January 3, 2014 by cmcguigan91
I can’t believe it’s almost been a year since I was getting ready to study abroad in Granada. This time last January I was buying european adapters, reading guidebooks, and exchanging dollars for euros. Now, I’m finishing up graduate school applications. My need to talk about Spain to every single person I encounter has finally subsided, although I still can’t help the occasional “Well, when I had pasta in Rome…” when my mom serves spaghetti for dinner.
My time in Granada feels a little bit unreal. It’s almost like I have the timeline of my life, and study abroad is removed from the sequence and sitting on top of that timeline. It’s such a significant part of my life yet it’s almost an entirely different piece of my history. I would recommend studying abroad to anyone. For me, I learned as much about myself as I did about the new country and language I was exposed to.
Looking back, it seems crazy that I hated it at first. Yup- the few three days, I absolutely hated Spain. I was homesick. I missed my parents, I couldn’t understand anyone, I hadn’t slept in 40 hours, and I was in the middle of Madrid, a very overwhelming city. It finally hit me that I was going to be away from home, with no one I knew, for 4 months. I honestly wanted to buy a plane ticket back to the States.
My entire life had been filled with familiarity. I lived in the same hometown my whole childhood, and went away to college with my best friend (and half of my high school). I wouldn’t trade that for anything, but experiencing the absolute unknown made me grow exponentially as a person. I proved to myself that I could do it. I could move away from everything I had ever known, away from everything I loved, and grow to love another place and another group of people.
The fourth day I stopped my uncontrollable crying and felt better. I went out for wine and tapas with some girls I met. I didn’t feel like the city of Madrid was going to chew me up and spit me back out. I didn’t want to go home anymore, I could do this. And every day after that got a little bit better. Granada became my home. When I said goodbye to my friends and roommates I once again cried uncontrollably. I thought my heart was breaking.
Back in the states, I immediately wanted to go back! Everything at home was the same. I went grocery shopping, argued with my brother, started working again. Where were the tapas, the Sierra Nevada, the walks through the Albaicín? It was really over. Then, I came across this quote that hit me right in the heart.
“You get a strange feeling when you’re about to leave a place, like you’ll not only miss the people you love but you’ll miss the person you are now at this time and this place, because you’ll never be this way ever again.” -Azar Nafisi
It’s true- the person I was while studying abroad I will probably never be again. But I have changed, and I have learned so much.
I learned that I can do anything I want to. I learned to get lost and enjoy it. I learned to depend on myself. I learned that I am incredibly privileged. I learned to appreciate when things don’t go how I expect. I learned that somethings are better unplanned. I learned to pack for an entire week in one backpack (thanks, Ryanair). I learned that being alone can be a good thing. I learned to get around without maps or a phone. I learned to be patient with people who don’t speak my language. I learned that there are some truly incredible people in this world. I learned to stop being afraid of the unknown.
When I go back to Granada, it won’t be the same. But I will go back. And I can’t wait for the new adventure that awaits.