Home Spain Student Spotlight: Mara’s Semester Abroad in Seville, Spain

Student Spotlight: Mara’s Semester Abroad in Seville, Spain

by AIFS Abroad
aifs abroad student in seville spain

Eager to step into the footsteps of a college student who is experiencing life in Seville? We recently caught up with AIFS Abroad student Mara, a Psychology major with a minor in Business and Communications from the University of South Florida. She spent her spring semester studying abroad in the city of Seville on our program at Universidad de Sevilla.

Read on to learn more about her study abroad experience with AIFS Abroad and the impact of being an international student in Seville.

Choosing a Study Abroad Program Destination & Term

Deciding when and where to study abroad can be a challenge for a lot of students (our team can help with that!), but no matter where you go, you’re in for the adventure of a lifetime! Mara chose Seville, the largest city in the Spanish region of Andalusia. Hear more about why this dynamic city in Spain hotspot was ideal for her semester abroad:

“I chose to study abroad in Sevilla because I was looking for a location that was the perfect mix between small town and big city. I also wanted to live in a city that didn’t have English speakers quite as accessible compared to other cities in Spain. I would 100% recommend Sevilla. It is one of the most beautiful and walkable cities I’ve ever seen with phenomenal architecture.”

But, why study abroad in Seville during spring semester specifically?

“I chose to study abroad in my Spring semester because it made the most sense with my degree progression. I felt that the transition of USA to Spain would be easier in the second semester in regards to move in at my home university.”

Academics in Seville

One of the most exciting parts of studying abroad is taking unique, experiential courses at your host university or institution! It allows you to be in a different learning environment than you’re used to back at home, and can broaden your perspective. Through AIFS Abroad, Mara’s spring semester courses abroad were taken at Universidad de Sevilla, which has an extensive university community made up of more than 70,000 students. The university strives to build a more human institution that’s close to the people, which is governed with them and for them, promoting participation and dialogue.

“I studied at the Universidad de Sevilla and I loved it! The actual building is an old tobacco factory that was renovated for education and is filled with massive marble arches and sculptures. I loved that the university was in city center. It was accessible and close to plenty of shops and restaurants.”

aifs abroad student at universidad de sevilla in seville, spain
Mara at Universidad de Sevilla in Seville, Spain

At Universidad de Sevilla, study abroad students aren’t limited to only taking classes with students from their respective organizations. Mara shares:

“My classes had students from many different programs. I was not in any courses that exclusively had AIFS students.”

Studying abroad presents a unique opportunity to take courses in a new setting. Whether you have requirements to fulfill to complete your degree or are looking to enroll in electives that simply pique your interest, there are tons of amazing learning opportunities! In Mara’s case, she focused mainly on electives as a student in Seville with AIFS Abroad.

“I took Wine in Spain, Cuisine in Spain, Watercolor Painting in Sevilla, and Spanish Composition. My favorite classes were the wine and cuisine classes because they directly correlated to my experiences in the city and Spain in general! I chose to take only elective classes, but many of my friends took classes that pertained to a Spanish minor or major.”

Transitioning into a new academic setting can be an exciting challenge! While you’re used to life as a college student on your home university’s campus being a certain way, life as a student abroad isn’t going to be an exact replica of that experience — including in the classroom. Mara’s study abroad courses in Seville were set up a bit differently than the ones she typically takes at the University of Florida, sharing:

“Classes in Spain are definitely structured differently than in the US. In my experience, there were only exams and a few projects for the entire semester, rather than the consistent load of homework I usually receive each evening in the states. Classes in Spain usually were about 2 hours.”

aifs abroad study abroad student walking up steps at Plaza de España in seville, spain
Mara on the steps of Plaza de Sevilla in Seville, Spain

Language Learning


Would you volunteer abroad? 🇪🇸 AIFS Abroad student Mara in Seville tells us about her volunteer efforts teaching students english while abroad in Spain! 🎥 Check out Mara’s full takeover on our YT channel! #studyabroad #aifsabroad #studyabroadprograms #studyabroadspain #studyabroadseville #seville #spain #collegestudents #volunteer #volunteering

♬ Natural Emotions – Muspace Lofi

Fun fact: It’s not a requirement to be fluent in a foreign language to study abroad! While some course options may require a certain level of proficiency, we can accommodate language learners of all levels on our programs. If language immersion scares you a bit, you can always choose to study abroad in an English-speaking country, but we encourage you to push yourself out of your comfort zone if you’re at all interested. It can be incredibly exciting to learn a new language as a student abroad — both inside and outside of the classroom!

Despite very little Spanish skills under her belt, Mara committed herself to an authentic language immersion in Seville.

“I came into my study abroad experience with almost no Spanish comprehension. I certainly felt apprehensive about moving to a country where I didn’t understand the language, but that was why I chose Spain in the first place. I wanted to learn from native speakers and I felt that jumping straight in was the best way. It was not required to speak or understand Spanish in my program. If your goal is to learn Spanish, immerse yourself wherever you can. Speak to your peers in Spanish. Order food and shop in Spanish. If you live in a homestay, do your best to respond in Spanish. It pays off and your language skills will develop fast!”


Did you know all AIFS Abroad programs include housing? Typical options include shared apartments, student residences/dorms, and living with a local family in a homestay. Mara’s accommodations in Seville were with a Spanish host family — a perfect way to truly immerse yourself in the local language and culture, as well as have a home-away-from-home environment.

“I lived in a homestay near city center. I had a host mom and a roommate who was in my AIFS program. I had a wonderful experience with my homestay. Sometimes there are challenges in adjusting to living with each other, but if you take the time to get to know your host family and adapt to the Spanish lifestyle, its incredibly fulfilling. Communication is key. I loved having a ‘home’ to return to after a program trip or a long day of classes.”

Making Friends Abroad

College is often the first time many students are out on their own, forging friendships with other students that can become almost like family. Because of this, it can be understandable that some are on the fence about doing a study abroad program alone or consider holding off applying until a friend is available to go with them. Obviously the more the merrier, but we recommend that you study abroad when it’s convenient for you. Chances are you’ll forge new friendships once abroad, like Mara did as a student in Seville with AIFS Abroad.

“I went into the program knowing no one in advance. This was definitely a source of anxiety for me, but it’s important to remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither are friendships, and that’s ok too.

As my program went on, my friendships developed naturally due to how much time we spent together and the shared experiences of travel. It’s difficult to not become friends when you do programming and classes together! There is no need to rush immediate friendships, the program handles it for you.

The one thing I would recommend is to make the effort. It never hurts to ask someone to grab a coffee with you after class or invite them to a new city over the weekend!”

Social & Cultural Activities

Each and every AIFS Abroad program includes social and cultural activities, as well as excursions — and our study abroad program in Seville is no exception! These co-curricular experiences are an amazing way to learn outside of the classroom, and for students to get to know their host region and its culture. Students in Seville can choose from a variety of activity options, but Mara loved our program-led 3-day excursion to Granada, another incredible destination in the region of Andalusia.

“My favorite excursion with AIFS was our overnight to Granada. The city was incredible and we had a lot of time to get to know each other (this trip happened early on before friendships had been solidified). Granada has an amazing tapas culture and vibrant night life that was fun to explore!”

aifs abroad student in seville, spain during local cultural festival
Mara with locals in Spain

Culture Shock & Cultural Immersion

When you first arrive to your study abroad destination and start to transition into your life overseas, odds are you may experience a little bit of culture shock. That said, it can be different for each student! Some experience it more or less than others. In Mara’s case, the slower-paced Spanish lifestyle was what she had to adjust to most.

“For me, the strangest part of living in Spain was the difference in tempo in which we live our lives. Life in Sevilla is slower. Shops shut down for siesta. People walk along the river and truly live in the moment. For me, that was the most shocking and rewarding change to adapt to.”

But what did Mara love most about the culture in Seville or Spain at large? She shares her favorite elements or experiences, both in every day life and unique one-off adventures.

“I loved how being ‘in the moment’ was encouraged in Sevilla. The days are longer which gives you more time to explore the city, grab tapas with your friends, or travel to a new location on a whim! Often times, I would see people of all ages in the streets of Sevilla just enjoying the company of each other and spending time in the city.”

“I took a solo trip to Málaga over a weekend and had an amazing time meeting new people in my hostel and exploring the city! The people you meet on your travels will teach you lessons about life that you won’t learn in school. I stayed up well into the morning just learning about everyone’s life and how they got to this moment in time. It’s truly one of the most fulfilling experiences to be around like-minded people who are passionate about exploration and immersion into different cultures.”

aifs abroad student in Spain
Mara enjoying a beautiful day in Spain

Growth Through Education Abroad

There’s no shortage of growth that happens when you study abroad. Whether you choose to go overseas for a full semester like Mara or for just a few weeks on a short-term program, you’ll see an immense change in yourself academically, personally, and professionally.

“Personally, I learned to live in the moment and challenge myself. I learned how to travel safely and book accommodations. Academically, because I took courses that were different than what I’ve been studying for the last three years, I learned how to think in a different way. For the first time in a while, I was able to look at the world through a human and cultural perspective rather than STEM perspective I was used to.”

As for the future, Mara’s goals have changed slightly as a result of broadening her horizons through her study abroad experience.

“My future goals have changed a bit because now I know there are more options than I originally thought. I met many people who were teaching English in Spain as a gap year between their undergrad and masters, and that’s opened up a door of possibilities I didn’t know of before.”

Final Thoughts

Mara’s final words of wisdom for future study abroad participants? Allow yourself to go out of your comfort zone and embrace the ebbs-and-flows of your international education experience.

“Studying abroad will come with its own set of challenges, and that’s the best part! We grow best in moments of discomfort, so don’t let the fear of change or the unknown define your experience. There will be ups and downs abroad, just like there will be ups and downs if you stay at your home university. That is part of the experience, and in my opinion, the most impactful part of studying abroad. This opportunity is an incredible catalyst for personal growth. Live in the moment. Take advantage of the accessibility of other cities and countries that are near you. Learn as much as you can about other cultures and people, and in turn, you will learn so much about yourself.”

Are you a student who’s ready to take the leap and study abroad in Seville like Mara did with AIFS Abroad? We’d love to help you start your journey!

Here at AIFS Abroad, we know a thing or two about helping college students and pre-professionals study and intern abroad. Our programs are incredibly inclusive, which takes a lot of the stress out of planning. From coordinating your housing to providing things like cultural and social activities, excursions, comprehensive insurance, 24/7 emergency support, on-site staff, and more, you’ll take comfort in knowing you’ll have support throughout your entire experience abroad.

0 comment

You may also like

Connect with us on Facebook