There are six IES Abroad students living in my residence hall, which is located right in the heart of Granada between shops, bakeries and fruterías. All six of us originally wanted to live with host families. But... now that we’ve had some time here, none of us could imagine living anywhere else. While I expected some differences between living in a residence hall and a homestay here in Granada, what I didn’t know was just how different Spanish residence halls are from the American dorms I’ve lived in. So, without further ado, here’s the scoop:
The first difference is the number of students. While the residence halls around Granada vary in size, they are all quite a bit smaller than the dorms back home. At my residence hall, there are about 40 students spread across four floors. Rather than the big communal bathrooms typical of American dorms, my building has private bathrooms shared by groups of three students. And the best part is each student gets their own spacious bedroom, a huge upgrade from the shared spaces and closet sized rooms I’ve grown accustomed to!
Here’s a 0.5 of my bedroom. It’s looking a bit ~minmalist~ right now, but only because I’m way too busy having fun with everyone else in the residence to decorate.
Another difference between American dorms and my Spanish residence hall? Food. We get three meals a day, seven days a week. However, instead of a completely separate dining hall, food is served within the residence halls in the comedor, or dining room. Breakfast is a buffet from 7:30-10:30 a.m. (think continental breakfast with cereal, pastries, and toast), lunch is served from 2-3, and dinner from 8:30-9:30 p.m. Everyone eats the same food for each meal, although dietary restrictions are accommodated. Each day we let the chef know which meals we’ll be having. Change your mind? Not a problem! Running late? Just send a message to the residence WhatsApp group and your food can be saved for later! Coming from a buffet style dining hall where so much food is produced and thrown away, I really appreciate the attention to not wasting food.
So what does a typical meal look like? Lunch is the biggest meal of the day here, and is always served warm: with a first course, often a soup, followed by a second course that might be meat, fish, or spanish tortilla (a typical dish of eggs and potatoes). And not to forget the salad and warm bread that goes with it. Lunch ends with a postre, or dessert, which is usually fruit or yogurt, but today it was a yummy flan!
Some of my residence pals enjoying lunchtime in the comedor.
After a big Spanish meal, you might start to feel some sleepiness setting in. If you’re not a napper yet, just wait until you get to know the Andalusian siesta. Siesta is the period after lunchtime, from 3 to 5 or 6. This is the quietest part of the day in our residence hall, and lights in the common areas and hallways are put on their lowest setting.
Speaking of lights… I NEED to tell you about the blackout technology here in Granada, because it’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen. In between the two window panes is a thick rubber curtain—imagine a mini garage door for your window. When the garage door is shut, not a single ray of sunshine will be making its way in. Just take a look at these photos I took during the afternoon. I promise the second one is a photo.
Blackout shade raised vs. lowered. Both taken during the day.
This is going to be a game changer for your naps.
Lastly, you might be wondering about social life in the Residence Halls. I love having meals at a scheduled time, because mealtime is a great time to hang out with my IES Abroad friends, and also to meet new people. Our residence hall has a mix of local students, Americans from another program, and even some students studying abroad from Italy! Everyone is so friendly, and you will be welcome at any table, even if it’s a group of people you don’t know. Mealtime is also a great opportunity to practice listening to and speaking Spanish. I may be learning how to talk about architecture in my Islamic Art class, but the comedor is where I’m learning all the palabrotas, or bad words, that the Spanish students are so fond of.
Overall, I couldn’t be happier with where I ended up. My residence hall truly feels like home: a place I look forward to coming back to every day—a place full of laughter, friends, and plenty of good siestas.
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Jaden is a sophomore studying Sociology and Spanish at Tufts University. He loves the beach and lakes, hiking, biking, cooking, and playing video games.