I am sitting at the Rabat airport and I can’t help but reminisce in wonder about my time in Granada, and how I got here. Before I signed up for the sustainable development program, I have never heard of or thought about Granada. I thought I wanted to study abroad somewhere more well-known and reviewed, like Buenas Aires or Switzerland. I thought I wanted to study abroad somewhere that will make people go: “Wow!”
So, when I got to Granda, I didn’t know what to expect exactly. I knew they spoke Spanish because the city was in Spain (duh), and that it was my best friend’s favorite city when she visited but she didn’t expand as to why. That was about it. The decision to go abroad to a place I’ve never heard of, with part of the program being in Morocco, a country I’ve only ever heard about in my dad’s bedtime stories, was a bit outside of my comfort zone to say the least. I didn’t know anyone going on the program, and became a bit anxious at times, wondering what spending six weeks in a foreign country will look like. Little did I know it would be one of the best experiences of my life. In this last reflection entry, I want to leave you guys with two things:
The first thing I took away from my experience, from going to Jota Jota for underground Jazz to tapas at La Goma to Salsa dancing at Entersuelo and to hiking around the Alhambra most mornings, is that it doesn’t really matter where you end up. The only important thing is that you take advantage of your study abroad in your own way. I remember thinking that I had to do everything, all the time. That I had to go to clubs and party until 6 am most nights because that’s what people did in Spain. And while saying yes to everything in the beginning helped me explore the city and make friends with the people in my program, once the first week passed, I found that I didn’t need to do everything to feel happy. Rather, my time was the most enjoyable when I did the things I actually like doing, in my own way, in Granada. Going on walks around all of the Carmens, trying out crepes, or going to get churros for breakfast, are the small treasures I will actually remember and cherish for a long time.
The second thing I took away from my experience is learning about the unexpected surprise of finding joy in the small, I mean really small, things. Never in my dreams did I think I’ll miss stumbling across little pomegranates scattered throughout the city, or finding comfort in a cathedral I’ve never been inside of but one that I could find my way to with my eyes closed. I never thought that I would enjoy the little secret that many of the churches in this city were once mosques, and before that there were synagogues. Or the sweet amusement of knowing that the city had a time before that, and another before that, as well.
Morocco didn’t disappoint either, from the fantastic food to the handmade craft, and I realized how much I wanted to learn more about my family’s history in the area.
Exploring different traditions, meeting the warmest of people, and absorbing ever-lasting new knowledge, my study abroad experience has taught me the art of being present. I now know how to soak up a place, without going to every tourist attraction. About how the Joy of traveling could really be found in small spinach vegan croquettes in the Realejo, by sitting under a tree in a rooftop park, by small secret gifts you get by being kind to the people around you, or by living in a bi-lingual household for a week, struggling between French and Arabic.
For this and for a lot more, I am forever thankful I ventured out and studied in a city I didn’t know. I would encourage you to gather the courage and do the same.
For the last time (for now),
More Blogs From This Author
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.