After almost four months studying in Granada, I returned home to Oregon just over a week ago. Amidst celebrating the holidays with my family and catching up on sleep, at first I had a hard time even finding time to sit down and write a final blog post reflecting on my time in Spain. But now, with the start of the New Year, I've tried my best to gather my thoughts and summarize what I've gotten out of my semester abroad.
Overall, one of the biggest takeaways I have about studying abroad, especially for only a semester, is that it totally flies by, and you can’t really plan for a lot of it. I like to be prepared and know what to expect when entering into new situations, which meant that before I headed to Granada, I was busy making lists of the places I wanted to go, the food I wanted to try, and thinking a lot about everything I expected to learn and get out of my time in Spain. In fact, if you look back to my very first blog post, it comes as no surprise that it features a well thought out to-do list for my time in Spain. Looking back on these initial expectations, I can definitely say that I encountered many surprises, and things didn’t always play out as I thought they would.
I had built up in my mind an idea of a four month-long adventure filled with constant excitement, trips around Europe, and maybe even a Spanish romance. I also harbored an expectation that I would easily become fluent in Spanish over the course of the semester. What I didn’t really prepare myself for was that there would be times when I felt really lonely, especially during the first few weeks as I watched my college friends move back onto campus together. I also didn’t expect that even once I had adjusted and made a solid group of friends in Spain, I would be hit with strong pangs of homesickness periodically throughout October and November after talking to my mom and brother. Finally, I didn’t consider that amidst all of the new and amazing experiences I’d have in Spain, there would also be days where I was tired, worn out from classes, and really just felt like watching Netflix in my bed instead of going out and experiencing Granada. And the thing is, these highs and lows are really normal. When living in a new country, there were so many times that I was just completely enchanted by my surroundings. I loved wandering through the streets of Granada, trying new food, and of course, traveling to new places. But studying abroad can also be overwhelming, and I quickly realized that it was okay, and even really beneficial to recognize and allow myself to feel both the positive and negative emotions. I found that it was helpful to re-evaluate my expectations and goals throughout the semester, because as I learned more about Granada and about myself, I realized that I couldn’t possibly accomplish everything on my Spanish bucket list (still waiting for that Spanish romance to materialize), but that I was still having a really rewarding experience that was shaping and growing my perspectives.
Moving forward from this semester, I am working to continue reflecting on how my experiences in Spain will impact how I live my life in the United States. I have gained a greater appreciation for the cultural differences between my hometown and the rest of the world, and I am eager to travel more and continue growing my perspectives. And of course, I am already looking for ways to return to Granada in the near future, as there are still places around the city that I can't wait to explore. Until next time, Granada!
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<p>I was born and raised in Portland, Oregon and am currently attending school at Claremont McKenna College in Southern California. As someone who loves the outdoors, I am excited to explore the natural surroundings of Granada, Spain. I enjoy writing, learning about history and politics, traveling, and meeting new people. I can't wait to try the food and see the historic, cultural, and natural sites of Spain.</p>