I have always been in love with the rush of excitement that comes from learning about cultures different than my own. But it wasn’t until my best friend hosted a family friend from Germany for our junior year of high school that I fell in love with the possibility of being an exchange student. As I began to search for colleges, I knew that being able to studying abroad was at the top of my list of criteria. Studying abroad has been my dream for so long that the fact this dream of mine is coming to a close soon is almost impossible for me to wrap my head around.
I leave Granada in 3 days after a semester that was, in many ways, not what I ever expected it would be, and yet exactly what I hoped for.
Granada has humbled me and given me new determination to continue studying Spanish. I thought years of language class meant that I would be above average but soon after arriving in Granada, I learned I have so much further to go. Learning a new language takes constant practice, heaps of patience and loads of determination. These are things I lacked before, not truly understanding what it would take to become fluent until I was surrounded by those who are. I know now that I have to be more diligent.
Granada made me less timid. In Spain, I’ve done things like sit in the front of a taxi, flag down a waiter in a crowded cafe, order food for my entire family, meet with an AirBnB host–things that are simple at home but take a deep breath in of courage here because I do them all in Spanish. I have become more willing to allow myself to make mistakes since I have realized, once again, that’s the best way to learn.
Granada taught me patience, with myself and with others. The Spanish way of life affects everything, from buses meant to leave at 1 that don’t arrive until then, to streets full of slow walking granadinos. Most grocery stores only have one or two two check out lines which means waiting longer for something I was used to completing in moments. People move at a slower pace here and this no pasa nada attitude the Spaniards are so famous for took a lot of patience to adjust to. However, taking a pause literally became part of my daily schedule (via siesta of course.) Halfway through, you begin to move slower, and give yourself moments like coffee breaks and tapas just to enjoy time with friends. I needed this more than I realized before Spain became my home.
Granada taught me to take risks. When I arrived I quickly decided I wanted to have an intercambio or two. Intercambios are language exchanges, in this case Spanish and English speakers. I took information from the intercambio board and emailed complete strangers. I met up with them at cafes and in plazas. I never would have done this at home but I wanted to improve my Spanish and so I took the risk. Sometimes it didn’t work out, our personalities were too different, schedules failed to match. But one of my intercambios, Ana, has been one of the best parts of my few months in Granada, filled with laughter and learning.
Most of all though, Granada has given me smiles. And for that alone I am forever in debt to this city that sits in the shadow of the Alhambra, and yet does nothing but shine. That’s why I know this isn’t goodbye, and instead simply hasta luego because how could I ever say goodbye to this place I’ve come to love?