Semester in Spain by Sarah

There are currently a number of Dordt students studying abroad this semester in Spain! One of them is my friend Sarah Van Hulzen, a fellow education major that I've had the privilege of getting to know a bit over this past year and a half! I contacted Sarah recently and asked her to compose a blog for me to use for The Dordt Life. Graciously, she accepted and wrote up this beautiful piece. Please take a read!

Sevilla, Spain. Where do I even start? I’ve thought about sharing all of the highlights of my semester so far. Really wow you. Make you think I am living this grand life full of nonstop adventure. But while I have had some incredible adventures, the majority of my time here has been day to day living. Some good days, and some bad. I was reminded by a friend that study abroad is ‘wonderful and transformative, but it’s also normal living’. And I’ve found a beauty and a freedom in accepting each day as a miracle, whether I’m traversing through Europe, staying in sketchy hostels and hiking mountains, or sleeping in, eating too much Nutella, and lounging in my pajamas until supper time. So without further ado, I’ve decided to take you through two typical days here in Sevilla.

A typical day in the life…

I wake up at 7:15 to Elevation Worship and the sun shining through the white curtains. My roommate is reading her Bible. I walk to the bathroom, passing through the kitchen. The smell of coffee stirs me awake little by little. I’m greeted by Maria, the gem of a woman who helps around the house. “Buenos días, hija” she chimes. Three simple words and I’m reminded that I am in Spain. Shoot dang, I feel blessed. I get ready for the day, drinking a cup of coffee and eating a bowl of cereal while reading the Word before heading out of the apartment with my roommate, Bailey. Our walk to school takes a half hour, but when the sun is shining and the streets are full of people walking their pups, the walk is an absolute delight. We smile at the same man we see each morning who stands on the street corner selling tissues, we pass Mr. Pizza, our favorite spot to get giant slices of pizza for 2 euros, and we arrive at Plaza de Cuba. Crossing the bridge that takes us to the center of town, I look out over the river and see the morning sun glistening on the slow moving water. It’s 8:40 and several people are already out rowing on the river. The rest of the walk to school is down the main street of Sevilla. The city is awake a bustling. Horse and carriages are parked out front the towering cathedral, waiting for their next customers. Restaurants and bars are opening their doors and setting out tables in chairs. Baily and I leave the bustle of downtown and turn onto a side street that leads to the school.

Upon arriving at school, Ana greets us at the front desk. The school is full of students from several different universities. Although there are 14 colleges represented in the program, everyone chats with one another. Even with 40 students that didn’t know each other 3 months before, the atmosphere of the school is warm and welcoming. At 9, class starts. My lovely teacher, Carolina smiles as she walks in to find all 7 of her students ready for the day. “Hola clase! Cómo estáis?” The next three and a half hours are spent with some of my favorite people as we try to grasp new grammar concepts and speak Spanish with one another. I can honestly say that my class here is one of my favorite classes I’ve ever had in my life. We talk in the best Spanish we can muster, we are all patient with one another, Carolina makes class fun, we laugh until our abs hurt, and we learn applicable Spanish that we get to use in and out of the classroom. During our 20 minute break, we go to either a coffee shop or a pastry shop, justifying our eating habits with the fact that we walk at least 20 minutes to and from school every day.

After class is over, I head to the roof of the school to start homework and play guitar. The warm sun and gentle breeze makes my soul happy. I’m often joined by other students, some chatting, some reading, some drawing. An hour on the roof looking out over the city makes one never want to leave Sevilla. I walk home for lunch at 2. The walk home is just as interesting as the walk to school. The streets are full of people performing, singers, dancers, and artists. I pass George, a singer from Romania who sings covers of Ed Sheeran, Hozier, and Ben Howard. When I have time, I pick out a tune while he takes a break.

Once I get home, I sit down with my host mom, host sister, and Bailey. We eat a typical meal of croquetas, lentil soup, and bread. We have pleasant conversation and laugh about the day while we sit on comfy couches with the table cloth pulled over our legs and a space heater on under the table. After a dessert of either yogurt or fruit, we sobremesa (time after a meal to talk) for at least an hour. With a full stomach and a tired brain from a morning of Spanish, my bed is calling my name. Siesta time has finally arrived, and man it is oh so sweet. An hour of sleep in the middle of the day has become a guilty pleasure.

After siesta, I make my way back downtown to meet with a friend I met at church. We go out for ice cream and chat in Spanish about our week. We mosey through town, bopping in and out of stores laughing as we hold up ridiculous clothes we’d never wear, or comforting each other when we want that sweater but we don’t have any money (a consequence of too many ice cream dates). After bidding my friend ‘adios’, I spend the last bits of sunlight by the river. I’m found once again with guitar in hand and Bible beside me feeling overwhelmed by this crazy awesome life and my crazy awesome God.

I return home for supper at 9. A wonderful meal leads to an hour of homework. From there I crawl back into my bed, unmade from my siesta yet comfy as ever. My roommate and I write something on our gratitude list from the day and I go to sleep with a smile on my face.

Another very typical day in Sevilla…

I crawl out of my bed at 8:15. I’m supposed to leave the apartment at 8:30. It’s another rainy day. I throw on a flannel and grab a piece of fruit on my way out the door. I speed walk to school and plop down in my chair as class is starting. I pull out my half-finished homework and struggle to grasp what my teacher is saying. I can barely stammer out a sentence in Spanish. During our break, I realize I forgot money for coffee. After class is over, I walk out into the streets and am met by a downpour of rain. I forgot my umbrella so I walk home getting drenched. At home, my host mom has to repeat everything she says at least 3 times for me to understand what she is saying. After lunch I crawl to my bed and end up sleeping an hour longer than I wanted to. I try to do homework, but can’t seem to focus. The rain has let up, so I go for a run. 10 minutes later, I realize I need to stop making so many stops to Mr. Pizza and a pastry a day might be good for the soul, but it is bad for my heart. I shower, watch a show on Netflix, eat supper, and head to bed. I spent the day just trying to survive. I miss home and wonder what I’m doing in this foreign land and if I’ll ever actually learn the language.

These are two typical days in Spain. While one is obviously better than the other, I have come to appreciate both. Each day is different, some hard, some easier. Some wonderful, some quite difficult. I find myself struggling to control my emotions. Some days I stay positive and go through the day with gratitude and other days I feel overwhelming sad and lonely. But on both days, God remains the same. God reminds me that even though I’m human, and unstable, and emotional, He is always the same. He is my rock. He is constant. So whether I am speaking perfect Spanish, or struggling to order a smoothie, whether I am in love with Sevilla or hopelessly missing home, God reminds me that He is my home and He is guiding me through it all. On my good days and on my bad, He is molding me and He is shaping me. And for this I am so so thankful. So to any of you considering study abroad, I won’t sugar coat it. It is difficult sometimes, but it is worth it. It is transformative. From the good days to the bad, the wild adventures to the daily schedules, God will use it all to reveal Himself and help you grow in faith and wisdom.

As you can probably tell by her words, Sarah is such a neat gal. I so admire her honesty, and the way she finds God and can see him working in all situations. On the right are a collection of her photos she shared with me! Hope you enjoyed. :)