Disclaimer: I am already in Granada, but I am going to write this post from the perspective of my pre-departure self so y'all can get the full picture of my study abroad experience.
Why am I studying abroad? Why Granada?
I don't remember when I first heard the term study abroad, but ever since I can remember it has been part of my plan for my college experience. This is for several reasons, but primarily because I believe that the best way to truly learn about a new culture is to live in it--not just visit as a tourist. My parents passed on the travel bug to me, as they have lived in multiple countries and I have traveled to 15 countries as well. As far as choosing a country, I knew I wanted to go to a Spanish-speaking country so that I could truly make Spanish my second language. I was born in Guatemala when my parents were teaching there, so I like to think that's a part of my story! There are 18 Spanish-speaking countries, but I've already been to parts of Central and South America, so I wanted to check out the motherland of the Hispanic language and culture. I decided on Granada specifically because I wanted a city where I could walk everywhere and get the city experience; however, I didn't want a big city like Madrid. Also, there is a city ordinance that says restaurants have to serve free tapas (think appetizers) when you order a beverage, which made my decision a bit easier! Finally, Granada is in the perfect location: it's an hour from the beach and an hour from Spain's tallest mountain, the Sierra Nevada, so I can go to a beach or hike in the mountains every weekend!
How am I preparing to go abroad?
Honestly, I have been so busy this summer that I feel pretty unprepared to go abroad for four months. I've basically been taking care of all the essentials and trusting that the rest will fall into place (and so far it has). Maybe this is a risky approach to traveling, but I think people often forget that other countries have all the essential stuff that the U.S. has, so if I get to Granada and realize I forgot something, I can buy it! Basically, I made sure I had all the paperwork, checked the weather in Granada and stuffed everything in some bags. I am traveling with a carry-on suitcase, a laptop purse, and a backpacking backpack that has a school backpack I can zip on and off (clever, right?). There were a few essentials I made sure to get which include a rechargeable battery thing so I could charge my phone on long days, an adapter for the Spanish outlets, a pair of light, flow-y pants, and a quick-dry towel.
I also got a bit of a sneak-peek into what my study abroad in Granada would look like because I sent my friend of 10 years to check the city out for me during the spring semester. We had a couple long FaceTime calls while she was in Granada, and after quite a few twists and turns we were able to meet up in Madrid for a day! Big shoutout to Marcella, my forever adventure buddy!
What am I thinking and feeling pre-departure?
Okay, so as I mentioned I had a very busy and hectic summer, so I didn't have much time to worry about my trip. I was just excited to go to Spain and maybe have some downtime and relax. The week before I left Tuscaloosa, I did make my rounds and said "see ya later" (anyone else hate goodbyes?) to many of my close friends. It was a bit bittersweet as everyone was preparing to start a new semester and football season--without me--but I was preparing to go to Spain so I couldn't stay sad for long.
What are my expectations and goals for my study abroad?
I want to make the most of my time in Spain, so of course I have lots of goals, but I try to stay away from the word "expectations". Whatever I make of my study abroad experience and whatever happens to me, I like to think there's a purpose for that (whether it's good or bad), so might as well leave all expectations in Tuscaloosa and experience Granada and life as it is. Moving on from life philosophies, here are some goals for the next 4 months:
- Become fluent in Spanish
- Get to know the beautiful streets of Granada
- Travel around Spain (and maybe outside of Spain--COVID better chill)
- Make memories
- Say "yes" to new adventures
- Dance spontaneously to music in the street (because why not?)
- Check out all the gorgeous churches
- Make friends and meet cool people
- Eat all the tapas
Looks like I have lots to do, so I better say hasta luego!