Studying abroad has always been something I've looked forward to doing in college. The thought of immersing myself in a completely new culture for several months was an idea that appealed to me and excited me. I decided that if the opportunity presented itself, I would not hesitate to join a study abroad program. As a sociology major at Gettysburg College, I knew that I wanted to experience first hand the social interactions, relationships and behaviors of a different culture in order to see how Spanish culture differs from the culture in the United States.
When the pandemic began, however, I quickly realized that this dream could potentially no longer be a reality. After the CIEE Seville program was canceled for the Fall 2020 semester, I remained optimistic, however, and applied to the same program for the Spring 2021 semester hoping there would be a different result, and, thankfully, there was! I knew that traveling during a pandemic would not be the most ideal situation, with many restrictions put in place in Spain specifically, but I decided to still go to Seville once the program was officially deemed safe and not canceled. I knew that there were opportunities that I would not be able to experience, such as traveling to other countries within Europe on the weekends or trying out some of the popular and recommended establishments that prior people in the program raved about.
Despite the things I knew I would not be able to do, I tried to focus on the things I would be able to do. Although there would be restrictions present such as a 10:00 pm curfew, a maximum of four people at a dining table and restaurants and bars closing at 6:00 pm, I was excited to have a unique experience abroad that other people would never get to have. Some benefits of studying abroad during the pandemic are that I’ve been able to visit extremely touristy locations such as the Royal Alcazar, La Setas and Plaza de España with little to no people present. My program's tour guides went on and on about how crowded the Alcazar typically is and how fortunate we are to be able to gain this perspective of having no distractions or stress from dealing with crowds. While the thought of no travel and being confined to primarily staying in Seville initially scared me, it also gave me the opportunity to really get to know Seville. Instead of feeling like I needed to travel every opportunity I could, I am able to truly enjoy the city and try a multitude of amazing restaurants surrounded by locals. I've also been able to practice my Spanish frequently due to the lack of tourism and English speakers present.
While the pandemic has brought many negative situations into all of our lives one way or another, it has also brought some positives and I have been able to see that throughout the first month of my abroad experience. Studying abroad during a pandemic is something very few people will get to experience and I am very fortunate to have gained this unique, yet, unconventional perspective.
Disclaimer: I always followed the guidelines while abroad, wore a mask everywhere I went and I was tested frequently. This was before the new Omicron variant.
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