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Torero Life Abroad: Melinda Sevilla '18 Experiences Madrid to the Max

Melinda Sevilla is a senior Communication Studies and Spanish double major and a McNair Scholar in the University of San Diego's class of 2018. She studied abroad in Madrid, Spain at the USD Madrid Center last fall, but wound up staying — by asking and receiving help from USD and a local university there — to complete her entire junior year abroad. Sevilla reflects on her experience and encourages fellow Toreros to speak up about opportunities that may exist. 

This time last year, I was on a 12-hour flight to study abroad in Madrid, wearing my pickpocket-proof fanny pack, thinking I’d made a terrible mistake. I was a San Diego native with travel anxiety and a serious culprit of what Spaniards call being a hogareña (homebody). A year later, I can’t believe how much my life and confidence has changed; I’ve learned and gained so much more than churro weight and random madrileño slang.

Much to my surprise, I quickly fell in love with Madrid, my professors, my new Spanish colegas, my sweet and sassy host mom, Mama Conchi, and the culture itself; who doesn’t love being able to walk and Metro everywhere and go to discotecas open until 6 a.m.? We got to experience more of Spain in the 10-day travel seminar included in USD’s program; highlights included La Alhambra in Granada and visiting my namesake, Sevilla, Spain, and clearing their gift shops of everything with my name on it.

Melinda Sevilla's Madrid 2016-17

I craved more time in Spain, but USD’s Madrid Center is only designed for semester-long stays. By impulse, I took a chance and asked the center's director, Dr. Carlos Burgos, if there was any way I could find classes at Universidad Pontificia Comillas, a sister university, to stay for the entire year. I received overwhelming support from Dr. Burgos, Communication Studies advisor and research mentor Dr. Kristin Moran, Spanish advisor Dr. Martin Repinecz, and Dr. Roger Pace, Communication Studies chair, as they made the seemingly impossible come true and found classes for me to stay a second semester and stay on track to graduate.

During my spring semester, I took relevant Communication Studies and Spanish (my majors) classes at the Madrid Center and Comillas. This also involved enrolling in a Chemistry course in Spanish with engineering students. Long story short, I’m no STEM expert and ended up dropping the class within two weeks, but that was the first time I truly took a failure and owned it as a learning experience. Other bumps in the road involved going to an internship interview and having supervisors think I was a Spaniard, then proceed to test me on my English (don’t worry, I passed!) and getting lost on the Cercanías train on the first day of classes at Comillas.

On a brighter note, I did a public relations internship at a Spanish-speaking agency called rgtogether, where I had an awesome supervisor named Macarena (yes, like the song!) and fun co-workers who taught me more about PR in Spain. I worked as an English tutor to 8-year old Spanish twins, Jaime and Marta where our activities varied from learning English versions of Disney songs to making s’mores. I strengthened connections with Spanish friends from the semester before and make new ones through my Comillas classes and their International buddy program (shout out to Paloma, como te echo de menos!), and I went to traditional Spanish holidays in pueblos with them and my roommate and travel partner-in-crime, Aimee, for Semana Santa, Las Fallas, and Carnavál

In retrospect, I can’t believe how many of these life-changing experiences wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t just asked! As I enter my senior year, if Spain has taught me anything, it’s taught me to find positivity and humor in cultural differences, take in the scenery, and to not be afraid of failure. Especially at USD, your education is truly your own, and the opportunities you have access to are often hiding in plain sight or waiting after a simple question to your advisor or department chair.

These experiences wouldn’t have been possible without the support I’ve found in countless professors, administrators, mentors, supervisors, and peers at USD. I will never be able to repay them all for giving me the opportunity to be Melinda la madrileña, even if only for a short while. ¡Hasta luego, Madrid! 

— Melinda Sevilla ’18

All photos in the slideshow were provided by Melinda Sevilla

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