Sevilla, Spain: A complete guide to your semester abroad

The Plaza de España was one of my favourite places to be in Seville.

Since I have been asked the same questions by many people during the lasts months, I decided to write another blog post, giving an overview over all important aspects and telling a bit more about my experiences.

Firstly, I would like to mention that I myself did not have a very good time in Spain, which was not caused by the country, the university or anything else, but mainly just personal bad luck. I had known that the educational level in Seville would be a lot lower than it is here in Germany, but I did not assume it would frustrate and wear me down as much as it did. Furthermore, I was not happy with both the rooms I rented during my time in Seville. After one week of communication issues with my first room owner, I changed to another flat, living with two other German students and a Spanish family. At first, I got along very well, and it was incredibly interesting to experience the Spanish culture in detail, but the longer I stayed there, the worse it got (I was ensured by many other foreign and local students, that this family was a very bad exception and not typical for the country, so I definitely still recommend to live together with local people if possible).

Riding a dromeda through the Sahara desert to get to the camp for the night

Nevertheless, I do have many positive memories of the many travels I made through the country, almost every weekend and the time I spent wandering around the city. The people from all around the world I got to know really widened my horizon and I am still in contact with many of them. And both my trips to Morocco, where I also spent a night in the desert, were amazing.

I got along well with the grandmother living in the house, and I would sometimes chat with her in the kitchen while she let me taste her incredibly delicious traditional cooking, giving me the recipes.
I have grown a lot from the struggles I had to face in Seville (i.e. communication issues, organisational hurdles and unpleasant people)  as well as the positive experiences, and this knowledge is helping me until today. And now I can give you advice on how to reduce the probability of having bad luck as well and enjoying your time abroad to the fullest, because Seville is a great place to have a great time if you know your way around.

General things about Seville:

Buildings like this can be found just around the corner of each other

Seville is incredibly beautiful, since it has been visited by many great architects and has a very interesting multicultural history. If you have always liked city trips and are a fan of architecture, Seville is the to-go-to city.
All nature lovers will surely find their ideal places to visit in the parcs and gardens around the city, as well as the many natural parcs around the area (i.e. Torcal or Caminito del Rey) or the wonderful beaches (i.e. in Cádiz or the Portuguese Algarve).
And of course, there are many great clubs, and cocktail bars along the river that are very enjoyable, especially in summer.

Weather

Sunny but cold: In Andalusia, you will rarley have to face rain

Summers in Seville can be hot, our summer last year was “cold” with only 40°C, but I got used to it very fast (just don’t make the mistake to take anything with chocolate outside) and many rooms have air conditioning.
Sadly, there are only very few rooms with heating, which can become a struggle in winter. At night, temperatures can get to around 3°C, during the day temperatures can rise up to 24°, so outside you probably won’t freeze, but it can get very cold if you just sit inside. The walls and windows are not insulated, especially on rainy days it might get hard for you to warm up, so you need to be prepared to deal with cold days as well. Luckily, it rarely rains in Seville.

Seville in the morning with its river Guadalquivír

Language

The general language is Spanish, most people also speak a strong Andalusian dialect that makes it even hard for native speakers to understand anything. If people know how to speak English, their language skills are mostly very poor and I for myself was better off trying to communicate in Spanish and with gestures than trying to get around with English. You should at least know some phrases and words to get around easily. Also, as soon as any problem occurs, Spanish speakers that spoke perfect English with you before, will sometimes suddenly pretend to not know how to speak English. In these cases, the international office will of course help you, but you should at least understand the problem.
Smalltalk in the supermarket or at bus stops are a great experience and were for me always fun to have, once I found my way around the dialect.
Other than that, Seville is a very international city, so people are used to foreign people trying to communicate with hands and feet, which makes it the perfect opportunity to lose your fear of speaking a foreign language.
The university’s optional Spanish courses also helps you to get your way around, and in emergencies, there also are some pretty decent translation apps and websites to help you.

Student organisations

There are also many student organisations you should sign up to, the most important being the Erasmus club, but also “We Love Spain”, both can get you connections to great parties, travels and rooms. If you are a member, they can also support you with other kinds of problems.

Night owls and party people get to see many of the beautiful buildings in another light.

University life

Organisation:

The Semester starts in September and ends around Christmas.
Classes are always taught in English.
Eating in the classrooms is not allowed.
Every class takes 2 hours.
You will mostly have classes with Macromedia students, sometimes other international students.
You cannot choose your subjects.
Attendance is mandatory, meaning that you can miss every subject around 4 times each semester. 
This can lead to you going to University even though you are sick, depending on how good your immune system works. I travelled almost every weekend and went to Morocco two times during my stay and it worked out for me just fine, but some days I found it rough to motivate myself to go to university only because I had to.

Classes are only held Monday to Thursday, Fridays are always off. You most likely will have two early days from 8:45am to 1pm (Monday and Wednesday or Tuesday and Thursday) and two long days from 3pm to 7pm. Spanish classes, if you choose to take some, are always on every second day between 1pm and 3pm.

Apart from that, every subject has two exams, as well as project work, and almost weekly presentations and assignments.
There are various possibilities to still pass a subject even if you did not pass an exam, and there is an emergency solution if you don’t attend as many classes as you should (which I would not recommend).

On your free weekends, you might want to visit the GOT – Castle in Córdoba, a medieval historic city in Andalusia.

Daily life at the university:

EUSA has a small cafeteria where one can get small snacks as well as a typical Spanish lunch menu (5€). Even though it is very small, it is a good option if you forgot your lunch or are planning to do some project work after class.
The English skills of the teachers are quite different. My English is completely fluent, so I found their skills to be lacking sometimes, but I understood what they meant most of the time.
In my opinion, grades are more dependent on the English level than the actual knowledge about the subject, which was why I found the level to be very easy (for example, we were mostly never asked to present any source material for our projects and presentations, and the second exams were always multiple choice tests).
Teaching methods in Spain are different from the ones in Germany. It is for example a common style to overload presentations with texts, whereas in Germany we try to have as little texts as possible.
Most teachers are very nice to talk to, and we also managed to drink a beer together in the cafeteria one time, which was really fun.

Spanish classes are voluntary (but attendance is mandatory as soon as you decide to take one). You will have many grammar exercises like in school, working with a workbook and getting homework, but you will also learn a lot about the best spots in Seville, Andalusian culture and of course the very weird dialect of the region.

Cádiz is the nearest city with a beach. Some people even like it more than Seville.

Free time

Málaga was my favourite city around the region

There are a lot of club and pub events, student parties and gyms, but not much more, so if you’re not a partygoer, the main thing to do in Seville is sightseeing and travelling around the region. I generally recommend one to be outgoing and openminded towards other people. There are tons of international students in Seville, and through student events, you will have great opportunities to get to know people from all around the world, which I personally really enjoyed.


Visiting an old hospital’s garden during open nights


I recommend a sightseeing tour on the open nights in October, where you can visit many monuments for free, as well as the incredibly beautiful aquarium of Seville.
You should also not miss the chance to pay a visit to Sabor a España, a traditional Spanish sweets shop.

Costs

Meat as well as fruits and vegetables are very cheap in Spain, so it is very easy to eat vegetarian. Vegan food is not as common as it is in Germany, but you can get around there too. Many restaurants are overall cheaper than in Germany, which means you can go try out a lot of different restaurants.
Small hint: eating tapas can become an expensive experience if you try to combine the dishes to a whole meal like we are used to eat in Germany. Traditional Spanish kitchen rarely has any big “dishes” with sides and mains.
Everything else is way more expensive and some sweets are almost a thing of luxury. Furthermore, there is a smaller choice of cosmetic products than we have in Germany.

Depending on needs and expectations, a room can cost between 250€ (low quality) up to 500€ per month (this would rather be an apartment). I paid around 300-400€ per month.
I found all my rooms online. A few months before the Semester starts,
EUSA sends an email with many online resources where to find a room, which students can use, but of course there are even more websites.
Flights can cost between 20€ (cheapest option with Ryanair) to 200-300€, depending on the season and the date you book.

Sevici bikes cost 30€ a year, if you sell your Sevici account or buy it from someone else, it can even be cheaper. With special bus and metro cards, a ride costs 62ct/79ct only . Without this card, bus rides cost 1,40€ one way.

The area around the cathedral is full of monuments and touristic attractions and easily accessible with public transport.

Further advices

Before your stay, try to search for accommodation very early.
Carry your passport with you, in case you want to visit Morocco or for other emergencies. Also, pack some warm clothes, since air-conditioning can be quite cold, as well as a winter without heating.
Don’t forget your sun protection though.

Try to reduce the expectations you have to a minimum. Your semester abroad will be totally different from how you would imagine it, I promise.
If you don’t have a clear image of how things should be, you will be able to enjoy what comes along the way more .
Keep an open mind for experiences and people and be courageous to talk to people even if you have little language skills (they don’t have them either and you’ll still understand each other).

Try to apply for scholarships, there is a variety of scholarships offered and you should really take the chance. My scholarship helped me pay almost all my expenses during my semester abroad.

Once you arrive at your flat, take pictures of everything and make sure everything is as advertised to be on the safe side. Only sign contracts you understand. Change your accommodation if you feel uncomfortable with it, it can influence your experience a lot and is not something you have to put up with, especially not in Seville where it is more than possible to find something new.

Don’t hesitate to talk to your student ambassadors or the staff from the international office. At EUSA, many teachers will also happily listen to your concerns and happily help you as well.

If you have any more questions, you can always ask.

Stay safe and enjoy your stay.