Before I Go... A Reflection of My Journey to Spain

Hannah Smith
September 1, 2021

I am off to Spain in less than 24 hours and I am hopeful, expectant, and giddy for all that this semester will hold. My journey to studying abroad in Spain has not been a short or easy one, and I feel it is paramount for me to share a glimpse of it with you for you to get to know me. I have had a desire to study abroad in Spain since I first visited the country during the summer before my senior year of high school in 2017. I loved every aspect of this beautiful and rich place—the landscapes, the food, the culture, the fútbol, the coffee, the beaches, and the passion and love of those who have the privilege of calling this place home. After this trip, I was SURE that if I did one thing in college, it would be studying abroad in Spain. I am a student at UNC Chapel Hill, where students typically study abroad during their junior year. During the fall of my sophomore year in 2019, I began to make plans to study abroad during the fall of the following year. However, as I prayed and asked God for direction and wisdom about what city to choose for my destination and which program, I felt like it wasn’t the right time for me to go abroad. It didn’t make sense to me at all at the time but I had peace in my decision of not making plans to go abroad and instead signing a lease with my friends in Chapel Hill for the year of 2020. Little did I know, there was a pandemic right around the corner and it would be impossible for me to go abroad in the fall of 2020 even if I had planned to. 
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, I spent time reflecting on my college experience and what else I wanted to experience during this time in my life. I talked to God about this in January of 2020 and I remembered the desire of my heart to study abroad in Spain. I sat on the idea for a few weeks and the desire in my heart to come live and study in this country grew and grew. I began to look into different options and something about Granada caught my eye. I found my program in Granada with IES Abroad and felt so much peace in applying and then reserving my spot once accepted. As you can see, I have been dreaming, hoping, and praying for this time in my life for years. I am sure now, more than ever, that God is faithful and his timing is far better than my own. As my expectation builds for what life in Granada will be like, I decided to make a list of the things that are the most important for me to experience while in Granada. I don’t want to get caught up in the whirlwind of studying abroad and miss out on doing the simple things that bring me joy and rest and allow my heart to fully come alive. I compiled this list and I would love to share it with you. I hope my story and my Spain bucket list inspires you to stay hopeful and expectant, even when it seems the desires of your heart have not come to fruition just yet. I want to encourage you to keep dreaming and believing for what God has put inside you.

My Spain bucket list
- dine with a local Spanish family
- get involved in the local church 
- speak Spanish as much as possible 
- try as many coffee shops as possible and find a favorite 
- go to Zara with Sofia and post a haul 
- visit the Alhambra 
- live life not in a rush, continually surrender the timing and my schedule 
- try as many tapas as possible 
- receive and try any food that I am offered 
- put down my phone !!!
- live in the moment over trying to get the perfect picture
- authentically share my experience 
- try Paella 
- eat snails lol 
- serve the local church 
- wander the streets with no agenda (in a safe way of course)
- visit Park Güell in Barcelona 
- feel confident using the local bus system
- go to a local antique shop
- attend a flamenco performance 
- compliment a stranger in Spanish
- play in a local pickup soccer game 
- visit Costa Tropical 
- enjoy fresh squeezed orange juice 
- trust God more in the day to day, even in what seems small 
- recognize the beauty of ordinary moments 
- send my friends and family postcards 
- recognize that my days here are numbered and each one deserves to be cherished 
- make local friends + friends from other universities 
- visit a local bookstore
- read as many books in Spanish as possible 
- get to know Granada as a home 
- take time to talk to locals 
- let go of the fear of being embarrassed of my Spanish + speak confidently 
- buy myself flowers 
- buy flowers for a stranger 
- don’t forsake school + honor my schoolwork as a priority
- don’t listen to the “should” voice in my head ex. “I should be doing this or that blah blah blah…” be present where I am :)
- journal about moments I want to remember 
- be a steady friend to those I meet here + my friends back home 
- ski the Sierra Nevada mountains 
- taste a locally grown pomegranate (una granada) 
- learn to cook a Spanish dish 
- take the metro 
- ride a moped 
- admire local art 
- swim in the Balearic Sea
- visit San Sebastián & jump off the same cliff I did in 2017
- go on an adventure with Leonardo, Cintia and Shwam 
- learn about local history 
- drink Sangría with fresh fruit 
- honor local culture and customs 
- spend time sitting with God and absorbing + processing this time in my life 
- choose to be led by faith and not fear 
- buy a leather journal in Granada 
- explore local gardens 
- wake up for the sunrise 
- take time to watch the sunset
- be open to new ideas and things that are not ‘normal’ to me 
- be open to a ‘reset’ on how life should be lived 
- go for a sailboat ride 
- prioritize taking care of myself — physically, spiritually, emotionally, mentally and nutritionally 

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Hannah Smith

<p>Hi! My name is Hannah Dean Smith and I am from Summerfield, North Carolina. I am currently a senior at UNC Chapel Hill and am majoring in Hispanic Literatures and Cultures. I have a passion for authentically connecting with people from different cultures and backgrounds, which led me to study abroad in Granada, Spain. A fun fact about me is that I share a name with the legendary UNC Basketball Coach, Dean Smith -- go Tar Heels! In my free time, I love to read, play soccer, and search for vintage books, furniture, household items, and postcards in local antique stores.</p>

2021 Fall
Home university:
University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill
Summerfield, NC
Hispanic Studies
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