Blog #4- Making the experience fun & unforgettable is in the traveler’s hands

Hello! Hola!

After being here for 6 weeks, the time has flown by faster than I imagined. You won’t understand how exciting this trip has been, until you travel abroad to a different country. It is a experience that no one can take away from you. You get to choose how you want your experience to be. 4 days ago I found out that all of the memory on my new 32gb memory card was taken up by tons of photos of this breathtaking experience.


Alejandra’s mother cooked us food


A wonderful family

One of my main expectations I set for myself was about my Spanish fluency and how I wanted to work towards the top level of my speaking. Well coming to Spain has helped boost me closer and closer to that level, I’m even close to where I want to be, but without taking everyday as a learning experience here in Spain, this goal would be next to impossible to reach. In order to reach this goal, successfully, I have to keep practicing, everyday. You know you are in a completely different country, talking a different language, when you go to speak your original language and mix up the two different languages.


One of the many classrooms in my school- The Giralda Center

Another expectation was explore Seville as much as possible, well that is a goal definitely met. I have seen things that no other city in the United States would have to offer. I have not only explore the city of Seville, but other cities as well. Cadiz, Arcos de la Frontera, Bornos, and this coming week I will explore Malaga and Cordoba. Plus, two weeks from now, we will explore Brussels, Belgium on our way back home to the United States. Being on this trip and going through the motions is not acceptable for anyone studying abroad in a country here in the world, but actually making the experience fun and unforgettable is in the traveler’s hands. The experience is what the traveler makes of their trip.

As a way to increase my vocabulary, is just stepping outside in Spain, talking to a salesman in a store, ordering a coffee or ordering food, asking a question at the gym, speaking up in class, all of these thing have played a significant roll in expanding my vocabulary. I’ve pushed myself by practicing by using flashcards, even the smallest things go along way.

Well after all of the expectations I had set for myself, the one theme I wanted to stick with was always stay positive. For many people this theme is hard to get a grasp on, for me especially. Traveling abroad is way out of my comfort zone, I mean many people would feel that way since it is a different country, but I’m comfortable with where I’m at in the United States, around family and friends; you could pretty much call me a ‘home body’. I never thought in a million years that I’d be studying abroad in Spain. Trust me, I’ve hit plenty bumps in the road since being here, but one thing to keep in mind was to always have positivity, but this couldn’t even be possible without my best friend Thomas Cortes, he truly helped me see a different side to Spain, and help open my eyes to this great experience. I had my days though, missed my family, second guessed myself, but then Thomas would help me stay positive and without him on this trip, I don’t know where I’d be exactly. I’ve appreciated the diversity in Spain and the lifestyle, along with the different customs and it has made me appreciate my life in the United States, even the smallest things, and no I’m not talking about my cell phone.

Just because I’m in a different country doesn’t mean I forgot about one of the biggest holidays in the U.S.; I still celebrated 4th of July all the way in Spain!

4th of july

Another thing that was a plus on this trip was the amazing people I met at my school. I made many friends in my classes at my school. I made memories that will last forever. This experience has been one of the best yet that I’ve ever had. Being on this trip, I’ve conquered the unexpected thus far, and keep on having awesome experiences. This week is my last week of classes, I went from 4 weeks in class A2 and moved up to class B1. I’ve learned so much in the past month at my school and for that I’m thankful. But my learning will not stop here in Spain, there will be much more.

lifelong friends iceland

My friend from Iceland

I hope you consider traveling to a different country or at least hopefully it’s a thought! :)

Write again soon,

-Sierra Even

Its worth every penny!

Hello again VCSU T.A followers


Its been a while since I’ve written a blog, however it’s because I have been totally busy with my internships and excursions. (no biggie, small vacation delay). As I look back on my goals that I had set for myself at the beginning of May I can honestly say that I have grown strong in my Spanish. Being pushed in school is a different story then when you are in a Spanish speaking country, not being able to look toward your Professor for help but in away that I was able to push the buttons in my own brain to speak the language I was born into. My host family has told me that if you are able to understand and speak Spanish here in Seville, you can do it all. The slang is the most difficult part of the Spanish here in Spain, using there own terms to talk to one another, for example- Please = Por fa, not Por favor. I have made amazing friends here and its crazy to think to that we can have friends from total different worlds. My co-workers have been amazing to me at the all boys private school, and I shall stay connected with them through e-mail and Facebook.


I knew going into my internships it wasn’t going to be easy. Everything in Spanish isn’t something that I’m used to back in Valley City. To be totally honest I am beyond proud of myself that I have completed both my internship in Spanish because it gives me the opportunity to cultivate myself with other students in school back in Valley City. Nobody knows if they are going to like something they plan to do in the future, and being that I would like to be a school guidance counselor someday it has made me keep in open mind to the world we live in.

From May 27th till July 8th as I write this current blog, it has been a wild ride with my host family, and when I say wild I say its as a great thing. Being invited for lunch the first day here was the most nerve racking thing for me, because I didn’t know what to say. As the days went by all I could do was talk to them to practice my Spanish as well as to get to know them much more. It also has had a an impact on my Spanish because they have taught me what is right and what is wrong with my Spanish.


No matter what my time here in Spain will always have a spot in my heart. This trip has powered me to use something that was trapped for many years, my ability to speak Spanish fluently. I am thankful for all that have helped me through this journey and I cant wait to get back to the states to fulfill my destiny with the knowledge I have gained.

Till next week VCSU T.A followers.



Thomas M. Cortes

Un Mes en Espana

Hello yet again to all VCSU T.A followers

Living in Seville, Spain for about a month now I have experienced much more then I expected. Nothing wrong with learning ten times more then what you set your goal to be, keeping an open mind was my plus. We all know the culture from the U.S and the culture from Spain itself is totally different and you can’t compare it to where we live. It’s a great experience being able to explore places that you haven’t even seen yet. The first day when we arrived we were issued a “sevici” card. This is only authorized in the city of Seville and it allows you to rent a bike for free, well I mean the first thirty minutes and after that you are charged. A lesson we learned the first time we used them. The ability to use a bike to get around is amazing because paying for a taxi everyday to go home or go to a park to relax isn’t something I can afford these days even when the euro is worth much more then the dollar. All in all the transportation do have their similarities; such as a bus that takes you around the city of Seville, also they have taxis. Nothing else that I have seen have the same criteria’s as the U.S. Communication isn’t what you think it is, yes I understand that the U.S is very diverse in different cultures but here in Spain it’s the same way. The Spanish here when spoken is much more difficult when it comes to understanding a person just because the fast pace they use and also only in Seville do they cut words in have to create a language of their own. Believe I’m pure Mexican and even I had a hard time understanding the first two weeks. Dining out was also something that I wanted to experience here because it reminded me of the movies that we watch when people are in Europe, speaking another language to order food, drinking wine and so forth. Now that was something that caught my eye and I am truly going to miss dining out.



Every morning, every afternoon and every night that I am in the city of Seville I notice that everyone is well dressed and never looking like they didn’t have time to wash clothes. To me I see this as a well-contained group of people that love to represent themselves well. For example many men have on suits or even collared shirts on. As for the woman it goes the same for them when heading to work they are well dressed. No matter what everything here is different, just imagine the bank being open for only four hours of the day, yes it was a struggle as well to retrieve money here not knowing that the bank was only opened for a certain amount of time. Monday through Friday all places of work are closed at exactly two-thirty till five-thirty just for lunch and relaxation time. As you can see its pretty laid back here in Spain when it comes to work, in the U.S however that wouldn’t sly with your boss always watching your every move. To experience that was awesome to be honest. The food differences here are an amazement and can only be explained by the experience of yourself. Its not like ordering eggs, bacon and toast for breakfast its actually only eating the toast. After that not eating till around 11:30am for a snack, afterwards not eating lunch till 2:30, to me that was not acceptable because I love to eat and needed to figure something out. The biggest and craziest thing that I learned so far about eating in Spain was that “dinner” isn’t served till around 10:30pm. Now that’s something I’m sure you’re thinking right now, how in the world is that even possible.


As for my job at the boy’s private school, I was grateful to have met many caring professors and students. The three weeks that I had at the school had made me into a different person, not for the worst but for the better. The experience was something that I will cherish forever. Being able to work with the school counselor and work everything in Spanish was a job well executed. To me that was awesome to be able to do things that school counselors do for the kids, but all in Spanish. I will truly miss my four favorite students as well and my co-workers.


Until next week!!!

Thomas Cortes

Blog #3 – Different Culture

It’s been awhile since my last blog. This week makes it a whole month since I left the United States. After being here that long, I now know how the culture functions here in Seville and what the aspects are here compared to the ones in the U.S.

The transportation is pretty much the same, buses, taxis, cars, except for a lot of people travel on bicycles, which I’m not used to seeing. That’s how I get around Seville, is on a bicycle, through the program/company called Sevici. You are able to rent a bike at a bike station and the first 30 minutes is free and then you park the bike at the nearest bike station (there are a 100 bike stations for Sevici in Seville) and you wait 2 minutes to check out another bike. It is very convenient, fast, and easy to do. One of the differences that has to do with transportation is the small streets. The streets in neighborhoods are so extremely small that only one smart car could fit down it. This is not normal in the U.S., our streets are very much drivable and suited for normal sized cars.

The type of food in Seville is very different from the food in the U.S. Also here they each lunch at 2-3pm and eat dinner at 9:30-11pm. In the U.S. the timing is different for the meals too.

My instructor for my class is similar to the ones in the U.S. by some of the techniques she uses. There are differences though as well, I feel as if the class isn’t always into the topic she is talking about. I don’t feel as confident answering questions just because if I do get an answer wrong, I feel like when she corrects me, she isn’t doing it in a very polite way, but she seems like a nice lady.

My family is very wonderful and they have taught me a lot of things. The mother is outstanding, she helps me learn spanish by correcting me and teaching me the proper way to say things. She understands me even if I do mess up when I’m trying to speak to her. She is very welcoming and caring and I’m so blessed to have found such a wonderful family, even though I had to go through another family first, to find this one. The son knows a little English, so just as much as I want to learn spanish, he wants to learn english, so it helps to teach each other the languages. He is very genuine as well.

angeles and jesus

My host mother & host brother

Here in Seville, the most common sport is Futbol meaning Soccer. Since I have to workout while I’m here, it is very difficult to practice basketball, since it is hard to find a basketball court outside. The basketball courts they have here belong to clubs, which cost a lot of money. In the U.S. we have many outdoor basketball courts, so it was very difficult adjusting to that here in Seville.

In Seville, I’ve observed many experiences that had to do with people being late. Our director was late a few times and it just made me think that here Seville they don’t care if they are running late or tell someone to meet them at a certain time. At my spanish school, many students show up an hour late or only come for the 2nd half of class, which shows they don’t care to be on time. I know in the U.S. people aren’t always on time but for the most part time does matter in the U.S., its a country where people run around like chickens with their heads cut off, making sure they make it to a specific meeting or to a specific class, time is valued more in U.S. then it is here in Seville.

Well that is enough comparing and contrasting the cultures. Have a great week.

I will write again soon.


Blog #2- 1st encounters in Seville, Spain


I’ve been in Seville for 3 weeks now. I was living in a family of 8. It was very difficult because the kids were always gone, and so was the mother, so it was difficult to talk to them or see them. I felt a bit uncomfortable and wanted to make sure I got the best experience possible here in Seville, so I switched to a new family. The family I’m living with now is amazing. They are very nice people and the family is much smaller since its a mom and her son. I feel very comfortable in where I’m at.

As far as my classes go, I love it. My classes are at the Giralda Center. I have 10 students in my class, including me. They are very nice and from all over, Germany, Iceland, Netherlands, California, and even France! From this experience, I not only gain more knowledge in Spanish but I also gain new friendships. My classes are Monday -Friday from 9am-1pm, which is a 4 hour class, but in all honesty, I love it! Everyday I wake up is a learning experience and I think that is why I love it so much. I go out and everywhere is an opportunity to practice Spanish, at restaurants, supermarkets, clothes stores, walking anywhere, the knowledge you gain from everyday speaking is beyond amazing.

I’ve experienced a lot so far. I’ve explored Seville and got to take in all of the beautiful views, buildings, and all of its surroundings. The pictures below are part of ‘La Plaza de España’, the making of this building started in 1929, designed by Aníbal González Álvarez-Ossario . It is beyond beautiful! A fun fact about this building is that Star Wars Episode II during one of the parts was filmed here. With beautiful buildings like this, brings such a breathtaking experience. I haven’t seen beautiful archtecture like this in the U.S.

 the Sevillian architect Anibal Gonzalez that designed La Plaza de España

The Sevillian architect, Aníbal González Álvarez-Ossario, designed La Plaza de España


La Plaza de España

La Plaza de España 2

La Plaza de España 2

Another experience that I got to be apart of was traveling with my friend Alejandra and her family. We went to her countryside home in the town called Bornos and Arcos de la Frontera! It was gorgeous to be able to see another view other than the city of Seville. Below are some of the pictures during our stay in the countryside.


Bornos & Acros de La Frontera with Alejandra’s Family


Acros de La Frontera- a church on top of the mountain


We got to hold eagles and owls on the mountain!

To start off our weekend on an adventure, we took the train to Cádiz to go to the beach. It was about an hr and a half train ride and only cost 25 euros round trip. The beach was beautiful and it was super hot, the temperature was about 105 degrees!


The beach in Cádiz


The beach in Cádiz

These are  just some my experiences that I’ve had in Spain, it is hard to decide on which ones to write about. I’m loving every second of being in Spain, the only down side to it is missing my family, but being able to go to another country allows you to experience everything for the first time, in a different aspect, and different culture, I’m blessed to be able to have this opportunity, and I’m excited for the rest of my journey here!

Next weekend is the excursion to Portugal! I’m beyond excited!


Blog #2 Dual Citizenship?

Hello Fellow VCSU S.A Follower

Closing in on the third week of this amazing trip in Seville, Spain everything is going quite well at this point. Being able to walk around and look at all the great historic buildings of Seville made the trip much easier because the ability to go on your own and take your time was perfect. Getting around in Seville is easy now that we have been doing this for almost 21 days. My internship at the school is exceptionally awesome, working with kids that have certain disabilities but are able to complete homework is something that I cant wait to do in my future. At times it is difficult but its apart of the job and I better get focused on what I would do in those types situations. Pushing myself everyday to speak Spanish has made me forget some English, I’m kidding. This will be my final week at the school and I am surely going to miss the kids that I have been around with. All the kids are respectful and its amazing how I am able to compare Spain to the U.S in all good forms of education and types of personality. Only difference is the language they speak.

Photo number #1- International Friendly Spain vs. Bolivia

The ability to watch a professional National team play in front of your eyes no matter where you sit in the stadium has been a plus on this trip. This was something me and father wanted to do when I was a kid and to be able to do it gave me the chills. It put tears in my eyes watching the beginning warm-ups, not because I was sad but because I really miss playing soccer. I have played soccer all my life and when I gave that up to begin a new life in American football it stuck in my head. Its a passion I love and Ill never forget where I started from a child with my mom and dad. (soccer).  Spain-2 Bolivia- 0 FinalDSC00315


Photo #2 La Plaza de Espana

Another photo that has made this experience a great one is the “Plaza de Espana”. Being able to encounter historical monuments that many people around the world have never seen makes it a privilege to be able to. This building is in the shape of a horse shoe and goes for about four football fields in length, not an easy task to walk around when its about 100 degrees. This is home to many movies such as Star Wars: Attack of the Clones, The dictator etc. Knowing that celebrities have been here makes it crazy. Overall this building gave me the opportunity to keep an open mind about different types of culture and history.


Plaza de España

Photo #3 La Playa de CADIZ

This was the first time we had gone to the beach since arriving in Sevilla, Spain and it was an incredible adventure going on train. The beautiful scenery blew me away because it reminded me of my home state of Hawaii, the clear blue ocean and how hot it got.   The water was really cold but I feel it was because our bodies we in the blazing hot sun for quite a while and needed to be cooled off. Sierra and I stayed in Cadiz pretty much the whole day and got a great tan. After the beach we walked around looking for places to eat and we noticed an ice cream shop and thought “why not” its like 110 degrees here it’ll cool us off before eating lunch, the folks at the shop were so nice it was awesome. After our dessert we found a spot to eat and noticed that for a burger with fires it was only 2.50 euros, that like $3.50 in the U.S. thats a price you cant refuse, overall our trip in Cadiz has made this trip even better and we cant wait to come back to enjoy the beach and sun.



Overall my trip here is going great and I cant wait for the next days to come for me to experience much more. This is a beautiful country and has been worth leaving the U.S for a short period of time. Until next time my fellow followers of VCSU.


Thomas M. Cortes


Blog #1 Departing to Sevilla, Spain

Going through the packing process was extremely stressful, not knowing what to take, how much to take, and so forth. On the other hand I’m very excited for this journey, it’s once in a lifetime and some people don’t even get this opportunity. I didn’t feel like I was leaving the country till I was on the plane, then it turned into reality. Being on the last flight, which was Brussels, Belgium to Seville, Spain, I didn’t have Euros yet and they didn’t accept American debit cards, but thankfully I have a credit card in case of emergencies and I needed it, in this instance.

The expectations I have set for myself are pretty high. I know they will be in reach, but there will need to be a lot of work put into it. The expectations I have for myself start with my fluency in Spanish. I want to be on a top level of my speaking after I get done in Spain. I know it is possible, but like I said, I will have to work hard at it. Another expectation I have for myself is to be able to explore as much as possible and learn a lot of Spanish history. Another expectation I have for myself is to increase my Spanish vocabulary immensely. These expectations will impact my experience abroad through the opportunities I engage myself in and help me see a more diverse world, lifestyle, and customs. The number one theme in this trip for me is whatever occurs, the unexpected, the awesome experiences, always have “positivity”.

The next time I write I will be in my final destination, Seville, Spain.

Have a wonderful day! Talk to you later!

-Sierra Even

Picture #1 Sevilla

Departure to Sevilla, Spain

It’s not the thought of being stressed out, it’s about going into a country you’ve never been before and not knowing what to bring. To be totally honest, it is much more nerve-racking knowing I’m going to a different country that is new to me. Me being a male made it much easier to pack, however, the only stressful part about it was keeping the main luggage under 50 lbs.
One of my main expectations on this trip will be to speak in Spanish fluently without asking a professor or teacher for assistance. I see this goal being realistic because I am from Spanish descent and I fully comprehend the language, the only problem is not being able to speak it fluently, so it’ll be easier in that aspect. Knowing that I have family that descended from Spain, I wish to learn more about the history of my culture. I hope to visit a lot of museums, beaches, famous monuments, etc. to learn about the culture. I feel as if I have the capabilities of enjoying myself to the fullest while being in Spain because of the thought of keeping an open mind has helped me throughout this journey to Seville (positive mindset).
I write this as I’m on my last flight from Brussels to Seville. Buying a water bottle was tougher than I thought. Next time I will bring aboard Euros.
Adiós Thomas Cortez

Spain pic #1

Culture Shock

We are constantly surrounded by elements in our own culture which influence who we are and how we relate to the world. Since I have grown up in the same culture, I have always been comfortable in it and sometimes unaware of the characteristics of my own culture until I was confronted with contradicting ideas. My values and attitudes about who I am and how things should be have been shaped by my experiences and the culture that I was raised in.

When I suddenly lost cues and symbols that oriented myself to situations of what I considered “normal” daily life or when cultural  gestures, and words are no longer familiar, it made me  feel extremely uncomfortable.

Feeling uncomfortable is something that I became used to very quickly. I am a Minnesota girl that looks very different from the norm here in La Paz. I have had to adjust to my new life in Mexico in multiple different ways. Although life here is fairly similar, day to day things have required a little change of pace and an enormous amount of patience. One particular change that I have never quite adjusted to is the transportation aspect. I have never been more grateful for having a vehicle and the freedom to drive wherever I want to back in the United States. Here in La Paz, I have been stripped of that freedom. I now take the bus to and from school, and have relied on public transportation to get around town. I have to allow myself an extra hour depending on where my location is to travel from point A to point B. Sometimes I feel like a bus expert here in La Paz, but then the next day I find myself lost in the middle of nowhere because I took the wrong bus home. It is always a learning experience.

I have also learned to adjust to the social aspects of the Mexican culture. It is okay to be late! At first, I found this to be extremely annoying and fairly rude, but now I find myself being the last one to arrive. Night life does not start until 10pm and sometimes fiestas and celebrations go until 5 or 6am. It is a culture of celebration. Adjusting to new hours of meal times and going out was an easy adjustment, but still sometimes tires me out.

It can also be frustrating trying to adjust to a new lifestyle. It is one thing to visit a country, tour, and move on when you have seen enough, and it is quite another to live there and function according to a different, and sometimes, mysterious set of norms.

I have taken on new responsibilities. The most obvious one is to adapt my behavior to the customs and expectations of the Mexico and not try to “Americanize” things. This is not to deny my own culture and beliefs in the United States, but to respect the way that people live here in La Paz day to day. Another, even more subtle responsibility I have is to remain open in order to become aware of similarities and differences, to learn rather than to judge. This has been the most rewarding experience.


Preparing for Re-entry

My Study Abroad experience has altered the way I view things in my life in many ways. During my stay here I have made friends that I know I will carry with me the remainder of my life. In reflection of my time spent here I have made a very short summary of what I feel are the most important things I will take from this experience.

• I have learned how to better understand another language and learn it on a daily basis.

• I have learned patience, forgiveness and compassion for others aside from people I have already come to know in my life.

• I have learned to “stop and smell the roses.”

• I have learned that worrying steals the pleasures of the present.

• I have learned how to better evaluate the things I hold important in my life.

• I have learned that too much planning can sometimes be a bad thing and that willing to let things run their course is the easiest answer to something that cannot be immediately solved by human intervention.

• But most of all I have learned the importance of the qualities that I hold within myself.

With these qualities I believe I will now have the confidence to complete my college education and go forth into my chosen career of being a High school teacher and inspire others to do the same. I believe that by allowing myself the opportunity to take a step back and truly evaluate myself and where I stand in life, I have opened myself up to a much truer, and deeper of meaning of what I set out to do in the world with my career.
I will forever be grateful for the opportunities I have had during the course of my college career, studying abroad by far being the most incredible experience thus far.

I look forward now to coming home and sharing my adventures!