Cali Opperman - 2013 Program Participant

Murillo Gardens in Santa Cruz, Sevilla, Spain

Exploring the Murillo Gardens in the neighborhood of Santa Cruz in Sevilla

Why did you choose International Studies Abroad (ISA) over other study abroad programs?

I had only heard good things about International Studies Abroad. They also had the best combination of opportunities. I was a Marketing major at the University of Pittsburgh, and ISA offered two schools for studying abroad in Sevilla, one of which was business-focused. The curriculum fit perfectly into my studies.

What advice would you give to other University of Pittsburgh students going to study abroad in Spain?

I would say do not overlook Sevilla. I think many times, traveling or studying abroad, Sevilla gets overlooked as a destination. However, it has become my favorite place in Europe. I also suggest really challenging yourself and trying to learn Spanish. The majority of international students in Sevilla, especially when I went, decided to live with host families, which is an amazing and unique experience. Most host families are welcoming and excited to have an American student living with them for four months, as long as you are respectful. All of my friends stayed with host families and not one had a bad experience.

What was your experience living with a host family like?

When I first arrived in my host mom's apartment, I was very overwhelmed, nervous, and unhappy. She knew no English, and the only Spanish knowledge I had was from high school. But quickly, we got comfortable with each other, communicating as best we could (more as time went on and my Spanish improved). There came a point where my host mom really felt like family (she began inviting me to her family outings, such as her granddaughter’s First Communion). I have already been back to visit my host mom. She invited my Mom and I to come and stay with her; we still keep in touch with the help of Facebook.

Camel riding in Morocco

Riding camels in Morocco

Why was Seville the best place to study abroad in Spain?

Sevilla is the BEST place to study in Spain hands down. Don't get me wrong, I have visited a bunch of cities in Spain and each is beautiful and rich in culture. But Sevilla is on a different level. It is the perfect mix of city and small town. Amongst its busy city streets lie small cobblestone streets. Sevilla is the perfect in-between. You are in a city, but still benefit from the small town charm. Sevilla also has two amazing week-long holidays, Semana Santa and Feria, where the city shuts down and comes together to celebrate.

What was your favorite class you took in Seville?

I honestly enjoyed all my classes. I was able to see in person the things that I learned about in class. For example, in my History of Spanish Art class, we learned about paintings and architecture that the next weekend I got to visit. That being said, my favorite class was Spanish Civilization and Culture. This class taught me so much about the culture and customs of the country I was calling home for the semester. From politics, to geography, to flamenco dance, and bullfighting, it covered all the bases.

How has study abroad impacted your life?

Study abroad has greatly impacted my life. I took a huge leap out of my comfort zone to go to Sevilla. I went knowing one person, lived with a host family, and knew very little Spanish when I first arrived. However, I was able to immerse myself in another culture. This changed the way I see the world, made me willing to try new things, and gave me a passion for exploring. Sometimes, before we really knew our way around, my friend and I would put our maps away and just make turns through the small cobblestone streets that "seemed" right. And every turn, eventually, led to a familiar place.