Reflections From My Semester in Granada

carmen miller headshot
Carmen Miller
May 23, 2024
View of a street in Granada with sunset and Sierra Nevada in the background

There’s so much I could say about my experience studying abroad in Spain with IES Abroad Granada, but I’m going to go over a few of my main takeaways now that I’ve had a week of traveling to start processing this amazing experience. 

I arrived in Granada in January feeling excited and nervous – excited for everything the semester had in store for me and nervous for, well, just about everything the semester might have in store. In the first few weeks, I was surprised by how quickly I felt at home in Granada, even with the challenges of meeting new people, learning my way around, and balancing everything that was going on with getting enough rest and honoring my social battery. I’ve definitely learned a lot about where my personal balance is between making and accepting invitations to hang out and getting enough time to myself that I don’t feel drained, and how to best maintain that balance. I think I’ve also gotten more comfortable with jumping into new things than I used to be, given how welcoming everybody was. 

As the semester went on, I found myself becoming more confident in myself and my capabilities. I noticed that I shifted from actively setting times to go exploring to exploring just because – whether that was a walk around the city on a random afternoon or trying a new restaurant, I became more willing to do new things for no particular reason. I also got to a point where I was going on trips by myself – although traveling solo can be a bit nerve-wracking at first, I found that I actually really like making my own plans and taking in places on my own time. 

Additionally, I’ve definitely noticed that I’ve improved not only in terms of my language ability and my comfort with Spain’s particular version of Spanish, but also in terms of how quickly I can notice and adapt to cultural norms, which I think is really valuable. I’ve also come to embrace the concept of what I’ve termed “enthusiastic incompetence” – there have been lots of circumstances (in Granada, and especially during my trips to Vienna and Italy) where I’ve found myself in a situation of being rather incompetent, whether it’s with language, navigating public transit, or figuring out how to operate a sink. However, rather than letting that stop me, I’ve plowed ahead enthusiastically – trying my best with the language (which locals tend to appreciate) and asking for help figuring things out – and laughing at the absurdity of it all (I think a sense of humor is important on any kind of adventure). And my attempts to mitigate my incompetence have definitely improved my problem-solving abilities. 

I’ll wrap up my last post with one of my favorite poems, which I used as a sort of guide for my semester abroad. It’s “Instructions for Living a Life” by Mary Oliver:  

Pay attention.

Be astonished. 

Tell about it. 

Paying attention to your surroundings is obviously important for practical reasons, but I think that active attention, not always filtered through a camera lens, is an important way to engage deeply with a place. Being astonished, to me, means really noticing both the big and the little things, and delighting in them when they’re pleasant and thinking about them – rather than brushing them off – when they’re not. And finally, telling about it. Of course, there’s this blog, but I’ve also been keeping a journal, doing writing on my own, and talking with my family and friends (both at home and the ones I’ve made on the program) about the experiences I’ve been having. 

Leaving Granada is bittersweet, but I'm so grateful for the experiences I've had and I'm really excited to see how I'll apply what I've learned this semester in the future. 

More Blogs From This Author

View All Blogs
carmen miller headshot

Carmen Miller

I’m a Comparative Literature major at Haverford College with an interest in how cultures and stories interact with each other. I love baking, writing, hiking, and exploring new places. And I can never resist the siren song of a good library!

2024 Spring
Home University:
Haverford College
Explore Blogs