Recently, the IES Abroad Granada office hosted an event that gave students the unique opportunity to talk to Abid Khan, the director of the coming-of-age film Granada Nights. Before going to the event, all I had known about the film was that it was a semi-autobiographical account of Khan’s time spent in Granada as a young adult. As I braved the cold and made my way to the IES Abroad building to join the talk, I thought of all the things I would love to know about Khan’s process. What inspired him during his time in Granada? How did his idea come to fruition? What did it mean to him to be back in Granada after so much time apart? Luckily, Khan shared with our group how his time in the city was unexpected and full of new friendships and self-discovery. He commented that he wanted his version of events to be reflected authentically through his film, as it would serve as a type of love letter to the city and all it has to offer. One thing that caught my attention while Khan broke down his process for us was his reflection of how we remember the most memorable time of our lives. For him, all of his experiences—good and bad—were captured in this film project of passion made over the span of 12 years. This allowed for his experience in Granada to be viewed from a variety of life-stages and added a nostalgic flair to his art.
Khan’s talk inspired me to think about how I plan to remember my time in Granada once I depart in a few short weeks. How is it possible to channel so many emotions, sensations, and memories into any one form? What form will give my experience the most justice? These questions require the sometimes scary process of self-reflection. For me, my narratives have always been best told through writing, speaking, and movement.
If writing is also how you express yourself best, my strongest recommendation would be to apply to the Correspondents Program since it is a structured chance to reflect on your life in your host country in real time. Lately, I’ve been finding myself with little notes scattered around my room, tucked in my coat pockets, and stuffed at the bottom of my backpack. Small pieces of paper with analogies, short poems, descriptions of images, emotions, and questions. Something about being constantly self-aware and conscious of the world around me for months has inspired me in ways I haven’t felt for a while. I have been challenged to see my world through a magnifying glass, and when I turn that glass back on myself, I see growth and confidence beyond what I could have imagined. Perhaps a way to preserve my memory of Granada will be to write her a love letter upon departure.
Another important part of remembering my story will be sharing it with others. My ancestral cultures have strong oral histories that remain a huge part of my family’s dynamic today. Whenever I talk to my friends from back home, they always end our conversations with “I can’t wait to hear all about your trip when you get home!” Our memories don’t have to just live with us, but they can live through others if we allow our journeys to be shared. Storytelling not only helps us to choose which parts of our life adventures are most important, but allows the knowledge we’ve gained to ripple through networks and even generations. There’s something special about being able to speak about your experiences using your own voice—quite literally. I can’t wait to pull up pictures to show my family and friends; nor can I wait to color them in with words to describe the context and how I felt when I took them.
One of my favorite ways to remember is through movement or embodiment. I have been lucky enough to continue my yoga practice abroad in Spain, and have used the opportunity in my classes to step back and allow my experiences to settle into my body where they will be kept forever. I also joined a workshop through the University of Granada to learn North African oriental dance, which has allowed me to explore the diverse cultural practices in the city as well as embody that knowledge through dance. While I may not remember every skill we’ve learned in the workshop, I will remember how it felt to join in collective movement with my classmates and participate in part of true Granadino history.
Our stories are ours to tell and cannot be taken from us. Some might tell theirs best through painting or song while others might rely on writing or filmmaking. The beauty of sharing these experiences with other IES Abroad students is that we will all remember our time in distinct and equally wonderful ways. I look forward to seeing where my inspiration guides me once I return home. :)
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<p>Hi, I'm Kat! I'm a junior at Scripps College and come from a small town called Beaumont in California (about halfway between L.A. and Palm Springs). I am a Linguistics and Spanish, Latin American, and Caribbean Literatures and Cultures dual major. I would describe myself as a Netflix junkie and culture enthusiast. I love to have movie nights with my friends, talk to people about their ancestry, check out museums, and cook Buzzfeed Tasty recipes!</p>