GoAbroad Interview

Steven Davis - Seville Site Director

Steven Davis - ASA Seville Site Director

Though he grew up in the Midwest, Steven had a love for language, culture, and travel from a young age. He earned his Bachelor’s degree in Spanish and Economics from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst (MA), and went on to earn an M.B.A. and a M.S.I.B. (Master of Science in International Business) from the University of Miami (FL). Steven has lived all around Europe, but finally settled in Seville and has been working there for the last 10 years. Fun fact, Steve is a certified Myers Briggs practitioner!

What is a typical day like for a student on your ASA Seville program?

A typical day in the life of an ASA student in Seville involves waking up in the home of your Spanish family, having a light breakfast (toast, cereal, fruit, tea, juice), and practicing a little Spanish with your Spanish Mom. Then, walking to class typically takes around 10 to 15 minutes. The walk is beautiful, along the streets of Triana and crossing the Guadalquivir River overlooking the Tower of Gold. While students will consider Sevilla their home, there is a large community of international students with whom the classes will be shared. Between classes there may be time to have some coffee with your language exchange partner. After class, you’ll head home for lunch, study for a couple hours, and prepare for a night out where you’ll go have tapas and then dancing with your Spanish and international friends.

April Fair in Seville, Spain

Steven celebrating at the farewell event during the April Fair in Seville in his family’s caseta where they danced, sang, and ate.

How do you help students who are feeling homesick?

To help students when they first arrive, we provide an in-depth orientation that covers such aspects as culture shock and what to do if you feel homesick. We also talk about the U-Curve of culture shock which explains that EVERYONE to some degree experiences culture shock and feels homesick. More often than not, however, students who feel homesick just need someone to talk to. Fortunately, I have a lot of experience talking to students!

What kind of extracurricular activities or excursions do you offer to help your students immerse in the local culture?

Academic Studies Abroad Staff and study abroad students having lunch in Seville, Spain

Steven enjoying an afternoon conversation at one of ASA’s coffee events.

One of the first things we do when students arrive is take them on a walking tour through Seville. Our purpose is to get students oriented to the city as quickly as possible. We show them the local post office, police station, hospital, areas to go shopping, popular places to eat, as well as the city's local monuments. Shortly after arrival, we take students out for coffee to ask how they're doing, and what they been doing locally. Since each student will take advantage of the opportunities to immerse themselves in the culture differently, we oftentimes meet with students individually to coach them on how to integrate into the local culture.  For students interested in meeting locals, we help the meet what are called, “Intercambios” a.k.a. language exchange partners. When a student expresses an interest in a particular sport we help them find areas where they can participate. We also try to help students interested in volunteering with local organizations.

How do you ensure the safety and security of your students?

The safety of our students is by far our highest priority. For this reason we always make sure students are living with families that are experienced in receiving international students. We also place students in safe neighborhoods and within walking distance of their school. We provide a detailed orientation which covers health and safety, making sure that students understand and abide by our behavioral guidelines. Every student has a full and comprehensive medical insurance plan, as well as a cell phone offered by the program with a 24/7 phone number they can call in case of emergency. Most students live within a 15 to 20 minute walk of the local hospital. Furthermore, if  a student feels the need to visit a doctor, we will accompany them regardless of the hour.

Academic Studies Abroad Staff Member and Study Abroad student after a 10k race in Spain

Steven and an ASA student after running a 10k race.

What is the best advice you can give students who are interested in applying to the ASA Seville study abroad program?

The most important factor that will determine the success of your experience abroad is your attitude. If you have a positive attitude then everything else will fall into place. Be willing to try new things, new foods, and adopt new cultural values. It will change you for the better in ways that you won’t be able to easily articulate, and you won’t notice how much you’ve changed until you return home. Our goal at ASA is to help you get the most out of your time abroad, help you through tough times, and be there when you need us most.

What is the most fulfilling aspect of your job with Academic Studies Abroad?

I would have to say that the most fulfilling aspect of my job with ASA is to make what may even appear to be a small contribution to the mindset of our students, and providing the infrastructure for the student to have a positive, safe, and productive experience. When a student finishes our program enthusiastic about the experience they've had, I know we've done a good job.