Saying Goodbye to Spain: A Final Reflection on My Many Phases Abroad

Lucy Mayer
December 26, 2021

“Tell me about Spain!” says everyone at home.

I have not figured out how to answer this, and it’s how I feel right now as I am writing this reflection, filled to the brim with thoughts, experiences, and gratitude for the amazing people I’ve met, and not sure how to put them into around 500 coherent words. I can’t believe an actual four months just went by, and that an experience I had been dreaming of for so long is now over. 

My time abroad was a whole rollercoaster. There was the initial “I thought I knew how to speak Spanish but I actually don’t” panic. When I met my house mom, I nodded at whatever she said. She spoke so quickly and kept on saying “vale” and I had no idea what that meant. It’s hilarious to think that I never heard vale used to mean “okay,” because it is probably the most common word ever. I became close with the people in my residence hall, and some of the moments I will cherish the most were from this first week. Following our flight to Spain, everyone in my residence hall was laughing uncontrollably in the dining hall area out of exhaustion. Our shared confusion really brought us together. It gave me comfort that times like these, not even necessarily the “highs” of the abroad experience, were filled with joy. 

Then there was the “I’m learning so much” phase. I had orientation with Profesora Ari, and she showed us all around Granada. I learned so many helpful phrases that week. I passed by the cafes I was set on returning to, admired pomegranates on the ground and in the trees, and began to spend time with people who would turn into my closest friends that got me through the whole semester. Sadly, Ari was only in Granada for orientation, and had to return home. I was so sad because there was such an immediate special connection formed. Her teaching was so engaging. Looking back, this was my first little preview of what it would be like to become so close to and comfortable with people and then turn around and be like “bye!”: HARD. 

After my goodbye to Ari, I transitioned into my “I love Granada and everything is amazing but I think my Spanish is getting worse” phase. Walking to school every day with the most beautiful view of the Alhambra, getting delicious breakfast and coffee from my favorite cafes, spending time with my new friends. Life was good. However, I felt like I hit a low point, overwhelmed with how much there is to learn within a language. The Dunning-Kruger effect. As my knowledge and competence grew, my confidence shrank. I was realizing how many layers and nuances were left to learn. Once I was able to get out of my own head, I think my communication skills kept improving up until my very last day in Granada. 

Finally, I entered my “I’m comfortable and I don’t want to leave” phase. This was the most bitter-sweet studying abroad phase. I could communicate effortlessly with my house mom, professors, and local friends. I attempted to cram all of my favorite things to do in Granada. I went to a tetería and drank flavorful tea, hiked up to San Miguel alto to watch the sunset with friends, walked through the Albaicín, and went to the Bohemia Jazz Cafe. On one of what I called my “sad walks” before I left, (I went on a walk by myself every day of my last week in Spain and maybe that was dramatic, but I gained a lot of insight from doing it), I thought about how my time abroad brought out unique parts of myself and unexpected wins. For example, I got to dance and paint this semester. These are two of my favorite things and yet since I’ve been in college, I haven’t had much time in my schedule to do them. Additionally, I didn’t plan on taking the Islamic Art and Architecture class at first. Not because I wasn’t interested, but because I am a biology major who is terrible at history and I worried I would struggle. Interesting how I hadn’t planned to take it, because this class ended up being one of my favorite classes abroad with one of my favorite professors. I learned so much about the city, and felt so proud of the idea that I could explain the history of the architecture of Granada’s famous buildings if I were to show a friend or family member around the city. 

I will hold memories of Granada close to my heart, and keep in touch with the people I love. My time abroad has definitely inspired me to return soon, and I’m actually in the process of applying to teaching jobs in Spain for next year. It’s not goodbye forever! 

Lucy Mayer

<p>Hi! My name is Lucy Mayer and I am a senior at Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts majoring in Biology and minoring in Hispanic Studies. This fall I am studying abroad in Granada, Spain. I am super excited to explore the beautiful landscape and architecture in Granada, and hope to improve my speaking ability in Spanish. After graduating from Brandeis, I would like to do molecular biology research and eventually go on to pursue a Ph.D. related to science or science education. I am passionate about teaching and I would love to be a professor one day! In my free time, I love to figure skate (I have been a figure skater since I was 10 years old), dance, draw, paint, and go on nature runs.</p>

2021 Fall
Home University:
Brandeis University
Minneapolis, MN
Biological Sciences
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