I have been in Granada for four weeks now, and I feel like I am riding a seesaw. I am having the time of my life in this playground of Spain, but like I am constantly lifting up and sinking down. I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I’m just adjusting. I call this stage the In-Between.
The In-Between can be a place too — a walk through three separate squares to get to your favorite buñuelo shop, or a plane ride to and from home. To me, travel is all about the things in between.
When I’m in between, either physically or internally, I listen to a lot of music. So what better than to share a playlist that celebrates this phase and space of getting to where you need to be? I hope this playlist can settle your adjustment the way it does for me. And when you listen, I hope that you’ll notice new graffiti on the side of a building or an hidden talent you never knew—anything to make your space in between more magical.
POWERLINES: TRACK 1 & 2
Since this is my first blog post for AIFS, I’d like to introduce myself. If you’ve seen the movie Baby Driver, which I watched on the plane ride from Washington, D.C. to Europe, you can think of me as Baby. Like him, I’m a DJ for my own little world. About 8% of my set is Tame Impala.
If you ever feel unsettled, it is good to listen to music that makes you feel yourself. That way, you can feel more confident in an uneasy space. For me, “Powerlines” by Tame Impala represents the electricity of anticipation. Its guitars remind me of how I felt watching Baby Driver on the plane, like an excitement was pulsing through my body.
Once you get to your destination, don’t expect to magically feel adjusted, but don’t expect the adjustment to be uncomfortable. The excitement hasn’t gone away! In a lot of ways, adjustment feels like falling in love. Everything is new and seems to be the most interesting thing you’ve ever encountered. I’m aware that the lyrics of “Not Discuss It” by St. Beauty are about a failing relationship, but hear me out. I chose this song for the vibe. St. Beauty’s airy voices and ethereal synths feel like a dream. I’m not sure about you, but everything seems unreal in a new place. As I take my daily route to school past the cathedral and through the winding streets, all the buildings seem to get closer and farther away. St. Beauty captures exactly how it feels to be infatuated with a new place but not yet want to call it home.
FEELS: TRACKS 3 – 7
However dreamy, adjustment always comes with angst. Recently, I was feeling off, so I took a little solo adventure just to reconnect with myself. I walked through a little green square on my way to a café, where I wrote and drank fruity tea. Then I decided I liked exploring on my own, so a few hours later I made my way out again and somehow got lost in the old city, Albaicín. There, I took note of two vegetarian restaurants I’d like to visit.
When I found my way, I decided to thwart my original plans to continue my writing, and watch the sunset at a viewpoint. On my way, I ran into a man who had graduated from my school (HU! You KNOW!) and his friend and I decided to follow them. I’m a pretty introverted person, so this decision surprised even me.
Long story short, now I know a new viewpoint to look at the sunset, another tea spot, and two more very cool people. I even made my way back to my apartment from a place I didn’t quite know by myself at night (something I hate to do).
Remember that I said that the In-Between is not a bad thing? My favorite thing about adjusting is that it requires a lot of exploring, and in exploring, you learn as much about yourself as you do a new city. When this happens to me, I feel a rush of emotions. It kind of feels like immense happiness for what I know now and a twinge of sadness for what I knew. Snoh Aalegra’s bittersweet string ballad “Feels” puts this phenomenon very well: “I never knew all of these feels.”
PRETTY GIRL: TRACKS 8 – 10
This part may only apply to some, but I think it’s important to mention. In Granada, there aren’t many people who look like me. I have really big hair and I’m trying out this new 70’s-ish afro style. There are a few times when I am on the street and people do not compliment me, which is nice. But sometimes people are creepy about it, especially this man at the flamenco bar who told me I looked like Rihanna. As much as I try, I cannot erase the image of him looking directly into my soul while clapping off beat. His flirting tactic? Teaching me to clap… like, no, sir… take several seats…
Seriously, though, I’m constantly in a defensive place. I enjoy being acknowledged for my apparent beauty, but sometimes I feel a little like an side-show attraction for people to gawk at and prod. But I am not upset at this predicament. I think that this is a test of my self-confidence. It’s a lesson in carrying myself with the respect I deserve.
LONELY SHREDDER: TRACKS 11 & 12
Some days you might lack the skills to adjust the way you want. I certainly do. Sometimes, I feel a lot less like I’m in between and more like I’m at home, only no one but me knows I’m there. On those days, I listen to Mac Demarco or Steve Lacy or Miguel. I believe music matches our frequencies, or our auras, if you will. When you are missing the people you love and are in a space where you cannot call them or FaceTime them—let’s say you’re walking two blocks down to the supermarket—listen to music that reminds you of the times you shared with them. It doesn’t even have to be a song that you’ve shared together or an artist they know. Sometimes music just feels like home. That way, when you are discovering a new space, you can take home with you. You can ground yourself In-Between.
UNDER CONTROL: TRACK 13
I’ve chosen to end this playlist with one of my favorite bands, the Internet. I think this playlist is a bit of a see-saw itself, navigating through lands of compressed synths and lo-fi guitars. This song is a happy medium, a happy In-Between.
I’ve spent a lot of this post talking about my self growth, but I think what has made studying abroad easier are the people here in Granada. My roommate, Efi, was the one who saved me from the creepy man at the bar, and my entire Early-Start group was on my side. My friends in Spain are the ones on the other side of the see-saw, riding through this adjustment period with me.
I hope I’ve inspired those of you abroad or away from home to create your own playlist. Just remember that when you build soundtrack full of frequencies that match your friends back home, add songs that connect with the friends you have where you are.
Thank you for bearing with my sensitive poetics and for allowing me to introduce myself. I hope to get to know who you are! How do you adjust to new places? What have you been listening to lately?
PS: I know, I know, I know there are no Spanish language songs on this playlist. BELIEVE ME. That playlist is coming. It’s definitely coming.
This post was contributed by Aidan Keys, who is spending her spring semester studying abroad with AIFS in Granada, Spain. To listen to her In-Between playlist, check out the embedded version above or listen directly via Spotify or Apple Music.