I have developed a rule for myself here in Granada. Whenever I am feeling a little sad, overwhelmed, or even homesick, I treat myself to some gelato and climb up to the Mirador de San Nicolas. It only takes a few minutes of gazing out at the magnificent Alhambra palace, with the snowcapped Sierra Nevada mountains in the background, to put everything in perspective.
It is a surefire remedy that I highly recommend. But it is one that I doubt few real granadinos take the time to do. In these moments, I sit and think about how many years I dreamed about living in this beautiful city. How desperately I wanted to know these streets, inside and out. All the magical moments I imagined would be waiting for me at every turn.
Because the truth is, as I approach seven months in this town, things have started to feel rather….normal.
I have my daily routine. My running routes. My walks to class and work. My favorite cafes. My regular tapas bars. I go to the grocery store. I do my homework and my laundry. I go out with friends.
I look back on my first summer abroad in Sevilla, when every small, daily accomplishment felt like a triumph: finding what I needed at the grocery store and remembering to bring my own bag; successfully navigating public transportation; playful banter back and forth with a waiter.
In Sevilla, I also rarely sat still. If I wasn’t in class, I was out exploring the town: wandering down new streets, trying new cafes, visiting museums. At night, I was out dancing with friends. On the weekends, I was traveling.
It was a fantastic way to spend a summer, but it wasn’t sustainable. And it didn’t allow me to immerse myself in more meaningful ways.
In Granada, I’ve learned a lot about pacing. It’s true that I’ve slowed way down. I certainly take on less in one day here than I do in the States. I have a healthy mix of nights out with friends and quiet nights in. All the aspects of daily life feel normal, but more importantly, comfortable.
I suppose what study abroad brochures promise us is adventure everyday. But in reality, real immersion means the transition into a steady and fulfilling life. Things start to feel normal because they are. And you often feel conflicted to combat this feeling with the pressure to constantly be doing something amazing. But more often than not, you are probably doing exactly what you should be, right where you are.
This is all part of making a place feel like home. It’s feeling comfortable with your routine and surroundings that you lose that sensation that you are constantly “traveling,” but rather, living your life in a foreign place.
Some days, I can walk 15 miles around the city without even thinking. Other days, I’m proud of myself for accomplishing one or two tasks on my to-do list and taking a three hour nap.
That being said, as I approach my last seven weeks in Granada, I’m finding the need to take a step back. Not a step back from my routine, classes, activities, or friendships, but a step back in order to appreciate just how far I’ve come. It’s easy to take for granted what I’ve accomplished in this city: improving my Spanish, running my first half marathon, making both Spanish and international friends, getting involved with the city’s creative writing community, taking on two internships.
It’s also true that I often take for granted what a blessing it is to live in such a beautiful city. I, along with many granadinos, can go days without pausing to appreciate the magnificent Alhambra palace - or without even seeing it at all. How many mornings have I gone for a run past this medieval monument, or hurried past it on my way to class, without looking up? As if it will always be there for me to gaze upon. A historic and artistic treasure that most people hope to see just once in their lifetime.
So as the days continue to get warmer, and as I begin my final countdown in this beautiful corner of the world, I will continue to appreciate the beauty in my daily routine. But I will also go out of my way to make Granada feel a little less “normal.” I will explore new walking routes, new cafes and bars, and even new friendships. And above all, I will take a small moment each day to look up and admire the Alhambra - before I can only do so through a photograph.