This photo was taken from the balcony of the Alhambra in Granada. As of yet, it is my favorite place I have visited during my stay in Spain. The raw beauty of not only the palace but the quaint town surrounding it makes one realize what Spanish culture is all about: a genuine mix of cultures not only in the past, while the country experienced drastic and frequent changes in power, religion, and tradition, but the value many hold for what remains this day in age.
Before coming to Spain, everyone tried to tell me how much I would love it and the people, the food, whatever it may be. Of course I smiled and nodded, knowing that I was making a big decision to spend an entire year away from home, my friends and family, and our university I love so much. Well, if I told them know, they’d all respond with “I told you so.” I am completely and utterly in love with every aspect of this country. I may have experienced a stroke of luck being placed with the family I was, but I have made friends here that I know I will have for the rest of my life, whether it be Spaniards, or the girls I came to Spain with calling an acquaintance, who I leave with calling some of my closest friends.
No value can be placed on the study abroad experiences: if your goal is to learn the language, I would go as far to say it is nearly impossible without living in a native-speaking country. My Spanish has improved dramatically since I arrived here, and I learn something new every day. What is unique about our program is that although we have a lot of class time and tend to complain about that, when you step back and look at it, we are lucky for that, because it is all in another language and we are constantly surrounded by it, only accelerating the process of learning it.
It’s hard to say what specifically you learn about yourself during a year of growth and new experiences, but suffice to say that you just know you’re a different person leaving than when you came, and for the better.
As I said before, I love it here- this has been one of the best years of my life, which doesn’t sound that impressive, at 20 years old, but it has had an impact on my interests and the road I see myself taking in the coming years, both academically and in my future career.
The best advice I can give is to take advantage of every moment: you can stumble upon something interesting in every corner of this city. Enter a bar that catches your eye, go to that exposition that you saw on that poster, visit museums. While everyone else is taking naps and spending hours on homework, ask yourself: are you going to wish you slept a couple more hours when you get back to the States? You have your life to watch your shows and read books in English when you get back and don’t have all this at your fingertips– you want to be able you made the absolute most of your time in Madrid. I promise you’ll love it.