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!

May 11, 2015

Sarah Hoover: “Seville is more similar to western culture than I had anticipated”

I study Sociology with a concentration in Applied Social and Cultural Studies. I’m originally from Wilmington, Delaware (the proud home of Vice President Joe Biden), right outside of Philadelphia.


Seville is more similar to western culture than I had anticipated, and I live a very comfortable life in Spain. The weather is always sunny, the people are friendly and the food is amazing. Now that it’s spring, all of the beautiful orange trees are blooming and the whole city smells like orange blossoms.

My host mother, Gumersinda is one of the sweetest ladies I’ve ever met and treats me just like her daughter. She takes care of me when I’m sick and scolds me when I don’t wear enough layers outside! It’s great staying with a host family because I’m learning Spanish so quickly and get to talk to Gumersinda about her family and her daily life.

Plaza de Espana Edit

Sevilla is a very traditional city and Sevillano’s take pride in their heritage, so I love learning about the culture of Andalucia, such as the flamenco dancing, bull fighting, or cooking. We had a cooking class with ESA a few weeks ago and learned how to make Paella, which is my new favorite food!

University of New England: similarities and differences in comparison with UPO

UNE is a small, private university which is a lot different than UPO. Pablo de Olavide does a great job in taking care of their international students, such as planning excursions like hiking trips to Cortegana, tours of a local olive oil factory or trips to the movies. They also set up language tables during the week where you can practice your Spanish, and have a strong intercambio program so the American and Spanish students can meet and talk together. UNE is also devoted to helping us make the most of our college experience, so it’s nice feeling taken care of in both countries.

Why Sevilla, Spain

I’ve always had a love for travelling, and I’ve known I wanted to study abroad since I was in 9th grade. One of my main goals right now is to be fluent in Spanish, and when I found out we had a program with our school to go to Sevilla, it seemed perfect. Shortly after coming here, I fell in love with this great city and its people, and now I feel I found my purpose of studying abroad.

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I would highly recommend coming to Sevilla to study or travel. When I first decided to come to Spain, I talked to many people and asked them their opinions on Sevilla. Every person I spoke to said Sevilla was one of their favorite places to visit, and I finally understand why. Sevilla is so rich in culture and life and positivity. The atmosphere and lifestyle of Spain in general is more relaxed than the United States, and I’m constantly reminded that there’s more to life than rushing around getting from place to place. Walking down the street you see people young and old sitting in the sun enjoying a nice café con leche or a sweet pastry. The city is full of families walking together, moms pushing strollers and children running around playing with their siblings. The many parks of Sevilla are full of people running, picnicking, and just enjoying the day. Living in Sevilla teaches me to live fully in the present and make the most of each day I have here in this paradise!

Cultural shock?

As I mentioned before, my host mother is amazing. She makes me all of my meals and does my laundry. She used to be a chef, and she makes some incredible dishes for meals. I’ve been very fortunate and haven’t had any culture shock with food or routines. Spaniards eat lunch and dinner very, very late compared to America and for some people this can take some getting used to. Usually I eat lunch at home around 3:30 and dinner around 9:30 or later. For me, it wasn’t a difficult process because I’m used to eating dinner late with my own family, but my friends have all adjusted very quickly and now it seems totally normal to them.


Returning home will be hard, but I’m planning on taking parts of Spain with me. I’ve picked up many great new perspectives on life, and have realized that there are different ways of living than just the one you’re born into. I can’t wait to cook traditional Spanish food for my family, tell my friends about the newest European style and make sure to take the time to enjoy the day for myself. Living in Sevilla these past few months have been truly wonderful, and I know when it’s time to go home, although sad, I’ll forever keep Sevilla and the friends I’ve made along the way close to my heart.

March 25, 2015

A visit to the CAAC, Andalusian Center of Contemporary Art

Monastery of the Cartuja. Photo by Amalia Ordóñez.

Monastery of the Cartuja. Photo by Amalia Ordóñez.

Since 1997, the Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporáneo has been considered one of the main places that house contemporary masterpieces in Andalusia. It’s located in the Monastery of Santa Maria de las Cuevas, better known as Monastery of the Cartuja. This area, where the monastery is now, was first born in the 12th century, when the Almohads set up several ovens to fire clay. Little by little the Cartuja got built by some members of the Sevillian aristocracy that were established there, as well as some figures of the Church. However, it was in the 19th century when an English businessman, Charles Pickman, purchased the Cartuja and transformed it into a pottery factory that would become world-renowned.

Chimneys used in the former ceramic factory. Photo by María de las Heras

Chimneys used in the former ceramic factory. Photo by María de las Heras

In 1992, it was held in Seville the Universal Exhibition, an event that led to the conversion of the pottery factory into a cultural center, today known as the Andalusian Center of Contemporary Art. What surprises the most about this center is the contrast between its buildings (mostly chapels, a church, some indoor patios, as the ones in the Alhambra in Granada and the Alcazar of Seville) and the abstract paintings that are exhibited in its rooms.

Entrance to the Monastery. Photo by Cristina Esquivel.

Entrance to the Monastery. Photo by Cristina Esquivel.

October 30, 2014

A chronicle of a Granada Trip

Waking for an early morning of long bus rides, us UNE students had no idea what was in store for our little adventure to Granada. After a two hour trip southeast of our home in Seville, I found myself in a beautiful city, nestled in the Sierra Nevada mountains. Quite a change from Seville, we stepped off the bus into a cloudy and damp atmosphere, a nice cool breeze rolling through the streets. The walk to our hotel was a brief, yet beautiful view; the buildings and streets of Granada were so different from those of Seville, a perfect mixture of modernity and antiquity. A quick stop at our hotel and we were off on one of those Rubenesque adventures (featuring long walks through beautiful scenery, uphill, through rain).

Honestly, from the moment I stepped onto the street, I fell in love with this city. We walked through these old gothic-style gates, stepped over puddles and weaved through the umbrella salesmen to head to the main part of the city. Looking upwards, relief statues littered the buildings, marble and stone eyes following us as we traversed the streets.

Halie Pruitt

At one point during our walk we passed what we assumed was a statue, but instead was a beautiful street performing angel. Although living, this angel blended in with her surroundings so naturally that it was difficult to pick her out at first!

Halie Pruitt

Halie Pruitt

Even during this “short” tour of the city, you could see the obvious connections to Morocco. Although the walls and buildings in the main part of the city were highly ornate buildings with Spanish influence, the small shops squished on either side of the walkways had Morocco spilling out of them. The tea and herb shops, the foreign dialect ringing in my ears, and, above all, HAREM PANTS. Obviously we saw the typical city sites-- Cute puppies and street musicians-- but the city was so different than what I had experienced previously. We could walk down a roadway and see crumbling antiquated buildings and bridges that have probably been there for hundreds of years, turn our heads and see new buildings and geometrically shaped street lights. But grabbing tapas and checking out the stores could not prepare me for the wonder that Granada held for us-- The Alhambra and Generalife

Halie Pruitt

Halie Pruitt

Now, I’ll be real with y’all, I was so extremely exhausted that I wasn’t sure I could survive out at the Alhambra. This feeling didn’t change until we reached the top of the hill and saw cannons and palaces. Looking at the sheer magnitude of these buildings really put my mind in its place. We were standing on these grounds, looking across the empty lands and looking back on a small part of history. Before we entered, our tour guide told us how there had once been several buildings akin to the Alhambra that had been blown up-- these were the only ones that stood today because a one-armed man went around to diffuse the explosives. I got excited. We hadn’t seen the inside of the buildings yet, but if this man was willing to single handedly diffuse explosions and defy the regime, they must have been worth it…. they must be amazing. Words cannot describe the wonder found within the body of the Alhambra. I have visited monuments, I have seen exquisite architecture, and I am close friends with beauty. The transition from the exterior-- a very plain brick structure-- to the interior was astounding. The walls were laden with highly ornate floral designs, all in plaster with extreme attention to detail. The ceiling was crafted with ornate wooden panels, designs and geometric patterns etched, visions of the night sky overhead. With the arabic on the walls and the faded colors, I felt as though I had stepped into another world; the pale white of the plaster became laden with colors of days long since past and revealed its true beauty. Rather than listening to me fumble at an attempt to describe what I feel is one of the true wonders of the world, you should just book your plane ticket now and head out to Granada.

Halie Pruitt

Halie Pruitt

As the sun slowly set on our first day in Granada, we began our hike to the Generalife. Meant to be a summer house for the Nasrid kings in Granada, the Generalife was surrounded by luscious gardens, gigantic hedges, and lengthy pools. Reaching the top of the hill where the actual summer house was located, we were followed by the fragrance of summer roses and honey suckle. Once we entered the building, it seemed as though the sun had stuck around long enough to grace us with the perfect warm array of yellows and oranges. Too comforting, in fact, because at this point our little group was ready to fall asleep on the closest hedge or friendly looking rose bush. And so our little tour ended here and we walked down from the mountain back into town.

Dinner with Ruben is always a spectacle. Returning from the Alhambra, we had a short time to get ready and head out. Leaving the hotel, we heard music and cheering. A festival? Upon further examination, we had walked into a crowd of seniors dancing classically in a square close to our restaurant. It was an omen of a great night for us UNE students. Dinner consisted of 2 fantastic plates and dessert. Dessert obviously caused the largest debate among our group, but we eventually were able to order and complete our meal. Tuckered out from a fabulous day featuring amazing food, sights, and conversation, this girl was ready for bed!

Opening my windows the next morning provided me with a pleasant surprise. Jackie and I had been given a room on the 4th floor with a spectacular view of the city. Not awake long enough to enjoy this sight, we were whisked off on another one of Ruben’s adventures!

Here is a note of warning, if you ever see Ruben with this face, be prepared for a hike.

Halie Pruitt

Halie Pruitt

So, we began our uphill adventure. With slopes steeper than your average mountain (or so it seemed) we traversed the streets of Granada to get the perfect view of the city. On our way, we spotted unique graffiti and people who were not dying from the incline.

Halie Pruitt

Halie Pruitt

However, once we reached the top, we understood why Ruben had brought us here. Guitar players surrounded the plaza that had a perfect overlook to the Alhambra. The sun of this early day lit up the hazy sky and left all content to take pictures and pet adorable puppies.

We were released from Ruben’s custody (JK <3) and split up to shop and eat on our own accord. I enjoyed an afternoon of shopping for scarves and pizza with Amelia until heavy rain forced us back to the hotel. Making the best of an unfortunate situation, we settled down at the hotel lobby and watched movies. Soon the rest of our group returned, bustled in by the wind and rain as well. Thus came an end to our Granada experience.

Visiting Granada has been one of my favourite experiences throughout my life, and makes me even more excited to visit Morocco and our fellow UNE students! I really enjoyed spending quality time with these guys, and can’t wait to have more adventures!

October 1, 2014

Hospital Universitario Virgen Macarena

UNE Sevilla students at the hospital

UNE Sevilla students at the hospital

Last September 19th 2014, UNE students were given a tour of the Macarena Hospital (forever more called “the hospital” because that is one long hospital name). The hospital is located in the Sevilla’s city center and is quite large, at least comparatively to hospitals in Maine.

While at the hospital, we were allowed to observe patients on kidney dialysis, enter a cardiovascular operating room, and visit several labs. Needless to say, we geeked out. Aside from observing cancerous vs non cancerous cells under the microscope, my favorite part was the operating room and the “man behind the curtain room” (I made up this nickname… It’s not actually called that!) Just outside the operating room is a n area with cameras recording all the cardiovascular operations happening within the unit. Doctors from the hospital can watch, analyze, and share their successes and failures with doctors around the world- which is quite amazing! It certainly is a progression in healthcare as the sharing of knowledge is vital for innovation.

Spain’s healthcare system, like every other industrialized country in the world EXCEPT the US, is universal. That means that every individual in Spain has access to healthcare and the government pays for (at least some) of the bill. While many Americans believe that universal healthcare is “socialized,” it’s really not. Moreover, I think it bodes well to point out that the US currently ranks the worst out of the top 11 wealthiest country… Oh, and we spend the most money. Not to mention, even with the implementation of Obamacare (which, in my personal opinion, is a step in the right direction) 8% of our population will still remained uninsured! placing even larger strains on an already broken system. But those are just my thoughts… What are yours?

This semester, I am taking a Medical Anthropology class that looks at medicinal practices from countries across the globe. So far, a major theme has been the differences between Eastern medicine and Western medicine. While eastern takes on a more holistic, natural method, western medicine is science based and largely treats the human body as a “machine” to be fixed. As a purely scientific mind, I am struggling to see the wider view of eastern medicine. Yet, I recognize that there are benefits to both methods. Which method is the “best” and how do we decide that? Moreover, what are the implications for healthcare worldwide?

March 12, 2014

The Adventurer of the Year: Kilian Jornet

Truth is stranger than fiction!

Are you motivated to go running when it’s pouring outside? How about in a snowstorm? Can you imagine running 500 miles in 7 days or 165 miles in 28 hours? Well, the Catalan outdoor sports superman, Kilian Jornet has done it!

He crossed the Pyrenees Mountains from the Mediterranean Sea to the Atlantic! This sums up to 27 miles of positive grade. I can't even wrap my head around that idea. This endeavor is comparable to climbing several times up and down Mount Everest!!

Does the Tahoe Rim trail, sound more familiar? 165 miles of single track, winding from peak to peak around Lake Tahoe. Kilian did it in 28 hours flat!! What about sleep? Well, 1 hour was enough for him.

Each person has a hero: Superman, Spiderman, Gandhi. Mine is Kilian Jornet!

Read more about him at: www.kilianjornet.cat and in Adventurer of the Year 2014: www.adventure.nationalgeographic.com

March 10, 2014

Be Rich and Smart, Be Bilingual!

Being bilingual makes you smarter...and richer! So, welcome to the clever (and wealthy) region, CATALUNYA, where 84.7% of its population speak both Spanish and Catalan.

By in large, bilingualism increases executive functioning and decision-making abilities! If still you are not convinced: bilinguals earn on average $7,000 more per year than their monolingual peers. There is even evidence that it delays the onset of Alzheimer's and dementia as well as other neurological problems. Hablamos? Venga, Som-hi! Si us plau!

References: Gray Matter, Why Bilinguals Are Smarter, in The New York Times, March 17, 2012 and Generalitat de Catalunya, Department de la Vicepresidencia y Secretaria de Politica Linguistica, Catalan, language of Europe,



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