Finally Feeling More at Home in a New City

Headshot of Adah Freeman.
Adah Freeman
April 16, 2023
granada cathedral at golden hour

Before coming to Granada, I researched the heck out of Spain, places to visit, how the culture would be, and compiled a huge list of things to expect before I even arrived. Throughout my dedicated googling, something that came up several times was a diagram outlining the highs and lows of homesickness and other emotions during a typical study abroad semester. I found it fascinating and tried to drill it into my head so that I would be well prepared when each of the listed phases happened to me during my time in Spain. The thing is, that’s not how it happened at all. 

Unlike all of the diagrams portrayed, I never had a distinct moment where all of the homesickness of being abroad hit at the same time once the honeymoon phase of arrival and orientation was over. Instead, I felt relatively comfortable, was starting to learn the city, and though my Spanish was only improving slowly, everything felt very approachable. In fact, I felt this way even after several months of spending time in the city. And there is no “but”: I genuinely have felt so comfortable during my time in Granada and I believe there have been several reasons for this.

Firstly, the program and their staff are amazing. I think a large part of how easy it was to adapt to studying abroad was due to the IES Abroad Granada faculty and staff and how much they promoted getting involved from the very beginning. Homesickness can become very overwhelming during the period when the excitement of new things dies down and instead you have to start forming a new “normal” daily routine. However, the program staff poured so much energy into creating events and activities to build community and start connecting with Andalusia itself that for me this lull was hardly noticeable. There was always something new happening, and even as the number of events lessened just a little bit, the transition felt smooth and allowed us as students to slowly start forming our own connections and engagements within the city.

Another thing that really helped me was talking to the friends and family I missed–but not too much. Especially during the first month or two, keeping in touch with the people I love helped me to feel a sense of normalcy while I was still in the early stages of forming connections here. I noticed that the frequency of communication with my loved ones had a huge impact on my mood, but that there needed to be an equilibrium. If I talked to people from back home too much, I started to feel more sad and distant than otherwise. Strangely enough, seeing several friends from home in person also stirred up a lot more homesickness, but it led to me appreciating my time both here and in the U.S. a whole lot more. 

This leads to next thing that has really helped me this semester: journaling. With so many new experiences and constantly changing waves of emotions, l have been helped so much by simply brain dumping onto a piece of paper. Not only does it help me remember what things I have been getting up to in this packed semester, but it helps me to process emotions and get them out of my head. I can keep track of how I feel throughout the course of a week and also tape in tiny mementos and pieces of paper to have a tangible reminder of the semester.

All of these things together have really helped me to manage the homesickness that I thought would absolutely overwhelm me, and I’m so grateful that things have gone this smoothly. Yes, there are still many cultural differences and things that I have not adapted to, but I feel safe and comfortable and able to exist in Granada as if it was my home. And that is the most important thing in the world.

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Headshot of Adah Freeman.

Adah Freeman

Hola! My name is Adah and I am a junior at North Carolina State University currently studying in Granada, Spain! Though my major is Biology, I have a passion for all things art and Spanish, and you can most likely find me sketching away during the late hours of the night. My current obsessions are gouache paints, crochet, and watching local birds! I'm so excited to share my time exploring Granada with all of you.

2023 Spring
Home University:
North Carolina State University
Biological Sciences
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