Pre-Departure Fears About a Semester in Granada

Grace Sells
January 10, 2020
Photo of Tiled Roofs in Albayzin neighborhood in Granada.

Hello everyone,

Welcome to my blog! My name is Grace and I am a Carnegie Mellon student in Pittsburgh, PA. I study Global Studies with minors in both art and gender studies. I grew up in the California bay area with my three younger siblings, parents, and dog. This semester, I’m studying abroad in Granada, Spain through IES Abroad. 

I’ll be honest, I’m pretty embarrassed about this whole blogging thing. I’ve never been someone who needs others to know my innermost thoughts and feelings. In fact, aside from sharing with close friends, I think I feel an above-average level of discomfort when I’m vulnerable about the hard things in my life. When I first decided to go abroad, I knew I wanted to have some kind of written record of my experience that I could look back on to track my personal growth. I was content to simply journal and keep my writing to myself. When friends and family asked that I keep them updated on my life in Granada, I decided to blog instead. And when I saw that IES Abroad pays students to keep them accountable for writing regularly, I applied to be an official blogger. What I didn’t anticipate was that the crowd of people who could access my blog now jumped from a few loved ones to the entire internet! Given what I noted about my vulnerability-aversion, this new development scares me.

All that said, I still have a desire to be vulnerable here. Maybe I’m crazy, but I want to try to be brave and give an honest account of how I’m feeling. Of course, I think I will have a very fun time, but I’m guessing there will be lonely, frustrating, and sad moments along the way. For my future self who wants to look back on this blog and see something true, for my friends and family who (hopefully) want more than a superficial recounting of events, and for the students who may read this as they’re deciding whether or not to study abroad: I will do my best to be honest here.

So here it goes. My pre-departure feelings about studying abroad have varied a lot since the summer, when I decided to go. I felt casual excitement followed by casual nervousness followed by genuine excitement followed by intense nervousness (pretty much where I’m at now). There are 3 main things I’m most worried about, which I will outline below. Interestingly, these align with my 3 main goals for studying abroad. 

The Language

I’ve taken three semesters of Spanish at Carnegie Mellon, but I still feel nervous about my Spanish skills. In class, my best skill is listening, but I’m not used to listening to the southern Spanish accent or even Spanish that spoken is particularly quickly. My worst skill is speaking. I have trouble conjugating verbs on the spot, so I end up stuttering through sentences as I correct myself along the way. I will be living with a host family in Granada, so I will be surrounded by the language. My plan is to brave through as much Spanish as possible with my host family and with anyone I encounter in the city, as one of my biggest goals of studying abroad is to improve my language skills. 

The Social Scene

I’m scared that in Granada, I will be the only reserved person in a sea of extroverts. Lately, I’ve been afraid that the kind of people who go abroad are all loud, high-energy, outgoing, and totally willing to overpower a shy ambivert like myself. While I know the truth about this demographic is much more complex, I can’t help but worry that I’ll be solely relegated to the role of the knower rather than the one who knows and makes herself known. My study abroad advisor from Carnegie Mellon says that it’s good that I have this fear, as it will cause me to be intentional about putting myself out there. I really hope she’s right, because another one of my main goals is to make a tight group of friends.

The Culture Shock

Lastly I am nervous about the drastic change in culture. I have been doing a bit of research about the culture in Granada, but reading about a new place and actually being in a new place are entirely different things. I think about arriving in Málaga (the city in which my orientation takes place), getting my luggage, getting a car to my hostel, and checking in for the night. I’m unable to imagine the specifics of even that simple sequence of events. I expect the first month or so of my semester will be filled with an overload of new information about the culture which sounds exhilarating and exhausting. However tired my brain gets, I don’t want to resort to insulating myself with my American friends. I want to remain humble and open to the culture so I can learn and understand. This is my third main goal for study abroad.

I leave January 19th, and there’s so much left for me to do. I will start packing, do more research on Granada’s history and culture, get a head start on understanding the accent by watching Spanish movies and shows, and reach out to my host family. In the coming months, you can expect blog posts every two weeks. I will talk about how I’m feeling, what I’m doing, and what I’m eating. As a feminist, I can’t help but consider gender and race dynamics, and I will likely include analyses of these identity-shaping factors and how they affect my experience as an Asian woman. Thank you for reading! 

¡Hasta luego!



P.S. Blogging is embarrassing please never talk to me about my blog in real life.

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Grace Sells

<p>My name is Grace Sells and I'm a junior at Carnegie Mellon University studying Global Studies and Art. I'm originally from San Jose, California, but now I'm studying in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. In my free time I enjoy making art and spending time with friends and family. Fun fact: I never go to restaurants without asking my friends for a bite of their food.</p>

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