Postcard From Spain
By Jennifer Potanka '11, Staff Writer
¡Hola from Sevilla! I’m currently studying in Sevilla, Spain with Sweet Briar College and having an amazing time. I’m living in an apartment with my slightly loco host parents and a housemate from Tufts (my program has quite a few people from the NESCAC and, despite my better judgment, I’ve befriended someone from Williams!). I was incredibly nervous when I set out on this adventure — I had no idea what I was getting myself into. But my housemate, host family and the Spanish lifestyle — the concept of the siesta midday nap seems like it was made for me — have made it so easy to adjust! I only wish I could embrace it more, but now that classes have started, my nap time has been cut short. There is a lot of time spent in class, but there is far less work outside of class.

I arrived in Sevilla with a program of 20 students to shockingly warmer weather. I have my iTouch set to tell me the weather of both Amherst and Sevilla — it’s always nice to see Amherst at 10° and Sevilla at 59°. I am fortunate enough to have arrived in Sevilla during the rainiest winter in six years. We had a bit of sun today for the first time in a very long time, although it was mixed with a little rain as I walked to class. The rain has made it a little difficult to explore the city, but I’ve done my best! It’s a mile-and-a-half walk to school every day, which is a bit longer than the walk from the socials to the Octagon that I always dreaded, but it is made bearable by the beautiful city surroundings.

My Spanish is steadily improving. It is hard to remember all those things you learned in middle school that you never used again until you’re living in your house. I have had to sit at a table and hold up a fork and ask how to say it. I’m slowly learning, but I still call girls boys and still have to sneak in an English word every now and then. Today I almost cancelled a hotel reservation when I was simply trying to ask if I could check in later in the day.

Every Sunday I go to mass at the Sevilla Cathedral, the largest gothic cathedral in the world. There is an incredibly decadent gold altar, and inside the cathedral lies Christopher Columbus’ tomb (or at least part of it because several places claim to hold his body; it has been reported that several of his body parts were taken and replaced with those of others).

The walk to the cathedral at 1 p.m. after a Saturday night is not easy, nor is waking up for class as late as 10 a.m. during the week — the Spanish nightlife is insane! I have left a discoteca at 4 a.m. while Spaniards are still lining up to get in. Because Spaniards so often live with their families, they don’t get together and drink before they go out. As a replacement they botellón, meaning they all sit by the Guadalquivir River and drink in groups before they go out. It is a truly awesome experience because bridge lights and buildings light up the river. When I need a change, it is easy to find bars that are primarily filled with Americans, including “Long Island” where they have a shot, or chupito for every state in the U.S.!

Another one of my favorite parts of the city is Plaza de España in Maria Luisa Park. The beautiful plaza has government buildings and murals of all the different provinces of Spain. There is a moat in the center, which when I first went, was dry, but in a few weeks will be filled with water and rowboats. I can’t wait for the rain to be gone so I can sit and enjoy it even more.

The Alcazar Palace is another place I can’t wait to visit again in sunnier weather. It is in El Centro — the center of town in Sevilla — and I can see into the beautiful gardens from the Sweet Briar office where I take a few classes. The best part of all these places is they are all right next to each other and right by the University. It is a five-minute walk between all of them. My favorite thing to do is simply walk around the city. I’ll occasionally stop in a tapas bar with a few friends or sit by a plaza fountain or in a garden — not something I do every day at Amherst.

I am slowly adjusting to the food here. As someone who doesn’t like fish or most vegetables, coming to Spain was bound to be rough. My family insists that we try every type of fish possible until we learn to like it. I am a big fan of Tortilla de España, which consists of eggs, potatoes and the occasional carrot or pepper. The paella is also a delicious mix of rice, vegetables and meat. As much as I enjoy the dishes, it is nice to have comfort food; we’ve luckily found a TGI Friday’s very close by where I can get my much sought-after boneless buffalo wings!

I’ve just returned from a weekend trip with my program to Granada. I have to say, I am absolutely enamored with the city — I did not want to leave. Standing in the city’s main plaza among palm trees looking at the snowy Sierra Nevada Mountains was truly a spectacle. We went high into the gorgeous city and were then able to see the Alhambra palace light up with the mountains in the background. The Alhambra itself was magical: the walls had the most intricate details everywhere. The skies were a bit overcast. so I am definitely returning to see the palace when it’s sunny in the spring!

We have made other visits to different cities in Spain: Itálica, Carmona, Córdoba and Mérida. My visits have allowed me to see mosques converted into cathedrals, climb to the tops of castles and climb into ancient tombs all in one day. I never imagined I would see so many castles in my life! I attended Carnaval in Cádiz two weeks ago, a huge festival in which people come from all over and dress like Halloween for a giant party in the streets. I was fortunate enough to meet up Ryan Conti ’11 and Dan Pozner ’11 who are studying in Madrid! I hope to see them again in a few weekends when I head to Barcelona with Annie Morrison ’11, Carly Leahy ’11 and Brian Murphy ’11, who will be coming from Florence, and John Howe ’11, who is in Valencia. We’re even going to get a special visit from Cailey Simmons ’11 who is traveling all the way from Amherst to meet us!

As for now, I am planning my spring break trip for Semana Santa, which will include London, Berlin and Amsterdam, returning at the end of the week to see the religious processions throughout the street. For a second spring break, I plan to travel to Italy with some of my family and return for Feria, a giant parade of Flamenco dancing through the streets that is supposed to be one of the most amazing aspects of Sevilla! I’m eagerly awaiting the warm weather and for the rain to disappear so I can lie out by the river, catch a bullfight or sit in gardens to do my homework. But for next weekend, I am off to Prague to check out a part of Europe outside of Spain!

I’m having the time of my life, and I know it is only going to get better!


Issue 16, Submitted 2010-02-24 00:28:36