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Marcelle Ellis

CIEE Liberal Arts - Seville, Spain

Fall 2021


Name: Marcelle Ellis (she/her), Class of 2023

Email: mellis6@tulane.edu

Program: CIEE Liberal Arts - Seville, Spain

Fields of Study: Sociology, Spanish

How did studying abroad affect your academic and/or professional career?

Studying abroad provided me with a total perspective shift on how I viewed myself as a student and a citizen. Being immersed in a language I had been studying since elementary school was a challenge that forced me to break out of my routine and learn to take initiative in improving my fluency in Spanish. Having the opportunity to live with a host family gave me a firsthand look at Spanish traditions, food, and cultural values that were sometimes familiar or otherwise a new experience for me. Ultimately, this has widened my perspective on what schooling, leisure time, and careers, particularly my interest in the medical field, can look like outside of the United States and has, in turn, caused me to reflect on how I am accustomed to living.

How did you explore your hobbies, interests, and passions abroad?

When I was in Seville, I was able to expand upon my English as a Second Language teaching experience that I had begun in my service-learning class here at Tulane. My program offered a volunteer service that placed me in a vocational school in which I helped the instructor in teaching 16-25 year old Spanish students English phrases and traditions. This weekly experience allowed me to connect with Spanish students around my age and learn about their interests, unique phrases, and favorite spots around the city while I was able to share the American traditions of Thanksgiving and our own slang.

Why would you recommend your respective abroad program or location?

For me, Seville was an ideal location to study Spanish. Less metropolitan than Madrid while still located in a large and historically rich Spanish city, Seville is the right amount of walkability that leaves room for constant exploration. Compared to some of the other larger touristy cities I visited, Seville felt the most "Spanish" in that most people only spoke Spanish and rarely ever switched to speaking to me in English if they detected I was an American. Further, the option to stay with a host family was one of my favorite aspects of my study abroad semester. Everyone's experience is different, but my family was exceptionally welcoming and encouraging in helping me transition to this new place.

What should students consider when applying and preparing for their time abroad?

Don't be afraid of cultural or linguistic immersion! It can be really frustrating and intimidating to enter a location where you, at first, do not know how to communicate with people, but this ultimately really improves your comprehension and fluency. On that note, remember take a moment and reconnect with your family or friends because the new environment may be exhausting at times.

Share a story about a time you experienced cultural immersion.

My fellow Tulane friend Lisa and I decided to take the train to the historical city of Granada, Spain, for her birthday. After spending a day exploring the Alhambra, we found a posting for an event that night: Flamenco in a cave. We were intrigued and decided to go, eventually finding ourselves in a cave built into the cliff within a neighborhood that housed its own flamenco stage! Andalucia is known for its flamenco in the Sacromonte caves, and we were lucky enough to experience the passionate music and dance firsthand. Feeling the rhythm and energy with the cave acoustics was incredibly powerful and solidified this as one of my favorite memories while I was abroad.

Did your identity impact your study abroad experience?

As an Asian-American woman who was studying in a predominantly white and Spanish city, I sometimes felt a bit disconnected with my identity. There were few POC communities in Seville, especially within the university population, which was a bit unexpected. For people of color, I would recommend researching and asking previous students about their experience with how different countries view and approach racial differences. My friends that I met abroad and I sometimes had experiences with microaggressions in different areas within Spain or in other countries that I did not anticipate or think about before coming in.