A Love Letter to my Spain Study Abroad Program
We all know that one person who says, “My study abroad trip changed my life!!!”Although I am not that person, studying abroad did have a great impact on me, and I highly recommend my SU Granada-Intermediate Spanish program to anyone that wants to finish their Spanish foreign language requirement.
I thought that studying abroad was going to be out of the question for me, because I am a transfer student, and I only had about two years left at Southwestern. I ran into the brochure by accident, which you can find on the SU Study Abroad website. After looking at the brochure, I applied to the scholarships offered for the program. As I wrote my essay, I thought to myself, “this sounds cheesy.” Apparently, SU liked my essay enough, because they awarded me a partial scholarship for the trip!
To meet the other people in the program, the Office of Study Abroad held a few pre-departure meetings in Spring 2021 before we went. It is funny looking back at those meetings, how awkward we were. Now, these people hold a special place in my heart, along with my host family. I lived with a host family with a mother, father, and their daughter. They were incredibly smart, generous, funny, and fun to be around. They quickly connected with my SU roommate and I, and I will never forget all the laughs we had at the dinner table. They truly adopted us as their own daughters, and I can’t thank them enough for giving us an awesome experience.
The Spanish 2 class was taught by Dr. Blair from SU’s Spanish department. She was an excellent teacher, and we all had so much fun with her on our cultural excursions. We were all sad when she left when it was time for Spanish 3.
For Spanish 3, we had a native Spaniard professor who taught us. Both of our classes were held in a language school in the middle of Granada, and students from Granada and study abroad programs took classes there as well. It was cool to see how much quicker we picked up the language from being immersed in it all the time. But what I enjoyed the most was the excursions included in the program.
Our cultural provider was API, who set up for us to visit Cadiz, Sevilla, and Madrid. They also organized places for us to visit in Granada. In Granada, we saw El Alhambra, which is an incredibly beautiful old mosque. Some of my highlights were: a flamenco dancing show, a cooking class, language exchanges with local Spaniards, and walking tours of different neighborhoods.
On the weekends, our class went to three other cities, Cadiz, Sevilla, and Madrid. We spent our first weekend in Cadiz, a beach town, in which we had a great time relaxing on the beach and seeing a dark camera room. For our second weekend, we went to Sevilla, which has a lot of history and culture in it. We visited an art museum, a historical park, and had a biking tour. In Madrid, we visited the famous Reina Sofia art museum and toured a palace.
The rest of the weekends were spent in Granada, which was a great place to spend the weekends as well. My friends from my program and I were frequents at Mae West in Granada, a lively club that a lot of locals go to. It was a favorite because of the mix of the upbeat Spanish songs and the popular American songs (in English) that they played. There were obviously some cultural differences, and these are the most that stuck out to me:
- People typically eat lunch at 2:30 or 3:00 P.M, during the siesta hours.
- For dinner, people typically eat at 9:30 or 10:00 PM. Wild, right?! Also, because of siesta, and because the sun doesn’t go down until about 9:00P.M.
- Lateness is expected. 10 minutes late is early. People tend to view time differently, and any social outing is an *event.* Especially meals. You can spend a good 45 mins-1 hour at every meal, even at home.
- The environment made me realize how much I am used to a go-go-go culture, because Spainiards walk at a pace here that most Americans would call a “leisurely walk.”
- Spaniards have got the work/life balance down. The siesta helps with that, as their work and school days are essentially American half-days.
As with traveling to any foreign country, I did learn something about myself. That is, that I should lean into the Spanish way of life: learning how to stop and smell roses. I am a workaholic, admittedly, so learning how to slow down and take it all in Spain was something that I needed to experience. Also, I’m not a very spontaneous person; I’m the type to make a plan and look it all up before to know what I am getting myself into. I learned how to ease away from that while abroad, and the times that I said, “Oh, what the heck, yes, I’ll go,” to last-minute plans turned out to be some of my favorite memories from the program.
My experience of being immersed in the language and culture that I was trying to study was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I promise I am not being paid from the Study Abroad office to say this 😉 They are offering a similar program again in Summer 2024. It is amazing that you are able to travel to four different cities within the program, go with other SU students, live with a host family, and get Southwestern credit for the classes. Once again, I highly recommend this program to anyone at SU that is trying to finish their Spanish language requirement. I absolutely loved my experience there, and want to go back ASAP! This time, to northeastern parts of Spain, like Barcelona and Ibiza!