The GoGlobal Blog

Author: Alexia Chibucos

My name is Alexia Chibucos and I am a sophomore studying Accounting and Spanish. I knew even before I came to Loyola that I wanted to study abroad in a Spanish speaking country, and what better place to pick than Spain. In my search for a University abroad, my main point was to find somewhere that offered business classes so I would not fall behind on the core; and the University of Loyola in Andalucia offered both business core and university core. When I tell people that I am going to Spain for a semester, one of the first questions asked is why? Not only do I want to improve my Spanish skills, but I want to become immersed in a new culture, gain new experiences, and hopefully make many long-lasting memories and friendships.
Spain’s Melting Pot

Spain’s Melting Pot

Coming from Chicago, I am very used to having many different types of people live in one place at the same time without any problems.  For my whole life, I have been surrounded by diversity: in religion, in race, in everything.  But coming to Spain has greatly expanded my definition of diversity and coexistence.  I came to Spain only knowing one or two other people from Loyola.  My hopes were that I would leave my comfort zone and make lots of new friends.

When I came to Spain, I knew no one who lived with me or close to me.  But the house I am living in has 17 girls and the first day, I met a wonderful girl from the Netherlands.  I slowly met everyone and made friends from so many different countries at both my house and at school.  In the university, every one of my classes has students from at least three different countries.  I have learned so much about so many different cultures and about myself as well.  Most importantly, I know that I know almost nothing about the world; even if I were to travel my whole life meeting new people and learning about different cultures, I would never be able to know everything.

The melting pot that I found in Spain is unlike anything I have ever seen.  In Spain, especially in Andalucía, there are three major groups of people who have peacefully lived together for thousands of years: Christians, Jews, and Muslims.  Within the first few days in Sevilla, I experienced the unique atmosphere that has been created with this mix of different life styles.  The architecture, the food, and even the language has traces of all three of these groups.  This is quite different than Chicago, where there are many different cultures; but they have stayed separate, each keeping to their own people and culture.  

I went to Córdoba yesterday, and this is another city who truly shows this unique coexistence that is present in Sevilla.  Walking through the city is such a wonderful experience, seeing the influences of each culture at each corner.  In the Christian part, there was a monument of two hands that were almost touching, and our tour guide from Erasmus told us a beautiful story of a forbidden love between a Spanish princess and a Muslim prince.  Once outside the walls of the city, we saw the Roman aqueducts and the Arabic gardens.  There was a statue of a Roman poet overlooking crystal-clear fountains from the Moors which led to the entrance to the Jewish section of the city.  This amazing sight with the three cultures seeping into each other really stuck with me.  It is so wonderful to see the possibility of people coming from such different backgrounds living harmoniously. 

The most breathtaking part of Córdoba was the Mosque-Cathedral, or the Mezquita.  The name itself shows this fusion of cultures.  In high school, I had learned of the rotating use of this building, how one century it was a cathedral and a mosque the next depending on who was ruling at the time.  The pictures do not start to do justice to the extraordinary architecture of this building that has resulted from each religion calling this their place of worship throughout the centuries.  The massive cathedral that is situated in the middle of the building is surrounded by the Moorish arches and columns.  I left in complete awe of the beauty and shear size of this impressive place.  

Looking back on the past month and a half that I have been in Spain, I have been exposed to so many different cultures and types of people.  I have learned to never assume anything, to be open to change, and to always be curious.  This curiosity has lead me to new friendships, beautiful reading spots in the city, and unforgettable cites.

Exploring: Trial and Error

Exploring: Trial and Error

During this past summer, I started thinking about where I wanted to travel while in Spain.  Then when I arrived, I saw the list of cities to visit with the Erasmus group (they are a group that organizes trips, tours, and parties for international students).  But their trips don’t start till next weekend.  This past weekend, I was getting restless in Sevilla and wanted to go exploring in another city.  Luckily my friends thought the same, so later that night we booked some cheap train tickets to Cádiz.  I did some research to find places to visit in this ancient, ocean-side city and planned a general path we could take when we arrived on Saturday morning.

The rest of the week flew by and before we knew it, it was Saturday morning and we were waiting in the train station to begin our first trip outside Sevilla.  There were four of us going, and we were split up between 2 train cars.  Two of us got off 1 stop too early, and we had to take a taxi to try and find the other 2.  But luckily the meeting spot we picked was easy to find.  Crisis averted.  Now it was time to explore.

Our first stop was a Roman theater tucked away in the winding roads.  Unlike Sevilla, Cádiz had more of a Roman influence.  The ruins were only recently discovered so there is still archaeological work being done. They rebuilt part of the seating to resemble what it would have looked like a thousand years ago. It was very cool to see!


Next we stumbled upon the Cathedral of Cádiz.  We were going to go in, but there was an entrance fee, so we took a quick peak and started walking again.  We found a quiet cafe off the main tourist path and had a quick lunch. 



We went to the Market of Cádiz.  This was very cool.  I love exploring different foods, and the markets all over Spain are the best way to see the wide variety of foods Spain has to offer.  Because Cádiz is know for the seafood that is caught fresh everyday, this market had a very large section devoted to just fish and other seafood.  Some of the tuna that they were selling were over 6 feet long.  Everything was so fresh!



Our next stop was a tower in the middle of the city.  In order to get to the top, we had to climb 6 flights of narrow, glass stairs, squeezing past the people that were coming down from the tower the entire way.  But the view at the top was spectacular!  Every part of the city could be seen: the cathedral, the market, some old military forts, and the ocean.  This city was so beautiful.

After we climbed back down, we made our way to the gardens near the ocean.  We saw beautiful flowers, giant trees, lots of cats, some ducks, a waterfall, and some swings.  Everything was very picturesque.

We walked along the ocean until we came to the Castillo de Santa Catalina, an old military base on the edge of the ocean.  It was like a small city.  There was a chapel, huge walls, watch towers, and many buildings that are now filled with historic artifacts about important moments in the city’s history.  We walked all around the base, imagining what it would have been like to see it up and running.



Whenever someone says they went to Cádiz, the first question asked is which beach did they go to.  So we took our siesta on a small beach between the two military bases.  The water was so refreshing, but the sun was hot so we left to find some food.

Many small restaurants lined a street near the beach, so we decided to try one of them.  Now an important thing to remember in Spain is that no one is ever in a rush. If you sit down to eat, expect to be there for at least an hour.  The service is at times very slow in comparison to what is usually expected in the US.  But the restaurant we picked was very attentive and had amazing food.  I had some tortillitas de camarones, which is a famous shrimp dish of Cádiz.

After our very filling dinner, we walked to the second military base and watched as kids jumped off the walkway into the water.  It was closed, but we got some great pictures of the ocean and the city.  On our way back, we stopped and each bought a bracelet to remember the first trip we took in Spain.

Sitting in the train station, exhausted and a bit sun burnt, we quietly sat thinking about everything we had seen that day. Besides a few small bumps, it was a successful trip.  The bit of planning I had done before the trip to find the main sights had helped a lot and let us have more free time to relax on the beach or eating.  The only thing to remember for next time was to remember to ride the train all the way to the city and not get off 1 stop early.

Beaches, Star Wars, and Bull Fights

Beaches, Star Wars, and Bull Fights

It has been a few weeks now since I started classes and exploring Sevilla.  Everything is starting to feel more familiar: the food, the streets, the language.  I have even visited a few beaches!  The first week I went on many tours of the city with a group called Erasmus.  This group organizes many events for international students from all over the world to meet each other and make the most of their study abroad experience.  The tours are great, with lots of history included and free food after! I also went to a beach in Portugal called Tavira and a beach near Cadiz called Bolonia Both were so beautiful!

If anyone is a Star Wars fan, then the Plaza de España is the place to visit.  This breath-taking building with influences from all over Europe and even Latin America stars in Episode 2 of the Star Wars series.  On my way to the shuttle for school or if I walk into town, I get to pass this plaza and I am amazed each time.  Whether it is during the day, when the sun is setting, or during a late night walk, it never ceases to fill me with awe.

The park that this plaza is a part of is one of the biggest in Spain, and was a gift to a Spanish queen’s sister.  It is filled with sparkling fountains, intriguing statues, and intricately-detailed buildings.  Walking through this park is a nice way to end a stressful day or pass a lazy Saturday morning.

One of the things I love the most about traveling is trying the new food.  One of the coolest things I have found throughout Spain is their markets.  Sevilla has two markets just a block away from each other.  One market, the Market of Triana, is an older market in what used to be a Moor castle.  It is full of vendors selling everything from fresh fruits to the famous Jamon Iberico.  There are even cooking classes offered to anyone interested in expanding their culinary skills.  I spent an afternoon wandering through this wonderful place and plan to go back again.  The other market is just across the river.  There are more prepared, traditional Spanish dishes here.  I found a huge octopus at one of the vendors!


I was able to visit the legendary bull fighting ring as well called the Plaza de Toros.  I went on a day that was very hot and had to wait almost two hours to go on the tour, but it was free and definitely worth it.  Before actually entering the ring, we walked through displays of paintings and sculptures all about the history of bull fighting.  I also saw many of the trajes de luces (literally suit of lights) that famous matadors wore during the corridas (bull fights).  I had learned about the corridas in school so it was very fascinating to see everything come to life.  I walked through the chapel that the matador goes in to pray one last time before entering the arena and the stables where the horses wait for their turn to enter.  When I finally walked through the gate into the arena, I was stunned.  It was as if I entered a different world.  Turning around taking in the thousands of seats, I imagined the anxiously matador awaiting in the sand for the moment that would determine the rest of his life.  The doors where the bull enters were opposite of the balcony where the king and queen sit when they visit the corridas.  I left feeling as if I had traveled back in time. 


I hope to keep exploring not just Sevilla, but all of Spain.  I am finding a good balance between studying and wandering around the city, which was something I was nervous about.  A good family friend gave me some advice before I left and I have repeated it to myself every day since I have arrived.  He told me that I am going to have rough days, days where I won’t want to do anything.  But I should try to do something exciting every day, especially the challenging days.  So whether it is just a walk through the park or I go to explore the city, I try to do something every day.  Every day is a new day to visit something else, and this has made my experience even more memorable.  I am taking it one day at a time, and each day is bringing a new adventure that I cannot wait to share.  Hasta luego!


Finally Here!

Finally Here!

It has been a very long journey to finally arrive in Sevilla, and not just the plane ride.  When a student first decides to study abroad, the excitement of a new country is the only thing on their mind, not all the important details that go with this experience.  This process began around last February for me, with picking a university and the classes. Then during the summer, I applied for a Visa, which took some time.  And finally, I had to find a housing arrangement, which is definitely not as easy as it sounds!  I ended up finalizing my arrangements for housing when I arrived in Sevilla.

My parents flew to Spain with me to help me move in.  We flew to Madrid first.  In Madrid, we did a lot of sight seeing in two days, seeing everything from the famous Prado museum to the beautiful, timeless Plaza Mayor and Palacio Real.  We ate lots of tapas and I began to see why the Spanish take a siesta.  During the days, it easily reaches 100 degrees Fahrenheit (I am slowly learning the conversion to Celsius).  After walking around all morning in the heat and eating a large lunch, obviously the next thing to do is take a nap!

The Plaza Mayor
Inside the Palacio Real
Symbol of Madrid

In Spain, their meals are very different.  I researched this before arriving, but it is still a shock to be immersed this different lifestyle.  For breakfast, a piece of toast with a puree of tomatoes accompanied with a coffee is the usual.  Then, around 2 to 4 in the afternoon is lunch time.  For lunch, there is often a 3 course meal.  The first course is an appetizer such as a tapa, then followed by the main course, which usually consists of a meat or fish dish.  After, coffee and dessert top off this feast.  Then for dinner, around 10pm, light tapas are eaten while enjoying the unending nightlife of the city.

Spanish tortilla with garlic                            mushrooms
Tapas at a market
Our first lunch in Spain!


So after we finished exploring Madrid, we rented a car and drove 3 hours to Valencia. When we arrived, we visited the Turia park and the City of Arts and Sciences.  There was so much to see! From the futuristic architecture of the buildings to the beautiful surrounding landscape to the breathtaking life size photographs that had been taken around the world.  After we explored this unique park, we ate some tapas and called it a night.

The next day, we packed up and hit the road for a 6 hour drive to Málaga.  While this drive was definitely not fun, seeing the change of the land as we drove was fascinating.  There are so many olive trees, grape vines, and even whole fields of sun flowers.  And almost everything is planted in straight rows.

When we finally arrived in Málaga, we ate a late lunch, which was some beautifully grilled fresh-caught fish in a beach restaurant right on the Mediterranean Sea.  We then went on a walk along the sea and saw many small vendors and very large cruise ships.  Later on, we found a great rooftop restaurant that overlooked the sea.  The view was stunning!

The next day, we started our final 2 hour drive to Sevilla.  When we arrived, we returned our car and took a taxi to the hotel.  And it was a good thing that we had a taxi, because the streets in Sevilla are very small and very crowded with people and carriages with horses.  We had our first paella for lunch that day, and it was delicious!  Then my exploration of my new home began.  My parents stayed for a few more days to celebrate my birthday with me.  We saw a very moving Flamenco show, explored one of the biggest parks in Spain, and of course ate more tapas.


When they left, I made my way to a shuttle to the university for my first day of orientation.  Walking through the quiet streets in the morning made me fall in love with the city.  Even though heat is stiffing at times, I would not  trade any part of this for the world.  The unending beauty and rich history is like nothing I have ever seen before.  I am very excited to spend the next 4 months in this magnificent city and cannot wait to meet new friends and make many new memories!

The river Guadalquivir and the Torre de Oro