Studying abroad is an amazing privilege, one that less than 10 percent of U.S. college students actually take advantage of. The opportunity to get college credit in a foreign country, learn a new language, and immerse myself in a new and different culture was an opportunity I knew I couldn’t pass up.
That being said, there are pros and cons to anything you do, at any point in your life. So here’s a list of the Pros and Cons I’ve experienced in the week I’ve spent in Granada, España.
- The moment I stepped off the plane, I felt liberated. Here I am, with 4 months ahead of me, and the ability to do whatever I want and be whoever I choose. I can stay out as late as I want or stay in as late as I want. I’m the only person responsible for my own well-being. This is something that scares a lot of people but I’m ready for the challenge that is being independent and being an actual adult.
A New Culture
- The United States has such a fast-paced culture. We’re always on the go and always in a rush. In just a week I’ve accepted that the Spaniards live a more leisurely lifestyle, less focused on the go go go. I’m not sure how I feel about that yet, as I’m a caffeine-hyped ball of energy, but I can appreciate a culture that enjoys a more slow pace of living.
Meeting New People
- Just in this week alone, I’ve met people from all over the U.S. who chose to do the same study abroad program that I did. This month I am enrolled in an intensive immersion program with other students from around the world who chose to go to this university as well, so I’m sure I’ll be meeting even more people. And that’s before the other 60,000 Spanish students who attend the Universidad de Granada arrive at the end of September.
- Granada is one of the oldest cities in Spain, and a lot of the architecture upholds old Muslim influence. Every building looks historic and important, when really it’s just an apartment complex or a post office. I look out my balcony into the Post-Graduate campus and all the tiles are bright colors and the window sills are engraved with intricate designs. I’m awestruck every time I walk to school, every few minutes I have to reflect on the fact that I live in this beautiful city.
- Because of technology I’ve been able to keep in close contact with all my loved ones. I find I enjoy talking to my parents and sister more now than when I was at home because I actually have things to tell them. This also goes with the freedom aspect, because I have the freedom to do whatever I want, but I know the choices I’m making are making them proud of me as well, and it’s nice to have only good, positive conversations.
- Everyone says a long-distance relationship is difficult or impossible or a waste of my time, but I’m making it work. I think if you love someone enough, you owe it to both yourself and your significant other to give it a good shot. So I make sure to set aside time to talk to my boyfriend every day, in the time slots when we’re both awake. I think face time and texting really help with that because it feels like we’re both involved in each others lives, and the time difference works well enough that I spend most of my day experiencing all the good that Spanish life has to offer, and I don’t feel left out when I decide to stay in and talk to him (perks of not being a big partier).
- I love naps, and I’m also super jet-lagged, so the Spanish siesta lifestyle was something I was on board with, especially when it gets to be up to 100 degrees farenheit in Granada.
Applying my Knowledge of Another Language
- I’ve been studying Spanish for 7 years, so being here and using the language every day, I feel like all that studying I’ve done has paid off. Academic Spanish is pretty useless if you can’t apply it in a real-world setting, so I’ve been pleased to find out that I know more than I thought I knew, and I find myself holding conversations in Spanish fairly well.
- In Granada, big business doesn’t prevail over small, family-owned shops. This is nice because things tend to be unique, and the one experience I had in a Spanish supermarket is not one I want to repeat. There are so many alleyways, all filled with little shops. I can’t wait to see what other hidden treasures I find in these Spanish alleys.
- Jet Lag
- This jet lag into a 9-hour time difference hit me HARD. The fact that Spaniards have such a different sleep schedule hasn’t helped matters either. Hopefully my body adjusts soon, but in the meantime I keep waking up at odd hours of the night and getting tired at inconvenient hours in the day.
- Party Culture
- I don’t drink. I don’t smoke. I don’t party. Here in Spain, those are all normal things that people do. I find myself going to tapas bars with my friends and drinking a sangria (which was not terrible to my surprise) but going home at 11 or 12 when they’re all leaving to go to the discotecas. I don’t feel like I’m missing out, but when I finally get my jet-lagged ridden body to sleep, it’s annoying to hear people shouting their way down my street at 3 or 4 in the morning. Time to invest in some ear plugs.
- Missing my Loved Ones
- Even though I talk to my family very often, nothing beats actually being with them. I miss my mom’s cooking and I miss coming home and seeing my dad watch cycling or reading his book. I miss little conversations about nothing with my sister and I miss holding my boyfriend’s hand. Those are little things but even though I miss them, I wish they were here experiencing this with me rather than I wish I were back home.
- It’s hit 100 degrees every day I’ve been here so far. Need I say more? I’ve been too spoiled with sunny and 75 California weather.
- Did I make the right decision? What if I don’t do well in my classes? Should I have just stayed home? I don’t like parties why did I pick a place where people stay at bars until 7 a.m.? Will my relationship work? Am I doing the best I can?
- These are all questions that plague me. I worry about everything and I tend to think about the “what could have been,” and that’s a mentality I’m trying to shake, but it’s hard.
- Still Dealing With the Language Barrier
- As much as I know more than I thought I knew, I simultaneously know less than I thought I knew. There is different Spanish slang here than the “slang” I was taught in school back in the states. When I talk to people in Spanish, they assume I know the language better than I actually do so they start rattling off and I find myself unable to keep up. I can keep up with basic conversation and everyone I talk to is willing to help me better my Spanish, but there’s still a feeling of inadequacy.
- Fear of Missing Out on Things Back Home
- I wonder how my family’s doing every day. I’m sad I won’t be able to see my sister off to her last homecoming dance. My boyfriend got a new job and I’m not there to celebrate with him. My friends from school just moved back into the dorms and I miss crappy cafeteria breakfast with them. It goes back to what I was saying about missing the little things, but now that I’m gone I can appreciate them more too.
I’m Ready to Have the Experience of a Lifetime
The pros of studying abroad far outweigh the cons. Culture shock isn’t as prominent as I thought it was going to be. And more importantly, I have the privilege to live out my dream. Studying in another country is something I have wanted to do since I was a little girl. The fact that I’m here now actually doing it is blowing my mind.
I’m excited to start my full course load and get involved on campus, as the Universidad de Granada has an endless list of ways study abroad students to get involved.
It takes time to adjust to any new place, and I’m sure once I’ve found my niche, I’ll be ready to thrive.
Until next time, xoxo,