January 27, 2017

Spain’s rich cultural heritage

¡Hola a todos!

I hope you’re having a fantastic beginning of your spring semester here in Seville. As you might have already noticed, in Spain −especially in the region of Andalusia− there are still traces of all the civilizations that once lived in the peninsula. One of the cultures that had more impact on the south of Spain was the Islamic one. The Iberian Peninsula was almost completely conquered by Moorish Muslim armies from North Africa in the early 8th century, and they remained here until 1492, when the Reconquista was completed and the Catholic Monarchs −Queen Isabella I of Castille and King Ferdinand II of Aragon− expelled the last Muslims living in the sultanate of Granada. All that happened a long time ago but we can still physically see this part of the Spanish history and you, as students of our Spring Program in Seville, have the chance to visit two of the major monuments of that period: the Alcázar in Seville and the Alhambra in Granada.

Real Alcázar de Sevilla

Located right next to the Seville Cathedral, the Alcázar is a beautiful royal palace that serves as an example of the mudéjar style. It was originally built for the Moorish Muslim kings and it’s still used by the Spanish Royal Family as its official residence in Seville. What’s more, in 2015 it became the set for some episodes of the well-known TV series ‘Game of Thrones’. How many rooms of the Alcázar can you recognize in the first episodes of season 5?

Alcazar de Sevilla

Alcazar de Sevilla

Alhambra de Granada

This impressive nazarí palace is located in Granada, the city in which the last Muslims lived before being expelled. Its rooms are richly decorated and its Court of the Lions (in Spanish, patio de los leones) has become one of the landmarks of the city.

Apart from these beautiful palaces, the Islamic period also left an indelible imprint on our language. Some everyday words such as almohada (pillow), aceite (oil), aceituna (olive), café (coffee), or naranja (orange) are derived from Arabic!

Alhambra de Granada

Alhambra de Granada

December 20, 2016

The new you

Granada trip, Fall 2016

Granada trip, Fall 2016

Only a few days left for your new adventure, you are going to live in a different city, miles away from your town. You have to pack all the stuff, because you want everything with you. Now it is time to go to the airport! Just three planes, and here you are. This was you, four months ago.

This experience is coming now to an end, and you are not the same person who arrived here, with all your suitcases and saying ‘adiós’ when you meant to say hello. But this was just the beginning. You used your time travelling around Europe (and even África). You learnt a little bit about Andalucía and our culture. You can now impress your family and friends dancing Flamenco, or at least, trying it.  You learnt Spanish, or how to order things in a bar. You were brave riding a camel, because you wanted your souvenir photo. And the most important thing, you have pictures in the places where Game of Thrones was filmed.

But let’s be serious. This experience abroad has changed you, a lot. Maybe you are not going to realize of that at the beginning, but as time goes by, you will. You are no longer just a USA citizen, you are now a world citizen. In a few weeks you will remember this like a very happy period of your life, but in a few months, you are going to miss it. You will want to feel this in your body again. This is the emotion of living new things and meeting new people in places where you can’t even imagine. You have to live with that, or… you can take a map, point a place and travel again!

I studied abroad in Finland during the 2015-2016 academic year, right before you came to Sevilla, and  I can tell you, this is going to be one of the best things in your life. All the bad memories are going to be eclipsed by all the good you have experienced. Because at the end, you only take the best part and keep it in your heart. And this is why I want to thank you for all this amazing moments, and for letting me relive the experience with you guys in Sevilla!

December 19, 2016

“Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the waaaaaaay”

Winter is coming, we all know that, didn’t you notice the cold? But so it’s Christmas! These days that we spend with our family and friends. The ones who have behaved good will receive many presents, and those who haven’t… too! Christmas is the time when people show all of their kindness and you can notice these feelings in almost everyone. For those who are living in Spain, and especially in Sevilla, there are some facts you should know that we have not in common with you. For example, to begin with, I think you all know who this famous person is:

Papa Noel

Papa Noel

Yeah! It’s Santa Claus. He is supposed to live in Finland during the year, close to Rovaniemi. Here, though, we call him Papá Noel. It would be like “father Noel”, and he is supposed to come every Christmas Eve, after dinner, to our houses, knock our door and leave a few presents. You may be wondering why did I say a few, and that’s because we don’t get our presents on Christmas day! We wait until almost the end of our holiday period, January 6th, the morning when we all wake up and find many presents mainly in the living room. And who has left all these presents? We believe it’s the Three Wise Men (or in Spanish, Los Reyes Magos).

Reyes Magos

Reyes Magos

Their names are Melchor, Gaspar and Baltasar. The last one is supposed to be a person of colour. Most children here go nuts about their arrival during the night of the 5th of January to the 6th. They leave sweets, three glasses of wine, and even water bowls for the thirsty camels! I have been doing it myself for many years…

Besides, the Three Wise Men appear in the Nativity scene. In Spain this is an important thing, and you will see that, apart from the Christmas tree, many families put a nativity scene in their houses (mainly in the hall or the living room). These nativity scenes can be tiny ones (with Mary, Joseph and little Jesus) or incredibly big. You’ll see many fans of this tradition, some people even install fountains or an electricity system for all of the houses of the town of Bethlehem, where baby Jesus was born.

Another fact you should know is that we don’t have Christmas trees farms. And it’s a pity. Most of us have plastic trees (some of them full of dust because they turn old). But, remember, we have cool nativity scenes!

On Christmas holidays, students don’t have classes from around December 20th until January 8th. We celebrate Nochebuena (Christmas Eve) which takes place on December 24th evening, la comida del día de Navidad (big meal at Christmas day), Nochevieja (New Year's Eve) and la Cabalgata de Reyes, that is, a big parade on the evening of January 5th. The Three Wise Men are there (normally they are famous local people in the city, such as the Mayor of the city, dressed up like them) and they toss away many sweets and even give away jamones!

I hope you all enjoy these days our traditions - you’ll see fantastic Christmas decoration and many Christmas markets in the city center. Maybe you’ll want to buy the first figures of the nativity scene to start your own in the US!

October 3, 2016

Why don’t we go there?

Alameda de Hercules

Alameda de Hercules

Everytime we move into a new city we try to look for a place where we can feel comfortable, free. Some people choose a coffee shop, some others a specific bench in a park. Some others, like me, choose an entire neighbourhood. During your stay in Seville you will see many other places, but for me it is particularly the Alameda where I feel that thing I was talking about before.

The Alameda de Hércules is a square in the city center that has never been much famous. However, it has turned into a very interesting place nowadays. Located in the Macarena district, it has become a boheme place where you will find people of all styles and races. You will also notice that is the young people who come here mostly.

It was supposed to be a park, but due to the floods that used to happen, it never grew any grass. So you can only see the cobbled floor with little spaces in between where grass was supposed to grow. There are also many benches all around where people come maybe just to talk or maybe to play an instrument. Besides, you can identify the Alameda because of the four columns located in the square: two at the front and two at the rear. These columns are from the roman period and they were brought in their entirety from an excavation close to the Cathedral. You will also recognize it because it is a green area with poplar trees (which translation, Álamo, gives the name to the place) all along the square.

The place nowadays is full of pubs all around, with affordable prices and lot of concerts too. There is also a cheap cinema with special offers on Wednesdays. At least once a month they organize some markets with different themes, it could be a normal fair, or a handmade products one, or a secondhand clothing. In wintertime, even though it does not snow in Seville, from late December until February you can go there and do some ice skating or have a hot chocolate! So if you ever happen to be in Seville and have nothing to do, you can always come and see what’s happening that day, I’m sure you won’t regret going!

October 22, 2015

Food and Spanish Expressions

Which words would come to your mind if I say ‘Spain’? I guess you’d say ‘flamenco’, ‘warm weather’ or ‘kind people’. But did you say food? I hope you obviously did. Most of the time, these stereotypes hold true especially when speaking about food. The words food and Spain are always together in the same sentence. Let’s say Spain without its gastronomy would be the same as the United States without its peanut butter... Jokes aside, food is an essential part of Spain and its culture. And this is the reason why there are tons of Spanish expressions based upon food.

We do love bread, so here we go with some bread expressions:


  • Ser más bueno que el pan – ‘To be better than bread’

Spanish bread has a good quality and it’s healthy. Therefore, people love bread and eat it a lot. Whenever you decide to eat bread, it’ll be the perfect moment: for breakfast, lunch, merienda (snack in the afternoon), or dinner. Since we love bread, when something or someone is nice or great we say it/he/she is better than bread. English equivalent: ‘to be as good as gold.’

  • Ser pan comido – ‘To be eaten bread’

This expression has its origin in post-war times. Bread, rice, and potatoes were some groceries which were easy to find, but bread was the easiest one to eat. No cook was needed, so when something is really easy it is ‘eaten bread.’ English equivalent: ‘to be a piece of cake.’

  • Más largo que un día sin pan – ‘To be longer than a day without bread’

Can Spanish people imagine a day without bread? Now that you know they eat bread all the time due to its quality and because it is healthy, your answer would be: ‘No, of course not!’ To sum up, a day without bread becomes a really long and tiring day.

Other Spanish expressions related to food:

  • Ser más listo que el hambre – ‘To be more swindler than hunger’

We all know that hunger sharpens your intelligence, so if you are swindler than hunger, you are, let’s say, a con artist. English equivalent: ‘to be as sharp as a needle’ or ‘to be razor sharp.’

  • Estar en el ajo – ‘To be in the garlic’

When you are in the garlic, you know what’s going on and you are involved in not a really kind issue. This is related to the unpleasant flavour of this tuber. English equivalent: ‘to be in the know.’


  • Pedir peras al olmo – ‘To ask the elm tree for pears’

If there is something impossible, that is finding an elm that grows pears. Only ask an elm tree for pears if you want something impossible. Take wood from an elm tree it’s ok, but no pears! English equivalent: ‘you can’t get blood out of a stone.’

olmo peras
These are just some expressions related to food that you can hear everyday in Spain. Do you have food expressions in English with a fun story behind? Share them with us or give us English equivalents and let’s put them into practice!

October 8, 2015

Getting to know more about fall semester’s national holidays

One of the few stereotypes you might have heard about Spain before coming to study abroad to Seville is that people in Spain are always on vacations and never work. This isn’t quite true, although I should say we have 12 paid holiday days, in addition to the legal 22 paid vacation days every worker is allowed to have.

Concerning national holidays, you might already know you’re going to have a long weekend (in Spain we call it puente) this week, but what is it about?

October 12 is the National Day in Spain, also called Día de la Hispanidad or Fiestas del Pilar. It’s also celebrated in other Hispanic countries, as it’s the day Christopher Columbus (or Cristobal Colón, as we call him in Spanish) set foot on the Americas for the first time. To commemorate this day, the King of Spain raises the Spanish National Flag, followed by a military parade in Madrid. In fact, Zaragoza is the place where a big celebration is made out of it, having into account the Virgen del Pilar (Virgin of the Pillar) is their patron saint. However, in the rest of the country, most people show no excitement about this celebration, and use these holidays to travel, visit the family, or just relax.

As well as that, the weekend we’ll spend in Morocco (October 30-November 2) will coincide with another puente (long weekend), since November 1 is the Día de Todos los Santos (All Saints’ Day). This day is just for families to remember their friends and relatives that are already gone. Christian families celebrate this day by going to church and going to the cemetery to put some fresh flowers by their relatives’ graves.

In addition to this, before the Día de Todos los Santos we celebrate Halloween, as you could have imagined. Although we didn’t use to celebrate Halloween some years ago, now is getting more and more popular. It isn’t exactly the same as in the States and there are some big differences regarding customs, decoration, parties, cakes, etc. For example, you dress up as a witch or as a vampire to go to a Halloween-themed party and you won’t find houses and buildings decorated with pumpkins or spider’s web.

And last but not least, before Christmas Holidays, we have two more national days! December 6 is the Día de la Constitución Española, the day our current constitution was enacted back in 1978, right after the 36-year-long Dictadura franquista (Franco’s dictatorship) got to an end. On the other hand, December 8 is the Día de la Inmaculada Concepción, patron saint of the Spanish Marine Corps or just Infantería Española. Since these two dates are so close to each other, there are usually some long holidays. There is a full agenda of events and shows to celebrate all along this puente in Sevilla too, like the seises, the tuna concerts, etc. If you’re wondering what those things are, the seises are a group of ten children who dance and play music in front of the Cathedral. This event only takes place three times all over the year and it goes a long way back to the XVII century. Regarding the tuna concerts, it’s not about the tuna fish making music, but a tuna in Spanish is a musical group composed by university students.

This is all regarding the fall semester’s holidays. If you want to know more about the Spanish and Andalusian holidays during the spring semester, you’ll just have to let us know!

September 24, 2015

Urban groups in Sevilla

After three weeks in Sevilla, UNE students have had the chance to explore the city and start to understand Sevilla’s culture. When it comes to talking about culture and a new place, the very first things that come to your mind are: history, monuments, the local language, art, or food. But what about locals, their appearance, and their lifestyle? Have you realized not everyone looks the same?

Twenty-four hours after their arrival in Sevilla, most of the students had the same opinion about sevillanos: “most people are really stylish”, “they seem to be dressed up all the time”, and - what impact me the most - “we don’t think there are different cultural groups here, everyone looks similar.” Then, it is time to show them some of the several urban groups that can be found in this city full of contrasts.

The first are what we call canis. Canis wear gold (or fake gold jewelry) - the more gold they wear, the better. Nike sneakers and athletic clothes mark their style. They also love baseball caps and piercings. They like to get their cars pimped. If you see them, try not to get into trouble.

The second urban group are the góticos or gothic. They are similar to those in the USA: they wear black clothes and like pale skin. They may also have some piercings.

Sevillanitos make up an interesting group. These are (mostly) men who are really proud of their Spanish/Andalusian origins - that is the reason why they wear clothes with Spanish flags. They love buttoned shirts, polos, and boat shoes. You will distinguish them by their sideburns and their hair covered in gel.

The last urban group are hipsters. Hipster fashion is international. In the city, you will find some places where they love to go. Vintage stores, libraries or art galleries and restaurants are some of their favorites. Beards are a must-have for men, and tattoos are also accepted.

In short, whenever you walk in the city, pay attention to the people and culture around you and you will realize not everybody looks the same.

These are just descriptions, written in a funny way. Please, do not feel offended and enjoy the Spanish life and its people!

September 22, 2015

Stunning Granada

One of the perks of studying abroad is, no doubt, traveling. No matter which city you choose to study in, you will see many others during the most memorable months of your life. Airport, train station, bus station, or ESA trips – that is all you need to travel. Last weekend, UNE students in Sevilla had the opportunity to travel to one of the most charming cities of the southern part of Andalucia: Granada.

Despite the unexpected rain upon arrival and check-in, we had a wonderful time exploring the most pintoresque places of such an enchanting city that was, once, the only Moorish Kingdom during the Spanish Reconquest. And the thing is that Granada’s legacy is full of art, history, and charm.

What you should not miss:

      • Alhambra Palace and Generalife Gardens. What was at one point the palace of the Moorish King is now the most stunning piece of Mudejar Art. Located in the top of a hill, the views from and of the Alhambra are always a memory to keep along with the detailed decoration of its rooms, pillars, doors, windows, and gardens.


    • Albaycin. Opposite to the Alhambra is this neighborhood where the snake-shaped streets takes you back to the Moorish invasion. From the San Nicolas viewpoint you can have wonderful views of the Alhambra at the same time that gypsies play their guitars, sing and dance Flamenco.


  • Tapas. If the Alhambra and the Albaycin are considered historical, Granada also keeps serving tapas as traditional as it used to be. Whenever you go to a tapas bar in Granada, you just need to order a drink – and you will automatically receive a free tapa! This is no doubt such an experience as you never know which tapa you are going to get.


    No doubt, Granada is a must when visiting southern Spain.

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