Hasta luego Granada

I will remember March 16th, 2020 for the rest of my life. There was so much fear in the air that day. The streets of Granada were empty, shops and stores boarded up, and only a few straggling people with masks could be seen as I looked out my taxi window. In January, when I arrived in Spain, everything was fresh and pure. The streets were always full of chatter, always busy with people. Now, it was almost a ghost town. 

Spain was closing the borders at 8 am on March 16th due to the pandemic, and nobody could get in or out. My flight was leaving Spain at 6:40 am that same day. If you read my first blog post, you would know I don’t do well on airplanes. During a global pandemic, and with the insane time crunch, I found that this anxiety gets much worse. The world was panicking, my family was panicking, so of course I too was panicking.

As I was panicking, I felt my heart start to burn with anger and disappointment as well. I was angry that a virus stripped me of my experience abroad. How could a disease take my new home and my new family away so quickly? I was mad at the world for cancelling the semester where I was supposed to experience the most growth. I had the right to be mad, but now, as I’m sitting safely in the comfort of my home in Boise, Idaho, the anger has left. I remain sad that I had to leave a city as beautiful and historic as Granada. The anger has left, but I still reminisce every day on all the wonderful memories my two months abroad brought me. The anger has left, but I still miss my sunny balcony that looked out on Calle Elvira. I miss the sounds of flamenco dancers hitting the pavement on Plaza Nueva. I miss stretching my neck to look out the window during class to catch a quick glimpse of their incredible dresses and fast rhythmic footwork. The anger has left, but I miss sitting up on San Mirador with people who made me the most happy and looking out on the entire city as the sun set slowly behind the Alhambra. The anger has left, but I will forever feel nostalgic to the freedom, happiness, and growth I felt during my short time in Granada.

In the end, I am grateful that myself and my fellow abroad classmates all returned home safely. I am lucky to have had the chance to experience new worlds, even though my time ended too soon. Now, I and lucky to have an excuse to return to Spain one day and make up for lost time.  It is not a goodbye forever, just a goodbye for now. ¡Hasta luego Granada! 



The highlight of my time abroad was the five day excursion to Morocco. 5 days, 5 cities. 

On the first day, we arrived in the city of Tanger after a bus ride, a boat ride, and another bus ride. We met Moroccan students, who took us on guided tours of a mosque, a synagogue, and a church all within walking distance of one another. I learned quickly that Morocco contains a mix of cultures and religions. The students told me that, contrary to what is most popularly shown in the movies, Morocco is an extremely diverse and accepting country.

After our visits to the religious buildings, we walked through markets and shops. As I walked through a market, I stopped by a pile of bread to look at all the delicious food laid out before me. I remember feeling a firm branch hit me in the back side and thinking a child was hitting me. I turned to see a woman speaking in rapid Arabic as she was playfully hitting me with a giant leaf. My friends, standing to my right, were all cackling hysterically as this was happening. I was told later that she was hitting me because I was standing too close with my back side to her bread. She had said in Arabic “don’t put your a•• by my bread!” I will never put my back to a stack of bread again.

The next day we had a delicious lunch and tea with a group of Moroccan students. We had a conversation that changed my perspective of this country. We asked the students questions of Morocco as they asked us questions about the United States. I learned Morocco’s political climate is controversial, but each student agreed that their country is changing for the better. 

During this lunch, I encountered a student who told me she had studied abroad in the United States. When I asked her where, she sighed quietly and said “Oh you probably wouldn’t know it, it is a small town in the state of Washington. It’s called Walla Walla.” I gasped. “That is where I go to school!” I screamed. To learn english, she picked Walla Walla high school to study. It’s profound how small the world can be, and how many connections one can find when least expecting it. 

After lunch, the bus stopped along a beach for us to ride camels. Here is a picture of my camel, isn’t he cute? 

The camel ride was just a pit stop on our way to Rabat, the capital of Morocco. Rabat is a beautiful city, it is simple and complicated at the same time. One of my student guides said to us, “It is simple due to its beauty, and complicated because of the rules that can be interpreted differently under our religion.” In this city, I stayed with a Moroccan family. The family had a three year old, who was incredibly curious about us. We spent a lot of time laughing and playing. Turns out, toddlers in Rabat are the same as toddlers here in the states. They love to explore and play the same games, they need to be told multiple times to finish their food, and they giggle hysterically at the simplest silly faces. I didn’t speak the same language as this little girl, but we found ways to communicate with pictures and sounds. At the end of my stay in Rabat, I was given a traditional Morrocan dress as a gift. The mother of the house had tears in her eyes as she said goodbye to us, and I will be forever grateful for her kindness and hospitality.  

We left Rabat after two days (although I wanted to stay forever.) On our way from Rabat to Chefchaouen, we stopped in a village in the mountains of Rif. A family in this village was gracious enough to make us lunch. I ate the best couscous I’ve ever had. The family spent the afternoon telling us stories of their life. After lunch, I played soccer with the kids. The beautiful game is universal, so our language barrier didn’t matter. 

After another bus ride, we arrived in Chefchaouen. I was immediately hypnotized by its beauty. Chefchaouen is also called the “blue city.” The buildings and streets were all painted different shades of blue. It was mesmerizing. I hiked at sunrise to get this view of the city: 

During these five days, it was incredible how I could bond and form relationships with Moroccans so quickly. Everyone I met was warm and friendly. The most important idea I learned from this trip is that while we come from different places and speak different languages, we are all fundamentally equal. A friend I met at lunch in Tanger said to me “Listen closely, and tell everyone you can. We are more similar than we are different.” Morocco was a beautiful and heartwarming experience. I will be counting down the days where I have the opportunity to go back.


Studying while Studying Abroad

11 February, 2020

Believe it or not, your study abroad experience will include actually going to school, as it is studying abroad. A warning: doing homework in another language is not easy. Tarea becomes even more difficult when you let yourself embellish in thoughts of traveling and exploring that could replace work. It was difficult to get used to having to actually sit still. Initially, being in Granada was too exciting to consciously chose to sit at a desk and do homework. In a place as beautiful as Spain it takes considerable effort to turn my attention towards academics. But, I must remember that in order to get the most out of my experience here I want to learn as much as I can. So, like everyone else, I am going to school and taking classes during my time here, which include: Spain in the European Union, Islamic Architecture, Spanish language, Art and Culture in Granada, and Flamenco. Taking all of my classes in Spanish means that all the lectures, readings, tests, quizzes, and essays are in Spanish. This was intimidating and frankly terrifying at first, but here’s how I survive a typical school day: 

Today, a Tuesday, I woke up early for my 8:35 am Spanish language class. There is a small cafe on Calle Elvira, which is a 30 second walk from IES, called Cafe Lisboa that helps me stay awake through these 8 am wakeup days. I’m not sure why, but the coffee here tastes WAY better than coffee in Walla Walla, Washington. 

Cafe con leche at Cafe Lisboa

After Spanish class, I had an hour break. So, I went to the roof of IES and sat in the sunlight as I worked on an essay for my Art and Culture class. The roof of the IES school building is a beautiful place to study, with a breathtaking view of the city. As I look out the windows towards the Alhambra, I feel like I am in a movie. Historic buildings with intricate blue and white designs stand to the right. Textured rooftops seem to extend as far as the horizon. The way the sunlight reflects off the white marble floors of IES seems surreal. It is almost too perfect. 

My daydreaming is interrupted when I realize I was supposed to be at my next class, Islamic Architecture. Today, as a class, we hiked up to the Alhambra museum, where our professor gave us a tour and pointed out architectural elements that we have been learning about in class. After my visit to the Alhambra, I rushed over to the Flamenco studio for my next class. Flamenco takes an incredible amount of skill, and this class definitely challenges my comfort zone. But, my profesor is incredibly talented and supportive. After Flamenco, I walked a block to my homestay where the most amazing food was waiting for me. Today my host mom, who goes by Choni, made myself and my housemate a soup called potaje de garbanzos con espinacas. As usual, we had fresh fruit, vegetables, and bread on the table as well. 

The hours between 2pm and 4pm are reserved for a siesta. Stores close during this time and there are no classes scheduled. Most days during siesta I like to sit on my balcony in the sun and catch up on homework.

At 4:30 pm I walked to IES for my economics class about the European Union. Economics classes at Whitman cannot compare to the level of difficulty of this class. The professors’ accent is difficult to understand. When I do understand the accent, I still do not understand the complicated economic vocabulary in Spanish. The professor in that class will call on anyone at any time, which adds intense pressure. However, this gives me motivation to study more. This is my most interesting, and most difficult, class as well as the one that I will learn the most from. 

In the end, school is what brought me to Granada. The previous few weeks I have been in vacation mode, as I have been wanting to explore and have fun every second of the day. But now, I am at the point in my time abroad where I am escaping from the vacation mode and focusing more on my daily routine. Of course, in every routine there must be some work. So, be warned! Even though you’re in a different country and everything is bright and shiny and fun, homework is a thing! Study up chicos.


The Paris Incident

27 January, 2020

Holaaa, bienvenidos to my blog! This will be my platform to talk about my adventures abroad in Granada, Spain for the next four months.
I’ll start by sharing the first memory of studying abroad. It wasn’t pretty, in fact my travels across the Atlantic ocean began and ended with puke.
Before my departure from Boise, Idaho, the nervous voice in my head would not allow me to enjoy my last moments with my friends and family. I thought, “How am I supposed to go on three planes for three flights? What if Air France loses my bags? What if I get lost? What if the plane crashes? What if I die? What if when I get there I forget all the Spanish I’ve learned and I’ll have to get on another plane to come home??” Ridiculous thoughts, I know. During the ten hour plane ride to Paris, it just got worse. When I landed in France, I had one hour before my next flight to Malaga, Spain. I spent this time bent over a trash can in a bathroom in the Paris airport, waiting for my anxiety to cease the punishment on my stomach. Obviously, planes aren’t really my thing. I was a mess. Anxious. Frustrated. Terrified. Embarrassed. I was terrified of going abroad. It was completely out of my comfort zone. I didn’t think someone like me would ever have the opportunity to study in a different country. But, here I was, about to arrive in Spain, throwing up in a Paris airport bathroom and rethinking my life choices. At this moment, I wanted to hop on a flight back home and curl up in my bed. But, I didn’t. I decided to continue my journey to Spain, despite my doubts, simply because I replayed my grandmother’s words to me the night before. She had looked me in the eyes and said “This is a very brave thing you are doing.” Even though I didn’t feel very brave bent over a French trash can, I knew I would be okay if she thought so.
A week passed after the Paris incident, and it turns out I was scared for no reason. Everything is beautiful, new, and exciting in Granada. I’ve made friends that I know will last. My host mom is not just an amazing cook, but she is an inspiration and gives me confidence in how I speak in Spanish, even though sometimes I have no idea what to say or how to say it. I feel brave. The only thing I’m scared of now is not being able to fully experience everything I want to, as the possibilities are endless. And the best part is, I have not thrown up since Paris!