To be honest, I was a little nervous (OK, a lot nervous) before I left for my semester abroad — going to a completely unfamiliar place with not one person I knew was pretty daunting. But I have been in Granada, Spain for about three weeks, and I already have enough to say about it to fill the entire Signal Features section. What I found when I got here was worth the worry on the flight over — and I still have four months’worth of things to see!
I could write all about the truly incredible, vast yet intricately-designed Alhambra (the fortress, palace of Muslim kings and residential city of the final kingdom to be conquered by the Catholic Monarchs, Ferdinand and Isabel, in order to unite Spain), or the Albaicín (the old, beautiful Arab district, complete with winding narrow streets and breathtaking views of the Alhambra) or the grand Cathedral. I’ll save them for my blog, though, and write about the little things that have defined my experience so far.
Probably the most distinctive characteristic of daily life in Granada is that the people walk everywhere, pretty much all the time. There are cars, of course, but you would never see a college student driving to school. My house is a 25-minute walk from the University of Granada’s Center of Modern Languages, where I have my classes, and for a college student on a budget, this is the perfect situation: It’s close enough so that I don’t have to pay for a bus to take me to and from school.
As far as my residential situation goes, living in a “homestay” with a family is probably the best decision I made when preparing to study abroad. I’m so much less homesick than I thought I would be, and I’m pretty sure it’s because I’m staying in an actual home. I still miss my family and friends, but being with my host family has helped a lot. My Spanish has been improving a lot because of them, too. When my roommate and I don’t understand what they’re saying (often a result of the Andalusian accent, which drops almost every “s” and “d” from the middle and end of words), one of our host sisters will speak more slowly and enunciate for us. But even in just three weeks, understanding has gotten easier for us both.
One of my favorite parts of living here has been helping my younger host sisters (twins, age 15) with their English homework. It can be a challenge to explain concepts of English grammar in Spanish, but it’s basically an ideal situation for an English major and Spanish minor such as myself, and I’ve actually been fairly successful. I have fun bonding with them over shared mockery of their English textbook, which uses words like “swimming costume” (it’s British). It’s just one of the little things that makes me feel more at home.
I guess the point of all my rambling and musings is that I’m glad and grateful that I’m here, at this time, with these people, and I know the next five months will be some of the most exciting of my life. And seeing the snow-covered Sierra Nevada Mountains on my way to and from school is not so bad, either.