it but here is a little bit about my trip to Morocco and Semana Santa...

So I am finally back and starting to recover from a long week of traveling and then acting as tour guide for my family! Morocco was really nice although a completely different experience from Spain and of course from home. Although we stayed mainly in the big cities we did get to go to the desert and ride camels to an oasis where we spent the night. The cities we went to were Robot (the capital), Fez, and them some small towns just as stops along the way. We thought we were going to be disappointed since women really don’t go out of their homes past 8 at night but we got into our hotels (very night hotels) every night and just wanted to eat and go to sleep after long days of traveling. Speaking of food, it was probably one of the highlights of the trip. After being in Spain where vegetables ware rare we go to spend a whole week eating endless buffets of mostly vegetables! Some people had a little trouble with the change in diet but luckily I was not one of them.
As far as the cities go, Fez was definitely the most interesting. The main part of the city is filled with narrow winding streets that if you got lost in you would never find your way out. There are shops everywhere and as soon as the word spreads that there is a tourist group you are flocked with people trying to sell you anything from clothes to tiny leather camels (of course I had to buy some). Luckily we had a really good tour guide to keep us from getting lost and get us from shop to shop where we got to see the leather being dyed, carpets being woven, spices, and silk. Hopefully I will be able to post some pictures of these places because they were really interesting. Probably one of the best parts of the whole shopping experience was trying to pay. Something that started out as twenty euros could be talked down to five or less. Unfortunately for some people they didn’t realize this until the end of the day and ended up paying the original price. Haha.
Although Fez was really nice and full of interesting sites and experiences, like almost being run over by a donkey loaded with things in the narrow streets, my favorite part of the trip was definitely riding the camels and the night in the desert. We got in to the desert on jeeps that raced through the desert at night with their lights off!! After spending the night in a really nice hotel in the middle of nowhere we got up in the morning and rode camels for about two hours to an oasis that was even more isolated. We actually got to the oasis campsite kind of area just in time to climb a huge dune and watch the sunset. We then spent the night in tents under more stars than I have ever seen in my life. We also go to hang out with some Berbers and got to talk to them about living in the desert. Most of them spend their whole life working taking tours into the desert and back (walking the whole time we ride the camels).
After a week of adventures and a lot of time on the bus I returned late Wednesday night only to rise early in the morning and meet up with my parents. I got to spend the next few days showing them around the city and after the first few days trying to avoid the processions for Semana Santa.
Semana Santa was basically what I expected with a lot more people than I had ever imagined. There were multiple floats with parades going through the city at all times and each float had hundreds of people walking with it causing backups all around the city and blocking streets everywhere you went. Although it was interesting to get to the see the huge floats made of gold and portraying a scene from the bible or with a virgin on it they kind of get repetitive after a while. One of the most interesting things was seeing the people that walk with the floats that are dressed in costumes that inspired the costumes of the KKK.
That’s all I have time for now but I am going to Barcelona this coming weekend so I will update again next week and let you know how it went!
Jennifer Olney

Wednesday, April 1, 2009


So I am just starting to get ready for my month of travel and of course I am getting sick. So far nothing too serious, just a little cold, but still inconvenient.
As for the city of Sevilla, time is winding down to the start of Semana Santa. You can see people in the streets daily practicing for the events of the holy week. Whether they are practicing with their band or are practicing carrying a paseo (large wooden statues of various virgins, sometimes made of gold!) everyone is getting ready. My senora that I live with is dreading the week she said because so many people will be here in Sevilla that you will be unable to move.
I, however, am looking forward to Semana Santa which will be going on when I get back from Morocco because my parents will be visiting. I am not sure exactly what we will be doing since the city will be so crowded but I’m sure there will be plenty to see.
As for what I have been up to over the past two weeks I have traveled to Extremadura and Cordoba! Extremadura actually turned out to be one of my favorite trips yet. It is a region of Spain about half way down and on the boarder of Portugal that is mostly countryside with small towns. While we were there we got to sleep in a monastery, tour a castle, and take a ten mile hike through the country side! After that fun but somewhat relaxing weekend we had a free weekend here in Sevilla so my friend and I went to Cordoba which is just a day trip from Sevilla. In Cordoba we toured the old Mesquita (mosque) and got to walk around the city for a little bit.
Overall I am still having fun and am excited about my action packed month coming up!

Sunday, March 15, 2009


So I've been planning some trips so here is a preview of what I will be doing in the upcoming months...
Next weekend I go to Extramadura with my program. It is supposed to be a pretty relaxing trip but I know there is a 10 mile hike included so that should be fun!
The first week in April I head to Morocco for six days, including spending the night in the desert and riding camels!
After Morocco my parents will be here for Semana Santa for a few days and then Easter.
After Semana Santa I go to Barcelona with my program for a long weekend and then hopefully will spend the next week hiking around northern Spain, or at least traveling through northern Spain.
After that it is Feria which is another huge festival in Sevilla and the second half of Feria I will be going to Lagos Portugal!
That's my last trip during my program and afterwards I am flying to Greece and hopefully traveling around through Greece and Italy and maybe skydiving in Switzerland!

Semana Santa

Semana Santa is a huge festival in Spain during holy week (the week before easter) and one of the biggest, maybe the biggest, festival in all of Spain is in Sevilla. It is still a few weeks away and already bleachers are being set up and you can see people praciticing in the streets. Yesterday I walked by a group of men carrying a cage which apparently during Semana Santa will have people in it. I'm not sure exactly what happens for Semana Santa but I will keep you updated!
Here is a link to a video about Semana Santa in spain if you want to check it out!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


The internet here is becoming harder and harder to find unfortunately. Some days it works at school, some days it doesn't and that seems to be the case even for the cafes that are supposed to have internet near my house.
However, here are some updates....
My friend Philip is visiting this week and so my host Senora invited him to eat lunch at our house. She made her favorite Sevillian dish that includes about five different kinds of meat that she cooks in a soup and then serves the soup as the first course and the meat mixed together with bread as the second course. After that we had desert and then of course coffee. It was about a four or five hour meal and it was really fun to get to see Christina (my host mom) play hostess. She has had people over for meals before but we have never been invited because of lack of space at the table.
As for other updates, I had my first round of tests at school which were mid-terms, which in the US would be a big deal but here they do'nt really count for much and they are not really even that hard, thank goodness.
My internet seems to be going but I will post again soon!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Culture and Futbol

Since this blog is supposed to be about cultural observations I have made I figure it is about time I talk about some cultural aspects of Sevilla. I am taking a Spanish Civilization and Culture class and today we learned about the different Arab and Roman influences in Spain. One thing we learned about was the different types of city structures the two groups used, which was really interesting because the Arabs city planning was described as having narrow winding roads which is exactly how Sevilla, at least the part that I live in (the older part) is designed. The roads here are so narrow that at times I have thought I was walking in an alley way or on a sidewalk until a car comes squeezing it's way through and I have to flatten myself against the wall to let it by.

Another cultural aspect of Spain that I have to mention of course is futbol (or soccer). Today is the big England vs. Spain game and apparently the English futbol magazine told the fans that the best bars are right by the cathedral (aka right by my apartment). So, as we were walking today we got to see the majority of the 4,000 English fans that are supposed to be coming to the city today. They had hung their flags between trees and were singing their songs back and forth to eachother. I have to say it looked like fun!

Monday, February 9, 2009

La Vida Espanola

Sorry about the lack of updates but getting internet is getting to be a chore here. I also haven't really been doing anything too exciting, just going to school and exploring the city, not a bad life. A normal weekday here consists of getting up around 9 and making a small breakfast (the only meal that isn't a big deal here) and then going to classes until around 2 when I return home for lunch, which usually is not served until closer to 3. After lunch which is usually pretty big and many times consists of a ham or sausage or beans of some sort (those seem to be very popular foods here) we usually take a short siesta or head out to explore the city. Most days we will walk for two hours or more without even noticing the time. I usually like to stop during the walk and get a cafe con leche or helado to take a break. I think my roommate Jill gets annoyed because I make her walk through every pasteria we pass because the pastries and ice cream look so good! After our walk we usually come home and work on homework or read for a little bit while we wait for our Senora to come home and cook dinner, usually around 9:30 but sometimes as late as 11! After dinner we sometimes go for another walk and meet up with friends to go to a flamenco bar near us or just to get tapas or something. Coming in before 1 is early and our Senora will always ask us what we are doing home so early! haha.
This weekend we got to explore a huge market in Sevilla. It is basically a flee market but huge, we walked around for two hours and still did not see the whole thing! Sevilla is also a very interesting place to be right now becuase they are starting to pick the oranges that are in the 30,000 trees around the city. We walked by a tree in the process today and one man was in the tree shaking it while three other men directed traffic and covered cars underneath. It didn't seem to both the locals that there were oranges falling on them and on their cars. However, the Japanese tourists has the cameras our the capture the event.
Other than that though nothing too exciting to report. I will hopefully be able to get on sometime soon and post again and hopefully get up some more pictures!

Friday, January 30, 2009


So we woke up at 7 am this morning to walk to the meeting place to leave for Granada and I am now exausted. Granada is a few hours away from Sevilla on bus and is actually in between two mountain ranges. Driving up to the city you could see snow covered mountains all around, it's too bad we don't have time to ski. Granada is a pretty big city, bigger than I was expecting, kind of like Sevilla, but it had a much larger arab influence. Most of the stores on the sides of the streets have stores with cheap arab looking clothing and sourveniers. It is interesting to see the small differences in the different cities across southern Spain.
I am going to take a siesta now but I will update more on Granada soon and hopefully will post some pictures to photobucket.com!

Thursday, January 29, 2009


Only a few but I will keep adding more!
Just click on the picture and it should take you to my photobucket!
I'm not sure how they are organized yet so it may be a few days before I figure it out...

Classes y Viajes...

Monday I started classes with a schedule that was not exactly (more like not at all) what I had signed up for. Luckily, after visiting a few classes and completely dropping a few I think I almost have a schedule! I am taking an international marketing class in english with a professor who has traveled all over and just seems to be a really interesting energetic person. I will probably also be taking international buisness with him because the class I really wanted to take on programs to fight poverty in the EU is really advanced spanish and when I went today I did not understand very much at all. Other than that I am still trying to get into a spanish conversation class which is really exciting and will help me a lot, and I am taking a spanish civilization and culture class which is english for now but I may try to switch to spanish! However, classes are by far the most boring thing here sooo.. moving on to more exicting things!
There is a program in Sevilla that is specifically for study abroad students who want to travel so we went there yesterday and are going to sign up for a 6 day trip to Morocco which includes visiting big cities and a camel ride into the desert where we sleep in an oasis! We are also going to Gibralter for a day and playing with monkeys! We are all really excited about the trips, and in addition to those we still have trips that came with our program. Tommorrow we head to Granada for the weekend. I'll have to let you know when I get back what is there because I have no idea right now.
Pictures are coming soon and hopefully some more updates!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


I have spent the past few days catching up on sleep and exploring the city of Sevilla. Yesterday we got to tour the school we will be attending, which is actually right outside of the city so we have about a 30 min bus ride to the campus. The school is relatively new and pretty small but growing every year they said.
After the tour of the campus we came back to the city and got to tour the famous cathedral that is in Sevilla. It is the largest gothic cathedral in the world and the third largest cathedral. I have to admit I wasn’t extremely excited about seeing another cathedral but it was pretty impressive and getting to climb the bell tower had some great views of the city. The tower is actually one of the only ones built that doesn’t have stairs going up. Instead it has ramps and people used to right horses up. Unfortunately there are no horses to ride anymore so we had to walk up what started as some really steep inclines, but they got less steep as they got to the top because the horses would get tired.
Today we woke up early and toured the Royal Palace and Gardens which were really amazing. I have a ton of pictures so hopefully they will be up soon!
I think I have forgot to mention in my earlier posts but there are orange trees literally all of Sevilla and today I learned that there 30,000 in total and that they are going to pick them all soon for marmalade! It will be sad to see them all go!
Although I am still getting used to the culture and the food things I am starting to adapt and hopefully soon my Spanish skills will follow! I am hoping to be able to put a link to my pictures and some of my friends pictures soon because I don’t have a fast enough connection to actually upload pictures to this blog.

Saturday, January 24, 2009


I have been in Sevilla now for a few days and have met my host family who is a 56 year old lady who lives by herself. The good news is that I am in the Santa Cruz barrio which is one of the nicest neighborhoods in Sevilla. The bad news is that my mother does not speak any english and she talks really fast. This probably won't be a problem in the future but for now it is kind of inconvenient, especially when it comes to meals. So far the food has been the biggest problem. We really haven't had anything that obscure but she somehow manages to make even the most mundane meals into something that we have to force ourselves to eat. Even salad has so much salt on it that I can barely finish. The other problem is that she thinks we are too skinny so she gives us enormous portions and then thinks we don't like it when we don't finish. Other than that though everything is going well. Yesterday we took a bike tour of the city which was nice. Sevilla is actually pretty big, bigger than I expected at least.
Today we walked around our neighborhood and bought some hangers and I bought some cherries that I found that looked really good but of course were really expensive. Later I think we are going to do a little shopping at the big shopping area in town and then hopefully we can find something very Spanish to do tonight.
I will try to upload some pictures but the connection here is not very strong so I am not sure if I will be able. Hopefully I will create an album on another site soon and can put a link on here.

Oh I forgot.. for my cultural observation today we saw a vending machine on the street today that had cans of beer in it. Muy interesante.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Moving on..

Today was our last day in Madrid and tommorrow we head to Sevilla! We did get to visit El Escorial today which was interesting but it was cold and windy so I really just wanted to come home and curl up in bed. I am really excited about going to Sevilla tommorrow and meeting my host mother! I'll let you know how it goes. I am not sure if I will have internet at my house in Sevilla so I may not be able to post as often but I will try and I should have some pictures up soon!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Adventures in Madrid...

Today was a pretty laid back day without many planned activities, which was nice. We went to the Prado museum in the morning which was interesting but way to big to completely enjoy everything.
After the museum we came back to the hotel for my personal favorite part of the Spanish culture so far, siestas. I am definately going to have to bring this tradition back to the states with me and strictly enforce it in my apartment.
After a lovely siesta my roommates and I watched the inauguration and then went for a walk around town, attempting to speak in Spanish which was probably extremely amusing to anyone who overheard. I also attempted to go to a pharmacy and get some medicine for a sinus problem I'm having which was an adventure in itself. Suprisingly I could read many of the labels and some of the medicines were similar to things in the US so I would recognize them by their packaging or labels.
The highlight of the day today was definately dinner which was a HUGE improvement over the eleven course meal we had last night, all of which were less than appetizing. However, tonight we went to a Spanish pub looking place and I had ostrich for the first time which was suprisingly delicious! Hopefully the food situation will continue to improve! More to come soon...

Monday, January 19, 2009

The arrival...

I’m in Spain! After two flights, one to Philadelphia and then another to Madrid, I am officially in Spain. So far everything has been a breeze, although I have not gotten much accomplished since my arrival. My plane got in about thirty minutes late at 11am Spanish time and about 5am US time. Luckily I was able to sleep almost the entire time on both flights. When we got to the airport I found both of my bags (yay!) and then went with the other students in my program that I had met on my flight and found our leaders. We only waited about 20 minutes for a few other students and then we all went out to our bus that took us through Madrid and to our hotel where my roommates and I have been sleeping ever since. I have only had one mishap so far and that was leaving my backpack on the bus but it turned out to not be a big deal because our leaders were taking that same bus back to the airport to get another group.
We have a group meeting tonight and then take a short walk before dinner! More updates soon…