Greetings from Seville, Spain

John Skyler Whitfield – November 2015

Before we dive in to my experience at University of Seville, I’d like to express my gratitude for the kindness, laughs, and time spent over delicious cuisine that I’ve shared with my Spanish family. It has been an absolute pleasure living with Paqui and Alberto; from giving me an all access pass to any and everything in the refrigerator, accommodating my mom during her stay in Seville, and buying my train ticket to Madrid after my debit card was stolen (just a few things among a long list of kind acts), they always go above and beyond to make me feel welcome in their home.
In addition to a great experience with my homestay family, I was lucky enough to have all my university courses in the main campus, known as the ¨Royal Tobacco Factory¨.

Whitfield- Seville SpainBuilt in the early 18th century, converted into an academic building in the 1950s, the University served to complement preexisting marvels in the city (like The Cathedral and Real Alcazar) as well as house machinery for tobacco production which speaks for its expansive, high-ceilinged rooms and grand styling. It’s a special and rare occasion that I come across a campus capable of rivaling the pastoral beauty and classic style of Hampden Sydney College; but the University of Seville is surely one of them. Located in a highly trafficked part of the city, the university doesn’t exactly have the flora fauna of HS-C, but the building itself makes up for it. Reminiscent of a castle or well-ornamented fortress, plastic seems to no longer exist in this this wonderful display of 18th century, industrial architecture. The building is surrounded by a mote, stone walls (adorned with intricate reliefs), and larger than life iron gates. Within the walls of the university, are milky-red, marble floors and staircases, heavenly stained-glass windows, sturdy, hard-wood desks and doors from days of yore, and magnificent enclosed courtyards encasing statues and fountains… I find the list of wonders in this building only limited to ones attention to detail, as every square inch of this building is truly a sight to behold.

 Whitfield-Seville Spain Nov 2015

Whitfield-Seville Spain Nov 2015.jpg #2 As a woodworker, the level of craftsmanship found throughout the University (in all her structural mediums) is as inspiring as it is impressive- which in turn has greatly enhanced my classroom experience and moral here as a student. While my pictures don´t do the university justice, I hope they can at least give a vague idea as to why this building has become such a special place to me.

Greetings from Barcelona, Spain!

Trent Singelton-November 2015

In the thick of it…

Once this week begins, I will have approximately six weeks left in Barcelona. I am both a bit disappointed and excited to see that reality. While I am excited to return to H-SC in the spring, I know it will be difficult to leave Barcelona—a city I now feel comfortable calling my home. I can only hope that the next six weeks go by slowly.

             View from Rooftop Bar-Hotel Majestic  (Sagrada Familia in center)Picture1
My Spanish skills are definitely improving. I definitely benefit from living with a local family—they do not speak English, so I am definitely immersed in the language while at home. The version of Spanish spoken here is called “Castellano.” It is appreciated if you are able to recognize that preference instead of calling the language Spanish. While here, I have had a few dreams in Castellano, which I was excited about because it shows that my skill in the language is growing. It also helps that I am taking three classes here taught solely in Castellano: one culture, one language, and one literature. I hope that by December I have an even stronger grasp on the language and a better understanding of the culture here.

My free time is definitely spent a bit differently here—since I am so close to many other European countries, I have been able to travel a bit. I recently have been to Amsterdam, and I have a tripped planned for Rome in two weeks. It is also great to spend the day walking through the city and finding hidden gyms that Barcelona has to offer. Last weekend I went to the top of Tibidabo, which has an incredibly panoramic view of the city. I feel that my time is best spent exploring the city, since I will not have an opportunity to see the sights I can for a while. One of my favorite places is a small square near my homestay called Plaza del Sol. While it is not large or that impressive architecturally, there are always locals at the various tapas bars or restaurants, and performers and musicians playing for the crowds.

                                              Two  Views from Tibidabo

Picture2

Picture3
I am the only student from Hampden-Sydney in Barcelona, but I have met a few students who know the school. I almost prefer being here alone, because it has forced me to meet new people. There are many amazing and awesome people here—if I was with a group of H-SC students, I am sure I would have a great time, but I feel I would be a bit more limited in the perspectives I would get to see and obviously in the people I would meet. It will be interesting when I return to the Hill in the spring—I am excited to see how my time abroad has changed my perspective.

Greetings from Seville, Spain

John Skyler Whitfield – October 2015

An average day in Seville…

My time in Spain has been like waking up in an Alfred Hitchcock-inspired mini-series; while daily life is overall the same on a grand scale, it has been riddled with perplexing and subtle differences that I continue to stumble upon with each passing day. That said, here’s a few of my most noteworthy/amusing differences I’ve noticed during my time here in southern Spain.

Every day there are colonies of stern looking businessmen buzzing around on mopeds in designer suits. Men of all ages wear pants that are so tight it looks like the denim is trying to eat their legs. Women wear pants just as tight. At the gym, there is no correct place to store weights- people scatter the dumbbells all over the place to add a hide and seek element to one’s routine. Almost every Spanish family keeps a pig leg on a wooden vice in the kitchen from which they carve their daily serving(s) of ham. At the McDonalds there is a “Walk-thru” window, but no drive-thru; they serve beer with any combo and food is ordered via a touch screen.
There’s a tradition known as botellón where the Spanish youth stuff grocery bags full of alcohol and gather in large groups to drink and use the streets as their trashcan.

But I will go back and say that as wild as some of these things seem to me, each of these differences has a more positive if not rational side (except the leggings- those honestly baffle me). The mopeds are better for the environment than trucks, and the hide and seek at the gym reflects the laid back and relaxed nature of southern Spain. The pig leg is an economical buy, as it can provide food for a family up to a month if not more. Beer at McDonalds may not work well in the US with our drive-thru’s, but it works great in Spain and I’d venture to say it’s pretty open-minded. Lastly, the botellón is not only an entertaining event but it creates jobs – as every night, industrial pressure washing vehicles and street sweepers roll through the town, leaving no trace of the prior fiesta.

At the end of the day I think perception of these differences really comes down to attitude- So my advice to future travelers in Spain, would be, “Instead of judging the men in leggings or a pig leg sitting in the kitchen, enjoy everything you can, and remember there’s always a cold beer and a Big-Mac right around the corner!”

Greeting from Barcelona, Spain!

After  Mi Primer Mes

Trent Singleton — October 6, 2015

I have settled in quite nicely here. I really enjoy the family I am living with, and I am able to practice my Spanish frequently. I am still loving the city and the many activities to do and sites to see.

Montserrat

The View from Montjuic

Within the first month I have accomplished a lot: I have climbed Montserrat and Montjuic, been to several beaches, traveled to Munich and Salzburg, and I plan on visiting Paris this weekend and Amsterdam the next. The proximity of the many countries in Europe is both convenient and amazing for me. I am able to see aspects of incredibly different cultures and many new perspectives.

 

Picture3 Montserrat

Montserrat

Luckily, I live relatively close to the center of Barcelona and am relatively close to the IES abroad center. I can probably make it to class in around twenty minutes but some days I will take the metro if I am running a bit behind or simply am feeling a bit lazy. The public transportation is efficient here—much more so than in my hometown of Richmond. I was able to take the metro to Montserrat, which is only an hour away. My trek to class is usually walked at a brisk pace—the city folk here seem to usually be in a hurry. After walking so much here, I have developed a new pet peeve: slow people on the sidewalks. I do whatever I can to avoid them—dodging, slipping and sliding past the slower walkers amid the large crowds of tourists and pedestrians. However, I do enjoy my commute to class; it gives me a chance to take in all of the impressive architecture, and I usually detect the sweet scent of chocolate croissants and other pastries that are freshly made in the local bakeries.

Picture3.jpg  Salzburg Waterfalls

Conner and I at the Waterfalls in Salzburg

I share my living space with my one roommate; the room itself is long and a bit narrow, but it is perfectly suitable for me—it is probably longer than my room in Carpenter X freshman year. While the people hear certainly dress a bit differently—slimmer fitting clothing and a nicer casual dress—I still dress relatively similar to how I do in the United States. Most people wear pants here, and it is simply still too hot for me to wear pants everyday.

The food here is probably one of my favorite aspects of my host culture. Tapas are a popular type of restaurant in which a group usually shares different smaller plates. My favorites are olives, patatas braves or brave potatoes (fried potatoes with a spicy sauce), tortilla española (essentially a thicker, cheese omelet with potatoes), and paella—a traditional rice dish, usually served with seafood or chicken.

The first month here has certainly flown by—I hope the next few go slowly, but I do not expect that to be the case. I was sad to hear about the great tree by Graham Hall—may she rest in peace.

Greetings from Seville, Spain!

John Skyler Whitfield — September 13, 2015

SAM_0183

I was first exposed to basic Spanish in middle school back in 2005. By my junior year in high school, Spanish had become a passion of mine, which has been nourished and enriched in and outside of the classroom to present since I started as a freshman at H-SC in 2011.

While I loved the language and wanted it to be a part of my life, I was never the strongest or most fluent student in the classroom; so in the traditional Tiger-Spirit, I began seeking a radical, hands-on approach to change my circumstance- not just to better myself and achieve my personal goals, but to uphold the academic legacy, passed down to me in good faith, by the great H-SC men who came before me.

When it came time to select a program, I made it my mission to push myself above and beyond my academic comfort zone. I tossed out the idea of a summer program, as I wanted to spend as much time as I possibly could abroad (even if that meant missing Greek Week or H-SC’s football season, two of my most cherished traditions at the Hill). So at this stage I was looking at programs that lasted at least a semester.

Geographically, I knew I wanted to go to Spain… While linguists say that no one dialect of the same tongue is better than the other; many Spaniards consider their Spanish to be the gold standard of the language. Whether that’s true or not, I figured the best way to get a better understanding would be to go there myself and attempt to speak Spanish like a Spaniard.

Looking for semester long programs in Spain with the personal standards I had set for myself (to push my own academic limits and broaden my horizons) in mind, I knew I needed to live in a city. Between life in my quaint home town of Holden Beach, NC and my time at Hampden Sydney, I’d never had the opportunity to live in or understand the culture of an urban environment. The few times I’d ventured out into DC and Richmond, I didn’t feel as well-rounded as I should be when faced with navigating the streets and metro system without GPS.

Once I had laid out my parameters for what I wanted out of a study abroad experience, the most obvious choice was the “JYS in Seville” program sponsored by Sweet Briar College. I viewed this program as a one-stop shop so to make me a stronger student, a more conscious traveler and a better person all around.

I’ve only been in Seville for about a week now but its incredible how much more comfortable I feel speaking the language; not to mention, next time I stop through DC or head up to Bethesda (or any major city), the metro will be a piece of cake if I need to use it.

I am truly blessed to be here, and as the only HSC student on this program, its been wonderful learning amongst the great company of our friends from Sweet Briar.

I want to give a special thanks to: my family, my advisor: Dr. Palmer, Dr. Widdows: H-SC Global Education director, Giulia Witcombe: JYS/SBC program director, Prof. Afatsawo: Spanish Department Chair and all my brothers from Woodberry, H-SC and Theta Chi doing big things back home.

Lastly, I’d like to thank the alumni, extended friends and family of the Hampden Sydney and Sweet Briar College communities that have sacrificed to make these kind of dreams become reality for current students like myself.

 

 

Greetings from Barcelona, Spain!

 

La Vida España — Trent Singleton — September 16, 2015

My short stay in Barcelona so far has been nothing short of amazing. The culture, the architecture, and activities have all been both rewarding and didactic.   Initially, I chose Spain because I was already interested in the Spanish culture. I have taken Spanish since I was a freshmen and high school and after my first class I fell in love with the language. Trying new foods is also something I really enjoy, and I knew that I would love the variety that tapas—essentially Spanish appetizers—would provide. However, the main reason I chose Spain was to achieve fluency in the Spanish language. Immersion within the culture that speaks a different language is, in my opinion, the best way to grasp another language that is native to you.

Trent Singleton

I had a difficult time choosing between Madrid and Barcelona, and despite the urging of some of my professors, I went with two other Hampden-Sydney students’ recommendation to go to Barcelona over Madrid. I now am incredibly glad that I made the decision I did. The architecture here is mostly of gothic influence, and it is without a doubt the most beautiful and complex I have ever seen. Whether it is the impressive cathedral Sagrada Familia designed by Gaudi or the Arc de Triomphe that looms over Passeign Lluís Companys, the structures here are impressive and a sight to behold.

Arc de Triomphe

Arc de Triomphe

 

I am most nervous about communication and actually living in a foreign country for four months. I trust my ability to speak Spanish, but it definitely pales in comparison to the native speakers here. However, I know that my Spanish will get better every day and that is the main purpose for which I am here. My literature class will also be challenging; I have taken one at HSC, but this class seems extremely intense and will require a lot of reading. It will be interesting to see how far outside my comfort zone I am willing to go—four months is a long time. I have been here for only two weeks, but it feels like a lot longer. The time will definitely pass quickly, as I have been told this is the fastest semester one can have in college—time flies, as they say.

Cathedral Sagrada

Cathedral Sagrada

By the time I leave Barcelona, I hope to become fluent in the language and to have a greater understanding and appreciation of the Spanish culture. It would be nice to find my future Spanish wife here, but I am not sure how possible that actually is. I cannot wait to travel throughout Spain and other parts of Europe. Barcelona is a beautiful city and I still have much to see.

Cathedral Sagrada

Cathedral Sagrada

William Imeson (April)

Somehow, this semester is finally coming to a close. I have only ten days left in Spain and I will soon be taking my final exams and packing up all of my things. I must say, back in January it certainly seemed like this day would never come. Although the end of a semester always comes abruptly, this study abroad experience has certainly amplified the feeling. It was seemingly just yesterday that I was stumbling around this Spanish apartment and trying to figure my way around a foreign city.

As far as expectations go, I tried to limit mine so I could come into this study abroad with an open mind. I didn’t want to set all kinds of goals that I would then either have to struggle to meet or just not meet altogether. I know some people who came here already knowing what they would be doing every weekend and where they would be travelling and where everything in the city was. I preferred to let all of that happen around me and see where I ended up. Lazy? Perhaps. But I would say it worked out pretty well for me.

Of course I expected to learn Spanish and meet new people, but that is pretty basic. I ended up travelling to Madrid, Barcelona, Rome, and Florence, and those trips happened basically because I knew some people that were going and decided to hop on board. If anything, I probably set my Spanish expectations too high. I came to Spain hoping to achieve some sort of mastery over the language, and I would say that hasn’t quite happened. I would definitely say I am fluent, but it is still pretty obvious to most people that I am not from Spain when I talk to them. I understand them and they understand me, but just like English there are countless phrases and witticisms that would take more than four months to conquer.

I will miss a number of things from this trip when I return home. Just being able to walk up to a stranger and converse with them in a different language is such a thrill. It really feels like a door to a whole different world has been opened. I was so honored the few times that Spaniards told me my Spanish or my accent was good. It’s not something you can ever really get in a classroom. After my trip to Italy, I was relieved to come back to Spain and a language that I spoke. It turns out that while Italian and Spanish are both romance languages, they aren’t that similar at all. Sure some words sound the same, but if you try to talk to an Italian in Spanish you will probably just receive a blank stare.

The other thing that I will miss is just living in Valencia. I grew up in Harrisonburg, Virginia and then moved to the outskirts of Farmville, Virginia. Valencia is the first big city I have lived in and I really enjoyed the life here. Valencia isn’t so big like Madrid or Barcelona where it takes forever to get around, but it’s not too small either. I don’t feel as though I have run out of things to do or places to go, and I thoroughly enjoy walking and biking around the city. It is a beautiful place that has an old European feel to it and emits a pleasant yellow glow at night. I’m not entirely sure how; I suppose it has something to do with the street lights and architecture. Valencia will always hold a special place in my heart and I highly recommend studying here to anyone who might be interested. Or even if you’re not interested, you should do it anyway.

 

Atop the Duomo in Florence

WI atop Florentine Duomo

 

 

 

 

 

 

Park Guell

WI Park Guell

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Pope in Vatican Square

WI Vatican and the Pope

 

William Duncan (April 28)

I’m extremely glad to be back home in the States. I’m ready to go visit H-SC and see my friends, I’m ready to see my family and be in my own bed. I am going to miss Barcelona like crazy, though. There are many special qualities of that place that are giving me excuses to go back in the future.

What I found that I loved from Barcelona and Europe was the quality of the things there. The food was fresh – you can buy a fresh baguette for 35 cents and have a great, cheap sandwich for 2 days. It’s really easy to keep a very healthy and well-balanced lifestyle there. Breakfasts usually consist of granola or fruit and lunch and dinners are usually light and healthy. Although I am looking forward to digging into some Fishin’ Pig BBQ when I visit H-SC.

Probably my all-time favorite part of the city is that it’s close to both the beautiful Mediterranean Sea and a quaint mountain range. I could go hike up to the top of Parc Güell and then go bring a cooler of beer to the beach all in the same day. Theres usually 2-3 F.C. Barcelona soccer games on every week, so it’s always fun to go to a bar to watch the game or go see it in person.

Duncan Soccer Match

If you’re looking for a more relaxed day, there are plenty of cafes and parks to grab a coffee or sit out and people watch. If you’re lucky, you might just meet someone famous, like the President of F.C. Barcelona, Josep Maria Bartomeu, who frequents the corner café on my street.

Duncan Local Cafe

I’m really going to miss the feeling of always having something to do. One of the major differences of being home and abroad is the feeling to make the most of every day. In Barcelona, I was almost pressured to go see something or do something fun or different since I knew I only had a limited time there. I hope I am able to keep that sense as I am back home. I really feel that I have taken a lot for granted back home and at school. This summer and next year I hope to take advantage of everything in the States.

William Imeson (Valencia, Feb. 23)

I have been in Valencia for a little over a month now and it’s finally beginning to feel almost normal. The initial shock of waking up in the mornings and realizing that I’m halfway around the world has worn off, and now I’ve settled into a fairly standard weekly routine. I have classes from Monday through Thursday, and these three day weekends are fantastic. The UVA center here offers 90-minute Spanish classes twice a week that feel pretty similar to the classes at HSC.

Each morning, I have three options for travel to get to class. I can walk, take the bus, or ride a bike. Valencia has a system called Valenbisi, which allows people with a pass to rent a bike for half an hour. There are over one hundred in the city, so after I bought my pass, I can ride these around Valencia freely as long as I return it before the time expires. This is my main method of transportation. I live about forty walking minutes from the school, but the bike cuts that time in half. I bike to school through Turia River, which is a huge park system that goes through the middle of the city and is one of my favorite places in Valencia. It used to be an actual river, but it kept overflowing and damaging the surrounding area. The city diverted the water and turned the riverbed into a long park, filled with palm trees, grass, and flowers. I live pretty close to Turia and it’s a good short cut to get to school. Turia River has several skate parks, soccer and rugby fields, and is always full of people biking, jogging, and walking.

blog

I live in an apartment in the middle of the city with my host mother and one of her sons, who happens to be my age. It’s actually a pretty large apartment and we have plenty of space. The apartment is long and narrow, and has a nice living room that overlooks the street. Unfortunately, carpeting isn’t big in this country and the floor is easily the coldest tile my bare feet have ever rested on. Luckily, my host mother gifted me a pair of Homer Simpson slippers. The Simpsons are pretty popular here, but it’s a huge shock to the ears to watch it on television and hear the iconic voices dubbed over in Spanish.

I wake up every morning and eat a light breakfast while my host mother packs me a sandwich to take to school. I come back around two o’clock in the afternoon for a larger meal and finish off the day with a big dinner around nine at night. It’s a bit of a strange schedule to me, but it’s not too hard to transition into. Not a single meal passes where I don’t eat an absurd amount of bread. I’d say that my diet here consists mostly of bread and meats, which I don’t have a problem with.

Overall, I’ve had a great first month in Valencia! I look forward to what my next three months will bring!

William Duncan (February, Barcelona)

It already feels like I’ve been in Barcelona much longer than one month. As I’m notoriously bad with directions, I shocked myself with how quickly I learned my way around the city. I didn’t get much practice with using the metro in my home town of Pinehurst, North Carolina. My first time ever on a metro was a week after Christmas in order to pick up my Spanish visa for this trip. Now that I live in a city where my primary source of transportation is the metro, I purchased the T-Jove pass, which is a three-month long pass. At 105 Euros (I never thought that I would think more in Euros than Dollars), it’s much cheaper than getting individual one-month passes, and now I don’t need to worry about running out of uses.

blog

It turns out that I’m in the minority in regards to traveling to Barcelona to study without coming with friends. From what I’ve seen so far, many people will stick mostly to the friend groups that they came with, but just as many people are happy to let you in. I’ve met people from all over the United States here, and they all have very different styles of living. It’s been fun to talk to everybody about their lifestyles at different, and larger, universities (most people enjoy listening to me talk about Hampden-Sydney just as much as I enjoy hearing about their experiences). It has been a great experience for me. I have really gotten to know myself better—I’m learning what types of people I enjoy being around, how I handle new experiences, and how I fit into a huge city. I’ve made some friends who I hope that I can stay in contact with for a long time.

What aids in building friendships quickly is travel. I recently visited Rome, Italy and fell in love with the city. The food there cannot be described justifiably. We all devoured traditional pasta dishes with fresh cheese, we had seafood that was caught that same morning, and of course, we had pizza. We visited Vatican City, which left me speechless. The amount of history and artwork in the Sistine Chapel and in the Vatican Museum could easily take days to get through and to fully appreciate. I’m sure that none of us will forget that trip. Traveling and being in a country even more foreign than Barcelona was such a humbling and bonding experience for our group. In the end, I practically had to be forced on to the plane back to Barcelona and away from all the amazing food.