How long has it been since I last wrote to you all? A while! I’ve been studying in Spain since the beginning of February. I did a semester abroad in Córdoba, a well-known city in the southern part of Spain. I had an incredible time here. I will most certainly be returning to Spain at some point in my life! I am now back home in the states, where many tasks await me (grad school applications, research, etc.). Instead of taking classes back at my beloved Amherst College, I took four classes at the local university, Universidad de Córdoba (UCO), each one conducted entirely in Spanish. This meant that I definitely improved my Spanish but it also meant that reading and writing took me much more time. Nonetheless: I would relive it and do it all over again.
So, before I dive into Córdoba, what awaits Talk By Victoria? First, I have three podcast episodes that I have yet to release! That will be happening this summer and we’ll wrap up season 2 of the ‘cast! My goal is to have more consistent posting this summer, including ideas for summer service that you can do straight from home, periodically updating you on my life, sharing pictures of horses, and, of course, quotes!
Today, I’m sharing three highlights from my time in Córdoba to give you a look into what I did. If I wrote an entire blog post about all the things I did, experienced, and lived abroad, it would take too long! Let’s start off by talking about what my residential experience looked like. Instead of living in an apartment, I decided to live with a host family. It was an enriching and lovely experience. I lived with a mother and her son that was my age. She had retired and her son worked full-time at a moving business, so I didn’t see him very often; however, I ate all of my meals with the mother. While I did class and my own activities, she would always be busy, whether that meant doing chores around the house, shopping, or doctor’s appointments. We both treasured shopping for clothing, so she took me a few times to an open-air market where people would sell everything and anything. I bought a lot of clothing and shoes during my time in Córdoba. Instead of shopping at the typical H&M (my favorite store!), I opted for the ones in the center of the town, such as Stradivarius, Sfera, and Mango. These are similar to H&M, Banana Republic, Urban Outfitters, and the like. I bought some sunglasses in Stradivarius and my cousins liked them so much that they asked me to buy one for them too!
The Host Family Experience
I took all of my meals at home with my host mom. When I didn’t, it was simply because I had made plans to eat with friends or dine out. This meant that I got to eat all of the traditional Spanish dishes that a typical Spaniard from Córdoba would: paella, flamenquin, rabo de torro, etc. I’m actually going to try to make paella at home soon and my host mom is going to do a video chat with me so that she can teach me how to do it. I’ll keep you all updated as to how that goes for me. I’m excited!
I went to Spain with the objective of honing my Spanish. Despite that I’m a native speaker, I still have grammatical errors from time to time, and since I didn’t use my Spanish in a formal way before, I got to work on all these things abroad. Living with a family made me search for vocabulary that I hadn’t had to use before. For example, I would ask my host mom about cleaning supplies (I did not know how to say the shower faucet in Spanish… is that even how you say it in English? Let me know in the comments below). If she used a colloquial word that I hadn’t heard before, she would explain it to me and very soon, I would start using it myself. For example, I use the word vale now instead of de acuerdo (translation: I agree or okay). I think it frustrates my Latin American family a bit since I’m now introducing a Spanish vocabulary into our already Colombian-Dominican mix. Nonetheless, vale has stuck with me.
I had more non-American friends than I did Americans. On many occasions, students abroad might avoid speaking the new language at hand and opt to stick with people who are from their own country. At UCO, there are tons of international students from every part of the world. Many Europeans study through the program known as Erasmus. Along the hallways of the university, you can hear many a language from Italian to French to English, and for the most part, Spanish.
I took classes where I was either the only international student or one of a few. This meant that whether I wanted to or not, I had to make friends with the Spaniards in the class. It was awesome! I became very close friends with a girl from my philosophy class who’s from Spain, and I also became close with a girl from France! I’m still in contact with both today. Since the girl from France and I were international, we took all the opportunities given to tour the great city of Córdoba. Practically every month, there’s a tradition of some sort. That may be: the patios, las cruzes, semana santa, etc. It’s the perfect location to get a taste of Spanish culture.
I did not meet the king and queen of Spain, however, I did work at the royal stables at Córdoba, a place that’s been around since the 1500s! I had an unpaid internship/volunteered at the stables for about 15 hours a week for fun. Sadly, I was unable to ride or work with the horses for security purposes. Regardless, I worked in the ticket booth and gave people some history about the stables in English and Spanish. It was mostly Spanish, and I got to improve my professional-level Spanish. I can now also speak about horseback riding disciplines in Spanish, which I hadn’t been able to before! It was great practice and I loved seeing the horses.
A little bit of history: The Royal Stables of Córdoba were created in 1567 by Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand. The king wanted to create his own horse breed known as the Andalusian horse. The first Andalusian horse was born right in those stables! Today, the stables are recognized as cultural and tourist spots. They do horse shows in dressage and Spanish discipline. Visitors are allowed to walk in and see the stables during training. If you’re ever in Córdoba, don’t miss it!
I loved my time in Córdoba! I’m so lucky to have gone there and gotten to live as I did. If you have any questions about studying abroad there, feel free to email me or drop a comment below. I’m hoping to also talk about the other places that I’ve visited in Spain and in other countries. Be on the lookout for those soon! Have an awesome week, and we’ll talk soon!
If you all want to see more photos, check out my Instagram! @talkbyvictoria
Return to old watering holes for more than water; friends and dreams are there to meet you-African proverb