In some ways I already feel like I´ve been here a lifetime. Eating dinner at nine or 10 pm no longer seems out of the ordinary, I´m finding myself able to communicate (more or less) in Spanish with my host family and I can get to and from school each day without getting horribly lost. On the other hand, there are still a million and more things to learn, customs to adapt to and adventures to pursue.
One of the first things that captured my attention about Granada on the bus ride from the airport to the city center was the sheer beauty of the place. With the snow-capped Sierra Nevada mountains in the background, rolling hills, narrow and winding streets, white-washed buildings dotted with colorful plants on the balconies and ornate fountains in majestic plazas, Granada is undboutedly one of the most beautiful cities I´ve had the privilege to visit. There is a saying in Spain that goes "quien no ha visto Granada, no ha visto nada." A rough translation is "if you have not seen Granada, you have not seen anything." The more time I spend here, the more and more I become aware of the truth to this saying. From the sidewalks made out of marble to the magnificent chapels dotting the city center, Granada is truly wondrous.
After spending a while trying to absorb the beauty of this place, the next thing that hit me was its history. Before Spain was Spain it was Al-Andalus, a Muslim kingdom, and the only one of its kind in Europe. From 1236 to 1492, Granada was its capital, and the city still retains many vestiges of its rich history. The most notable of these is the Alhambra, the palace/fortress constructed by the Muslim rulers in the 14th century. Sitting atop the city´s highest hill, the Alhambra looks over the entire city and its surrounding area. The interior of the Alhambra is indescribable—the beauty of the architecture is simply amazing.
The warmth and openness of the people has also been an unexpected joy. The very same day I met my host family, I was already being called "mi hija" (my daughter) and offered platefuls of food, so much that I´m surprised I haven´t yet burst at the seams. Coming from living at the dorms at Scripps, where I can walk into and out of my single room whenever I like, go to the dining halls for meals and generally enjoy quite a bit of freedom, living in another family´s home sometimes seems quite unusual. I must admit though, having a home-cooked meal three times a day is certainly not a bad deal.
Of course, there have been the inevitable complications. Little things that, having lived in the United States my entire life, I had absolutely taken for granted. For one: central heating. Electricity is absurdly expensive in Spain, and as a result most homes do not have central heating. Leaving my bed in the morning is even more difficult than usual, and I typically wear gloves and a hat even inside my homestay.
Having lived at Scripps for two and a half years, I had grown accustomed to being able to leave my room about 3 minutes before the start of class (and still get there early). School is now about a half-hour walk from where I sleep. Each way. Which means actually having to wake up with time to spare before class each morning.
Spain is also (in)famous for its obsession with pork. Pork is found in just about every meal of the day, in numerous forms. In this pork-loving country, many Spaniards cannot fathom why anyone would choose to be a vegetarian.
Spain is an immensely fascinating country with a hugely rich history. After being here for a matter of a few short weeks, I encourage anyone remotely interested in studying abroad or in Spain to seriously consider both. If you have any questions, feel free to shoot me an email! firstname.lastname@example.org