Monique Martinez - 2013 Program Participant
Monique thoroughly enjoyed her experience in Morocco - she says camel riding is a must-do!
Why did you choose to study abroad?
Coming from a diverse background, I have always been interested in different cultures. From a young age, I have been exposed to travel, because I used to have family in Denmark and we would visit every so often. I think this is what has instilled a sense of curiosity in me.
When I was in high school, I remember a family friend who had just come back from studying abroad from Australia, and had pictures with koalas and kangaroos! I think this is when I realized that I wanted to do this when I was in college.
From what I had heard from other people, studying abroad would give me a new perspective on the world, make me more independent, open-minded, and I would learn a lot about myself. This seemed like something that I wanted to experience, and it fully exceeded my expectations.
What about Spain stood out to you as a marker of a great study abroad destination?
Being from Southern California, I was determined to become a more fluent Spanish speaker. I have been exposed to Spanish in high school, but had never been to Spain and had always wanted to. Italy was another option I was considering; but since I had already visited Italy and wanted to learn Spanish, I chose Spain, and I’m so happy I did.
Granada, Spain was one of CEA’s weekend trip excursions! This photo was taken at the Alhambra - Photo Courtesy of Monique Martinez
Why did you select CEA Study Abroad over other organizations?
An acquaintance referred them to me, and after researching on my own, I found that it did suit what I was looking for in a program. The weekend excursion trips seemed like a very neat experience, as well as the living options they provided.
I think word-of-mouth referrals are important, from the students who have actually experienced the program and city. Program alumni can answer questions about the program and city that maybe someone working for the study abroad program cannot, such as, insight into the classes, and what an average day looks like in your city, which is the route I took when picking Sevilla.
I think the biggest hurdle when finding a program and city for any college student is the price. I found that the larger and more well known cities were more expensive, and the lesser known cities were cheaper. Sevilla was a reasonable price for what I was looking for. I decided that studying abroad in Sevilla with CEA Study Abroad would be a great choice for me based upon what I had heard and researched on my own. It has been one of the best choices in my life, and I learned that you can’t put a price on the experience.
What were your housing arrangements like in Seville? What was the best part?
I know I’m partial to my living situation, but I believe that I chose the best option for myself. I chose to stay at CEA’s Casa de Sevilla, which are unique living situations only offered in certain cities. Casa de Sevilla is an apartment flat in the neighborhoods of Sevilla, and consists of other CEA students. In my case there were eight girls in our Casa, and our Señora, Lola, lived on the floor above us. She would come down and cook lunch and dinner for us.
I loved this aspect of the Casa de Sevilla because Lola only spoke Spanish to us, and introduced us to the Spanish culture and food, something foreign to me before I studied there. She would also do our laundry and clean every so often, which felt pretty luxurious. Lola was the best mom away from home I could’ve asked for, and when I went back to Sevilla for Christmas this year, I made sure to see her!
What was a normal day like as an international student in Spain?
In the morning I would make my own breakfast, usually eggs or yogurt. Spaniards don’t eat a whole lot for breakfast, usually a croissant and coffee. Then on my way to the CEA Global Campus, my roommates and I would grab a coffee from our favorite coffee shop on our street. We got to know the ladies working there pretty well (they thought it was funny we wanted it to-go).
Since Sevilla had a bullring, Plaza de Toros de la Real Maestranza de Caballería de Sevilla, Monique figured she should go to see what it was all about, but one bullfight was enough for her and her roommates. - Photo Courtesy of Monique Martinez
Then, I would go to my Casa for lunch, made by Lola, which was usually a soup, a rice dish, pasta, or chicken, and enjoy a mid-afternoon siesta. Next, I would go back to school until around 2 p.m. Twice a week I would go to a middle school and teach English to teachers after school, and occasionally to their class, which was something a little frightening at first but very rewarding in the end.
After that, I would usually go explore the center of Sevilla with a roommate, since it was very close to our Casa (window-shopping was always a favorite activity, because they have some high-end European fashion stores). In the evenings I would usually run by the river, and others would go to the gym. Dinner was usually around 9 p.m., but many Spaniards eat later, around 10 p.m.
What was the most memorable experience you had while studying abroad?
I think the most memorable experience was the trip I took to Morocco because the culture was very different than anything I had seen before. You always hear about these countries in documentaries, or the travel channel, but actually being there made it so much more real.
What was the biggest challenge you faced abroad?
The first week abroad was the biggest challenge. On the first day of orientation, two of my roommates and I got lost for two hours before we found the CEA Global Campus. All the small side-streets looked the same to us, and once you take one wrong turn it could lead you in the opposite direction. But after that, we learned quickly the correct way to go to ensure we weren’t late again.
Also, for me, the food was something I needed to adapt to. I have always been afraid of trying things when I don’t know the ingredients used, but I soon realized that there were going to be a lot of experiences like this, and I opened my mind to new foods. I am now more eager to try new things!
What advice would you give to other students who are interested in studying abroad in Seville?
Get to know the windy, small, city streets. At first they may all look the same, but it’s easy to navigate once practiced! Also, if you know some Spanish, definitely try to use it, the Sevillanos will appreciate it! You will be amazed at how much you can learn from just practicing everyday, and it can help you in your future!
One of Monique’s favorite views of the city at sunset, from Las Setas - Photo Courtesy of Monique Martinez
What are the top reasons you'd want to go back to Spain?
The people are awesome, they are welcoming and eager to learn about American culture. Also, the architecture is breathtaking and there is so much history throughout the city streets.
What makes Seville such a great place to study abroad?
It’s still very much “real” Spain. Other cities in Spain have become partially Americanized, but I feel that Sevilla gives you a taste of what it really feels like to live like a Spaniard. Also, the people are very friendly, and it feels very safe if you want to go explore alone!
How has your experience studying abroad in Spain impacted your life?
Well, now I have the travel bug, and am actually going on a Euro-trip this summer! Studying abroad has shown me that there are so many great people, places, and cultures in this world, and even though I won’t be able to explore them all, I feel that it’s important to see as much as you can.
Travel allows you to better understand the world, but also gives you a new perspective on yourself.
Would you recommend your CEA Study Abroad program to others?
Yes, absolutely, and I have been! I am most knowledgeable about my own experiences in Sevilla, so I always try to stick to what I know when I talk to prospective study abroad students, but I have heard that other students have had great experiences with CEA Study Abroad in other cities as well.
In my case, the staff was very welcoming at the Global Campus, which is why I feel I adapted so well to life in Sevilla. Also, my Spanish mother was the best mom away from home I could’ve asked for. She was so caring, and made the experience a lot more fun, as well as challenging, in terms of the language barrier.