Hello, fellow 5Cers! I have now been in Spain for six weeks in the beautiful city of Granada (‘pomegranate’ in Spanish). It is the second-largest city of the autonomous community of Spain known as Andalusia. The city itself is a beautiful mixture of Spanish and Moorish influence that dates back hundreds of years. The architecture of the older buildings, combined with that of modern buildings, is breathtaking, and the siestas at 2:30 in the afternoon—simply magical. Seriously, we need to adopt this custom.
After traveling for more than twelve hours and nearly missing my connecting flight from Dallas, I arrived in Madrid. While I sat in baggage claim attempting to locate my lost luggage, I talked to a very nice airline representative. She asked where I was studying, and I answered, “Granada.” She exclaimed, “Granada! They have a very different accent than the rest of us” (in Spanish, of course). Already I was being told that the place I would call home for the next five months was different from the rest of the country. She was right. Granada is unlike any other place I have ever been.
It is a medium-sized city. All the buildings extend upward; sidewalks are tiny, and cars are small. I have visited all the tourist spots that make Granada unique, including the Alhambra, which in Arabic is known as “al-Ḥamrā.” It is a palace and fortress constructed during the mid-14th century by the Moorish rulers. The detail on the ceilings and in various gardens are all equally intricate and perfect. The Alhambra stands directly opposite of the Albayzín, a small part of Granada that contains the city’s best-preserved Moorish elements. There are small, winding streets, an Arab bath, an archaeological museum and the church of San Salvador, which was built on top of the foundations of a Moorish mosque. Albayzín is a great example of how the Spanish and Moorish cultures have been integrated to create a unique image throughout the city.
Throughout my time here I have encountered such new experiences—people, places, and culture. Before leaving the States, we were required to attend culture shock seminars and read books about the differences we would find abroad. One thing that was never mentioned was how I would deal with my own differences. Being an American obviously separates me from the Europeans I have met. Almost everyone in my study abroad program, including myself, has attempted to blend in with Spaniards, but I don’t think we’ve been as successful as we had hoped. But one thing hasn’t changed: whenever I hear someone speaking English, I feel an immediate connection. I recently traveled to London and I was incredibly excited to go to an English-speaking country. On the flight there, my fellow Scripps friend and I met other Americans who were studying in Sevilla, Spain. We started talking to them simply because they had been talking about basketball in English. I can’t imagine ever talking to a person in the States just because he/she is discussing a sport. But here, it’s different. I’ve noticed an immediate sense of camaraderie between Americans, especially between students who are studying abroad. That weekend in London, we saw our new friends multiple times, did some sightseeing together and were glad to find out that they were also on our return flight back to Spain.
That sense of camaraderie with Americans and English-speakers is one thing that I was not expecting to find while studying abroad, but it has been an important part in shaping my experience here. Friendships are created at a faster rate because we’re all away from home. I’m happy to say that I now have a lot more friends across the US, and I know that I will meet many more awesome Americans that love this city and country as much as I do.