My School Placement

Spanish phrase of the day: “Disculpen las molestias!” In poor literal translation, this phrase means “Excuse the bothers!” A good translator would just say, “Sorry for the inconvience!” One of these things is what I imagine polite bureaucrats in Andalucía would have said if I ever got ahold of them this past month.

July was an exercise in patience. I received my regional placement in Andalucía on June 28. Soon thereafter, I made a visa appointment in Chicago during the first week in August. I caved on Monday and emailed the Junta de Andalucía because I was worried I wouldn’t get my documents in time for my appointment. They never did get back to me, but July 28, exactly one month later, my school assignment arrived in the mail.

Now, we were required to put a permanent address on our application, so I used my parent’s address on the east side. Every two or three days for the past two weeks, I have been calling or emailing or texting, always asking, “Did I get a letter yet?”

On July 28, my sister texted, “Why didn’t you call Randy back yet?” Puzzled, I saw I had missed a voice message. I’m not sure I even finished the message before I called him back. I don’t remember saying hello; just, “Open it! Open it! Open it!”

I heard the envelope ripping, but it might have been my imagination. He unfolded the letter (probably). He said, “This must be it. This is your letter.” A pause. I was sure this was what it felt like to be dying. “I can’t read it. It’s in spanish.” No; this is what it felt like to be dying.

We determined Christina would scan the letter and email it to me so I could read it. She said, “I think you’re placed in Sevilla, though.” This was disappointing. I knew that what was likely was I placed in the province of Sevilla, 45 minutes away from the metro area in a small town where I’d either have to find a reliable commute or learn to like desert landscapes. I told her she was wrong; she didn’t understand. I wanted to read the letter myself. She said, “Okay.”

I had been expecting this. For most, although we are allowed to list preferences, schools and auxiliaries are matched on a first-come, first-served basis. Most of the placements (over 1000) are in Madrid. What many have to look forward to is being placed within 30-45 minutes by bus or car to a nearby metro area. Many choose to find housing in a city and commute to the town where they work.

Knowing this, I had been giving myself pep talks. If I were placed near Jaén, I would lay under olive trees and read and sketch trees. If I were placed near Cádiz or Huelva or Almería, I would spend hours staring out over the Mediterranean sea working on my tan. If I were placed in the mountains, near Ronda or some other whitewashed town in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, I would hike every chance I could get.

All of those things sounded pretty good, actually.

Which is why I had mixed feelings when I saw that my school was:

Instituto de Educacion Secundaria Ramon del Valle Inclan

Sevilla, Spain


It’s in metro Sevilla.

I knew I was lucky to get this placement because both my regional and city requests were honored, and my overall feeling was relief. But I also felt regret that I would have to travel to see the beautiful countryside, to go hiking, to see the olive orchards, and to bask on the beaches of the Mediterranean Sea.

But then I remembered that I requested the metro for a reason: the extra income opportunities, the safety of numbers, the people to meet, the tapas and nightlife, and, of course, the easy access to travel opportunities.

Palm trees and manicured bushes outside the bright orange red walls of the Real Alcazar.

In the royal gardens of the Alcazar, Sevilla

And now I’m ballistic with excitement. Yes, I will be happy in Sevilla. But don’t let me tell you about this great city. Let Rick Steve tell you! Then buy your round trip tickets.

I just bought mine; I’m leaving September 19 and coming back June 14. The best prices are on Student Universe and CheapoAir; try going from CHI to MAD and then take the train or bus from Madrid to Sevilla. If you see something for ~$850, get it! Normal is $1050-1200.

Let me know when you are coming!

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