from AIFS blog
I have always been in love with the rush of excitement that comes when learning about cultures different than my own, but it wasn’t until my best friend hosted a family friend from Germany for the fall semester of 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 criteria list.
As life has it though, I ended up at the college I never thought I would choose: Cottey College, a small women’s liberal arts college in Nevada, MO. Cottey quickly became my home but as my thoughts and hopes for the future shifted, I decided to do what most Cottey women do and transfer after receiving my Associates of Arts. So I began the college search once again, this time placing only one point on my criteria list: they had to take all my credits so that I could study abroad and still graduate in two more years.
I’m telling you all this so that you have some understanding of how difficult getting to Spain was for me, of how long the journey was. I found a study abroad program on my own. I applied to AIFS on my own. Once I had been accepted, I had to double and triple check with my advisor that the credits I took abroad would count towards my major. I applied for scholarships. I registered for an independent study so I could complete the first part of my senior thesis seminar while abroad and spent the summer beginning to research articles for it while listening to learn Spanish cassettes (yes, my car is that old) on the way to work every morning. I’m telling you all this so that you understand how long I have dreamed of and how hard I have worked for studying abroad to become my reality and therefore how strange it is for this dream of mine to be coming to a close.
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 classes meant that I would be above average at Spanish 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 in my efforts.
Granada made me less timid. In Spain, I’ve done things like sit in the front of a taxi, flagged down a waiter in a crowded cafe, ordered food for my entire family, met 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. Having that barrier to social interactions has actually given me enough room to excuse myself of potential failure and leap instead. I have become more willing to allowed 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 busses 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 outs 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, when taking a pause it literally part of your daily schedule via siesta and ingrained into each of your classes, halfway through, you begin to move slower, giving yourself moments like coffee breaks and tapas just to enjoy time with your 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 between native speakers of two different languages. I took information from the AIFS intercambio board in the office and emailed and texted complete strangers to find my intercambios. I met up with them at cafes and in plazas. I never would have done this at home. Stranger danger is embedded in me but I wanted to improve my Spanish and so I took the risk. Sometimes it didn’t work out, our personalities too different, schedules failing to match, but one of my intercambios, Ana, has been one of the best parts of my few months in Granada, filled with laughs 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?