As I begin writing this blog, I am unsure where I need to start when I talk about my experience studying abroad. So, like all great stories, I will start from the beginning!
The day before my departure to Spain I was so nervous! I have been to Europe two times before this, but never on my own. I had just finished my Freshman year of college and was about to embark on what I now consider one of the best journeys of my life. I was nervous because I couldn’t speak Spanish very well, had never traveled alone before, nor had I been old enough to go out and experience night life, and so much more. All I could think about was, “I have never done this, I have never done that… oh gosh what am I getting myself into!” Truthfully, when I arrived to Spain, the first two nights were hard for me. I looked up the definition of culture shock, and that was me! But it literally only took days after my arrival before I felt at home. And it took no more than a week for me to fall in love with Granada and the people in it. The amount of joy and the feeling of ~ this is where I am supposed to be ~ is so hard to describe! But I felt it everywhere. Every moment felt like it was worth living in, and that is such a beautiful feeling! When I look back and think about how nervous I was, the only thing I can do is chuckle at myself because if only I knew what was ahead!
And what was ahead was without a doubt, one of the best times of my life!!!
When I say, “one of the best times of my life,” I say that with as much candor as possible! This is the first time where I am living in a European city for an extended period of time, the first time where I am implementing my Spanish skills in a practical manner, the first time where I am going to a discotheque, the first time I am going to a language exchange, and so much more! In my head I was saying, “This is my first time for this and my first time for that!… what an incredible time!” Such a drastic change from previously, right! I went from being so nervous to go abroad and try all these things that I was so unaccustomed to, to breathing in all these new experiences and learning to love and appreciate life from a whole new perspective!
And to me, that is what study abroad is truly all about- to learn and to appreciate another culture and its people. Because truly, the world is so vast! With so many different, interesting, incredible people! To be honest, a part of me didn’t want to leave my hometown and the friends I made in it when I left for university. I was very comfortable in my hometown, with my friends I have known my whole life because it was the only thing I knew. Once at university, I had a great Freshman year that really brought me out of my comfort zone and challenged me. It made me feel confident that I could study abroad this summer and be in a foreign country for an extended period of time. And this is coming from someone who didn’t want to sleep in any bed but his own in high school! So now, as I evaluate where I am now after my month in Spain and after my first experience studying abroad, my heart longs for more. For more adventure! For more new experiences, to meet new people, to see different cities, to better my language skills, and much more. I am so grateful and so fortunate to have come to Granada to study abroad, and even if this is my last time studying abroad or my last time in Europe, I am grateful. I have learned so much and experienced so many great memories and meet so many great people and saw so much improvement in my language skills, and for that, I am forever grateful.
I am so thankful for choosing Sol Education, as well. The directors were such great examples of people who understood the world and its people. They see the value of language and how important it is to communicate with others. With Sol, we always had 2 or 3 cultural activities we would do every week, and that was always really great because it got you really close to the other people in the program. Sol also placed me with the best host mom I could’ve asked for. She was so kind to my roommates and I, and that is where I saw my Spanish truly get better. Patiently, she would listen as I would form sentences and it really grew my confidence to talk with other people in Spanish. Now I have spoken over the phone in Spanish, conversed with taxi cab drivers in Spanish, and spoken to people all over the world in Spanish! I believe without Sol and the foundation they provided, I wouldn’t have improved my Spanish as quickly as I did in just a month with them. Furthermore, my #SOLMATES were incredible. They were so much fun and it was so easy to form close friendships. I met people that I will stay in touch with for the rest of my life because in an environment like studying abroad, everyone is looking for adventure and is open to new experiences, thus forming friendships and meeting like-minded individuals literally happens in a night!
And to me, that is one of the many amazing aspects about studying abroad. Sol Education helped facilitate one of the best experiences I have ever had, and for that, I am grateful.
The last subject I want to talk about is Granada…. Oh, Granada! The poet was right about saying poor is the blind man in your city. Poor is the one who does not see all you are, but how rich is the one who does! My first weekend in Granada, I visited the La Alhambra and I became enchanted since. This city is truly incredible. When describing it to my friends, I call it a big-small city because it is big enough to feel like one is in a city, but small enough to feel its intimacy and familiarity. I loved it because I would meet people from all over the world at language exchanges or on the metro, then run into them in the middle of the city or in alley ways at night, and I think that is incredible! The city provides some of the best views and lookout spots I have ever witnessed as well. It is so easy to fall in love with Granada when watching the sunset at San Miguel Alto, experiencing so much genuine kindness by my host family, and seeing the mix of Christian and Islamic culture throughout the city… Granada! You are better than any dream! And for that, I am grateful.
As July 2 loomed near, marking the end of my stay in Granada, it was really hard knowing that I had to say goodbye so soon. At first, I was very, very sad… but after a time of being so sad, I thought to myself, “Why am I so sad?” I still had a week or so left in Granada. This brings me to another important lesson I learned in Granada- that is to savor every moment. One always hears this, but it’s another thing to truly not want something to end and being forced to come to terms with its inevitability. While my heart tore at the fact I was leaving so soon, it ultimately made me appreciate Granada and the moment so much more. The value of the moment is so precious, for it comes and it goes, but to learn to capture and savor it, is a lifelong skill that I was being taught. Life is so beautiful and I found so much beauty in Granada that my heart overflows with joy as I write this right now. So Granada, with the heartbreak and with the joy, I am grateful.
I have said “I am grateful,” many times throughout this post because the ultimate feeling I feel upon my reflection of my journey is gratefulness. This journey was a discovery of a longing for adventure. A journey of growth from being nervous and unsure about my decision to go abroad, to saying with the utmost confidence that I want to return and go abroad and study. But this time for much longer than a month. I long for meeting new people, experiencing new things, and bettering my language skills. Such a dream lifts my spirit and I hope it comes true. But still, if this is my last time in Granada or even in Europe, I am grateful! This experience has been more than I could’ve ever hoped for. I learned so much about myself and the world around me.
… and for that, I say thank you Granada, for I am grateful!!!!
.. and for that, I say thank you Granada, for I am grateful!!!!