Anthony Z. - Granada, Spain - Fall 2013
¡Hola de España! About a year ago, I was sitting in my dorm room with the brochures from three different programs across my bed, each in a very different city on an opposite corner of the earth. It was immensely hard choosing between Buenos Aires, Santiago, and Granada, but in the end, the “Moorish Jewel” of Granada became my choice, and now that I’ve been here for three weeks, I can see why it has received such a prestigious title. This city is indescribably beautiful. Granada is a melting pot of past and present, east and west, new and old, and familiar and strange. Every neighborhood here is totally distinct from the next. Traveling one block can take you from historic winding cobblestone streets full of Arab artisans and street vendors to modern marble buildings that tower above a center that rivals those of any other European city. The people here are incredibly friendly, albeit somewhat difficult to understand, and are incredibly proud of their heritage as Granadinos. As a city that is not as popular among tourists as Barcelona or Madrid, knowing only English here will severely limit the amount of things you can do. If you want to go to any restaurant or place that is not located on the few main streets, you’re going to need to know Spanish, and I love that. Everything here is incredibly cheap, and after hearing the horror stories of how much some of my friends spent when they studied in other cities in Spain, I was greatly surprised to find that things are cheaper here than they would be in the USA.
Within the next week, Granada is going to change greatly. Classes at the University of Granada are about to begin, and 60,000 students from all over Spain and the rest of Europe will soon be filling this city. Living in the university section of the city, I can’t wait to see the shops and bars that seem empty at the moment to fill with others my age.
The IES program here is wonderful. All of the staff is totally committed to making this experience great for us. One of the classes I’m taking is an internship. Two days a week, I go to a local school to help with its English classes. The students there are amazing. Because I’m one of the first three Americans to help out in their school in this way, the students are incredibly curious. Wherever I go, I get greeted by the students and am bombarded with questions about what the USA is like. I’ve only been there a week, and I can tell that it will be the highlight of my time here in Granada.
I’m living with a host mom who is a fantastic person and an amazing cook, but some of cultural norms that exist in homes here have taken me a while to get used to. For one, it is a major no-no walking around the house barefoot or even with socks on. Because of this, slippers need to be worn all the time. Also, because Granada is in an area with little water, taking really fast showers is the norm. However, the largest single thing that gave me culture shock is the culture of dogs here. In America, it is not uncommon for people to let their cats out at night. In Granada, dogs run around unsupervised during the day. Nothing really says “you’re not in America anymore” like seeing dogs casually walk into a bakery to beg for bread. In addition, Americans tend to baby their dogs and express how cute they are if one crosses their path. Here, nobody pays attention or makes remarks towards strangers’ dogs, and I have to admit I’ve had to restrain myself quite a few times from telling dogs how fluffy they are.
For all of you Elmhurst students who know you want to go abroad but are still unsure of the destination, don’t count out the smaller cities. I am having a blast, and I have not even come near to being bored even once. So far, with the program, I have been to Málaga, Sevilla, Ronda, and a natural park known as Cabo de Gata. While I loved each of the destinations, every time I’m gone, I can’t wait to come back to Granada. There’s just something wonderful about this place, and I’m incredibly lucky to be able to call it home (for the next three months).