Empress Alexia & Spain
Get excited...this is the kick off post for the #EmpressDiaries series! This series highlights the incredible projects and experiences of women of all backgrounds. Most of the time it is easy to think you have to lead a certain life of fame and fortune to do incredible things. With this series, I am striving to dispel this notion and show that there are women out here pursuing their passions and thriving from them. So without further ado...
Unlike most of the women I hope to interview, I know this Empress very well. Alexia is my roommate and my friend. Her send off to Spain was very exciting and I knew that she would make the most of her experience. What I did not realize was how much her course in life would be impacted by this trip. Before I dive into that, let's start from the beginning.
After deciding that she wanted to do a study abroad program through our college (so as to ensure the transfer of credits and financial aid) Alexia had her sights set on Barcelona. Yet her Spanish advisor deterred her from applying there because the people of Barcelona speak Catalan. She instead suggested Madrid or Sevilla and Alexia, of course, picked the latter.
I asked Alexia what the hardest transition was and she gave an answer that really hit home. "The lack of diversity," she said. "I was the only black girl with huge curly hair on top of my head." Even though staring is a cultural no-no in the United States, Alexia said that the people over there do it all the time. Still, the staring was not out of disgust, but more out of curiosity.
"I was constantly asked if my hair was a wig, even when I visited England." The stares made Alexia want to pull her hair back, to hide. Her new friend also experienced the stares for contrasting features, her very fair skin and blonde hair. It took some time for Alexia to feel comfortable wearing her hair normally, but she realized it was not a matter of the stares changing, but her ignoring them.
Alexia fell in love right away. She does not know what it was, but she guesses it's their way of life. Her most vivid memories of Sevilla come from their week long festival, Feria. The week is filled with traditional flamenco attire, traditional dance performances and horse carriage contests all in a carnival-like atmosphere.
Feria takes place among a mass of 1100 casetas, small tents. There are several big tents named after the seven neighborhoods and in them there are places to dance, drink and eat. The other tents are privately owned by families or companies. It's not a holiday, so people did not get off of work, but people would leave work, come home to go to Feria till 3 a.m. and wake up and repeat. "We partied all night," Alexia said.
For Alexia, this time was all about self-growth. At the end of the semester she realized she just wants to be happy and carefree in every way. "I want to appreciate the greater things in life and the smaller things in life," she says. This semester she put herself first. No boys, no dance, no doing something for someone else.
Alexia wants to go see other non-Spanish speaking cities before she goes back to Sevilla, to push herself out of her comfort zone. "Just go for it," she tells young girls interested in studying abroad. She encourages them to have no fear for the unknown, stepping outside of the norm will teach you more than you think.
Thinking about studying abroad? Check out the resources that Alexia used before and during her trip below! Also see more of her amazing photos here.