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Study Abroad and Domestic Study Away

Notes from Abroad: Rachel in Granada, Spain

Notes from Abroad is a new feature on the Off-Campus Programs website, in which we highlight small snippets of a student’s experience.  This week’s feature is from Rachel Hastings ’17, a Neuroscience and English Literature major currently studying abroad in Granada, Spain.

Though I try not to think about it, I am still painfully aware of the fact that I’ve almost hit my two-month mark here in Granada, Spain. In an attempt to combat thinking about the brevity of my time here, I try to focus on how much I am learning each day and how my knowledge will last me more than a semester. I make these contemplations while sitting in a coffee shop playing   mellow covers of American pop songs with a few Spanish and French songs thrown in.  I came here looking for a quiet place to do my work only to receive strange looks because I am alone and to find that coffee shops, like every other place in Spain, are used for socializing and not for quiet, solitary activities. The only place I think it is normal to be alone is in one’s own house. Spain is truly an extrovert’s paradise.

            I feel my normal shyness slowly starting to melt away here. I believe the reason for this can be summed up in a popular phrase used here in Granada “no pasa nada”, which is synonymous to the American colloquial phrase “it’s all good”.  Within my American friend group here, we normally use this phrase in jest, but in reality, I believe this is the phrase that best describes my impression of Granada so far; life is slower and calmer here; everyone takes their time to truly enjoy life; people aren’t bothered by trivial problems here.

            I’m also learning how to behave more like a child in Granada; to come to a new country and be expected to participate in it’s workforce with only a four year old’s knowledge of its language is both an incredibly frustrating and humbling experience. I remember one particular incident at my internship at CEJOS (Centro Juvenil de Orientacion Para la Salud) where I had to draw out my ideas because I could not express myself clearly with my limited Spanish vocabulary. In order to not die from constant embarrassment I take my orientation teacher’s words to heart and “embrace the fact that I’m like a child”.  I don’t assume anything and I accept my limitations in the kinds of conversations I can have. Like a child, however, I am also learning quickly. During my first lunches with my host family (the most important meal of the day in Spain) I was only capable of telling my host mother that the food is delicious; today, I was able to discuss the political situation between Catalonia and the rest of Spain (more or less).

            Everyday I wake up and make my way through Plaza Nueva to the IES school, with the Alhambra casually posing in the background, I am reminded that this is basically as good as it gets at twenty years old. I am learning so much and having so many fantastic experiences. For this I am especially grateful to the Ingrid H. and George L. Speros Scholarship for helping to provide the funds to make this my current reality.