Spain full of friendly citizens, colorful cuisine

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    Staying alert through three plane changes and seven different time zones is almost always a difficult task. Yet the sculpted hills and clay-walled estates of the Andalusian countryside seen from the window of an arriving flight were an instant wake-up call.

    The bustling streets and pulse of a thousand cafes beneath the soft glow of street lamps reflected in the Guadalquivir River make up the face of the TCU in Seville program through the Center for International Studies.

    Arriving here on Aug. 27 was the climax of many plans, preparations and visions, beginning with the decision to investigate study abroad through TCU as a freshman. Spending a few weeks, a summer or a semester overseas is an excellent supplement to most majors and all lives, unearthing new perspectives on learning, relationships and world views.

    Since stepping from the plane into the heart of Andalusia, three incredible pieces of the study abroad environment emerged to promise growth and excitement between now and December: exploration, introspection and fun.

    Spain is a complex, diverse and fascinating country peppered with remnants of a half-dozen cultures and rich historical periods. I have already found Spanish residents to be warm, relaxed and loyal, with a friendly and familial spirit stretching across neighborhoods.

    A colorful cuisine, lively entertainment and local pride all encourage seeking out adventures, and student-targeted excursion agencies tug on the strings of curiosity and the desire to discover Europe and even Africa.

    Yet the languid afternoon hours spent in cafes and evenings spread across the serpentine streets of the older city invite visitors to lose themselves in the embrace of cultural immersion. Seville is a city of mystery and history waiting to be explored.

    The excellent curriculum model of the study abroad office encourages a new dimension beyond exploration, centered on self-awareness and perception of foreign environments. Knowing our own goals and values as Americans in a Spanish world and learning to compare differences and interweave similarities makes students better leaders, citizens and people.

    Without a willingness to change, develop personally and learn more Spanish, the study abroad experience would be far less stimulating. Every semester in college makes a significant impact on growth and self-knowledge, and study abroad perfectly facilitates what is natural to this stage of our lives.

    An older and still-persistent way of looking at study abroad is through the lens of sheer enjoyment. While seeking out the fun spots and getaways during the semester is a tempting fruit of independence, the greatest fun comes from truly being a part of the place and loving what any resident my age would love.

    The greatest surge of emotion in the semester came from walking the center of Seville near the gorgeous Gothic architecture and flying buttresses of La Giralda and the Seville Cathedral, imagining the sense of belonging I will feel in just a short time as I take to the sidewalks, siestas and vibrant social culture like any other Sevillano.

    The months ahead hold many stories to share with the cowboys and culture of Fort Worth, and the first day gave the first opportunity.

    Pearce Edwards is a junior political science and history double major from Albuquerque, New Mexico.