Today marks the two-week mark that I have been in this wonderful city of Granada, Spain. To open, it is absolutely breathtaking. Granada is located in the south of Spain in the province of Andalusia. Nearly every building is a testament to the richness of culture and history that has taken place here. The architecture is a combination of Roman and Moorish influence dating back from over one-thousand years ago and the endless cathedrals, churches, mosques, and palaces decorate nearly every corner of the city. Furthermore, Granada is settled at the base of the Spanish Sierra Nevada Mountains, at the intersection of four rivers (Beiro, Darro, Genil, and Monachil) and is just north of the beautiful Mediterranean beaches. Its striking buildings and ideal location contribute greatly to the large number of tourists who come to ski the Sierra Nevada’s by morning, soak up the sun’s rays on the beaches by afternoon, and enjoy vino y tapas (wine and appetizers – a specialty of Granada) late into the night.
I am a student at the Centro de Lenguas Modernas (CLM) of the University of Granada. I am in level six Spanish classes, equivocating to fast, semi-fluent Spanish speaking. However, I am thoroughly enjoying my classes thus far. Because the semesters here do not start until October, I am participating in a supplemental month-long language intensive class through September. As I am two weeks in, I am already halfway through this class. We have class Monday through Friday from 10AM to 2PM. Four hours can be a long time to sit in a desk and be bombarded by Spanish lessons, but no matter how overwhelming it can be at times, I can already see an improvement in my Spanish. I suppose they call the classes “intensive” for a reason. The University of Granada does not have a central campus as universities do in the States, rather, the entire city of Granada is the campus. Granada is small enough to walk from one end of the city to the other in about an hour, so the campus is very spread out. The university is the third largest in Spain and Granada is definitely a college town. During the academic year, students make up almost a third of the city’s population. However, all of my classes are through CLM, and luckily CLM is limited to only two different locations both within a half hours walk from my homestay.
I chose to live in a homestay through Sol Education Abroad (Sol – the study abroad program in which I am participating). While I had my initial reservations about living with a Spanish family instead of in my own flat with roommates, I am thoroughly pleased that I chose the homestay option. I was very fortunate to be placed with a sweet older couple who live in the second floor of an apartment complex near the center of the city. They have five children all grown and with families of their own. Every now and then, a grandchild or two may stop by for midday meal, almuerzo – which is the main meal of the day and a big deal here. The apartment is decent-sized and cozy and I share my bedroom with another girl from the Sol program who is from Michigan. Every Sunday we go with our host parents to Ahlindin, a nearby pueblo where they have a second home. All of their kids and grandkids that can make it also go and they have a weekly family meal of paella, a traditional Spanish food of rice mixed with some type of meat. My host mother is an amazing chef, and her paella is the best.
These past two weeks have been amazing and I cannot wait for the future months to come. I want to explore more of Granada because I feel like every corner and building and alley hold a vast treasure chest of history and secrets. I also intend to travel to Morocco, Portugal, and perhaps Rome. Most importantly, I really want to improve my Spanish, and I can already see that the full language immersion has created progress. I only have two weeks left of the intensive Spanish classes before my actual semester starts in October, during which point I will be taking half language classes and half electives. It is intimidating that my elective classes will be all in Spanish, but I am ready for the challenge! Until then, I will continue to embrace everything Granada and Spain have to offer and try to learn more about myself in the process.