Jennifer Clarke
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Hi everyone! My name is Jennifer Clarke, and I’m a junior here at Penn State. I’m a Spanish and Psychology double major and a Peer Advisor in the Education Abroad Office. I studied in Sevilla, Spain for six weeks in the summer of 2008 and I had the time of my life. Before studying abroad, I had never been to Europe and I had never traveled alone. Needless to say, I was nothing short of terrified. But I can honestly say that studying abroad in Spain was the most enriching and exciting thing that I’ve ever done in my life.

As a Spanish major, I’ve learned a lot about the language and culture of España. But my passion for all things Spanish began back in my junior year of high school when I took a class about Spanish history. Since then, I knew that some way, somehow, I was going to make it to Spain. I started compiling my research on study abroad my sophomore year at Penn State and decided that a summer term was the best choice for me since I had never really been away from home before. Naturally, as soon as I got there, I never wanted to leave. Sevilla has a way of heightening your senses and forcing you to look around and soak it up. Caught somewhere in the middle of antiquity and modernity, Sevilla is home to La Catedral, the largest Gothic cathedral in the world, and the Alcázar, an old Moorish and Christian palace that’s over 600 years old. However, Sevilla also has enough Starbucks and McDonald’s to keep any true American satisfied. For me, the real spirit of the city exists in the center, where cobblestone streets are wide enough for one car or a horse-drawn carriage. Sometimes it’s even necessary to step into the doorway of a building to allow a car to pass. Colorful houses are jammed next to each other, next to tapas bars and plazas. Sevilla is split in half by the river Guadalquivir and on the other side lies Triana, home to Calle Betis, a street filled with bars and clubs that don’t close until the sun comes up. Despite the breathtaking architecture and the enchanting layout of the city, the people are what make Sevilla so welcoming. Always willing to help with directions or offer the name of a good restaurant, the Sevillanos love tourists who love Sevilla.

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But Sevilla wasn’t the only place I visited in Spain. CIEE brought us on two pre-paid weekend trips to Extremadura and Granada. I also got the chance to spend a weekend on the beach in Portugal and tour a bodega in Jerez. I always got the best advice on when, where and how to travel from my señora (who also made the most amazing food I’ve ever eaten in my life). I took two classes for a total of six credits while in Spain, one on Spanish grammar and language, and one on the history of the ‘Tres Culturas’ in Spain. I never thought that my classes would be one of my favorite parts of studying abroad, but I learned and saw more in my Tres Culturas class than I ever would have on my own. Every day we had an hour and a half lecture followed by an hour and a half field trip, where our professor would take us on a walk through the city (or sometimes on a bus to another town close by) and physically show us the history we were learning. Besides touring the Cathedral and the Alcázar, we got to walk through different Barrios learning their history and significance. Perhaps my favorite class of all was when we went to a nearby town and walked through an old Roman gladiator arena.

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Though I’m clearly biased towards Spain and Sevilla in particular, the fact of the matter is that no matter where you study abroad, you will learn and see more than you ever thought you would. I met people, saw things, felt things, and even ate things that I could have never imagined and I don’t have a single regret. So go for it! I love helping prospective study abroad students, so if you have any questions at all, please feel free to stop by the office or e-mail me or any of the other advisors. ¡Viva España!

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