Breaking boundaries in Oviedo

Junior journalism major Sienna Vance reflects on her first experiences studying abroad in Spain.

The region of Asturias has been dubbed by some as the natural paradise of Spain. Now that I have lived here for three weeks, I have come to agree.

When I arrived in the city of Oviedo, I had no idea what to expect. However, I did know one thing: this experience would be different than my time in Madrid.

During the scenic bus ride to the city, I realized I would be entering a natural paradise. The mountains are a lush green color, which reminds me of vacations to Vermont when I was little. They are much taller than the Appalachians and surround the city like a fortress – a beautiful sight to see.

Once I arrived in Oviedo, my eye was immediately drawn to El Naranco – a 2080-foot mountain with a statue of Jesus Christ gazing over the city at the peak of the slope. A week after our arrival, my group and I hiked up to this famous spectacle; a challenge, but the view was well worth it.

The bus dropped us off at the University of Oviedo to meet the Spanish families that we would be staying with for the duration of our program.

I was the first one to be picked up by my host mother. She is in her 70s, very kind, speaks no English and feeds me a ton of delicious food – one of the best aspects of my trip.

My host mom told me upon my arrival that we would be celebrating the Epiphany day, otherwise known as Three Kings Day in Spain, with her children and grandchildren. On this day, Spaniards celebrate the Christian commemoration of the adoration of the Magi during their visit to baby Jesus.

The day can be compared to how we celebrate Christmas in the United States, but instead of receiving gifts from Santa Claus, the children believe that the three kings come to Earth at night and leave presents to open in the morning.

This day was my first real taste of Asturias.

 Lunch consisted of a four-course meal accompanied by dry red wine and cava – the Spanish version of champagne.

After all of the paella, chicken, soup, prawns and live crabs, I felt like I was in paradise.

My host mother’s family was very kind to me. At first I was overwhelmed with 12 people sitting at a table speaking only Spanish. It was impossible to understand everything.

Nevertheless, they helped me throughout their conversation. I learned new words and was even given a gift – a Roscon – a typical Spanish dessert, much like a croissant, that holds a prize inside of it. Whoever finds the prize, which is usually a small figurine of one of the three kings, is expected to have good luck for the rest of the year.

Although I did not find the king myself, my host mother’s son-in-law decided to give it to me as a “welcome gift.”

Hopefully, I will have good luck during the rest of my time in Asturias. Right now, it is only the beginning.

Sienna Vance can be reached at

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