Name: Simone Harstead
Hometown: New York City
Varsity Sport Participated in: Women's Soccer
Study Abroad Semester and Location: Spring 2015 in Sevilla, Spain
What made you want to live and study in Sevilla?
I am an International Relations and Spanish double major, so I definitely wanted to live and study in a Spanish-speaking country. I was very interested in going to Spain, and Sevilla seemed like the perfect place. Being from New York, I have missed living in a city; however, I still wanted a balance between urban and rural life. Sevilla is a city of 800,000 people and the capital of Andalucía, a southern region of the country. It is kind of stuck in the traditional southern way of thinking, which includes bull-fighting, siestas, and a beer at (almost) every meal.
What is a common food there? Best meal you’ve had abroad?
Everything here is basically tan colored: bread, potatoes, fried meats, etc. At first it was very difficult to find fresh vegetables, and salads are composed of white lettuce, olive oil, salt, and vinegar. The best meal I’ve had abroad is from this wonderful tapas restaurant (tapas are small dishes and a Spanish specialty). I always order solomillo al whiskey (pork in a whiskey/garlic/lemon sauce over potatoes) and berenjenas crujientes con salmorejo y miel (fried eggplants- as healthy as it gets- with a tomato cream sauce and honey).
What is the hardest adjustment you've had to make?
The relaxed lifestyle is definitely a staple of Spain. And although that doesn't seem like something to complain about, it is difficult to adjust to. Spaniards are never in a rush- there could not be a single car driving down the street and they still will never jaywalk. They also take naps every day, which I cannot adopt. Also, never expect for plans to actually start on the agreed time!
What is the most unexpected thing you have encountered so far during your off-campus study experience?
To be honest, my most unexpected moments have been those that have challenged me. For example, I never expected to fall sick from mono during my first few weeks here. I became pretty ill and ended up having to spend a night in the hospital, which is pretty scary if few people speak your native language and neither of your parents are picking up their phones in the United States. I also moved to a shared apartment with students halfway through the semester (I was at a home-stay before), and I was suddenly independent in a country I was not yet very familiar with.
What is your favorite place in your host city/country?
Definitely Río Guadalquivir, a river that runs through Sevilla. As soon as the weather warms up, everyone starts crowding at the banks of it to hang out, drink, and play music. I’ve seen some pretty incredible sunsets there, and the churro stand is very close by.
How has your study abroad experience affected your athletic experience or your identity as an athlete back at Beloit?
One of the reasons I have loved studying abroad in Spain is their complete devotion to soccer. There are children playing everywhere, the games are basically a religious experience, and there was even some betting going on at my home-stay. When I saw a Sevilla FC game last weekend, it was so beautiful so see all of the fans singing national songs they’ve known since they were children.
How were you able to stay in shape or stay prepared for your sport while you were off-campus?
The run along the Río Guadalquivir is so beautiful that you almost want to run! Also there are pickup games everywhere!!
Did being an athlete provide you with any advantages while you were abroad? If yes, what were they?
Being an athlete definitely makes you a part of a community, and it was awesome to meet other athletes and talk about soccer! It just adds another facet to someone and it’s great to meet other people that have similar interests!
Do you have any words of advice for other athletes who want to study abroad?
Study abroad!!! More athletes should do it! Although it is difficult, especially if you’re a winter sport, it is such a beneficial opportunity. Your sport will still be there upon return, and you can meet other athletes abroad.