Spain | Recollections


Saying goodbye and going through periods of change is always difficult. Studying abroad is like living in this sandwich of big changes and big goodbyes, with a bunch of amazing experiences in between. Two months may be short, but it’s enough for cities, for people, to sink their hooks into you. The last week I have spent wandering the streets of Córdoba (in between studying for finals, of course) and soaking up as much as I can from this place. As I have reflected on my time in Córdoba, my travels throughout Spain, and my whole experience here, I leave you with these 5 lessons, thoughts, and recollections.

1. Be open.

This sounds really corny and obvious but it’s honestly one of the best things about traveling and being in a new place. Some of the best moments I’ve had in Spain have been striking up conversations with strangers, in the library or in a hostel. In my experience, people Spain (and especially Andalucía) are really friendly and welcoming to foreigners. Many Spanish students are studying English and looking for chances to practice, so they would just start talking to me if they heard me speaking English! I really enjoyed having these conversations with locals. Traveling and staying in hostels is also a great opportunity to meet people from all over the world. You may be traveling with your friends from your program, but make sure to take advantage of hostel culture and talk to people! First of all, the people who work in hostels are usually young travelers who work in return for free room and board. They will usually know the city fairly well, so ask them for recommendations! And there are so many different people staying at hostels as well. I met a mom and her daughter, a guy biking from Amsterdam to Southern Spain, and other study abroad students from America and London.

These may not be lasting relationships you make, but their amazing little slices of what it’s like to travel, to open yourself to new people and new experiences. In a similar vein, be open to spontaneity in general. Planning out your day is helpful, especially when you’re traveling, but make sure to leave some time to just let the day unfold. Some of the best moments I have had in Spain have been unplanned.

A lot of potential new friends await you everywhere…

And no matter what you’ll have your friends from your program!

2. Take time for yourself.

Studying abroad comes with this whole new group of friends, who have a similar background to you. On top of that you have so many shared experiences and you are all going through this experience together. You also have a host family, maybe an intercambio and some local friends. Oh, and studying! There’s a lot going on and a lot of people to experience it with. For most of my program I was always doing things with other people, exploring Córdoba or another city with my friends in the program. I really enjoyed those shared experiences – but by the end I realized I was really craving some alone time. I started to seek out quiet moments, moments where it was just me. I took out my headphones and looked around. And by doing so, I noticed so much more and had more time to just think and feel. Some of my best memories are from times with other people – and now I also have memories from times spent alone. One of the most important things I learned while abroad was how to take more time to be alone with myself and my surroundings.

Take time to wander, you never know what you’ll find.

3. Ask for and accept help.

Being in a foreign country, there are so many things that you just won’t know. You might not know where to buy shampoo, or if you have to print out your train ticket before you get to the station, or where the locals go to eat. Especially if you are learning a new language, it can be scary to ask for advice. You can probably figure out most things on the internet anyways, right? Ok, some things you can, but a lot of the time you’ve got to ask someone. In my UCEAP program I had a wealth of people who could help me with things like this – our program coordinator, my professors, and my host family. These people know the city you’re in a lot better than you and they want to help you! So let them. The same is true when you’re traveling – people in hostels are almost always really helpful. Being open to accepting help will make your life easier and your time better spent.

4. Make yourself available to your host family (if you have a host family).

My expectation of what it would be like to live with a host family was definitely different than the reality. I expected that we would do a lot more “Spanish” things, in a way I expected them to be like my informal tour guides of Córdoba. What I learned is that host families are normal people with normal lives, and so they didn’t have a ton of free time to do a lot of things with me. This wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, and my family did still do things with me, as well as introduce me to their friends and family. I realized that if I really wanted to do something, it was more likely to happen if I asked about it. Another aspect of this is to spend time at home, especially some weekends. Obviously weekends are a great time to travel, but I’m really grateful I spent some of my weekends in Córdoba. Not only did this allow me to explore Córdoba, but it also gave me more opportunities to do things with my host family.

This hike with my host family & friends took a few tries to plan, and it was so worth it!

5. Record your experience.

When I started my program, I told myself I was going to keep a journal during my time here in Córdoba. Unfortunately, I am really bad at consistently writing in a journal, and so that didn’t really happen. I did write a number of times, but I would have liked to write more. However, I did take a lot of pictures and videos, and writing this blog helped me keep a sort of journal during my program. Studying abroad is full of so many wonderful experiences that you will want to remember. You may also find yourself changing as a person during your program, and that is valuable to be able to record.

There was a group of cats that lived in an empty lot near my house, and I photographed them whenever I could. These cats are one of the many things I will miss about Córdoba!

I hope that if you can study abroad, you will. I have learned so much, grown as a student and person, and made amazing friends during my time in Córdoba and Spain overall. ¡Hasta luego España!

Celia Cody-Carrese studied abroad in Cordoba, Spain, in Winter 2017:

Spain | A Very Spanish Weekend: Sevilla

by Celia Cody-Carrese
A Very Spanish Weekend: Sevilla
Animated chatter morphs into hushed murmurs as the staff pushes out a hearty “shhh” across the room. It’s starting. Sevillanos and tourists alike are still searching forany bit of open space where they can sit and watch the show. The guitar starts, before the room gets quiet enough to hear it clearly. Next comes the clapping, soft and quiet at first. The singer lets out a long, high cry, his voice weaving in and out of the handclaps and guitar. There is pain and passion in his voice, that hooks into your ears and won’t let go. Seated next to him is the dancer, a woman wearing a red top, long purple ruffled skirt, and a red scarf tied around her waist. Her lips are red and she wears red and white flowers in her hair, parted down the middle and worn in a low bun. She is the picture of flamenco. Her white shoes begin to tap on the floor, along with the rhythm of the hand claps. Something beyond my understanding occurs which signals her to stand and take her spot in the center of the small wooden tablon, or stage, laid out on the floor. Maybe it’s a line in the song, or maybe it was just the feeling of the moment.She is larger than life – her feet strike the floor at a speed that seems inhuman, her arms twist and sweep across her body, her hips ground all her movements. But her face, her face is what says it all. She doesn’t ever flash us a dancer’s smile –instead,her face shows the effort behind everything. The pain and joy of the music, the sheer difficulty of what she is doing. By the end of the second song, a sheen of sweat covers her face. She’s not here to look pretty. She’s here to emote, to dance, and to do something really difficult, really well. This is true for the guitarist and singer as well–they don’t put up a front, it’s just raw emotion and effort. And that’s what made my first time seeing flamenco so incredible.

Flamenco at La Carbonería in Sevilla

Sevilla is the capital of Andalucía, and maybe rightfully so (but don’t tell anyone in Córdoba I said that!). It’s home to some of the best flamenco, best gastronomy, and biggest displays of Spanish architecture. My favorite place in Sevilla is the Plaza de España, a grandiose building and plaza designed by Sevillan architect Aníbal González Álvarez-Ossorio, constructed for the Iberian-American Exposition in 1929.Walking up to the Plaza is pretty breathtaking there are so many elements and details that I couldn’t decide what to look at first.

Aníbal González’s architectural genius is matched only by his fantastic mustache

Plaza de España, Sevilla

The Plaza de España is made up of a huge plaza, obviously, and an equally huge building that curves around the outside of the Plaza. Along the front of the building are murals made of intricate hand painted tiles, which represent different cities and regions in Spain.Within the plaza is a moat-like body of water, where ducks floating between rowboats. Over the water are four bridges, featuring brightly painted balustrades (theside part of the bridge). The whole thing is pretty stunning. We spent about an hour just walking around and staring at everything, and then rented row boats for half an hour. Fun fact! The Plaza de España was used as a set in Attack of the Clones,  the second film in the Star Wars prequels. Anakin and Padmé can be seen walking through the Plaza, which in the film is on the Planet Naboo.

Córdoba’s mural at the Plaza de España

Next to the Plaza de España is another impressive display of something Spain does really well-parks.Walking through the Maria Luisa park takes you through tropical landscaping, beautiful fountains, and ponds filled with birds, including two large andfriendly swans. (Feed them grass, they won’t bite!) Scattered throughout the park are various structures, including a dome topped gazebo and a beautiful building which houses the Museum of Arts and Traditions. Every corner holds something different, and simultaneously the whole park fits together beautifully. It’s historical, lush, and whimsical.

Parquede María Luisa

What’s a weekend in Spain without delicious food? Sevilla is home to a lot of great restaurants, and in total has over 3,000 tapas bars and restaurants! 3,000! My favorite place we went to was an old bar called Casa Morales, complete with giant barrels of vino and huge legs of jamón hanging over the bar. I don’t eat meat and the pig legs kind of weird me out, but they also feel so Spanish! I had espinacas Andaluz stew of spinach and garbanzo beans served with bread. It was delicious and so filling for only a small tapa! We also had amazing gelato right next to the Cathedral -my flavors included basil-lime, coconut, and almond.We sat in the plaza enjoying our gelato, watching horse drawn carriages pass by. Nearby a young woman warmed up for a street performance, where she danced hip hop and contemporary.

Tapas at Casa Morales

Something I have grown to love about Spain is the street performers. Many cities I have been to, including cities in America, have some pretty hokey street performers. Often they are talented, but there is too much schtick thrown on top of whatever art form they are doing. However, in Spain the street performers are a bit humbler and more original. In Madrid I saw roller skaters dance like they were on ice and jump over a row of about 8 people lying on the ground. In Córdo bayou can often see a man who plays saxophone on thePuente Romano, as well as various guitarists in the center. In Toledo outside a church, flamenco rhythms from a man’s guitar softly filled the air. The young dancer we saw in Sevilla left out candies in a box next to the hat she used to collect donations. Other notable sights in Sevilla include the Real Alcazar, a palace complex with Mudéjar (Moorish), Renaissance, and Baroque architectural styles.Within the Alcazar rare beautiful and extensive gardens,which a raised, covered walkway runs along.The Alcazar, along with the Plaza de España, are still in use today for royal and government purposes, respectively. And as with any Andalucían city, meandering throughout the narrow and winding streets is never a waste of the afternoon.

Mudéjar architecture in the Alcazar

Sevilla truly has a place in my heart, along with every other beautiful place I have been able to see during my time here in España!

Spain | History Surrounds You


One of my favorite works of art is The Garden of Earthy Delights by Hieronymus Bosch. A triptych painted around 1500, its three scenes depict the Garden of Eden, an excess of human pleasure on Earth, and a bizarre underworld. It’s fantastical and surreal and thus very ahead of its time, as the surrealism movement in the art world didn’t occur for centuries later. Every time I look at this painting I see something new, some detail I didn’t catch before – since there is just so much going on. Lucky for me, The Garden is housed at the Prado museum in Madrid, and I got to see it in person this past weekend. It’s displayed on a table in the middle of a gallery room, demanding attention. If you’ve ever had a favorite piece of art or even a favorite song, you know that seeing it up close, or hearing it live, is a special experience.

Little did I know that Hieronymus Bosch has an interesting connection to Spanish History, and that I would learn about him in my class at UCO Córdoba! Last week, my History professor pulled up the painting on Google Images and explained that the painting once belonged to Felipe II, considered one of the most important kings in Spain’s history. Felipe was extremely powerful and controlled vast territories, but at the end of his life he became a recluse, never leaving El Escorial, a grand palace he built for himself. As my professor explained, Felipe was extremely paranoid and convinced that the souls of his enemies were inside the people depicted in The Garden of Earthly Delights. Furthermore, within El Escorial Felipe had many Bosch paintings, which he arranged around his bedroom and stared at all night, instead of sleeping. He also unfortunately burned many of these paintings – but thankfully not The Garden.

This story is really interesting to me because I already loved this painting, but also because it illustrates to me the core of what study abroad is about. I didn’t even know Bosch’s masterpiece was in Spain until I was looking up information about the Prado before I went. And I also wasn’t aware of the connection it had to Spain’s extremely powerful and influential king. To learn about it all here, and have the opportunity to see it in person, is probably the best example of “hands on learning” I’ve ever experienced.

And this isn’t the only such example of history, art, and my environment interacting in this way. Andalucía, and specifically Córdoba, were under Muslim rule for many years before the Christians came into power. During the 10th and 11th centuries, Córdoba was the capital of the Califate in Europe, Al-Andalus, and a place where Christians, Muslims, and Jews lived in relative harmony. Muslims had higher social standing and didn’t have to pay taxes, but there was not regular discrimination or violence based on religion. One of my favorite things about Andalucía and Córdoba in particular is this example of religious tolerance and coexistence. The city’s history is preserved in the architecture, such as the Mosque-Cathedral and the city’s synagogue. But it also shows up in smaller, less obvious ways, scattered throughout the city. For example, there is a small symbol you can find in various historical sites in Andalucia – my professor told me so far he has found 23 in Córdoba. It is a brass plaque on the ground, an image of Spain and Portugal which is made up of Hebrew letters. The symbol serves as a reminder of the Jewish community in Al-Andalus. I have seen one of these in Toledo as well, and they can be found in many cities that were once part of Al-Andalus. In both Córdoba and Toledo you can find synagogues, still preserved from the time when Jewish communities lived in Spain. We visited the synagogue in Córdoba on a class trip, and the interior decorations were strikingly similar to the Alhambra in Granada. The exchange of design techniques and aesthetics is clearly on display among these very distinct buildings.

Plaque of Iberian Peninsula with Hebrew letters

Synagogue in Córdoba, with Hebrew inscriptions, Arabic designs, and a painted cross

In addition to being a city of religious and cultural exchange, Córdoba was also an important political city. For the Romans, Muslims, and eventually Christians, Córdoba was a place of administrative and strategical importance. During Fernando and Isabel’s rule they lived in Córdoba, and from there directed the military campaign to expel the Muslim’s from Granada. It was at the Alcazar palace in Córdoba that Christopher Columbus came to make his case for exploration to Fernando and Isabel, and they agreed to fund his journey. We went to the Alcazar on a field trip, and in the gardens there is a statue to mark the event.

Fernando and Isabel receiving Columbus

At the Alcazar there is also a room where many Roman mosaics are on display. These mosaics were created in the 2nd and 3rd centuries when the Roman Empire extended to Spain, and were discovered under a large plaza in Córdoba. The mosaics were originally the floors of homes belonging to wealthy families, and were reconstructed piece by piece for the current display. Because Córdoba was the capital city for different societies throughout history, each of them essentially just built on top of the previous civilization. Archeologists can’t uncover all of the ruins because they would literally have to tear down the current city to do so!

One of the Roman mosaics at the Alcazar in Córdoba

My history professors have both talked about what they see as a lack of historical memory in Spain. In their view, many Spanish people think of Spanish as being Catholic and European, while not understanding the historical significance of Al- Andalus and the Muslim and Jewish populations here. Similarly, in school children learn about Columbus “discovering” the new world and what a success it was for Spain, without discussing the disastrous effects his voyage had on Native Americans. Evidently, we have the same problem in the United States – I didn’t learn the other side of the story of Columbus until I was in high school. Many Americans also lack an understanding of the racial dynamics and systems of oppression throughout America’s history, which still continue today.

We travel to other countries to learn about another culture, another history, different people. This culture and history is enshrined in the streets and buildings we find ourselves amongst, in art and in stories. But the truth is there are different stories and cultures wherever we are, whether we are in our hometown or in an entirely new place. We just have to be willing to ask questions and to notice what’s around us – no matter where we are.

Celia Cody-Carrese studied abroad in Cordoba, Spain, in Winter 2017:

Spain | Cobblestones So Pretty They Make Your Feet Hurt: A Weekend in Granada


It’s dark when I leave my house at 7:20 am, travel backpack on and umbrella in hand, in case it rains in Granada. Our program is meeting near a park, where the streets are somewhat maze-like, and thus I walk in the wrong direction. Right about when I figure out that I am not going where I should be, I run into three other students who are in the same boat. We put our heads together and find our way to the bus, chuck our stuff in the storage compartment, and get settled for the two and a half hour ride to Granada.

For our Friday excursion during week three, we went to Granada to visit the Alhambra palace. Since the bus was already taking us there, most of the program decided to stay in Granada till Sunday, to further explore the city. But first, the Alhambra.

Fun fact: The Alhambra is the most visited monument in Spain! The palace which represents the last great Muslim kingdom in Europe drew over 2.4 million people in 2014. The Alhambra began as a small fortress and was expanded into a palace in the mid 13th century by the Moorish emir, or leader, at the time. In 1492, once Fernando and Isabel had expelled the Muslims out of Spain, they used the Alhambra as their Royal Court.  They made a few changes to the complex, but overall the Alhambra is a stunning example of Muslim architecture. The palace boasts grand rooms, gardens, reflective pools, and a lot of intricate ceilings and arches- my favorite architectural details. The walls and ceilings all have extremely detailed inscriptions in Arabic, as well as carvings of geometric shapes, fruits and flowers, and other beautiful details. Part of the Alhambra complex is the Medina, which was a town where people who created products or worked to support the operations of the palace lived. Walking through the Medina’s pathways and gardens feels like a medieval fairytale.

After the Alhambra, we headed to our hostels- I stayed at Marakuto hostel in Granada’s Albaicín neighborhood, a hilly and cobblestone lined maze of narrow streets. (The cobblestones in Granada are very charming but also very small and bumpy, hence the title of this blog- after a weekend of walking probably about 7 or 8 miles a day, my feet were pretty sore-worth it though!) Our hostel had hammocks and a treehouse, and after dropping off our things we joined a walking tour Marakuto provides. We walked through the Albaicín to several lookout spots, including an old house with a patio and a great view of the Alhambra. Then we made our way to the hills of Sacramonte, another old neighborhood in Granada. At the northern edge of the city, Sacramonte is at the base of a large hill, which you can walk up to get an amazing view of Granada and the Alhambra. We went at sunset and had the most beautiful view of the city and the sky. The golden, glowing lights of the Alhambra and the city slowly took over for the sun before our eyes.

The treehouse at Makuto hostel!

View of Granada and the Alhambra (on the far left) at sunset

After a much needed hour of relaxing at our hostel, we got ready to go out for tapas! In Granada the tapas are legendary because they are almost always free, and they are also supposed to be some of the biggest tapas you can get in Spain. I personally didn’t have any enormous tapas, but some of my friends did! After two bars we had a sufficient dinner, for super cheap. (Side note: I am going to miss a lot of things about Spain when I go back to California- but I think one of the hardest adjustments is going to be paying for food! Everything here is so much cheaper than in the US!) After tapas we met up with some other students in our program and went out dancing- and like typical Spaniards we took our time getting home.

The next day we went explorin’! After toast and coffee at the hostel, I went with a friend to the center of Granada. First we saw the Capilla Real, or Royal Chapel, which is part of the Catedral de Granada (the free part, to be exact). Fun fact: Fernando and Isabel, the king and queen who expelled the Muslims from Spain, funded Colombus’s expedition, and expanded Spain’s empire in Europe and the “new world,” are buried in the Catedral de Granada. We had a pretty special moment in the Capilla, because the choir was having rehearsal while we were visiting. It’s really incredible to be in a beautiful church while such haunting and divine music is being sung 50 feet away from you.

Altar of the Capilla Real

Patio in the Albaicín

After the Capilla we walked around the Realejo, the old Jewish quarter of Granada. For some reason this neighborhood has a lot of graffiti, and me and my friend tried to see how much of it we could translate! After walking around we met up with some friends at a really good brunch place, Baraka, and I had my second breakfast of the day. Sometimes, one breakfast just isn’t enough. For the rest of the afternoon, we went to a park, explored the city by foot, and then returned to our hostel for some much needed R&R!

For our second and final night in Granada we went out for tapas again, of course, this time with some new found friends from our hostel. We had quite an international group-with us were people from Denmark, Argentina, Germany, and England! To maximize our options we went to Calle Elvira, a street lined with tapas bars at the base of the Albaicín neighborhood. There were probably about 10 bars and 5 kebab places (kebab and falafel are the go-to late night foods in Spain) in three blocks on Calle Elvira! We went to one bar for a bite to eat and then later to a few places for dancing. Fun fact: It’s fairly common for bars in Europe to have foosball tables, which you can pay a euro for and get about 5 balls to play with. I played with some of our friends from the hostel- who were all way better than me because they play a lot, whereas I haven’t played since I was maybe 15.

For my last day in Granada, I met up with more people in our program to enjoy the city. There is a lot to do in Granada but it’s really quite beautiful to just walk around, you’re bound to run into something interesting! We went into a church and also by a creek that runs below the Alhambra. Afterwards we got churros con chocolate and ice cream before hopping on the bus back to Córdoba!

My time in Granada was truly magical, the city as a whole is historical and beautiful, at the same time grungy and kitschy. Every street holds new smells, sounds, and sensations. I can’t wait until I can go back!

Celia Cody-Carrese studied abroad in Cordoba, Spain, in Winter 2017:

Spain | Studying Abroad


Living in another country is a wonderful experience full of new friends, new experiences, and travelling to new places. It’s also challenging, and it requires you to adapt to new circumstances. Moving to a Spanish-speaking country to study the language is a lot different than taking a class at a UC. From an academic and immersive perspective, here’s what I’ve learned.

Attending university in Córdoba has been very different from my regular college life at UCLA. At UCLA I go to a large university where everything is located on one campus. The University of Córdoba has different buildings throughout Córdoba, which each serve different groups of students. I attend classes at University of Córdoba Idiomas (Languages), or UCO Idiomas. One of the biggest differences between UCLA and UCO is that classes are much smaller in Spain. My biggest class here, Spanish History, has all 27 students in my program; but my Spanish Language and Andalucían History classes both have 15 students or less. At UCLA, my smallest classes (not including discussions) have about 60 people. Having smaller classes is a nice change, and I really feel like I know my professors- they are all very kind and funny, and attentive to the needs of students.

(An average class at UCLA vs. UCO Idiomas)

Teachers here generally teach in a different style- only one of my professors uses a prepared Powerpoint for his lectures. Another professor uses maps and images sporadically, but he mainly just lectures and writes on the whiteboard. Additionally, all of my classes here are taught in Spanish! The Andalucían History class, which is an elective, was originally taught in English, but we opted to have our professor speak Spanish. It has been a good way to practice and fully immerse while at school, and he is able to get his lessons across easier by speaking in his native language. At first I was worried about having History classes in Spanish- I figured I would not be able to understand enough, and would be ill prepared for the test. However, understanding another language is one of the first steps of language acquisition (it comes easier than speaking), so within a few weeks I was understanding most of what my professors were saying!

My schedule here is also a big shift from university life. In a normal quarter I also take three classes, which are spread out throughout the week- so I might have two classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays and one on Mondays and Wednesdays. I often have days with big gaps in between classes, and my days can change a lot depending on my academic and extracurricular schedule. Here from from 9:30 to 11:30 I have Spanish class Monday through Thursday, and from 12 to 2 I have Andalucían History on Mondays and Tuesdays, and Spanish History on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Every day we have a half hour break between classes, which is much needed time to recharge with a snack! On Fridays, we go on trips to historical and cultural sites in Córdoba and around Andalucía. Having class at the same time everyday is a big adjustment- I haven’t had a schedule like that since high school! While part of me misses the flexibility of having days off or big gaps between classes, I also really like the routine of waking up at the same time everyday.

There’s a cafeteria right across the street from UCO Idiomas, and I often have café con leche y tostada con tomate (a latte and toast with a tomato spread) for a snack during our break.

Another big difference here is the way grades and classes are structured. There is less work consistently given out, and more of your grade depends on testing. I have daily homework for my Spanish class, which usually takes me about 30 minutes to an hour, and most days I study more Spanish on my own. For the history classes I don’t have homework, and pretty much my entire grade depends on testing. My program is divided into Spring Semester students (who are in Córdoba until May) and Winter Quarter students (that’s me) who are here until March, and then returning to our schools for Spring Quarter. When we take our finals, the Semester students are also testing, but for them it is their midterms. Besides my Spanish class which also incorporates written assignments, my grades are based solely on testing and participation. It’s a little nerve-wracking, having your grade centered on one test, but I’m not too worried about the tests. One advantage of being a Quarter student in my program is that all your tests (except for Spanish, of course) are in English!

Your brain, on language acquisition.

Studying abroad, especially when you are learning a new language, is a different type of learning because you are constantly absorbing new information and expanding your knowledge. You don’t just go to class, learn something, study it, and then go about your life. What you learn in class is reinforced by your life outside of university, and vice a versa. In my Spanish class we are encouraged to talk about what we did over the weekend and bring in new phrases we learned. In history we learn about Al-Andalus, the name of Andalucía when Muslims ruled and the European Caliphate was centered in Córdoba. We learn about the Catholic monarchy of Fernando and Isabel and how they expelled the Muslims from Spain. Walking through Córdoba or Granada, architectural examples of Muslim and Christian culture can be found everywhere. And most importantly, I am surrounded by Spanish all the time- in my homestay, in class, in the street. This makes understanding and practicing Spanish much more accessible, and it becomes part of your life faster than it would without immersion.

It takes years and years of practice to become fluent in another language. By living in another country for a few months, you will improve and learn a lot- but you won’t become fluent. However, by immersing yourself and making an effort to practice every day, you are bound to improve, and lay the groundwork for communicating in another language!

Celia Cody-Carrese studied abroad in Cordoba, Spain, in Winter 2017:

Spain | A Weekend in Cádiz


On a narrow strip of land, connected to the Iberian peninsula by an even narrower strip of land, is Cádiz- one of the oldest cities in Europe. Last weekend I went to Cádiz with a group of friends in the Exploring Andalucía program, and we had an amazing time! Cádiz is full of history, delicious tapas, beautiful beaches, and lovely people. Here are some of my favorite memories from the trip.

The views. For me, the two best ways to experience a city are on foot and from above. We did plenty of walking, and we also went in two towers and saw beautiful views of the city. Cádiz is really small so you can see most of the city if you are high enough. In the center of Cádiz there is a building called Torre Tavira which costs a few euros to enter. Not only does it offer an amazing view of Cádiz, including the Cathedral, the building also has a camera obscura- which allows you to see a live, 360 view of Cádiz. We were able to see the entire city of Cádiz projected onto a large canvas disk, in real time. It was so cool to see the waves of the ocean, birds in flight, laundry drying on roofs, and even people walking around the city!

View from Torre Tavira, including the Cathedral of Cádiz

In the Cathedral of Cádiz you can walk up a narrow and steep spiral ramp that takes you up to one of the two bell towers. From here you have a beautiful view of the city and details of the roof of the church. The bells ring every 15 minutes though, and they are very loud!

Very steep and narrow stairs at the top of the Cathedral!

View from the Cathedral bell tower

Speaking of the Cathedral, it is one of the most interesting buildings I have seen in Spain (besides the Mezquita-Catedral of Córdoba, of course). Structurally the building has two main domed towers and a concave façade in the middle. The exterior is two different colors because the building took a long time to complete, and they used two different materials. Inside, there is large central altar and many smaller chapels all along the sides of the church, all boasting statues of biblical figures and paintings. The church also had a crypt below ground that was designed to produce echoes. In the crypt the air is cool and moist, since it is below sea level.

The exterior of the Cathedral

The central altar in the Cathedral, which is modeled after the two towers

Tapaaaaas. Spain is of course famous for tapas, and there are many typical tapas dishes in Spain. Many of these are meat based, and I am vegetarian, so often my options are limited. In Cádiz however, I had eggplant with goat cheese and honey, salmorejo (a tomato based dip eaten with bread), and sautéed veggies. Everything was delicious and really cheap! I also had my first Spanish paella in Cádiz! On our first night we actually had Italian food for dinner, which was really good, but the other two nights we just went to a few tapas places for food. Although they are small plates, if you get a few you have a substantial dinner for only a few euros!

Adrenaline. Cádiz is right on the water and has numerous beautiful beaches. In the summer it is a popular vacation spot for this reason, and the heat makes the ocean a great place to cool off. As we went in January, it was not nearly warm enough to justify swimming in the ocean, but my friends and I wanted to anyways. We looked pretty ridiculous running in, as no one else was swimming, but it felt great to jump in the Atlantic! There’s something about seeing the sun begin to set over the ocean that’s different when you’re in the ocean, when your senses are heightened from the cold water.

Sunset over the ocean in Cádiz

Vulnerability. When you are put in a new environment where you don’t know anyone, which is often what study abroad is like, you end up making friends really quickly. In my case, I travelled to Cádiz and shared a hostel with people I had known for two weeks-and it was amazing. Because you are sharing so many new experiences together, you bond really quickly and form friendships fast. In my experience, this has led me to be more open and willing to share things about myself. There are many ways this has manifested itself-including a few of my friends and I playing guitar and singing together in our hostel. We spontaneously shared our favorite songs and our voices with each other. That vulnerability and ability to connect through music formed our bond that much quicker.

Traveling also lends itself to making new friends quickly wherever you go. Staying in hostels is a great way to meet people, because many people are traveling alone or in small groups, and there are often common areas to hang out in. At our hostel in Cádiz we met a lot of really cool people and got to talk with people from many different places!

No schedule. One thing that is nice about traveling to smaller cities is that while there are some big tourist attractions, you don’t feel rushed to do everything possible in one weekend. My favorite thing to do when I go to new places is often just to walk around the city, to see what people are up to and to look at different buildings and apartments. We would start our day and have some idea of what we might do, but never any specific place to be at any specific time. And because of this we just wandered, and got to know Cádiz through it’s narrow streets and from the brightly painted buildings that stand out from a sea of crisp white exteriors. On Saturday we walked through a park and stumbled upon a man playing the recorder, while cats darted in and out of bushes. Sunday we took the long way back to our hostel and encountered a large plaza where young kids were learning to ride bikes and scooters while their parents chatted and enjoyed the sunshine. Later, in front of the Cathedral, a woman danced flamenco in the street as people ate in the plaza and watched her perform. We did some of the tourist attractions but we also just walked, listened, and let the day unfold.

Lazy cats in Parque Genovés

What made this trip really special, however, was the people I went with and the people I met. If you surround yourself with good people you’re bound to have fun anywhere! Till next week!

My buds and I in Cádiz!

Celia Cody-Carrese studied abroad in Cordoba, Spain, in Winter 2017:

Spain | First Impressions


¡Hola a todos! I am in my second full week of life here in Córdoba, España. So far it has been FANTASTIC, and a little challenging. I have so much on my mind already about my time here, so for this week I’m going to write about my first impressions of Córdoba and Spanish culture, what I’ve learned, and show you all a bit of Córdoba.

When you study abroad, you hear a lot about “culture shock” and how to prepare for being in a new and different environment. I haven’t really experienced culture shock yet-its mostly just “cultural enchantment!” Since I’ve been here I have discovered some things that Spain just does better- here are a few.

1.In Córdoba it is super hot in the summer (it gets up to 110 degrees F!) and around 50 degrees F in the winter, right now. One way people in Córdoba stay warm is by having lots of space heaters in their houses. In my apartment my host family has a space heater under the dining room table, and then a big tablecloth on the table. When we eat we put the tablecloth on our laps like a blanket and then our legs and feet get all the warmth from the space heater. It’s so warm and cozy! It seems pretty common here, not surprisingly.

2.Free food. In much of Spain, especially Andalucía, you receive a “tapa” with your evening beer or wine. People generally go out for tapas around 8-9, and when you order something to drink you get something to eat “gratis,” or free! It’s not a lot of food, but it’s a nice little snack to tide you over until that 10 o clock dinner. Also it’s super cheap- a glass of wine or beer usually costs around 1.50 to 2 euros, and you’re really getting a drink and food!

3. Pace of life. From only being in Spain for a few weeks I have really noticed a stark difference in the way Spaniards and Americans think about time, and furthermore their lives. In America the concept of “wasting time” is fairly pervasive. Especially as a hardworking college student looking towards the future, I find myself often thinking of how to maximize my time as much as possible, how to always be productive, and seeing “free time” and relaxation as something to be earned. In Spain the emphasis is not to do the most impressive things with your life or make the most money, but to enjoy your life. My host mom said it best to me the first day I was here: “En los Estados Unidos, la gente vivir para trabajar. En España, la gente trabajar para vivir.” “In America, people live to work. In Spain, people work in order to live.” There are many ways this manifests itself. Spaniards spend more time with their families, usually just hanging out and talking. Seeing extended family is not only reserved for holidays (this is aided by the fact that people tend to live close to where they grew up). People don’t usually entertain at home, they go out of their houses to socialize and thus meet and interact with more people. And in general the pace of life is slower, there’s less of the hurried sense that life in much of America has.

4. Attitude towards foreigners. Every Spanish person I have talked to has been so friendly and welcoming. Furthermore, many people are excited to talk with me even though my Spanish still needs a lot of work. If I apologize for not asking many questions or being able to communicate what I want to say they are really understanding and kind! I can’t help but compare this with the way many Americans think about immigrants or people who don’t speak perfect English. We definitely could learn a bit from the Spanish on this topic.

Ok, now a bit more about Córdoba! Córdoba was once the largest city in the world, when it was the center of Moorish society and the seat of the Islamic Caliphate in the 10th and 11th centuries. For hundreds of years, Muslims, Christians, and Jews all lived in Córdoba in harmony. Part of the city is the original antique city which is home to the famous Mosque-Cathedral and the Jewish Quarter, or Juderia.

The rest of the city is fairly modern with a lot of Spanish charm sprinkled throughout. Córdoba is relatively small and it only takes about 30 minutes to walk from the northern area of the city to the river, where the old quarter is. As you walk through the city you’ll see plenty of cafes and bars (which are actually often combined in Spain), and people out with their friends and family. You might stroll through the park, Jardines de la Victoria, that runs along much of Córdoba’s downtown area. It has various statues, fountains, as well as a large indoor market, Mercado Victoria, in the center. The Mercado has food, bars, and even a discoteca on the second floor! Past the downtown center is Plaza de las Tendillas, which has a grand fountain in the middle and is surrounded by beautiful, old buildings. Once you walk through the Plaza you will enter the antique area of the city, where the Mosque-Cathedral and the Jewish Quarter are located. The cobblestone streets are narrow and the houses have large and elaborate doors. There are balconies covered in vines and plants on every building. It’s charming and as you’re wandering through the winding streets, you feel like you’re in another time.

I have had a great first two weeks in Córdoba, and I’m so excited to continue learning Spanish and discovering more about this city’s culture and history!

Celia Cody-Carrese studied abroad in Cordoba, Spain, in Winter 2017:

Spain | Getting Ready for Spain


¡Hola! Me llamo Celia, y estoy estudiando en Córdoba, España durante dos meses.

Hi! My name is Celia, and I am studying in Córdoba, Spain for two months. My program is called “Exploring Andalucia,” and I will be taking Spanish language classes as well as elective classes about Spain’s culture and history. I am a third year student at UCLA, studying Geography/Environmental Studies, and minoring in Urban Planning. I am from beautiful Oakland, California, I go on a lot of hikes with my dog, and I’m usually listening to music or a podcast. For the last month, I’ve been home visiting friends and family, as well as preparing for my study abroad program.

Here’s what I’ve done to prepare: 

  • Book a flight. Ok, so this didn’t happen in the last month. I booked my flight pretty much as soon as I knew I was officially accepted to my program. I decided to arrive in Spain a few days before the orientation in Córdoba. I’ll be in Madrid for three days before my program’s orientation in Córdoba, to explore and hopefully overcome the jetlag!
  • Book a hostel in Madrid. I booked through, which is definitely the best site for hostels. The website is easy to navigate, and you can sort by location, rating, price, and more! There are also plenty of pictures and reviews to help you make your decision.
  • Contact my phone carrier. Some friends of my mine who have studied abroad or travelled extensively abroad have bought a cheap phone once abroad or a SIM card for their phone, since they didn’t want to pay for an international data plan. My family’s T-mobile plan includes free international texting and data, so I can use my phone for free in Spain- just not for calls. It’s good to look into this before hand so you know what your options are-especially if you have to figure it out in a different language!
  • Contact my bank and order currency. I found out my bank’s partner in Spain so that I can use ATMs without incurring international transaction fees. To make purchases, neither my credit or debit card can be used without a transaction fee, so I plan to use cash as much as possible. I also notified my bank that I would be traveling so there wouldn’t be holds placed on my account. Finally, I ordered a currency exchange, which is easy to do online, at least through Bank of America. Now I am prepared to pay for necessities like taxis/public transportation, food, and other things without having to exchange dollars into euros once I’m there.
  • Bring all necessary documents, and make copies. I’m bringing my passport, of course, another form of ID and my UCEAP insurance card. I also made copies (paper and digital, stored in Google Drive) of my passport, credit, and debit card. This is something I wouldn’t have thought to do without UCEAP informing me, but it’s really helpful if you lose anything important! With copies made, you already have the information needed to fix the problem.
  • Ultimately, I ended up packing 7 pairs of pants (including one pair of leggings), 9 tops (short and long sleeve), 7 sweaters and turtlenecks, 6 tanks (mostly for going out), 4 dresses, 2 skirts, 4 jackets, and 5 pairs of shoes. I’m also bringing a few scarves and bandanas, some jewelry, pajamas, socks, and a pair of tights.
  • Talk to people with experience. Less of a specific task, this was something I tried to do as much as possible before I left. I reached out to friends of mine who had studied abroad, packed for long trips, done a homestay, or who had been to Spain. They all gave me invaluable information, tips, and encouragement. While I consciously made an effort to talk to people I knew would have good advice, I also learned a lot from many others. My study abroad trip made its way into many conversations in the last few months, and from just mentioning it people gave me ideas about where to travel, helpful websites, and more. Google is always a good source of information, but friends are even better.
  • Pack! This was probably the most daunting task for me. I am generally bad at “packing light,” because a) I really like clothes and b) I have a lot of clothes. Clear conflict here. The weather in Córdoba will be fairly consistent, which makes packing a little easier, but it will also be cooler, which means heavier and bigger clothes. For my flight, I have a checked bag that can weigh up to 44 pounds, and my carry on items (a 46L Osprey travel backpack and a day backpack) can weigh up to 22 pounds-and paying attention to weight limits is really important.

Other things I’m bringing:

All my luggage, minus my day backpack

a book

a journal

an attachable wide-angle lens for my iPhone

a reusable water bottle

my laptop

my phone


all the necessary cords and converters

toiletries & makeup

enough contact lenses for my time abroad

a backpack and a cross-body purse

earplugs & a sleep mask (I don’t go anywhere without these)

some pictures of my friends and family

a gift & card for my host family

  • And to prep for my flight I made sure I had lots of music, both new finds and old favorites, downloaded onto my phone. I also downloaded some podcasts and brought a book. I printed out my travel itinerary and made sure I knew how to get from the airport to my hostel.
  • Mentally prepare. This is harder to articulate and it’s different for everyone, but it’s important to do. Before you leave you will be really excited and probably a bit nervous. No matter where you are going or how long your program is, things will be different. You will have to make new friends, live in a new place, and possibly learn a new language. Take advantage and be grateful for those things you enjoy about home. Before I left I made sure to have my favorite types of food that I knew I wouldn’t be able to get in Spain. I did my favorite things in my home town, and I spent time with my family and friends (and dogs). And I got myself excited for a new and different experience!

The Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba, seen from the Roman Bridge

Celia COdy-Carrese studied abroad in Cordoba, Spain, in Winter 2017: