Celebrating a birthday abroad is never easy. You are far from family and friends and instead are in a foreign country with students you met 4 weeks ago. In the weeks leading up to my 21st birthday, I remember feeling removed from the program a bit, and thinking a lot more about my life at home. What should have been a very big deal of a birthday in the U.S. suddenly turned so minor in a country where the legal age for everything is 18. Yet, I decided that that didn’t mean that I couldn’t make my 21st birthday special. And you can too. Here is how my birthday went down in Granada and a few tips to make your birthday just as good in whatever country you find yourself in!
Tip #1 - Treat yourself to a food you have yet to try and have been wanting to.
I woke up at 8:10 a.m. on June 19th and got this major craving for Churros. I have tried them at night once before but have been wanting to have them for breakfast like a ~true Spaniard ~. So I went to get Churros con Chocolate for breakfast (If you are in Granada, the best way to do so is at the Cafeteria Alhambra at Plaza Bib Rambla). I went by myself and treated myself to the perfect perfect sweet way to start my morning.
Tip #2 - Explore part of the city you have yet to go to.
The time was 10:15 a.m. when a couple of my friends from the program and I headed out to the overlooked neighborhood of Sacromonte. Throughout the short 5 weeks, I lived in Granada, I have been to almost every big neighborhood except Sacromonte. My birthday was the best opportunity to go explore this part of the city. Through hills and cobblestones, we climbed through the amazing cave neighborhood and just had a good time looking at the views of the Alhambra and the cool architecture of the neighborhood. I am a big explorer and like to hike, so this activity was such a great way to open up my morning. If you are into other things- like bookstores, tanning, or museum- use the first part of your day to explore those places that make you happy. And invite your friends!
Tip #3 - Prepare to be surprised.
12:00 p.m. - I walked into my Spanish class expecting the regular monotonous Spanish practice. Instead, my friends surprised me with a birthday sash and a cheesecake (Spaniards apparently really like cheesecake) with candles that marked “21”. We sat around the floor and shared about our weekends. They sang happy birthday to me and made me feel so so special. My advice: it’s okay to let people know it’s your birthday. You might just be surprised at how people come through for you.
Tip #4 - Find a unique/ fun way to celebrate your birthday that fits your style.
6:00 p.m.- After receiving a lemon from my biology class professor (see former paragraph about letting people surprise you), we went to buy pastries from the Covenant of nuns in Granada. If you are in Spain, I would 100% recommend doing this! It’s so cool to ring the bell and buy the sweets. Ask your program director about the hidden churches that do this around the city!
The main part of my birthday was at 9:00 p.m. however, when we gathered a group from the program and all went to a unique restaurant and tapas place called Momentomori. The whole restaurant is decorated like a circus and they served food and drinks in cool cups and plates. It was a very fun way to end the day. If you are in Granada, you definitely have to try that place out!
Your birthday can still be special, even while abroad. I hope that this sample itinerary helps you feel more at “home” on your birthday, even while studying abroad.
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Hi! I am a senior graduating from UT Austin with a Bachelor's in Economics and Sociology. After I come back from Spain and Granada, I will be moving to DC and I can't wait. In my free time, I like hiking, cooking, and dancing like nobody's watching.