As 2016 comes to a close, so does my time abroad. What started out as a desire to travel the world, improve my Spanish and immerse myself in a different culture has since turned into reality.
All throughout college I knew I wanted to study in Spain, however the biggest question was what city would be perfect for me. In such a culture-rich country, choosing a city seemed like an impossible task. From Google-imaging various cities to asking people who have studied or currently live in Spain for their input, I eventually and confidently decided on Granada … and I couldn’t have been happier with my decision.
The preparation to study abroad, however, was no simple feat. From filling out applications and forms to taking a day trip to Chicago to apply for my student visa to earning money all summer, everything has paid off.
I probably spent more time making spreadsheets for studying abroad than I spent on any spreadsheet I had to do for class. While preparation was exciting and a little stressful, I see the fruits of my labor every day.
The locals I’ve met along the way have taught me so much about everyday life in Spain as they have shared their culture with me.
With all the craziness taking place in the United States, American news has been a popular subject when talking with Spaniards. These conversations, however, have given me an opportunity to learn about events taking place in Spain as well.
My time abroad has also given me opportunities to travel throughout Spain as well as outside of Spain. I was able to explore a total of eight new countries and cities across Europe and Africa.
My travels took me on adventures such as reenacting scenes from “The Sound of Music” in Salzburg, Austria, climbing to the top of the Duomo in Florence, watching a Real Madrid game in Madrid, exploring the grounds of Versailles and hiking through part of the Mid Atlas Mountains in Morocco, just to name a few.
While taking advantage of the opportunities to travel, it’s been important for me to find a balance between traveling and exploring Granada and the surrounding area. One of my favorite spots to go has been the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
To fully enjoy what the mountains offer, you need to be in the mountains. Some of my favorite memories of Spain are in the mountains. Whether it was climbing Veleta, the Sierra Nevada’s second tallest peak, enjoying lunch on a rock on the side of a mountain or just swaying in a hammock overlooking the valley, the mountains never disappointed.
But hiking isn’t the only way to experience the mountains. Now that the mountains are covered in snow, I took advantage of the opportunity to go skiing. From taking the gondola up higher to carving my way down the slopes, I was thrilled.
Fully take advantage of the Sierra Nevada Mountains: check.
Studying abroad has been a learning experience and a growing experience. I’ve learned how to manage on my own, work through the language barriers and navigate my way through new places. It taught me that it’s OK to get lost every now and then and to roll with the punches.
Living abroad has also built up my confidence and independence. It’s empowering, really, to have a newfound confidence to travel solo to places you’ve never been.
Studying abroad is like a hallway with doors waiting to be opened. Behind each door is a new adventure waiting for you to grasp it. As we ring in the New Year, what doors will you open in 2017?