The Caterpillar

Tre Nowaczynski
March 1, 2016

Monday, February 29th, 2016 23:32

 

Alhamar, Granada

              The month of February has come to an abrupt end, its quadrennial bonus day (Happy Birthday sis) only blended into the blur. I have learned a lot in an astonishingly short amount of time, both academically and personally. Every moment has been a learning experience, especially the time spent outside of the classroom, thrown into the fire of reality and speaking in (gasp) another language. I’ve enjoyed myself, participating in different events, going to different restaurants, spending time with different people, and most of all trying new things. Looking back on my short time here I realize that my appetite for knowledge is insatiable, observing new subtleties every day ranging from the way people present themselves, organize space, and behave in public to the organization of stores and neighborhoods. I find myself perpetually making comparisons to my life in the US, as if either of these is the norm. I can imagine that I will be more shocked when I return (I don’t want to but I will…) because I will have a preconceived notion of what to expect. Here it feels as if every day I am expecting surprises and challenges, which feels great. Continuing on this quest to satisfy my thirst for knowledge, I hope to integrate more and more into the community, helping me evolve into a true Granadino.  

              As this was the first long weekend that we have had at IES Abroad, many of my classmates took trips across Europe and out of Andalusia leaving me behind in Granada. Fortunately I was visited by Macalester friends visiting from other countries, forcing me to show off how much I really know about this city. It felt good to talk about the history of the city, explain social norms, and lead excursions to restaurants all over (without Google maps!!). And at the end of this break I opted to travel fairly local instead, visiting the caves of Nerja and a nearby beach and hiking trail (amazing). I will say that I am stunned at how easy it is to travel here. Despite my inherent distrust of technology, it has yet to fail me in terms of intra-city bus navigation, giving rise to incredible (and cheap) weekend trips in the surrounding villages. My only inhibition is that I may be falling too deeply in love with Andalusia, making me more likely to deny other trips around Europe. While this may not be a bad thing (this is my bank account speaking), I do hope to continue having new and exciting experiences and capitalizing on all of the opportunities that I truly want to engage with.

[I really hope this one didn’t bore you, I tried to be as straight forward as possible]

Highlights:

              I have really appreciated this experience as a whole. From my living situation to my classes, I feel as if this program is tailored to me. On top of that, I am still challenging myself although it just feels like a lot of fun. Even though I stated just last week that settling into a routine has been nice, I realize that if I want to get even more out of this experience I will have to break that schedule every now and again. This type of approach often makes me seem like some type of loner or recluse, but I am honestly just finding a balance between developing connections, practicing language skills, and learning about myself as well as the world around me. After speaking with my visiting friends however, I am aware that I am extraordinarily lucky/blessed/privileged to be in a situation that suits me. While that this may not be the case for everybody, help will always be there, for those who need it most (even I’m groaning at that… but it’s true). You don’t have to be alone during this experience. At least here, I feel that I am surrounded by friends, acquaintances and strangers alike who I can talk to, who I can ask for help for anything. This comfortability has been the key to this experience. Feeling confident enough in my environment to be able to branch out and do whatever it is that I need or want to do. If you are struggling: help can be much closer than it appears. We have the ability to reach out to not only those within our city, but those within other programs, countries, and continents. I encourage anybody within earshot of this blog who has had a study abroad experience, is currently studying abroad, wants to study abroad, or is just a little bit curious to reach out to a friend (or a stranger if you’re feeling bold) and let them know how you’re doing and check in to see how they’re doing. We don’t have to do this alone, and that is something that can be applied to more than a study abroad experience.

Mistakes:

              (Spending so many of my precious words on the highlights section). I am taking a class at UGR and wow is it hard. Not necessarily hard to understand the concepts, but the language barrier has stepped up its game. Shamefully the first few classes have been trying, but I am determined to work through my struggles and gain the valuable experience. Thus, this has been my biggest external challenge, but one that is surely surmountable. No pasa nada, right?

Moving Forward:

              While it feels like I am not really in school right now, I am. And I need to remember that instead of staying up late at night to do homework that I ‘forgot’ I had to do. I am at no risk of falling behind (yet) but I would like to reclaim a little bit of organization over my academic pursuits (outside of dancing and drawing of course). I wish it wasn’t all moving forward so quickly, but as long as I enjoy every moment, I cannot be disappointed. I only hope to continue on this upward trajectory of learning and personal growth, helping any others along the way if at all possible. 

Tre Nowaczynski

<p>A sociology major at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. At school I am a two-sport varsity athlete, sing and beat box in an a cappella group on campus and volunteer in the Twin Cities area. In the future I hope to develop and create safer and more integrated communities, creating equal opportunities in urban centers across the US. Specifically I seek to work against structural racism by reducing disparities that are current outcomes of our social systems. This study abroad experience is a time to reflect and immerse myself in an entirely different world beginning first and foremost with a language barrier. I hope to be successful academically and socially as well as learn a lot about myself and the world around me.</p>

Destination:
Term:
2016 Spring
Home university:
Macalester College
Major:
Sociology
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