When I first arrived to Granada, I thought I had everything about Spain figured out already. I’d lived in Barcelona before, and was secretly pleased that I would have an advantage in adapting to my surroundings when I began the semester. Boy, was I wrong...
My first surprise was the temperature. Of course, I knew it wasn’t going to be warm when I arrived in February—but that wasn’t the problem. What surprised me was the drastic changes in temperature and weather within the span of days or even hours—one day it would be hot and I’d be whipping out my sundresses, the next it was freezing and I had to buy an extra scarf. What got me the most was the difference between day and night temperatures—if you were caught out after sunset without a jacket, you were basically done for! It turns out, Granada’s unique location in the south of Spain but at the base of the Sierra Nevadas makes for some very temperamental weather—if it’s sunny in the city but there’s snow in the mountains, you get high temperatures but brief spurts of freezing cold wind. I soon learned that whenever I left the house, I should wear at least 3 layers so that I can add and remove them as needed! This is true even in late spring/early summer—Granadian buildings are constructed to conserve the cold, with light colours and internal patios to keep the place well ventilated. This, while a blessing in the summer when the air turns into a hot soup of heat and humidity—makes for some unexpectedly chilly classrooms in the spring!
Another surprise for me was the schedule. Yes, I knew that Spaniards tend to start work early, their main meal of the day is at 2:30 and that there’s a siesta/rest time after lunch because during the summer, it’s too hot to work at that time. What I hadn’t realised? That after siesta time, you have to actually return to work!! I’d never experienced student life in Spain before, and in the States I liked to get all of my classes out of the way in the morning/early afternoon (when Spaniards have their rest hour) and then have evenings free. It was definitely a shock to my system when I got my class schedule in Granada and had my latest classes—which I had on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays - end at 8 or 9 p.m. Honestly, for the first month or so I felt completely exhausted by the longgggg days, especially because during the rest hours my brain and body seemed to switch off for the day, apparently thinking it was over. However, with time I grew used to it, and I learned to appreciate having a rest in the afternoon and returning to work feeling recuperated. My best advice for this time is not to take too long of a nap, if you need one, otherwise you feel really groggy when you wake up. Also, naps at this time make it feel almost as if you’re starting a new day when you go to your evening classes—so by the weekend, you feel as if you’ve lived two whole weeks instead of one, and you get really worn out!
Coming and adapting to Granada was definitely a little overwhelming at the beginning, but I’ve learned how to regulate my emotions and behaviours so that I don’t burn out or feel overstimulated. One piece of advice that I have for doing this is that it’s ok—even beneficial—to keep a little remnant of your home routine in your daily life here. For me, that involves incorporating snack times into the regular Spanish meal schedule. At first, I wanted to adapt fully to the Spanish culture, which tends to have 3 main meals of breakfast at around 8 a.m., lunch at 2:30 p.m. and dinner at 9 p.m. However, I quickly realised that this is simply not sustainable for me. Like most Americans/Irish/British people, I need to eat small things between meals to keep me going throughout the day. I’ve embraced that way of living here too; I realised that it’s ok not to fully modify myself to Spanish expectations, because I’m not Spanish—and that’s ok. Snacks and coffee dates are also a great way to socialise, make friends, and generally relax or wind down between classes. It works out for the best for both me and the people around me—after all, no one wants to deal with a hangry Sonya!
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<p>Hi, I’m Sonya! I’m a junior at Bryn Mawr College, PA, and my majors are Neuroscience and Anthropology. I’m originally from Letterkenny, Ireland, but now live in Northern Ireland (when I’m not at school, of course). I love to travel, paint, swim, meet new people and try new things. This semester I’m studying abroad in Granada, Spain, and I can’t wait to share my experiences with you all!</p>