Studying while Studying Abroad

Study abroad is a unique time to wander the streets of a city, try all the foods unique to the region and meet new people.   Ultimately though, it is study abroad and I was in Granada to study. My classes were one of the best parts about my abroad experience and it would be a shame not to tell you about them. Plus, if any of my professors ever doubt that I did indeed study, I can show them this post.

I took five different classes while in Spain: Spain and the EU, The Arab World and the West, an upper-level Spanish class, Islamic Art and Architecture and finally, an Internship Seminar. The first thing that was great about my classes is that they were all specific to studying in Spain and living in Granada. I got to study the EU while Spain is still in the mire of the 2008 economic crisis and while the Euro is hurting in its value. I also began to understand that while members of the EU do have some sovereignty, much of their regulation, economic production and a host of other policies are controlled by the EU.

In a similar vein, my Islamic Art and Architecture class taught me about the city and country I was living in, from Granada’s founding as a Muslim city to its conquering by the Christians. The cool thing about this history is that it isn’t just in old manuscripts, it’s written into the art and architecture of the city, from the design of the streets to the types of columns that line the patios of Granada’s houses. Once a week we would head to a historical neighborhood or building and discuss its significance, construction and how religion played into its design. This meant getting to explore old bathhouses, palaces and even a mausoleum. This class made walking around the city that much more interesting. An added bonus was that I got to go to the Alhambra three different times for free.


A class visit to the Mosque of Cordoba

Four of my five classes were taught in Spanish, which meant that all the discussions, readings and tests were in Spanish. While teachers were understanding of students’ language levels, it still provided a unique challenge that I hadn’t faced in any of my politics or music classes before. When I talked to my friend who was taking a class on the EU in Copenhagen, I realized I only knew the names of the policies and EU bodies in Spanish. However, I think that learning in Spanish has also helped with my retention of the information I learned because it required that I think about each thing I learned or read in depth in order to understand the concept that was being conveyed in Spanish. I guess the takeaway here is that I should read all my school readings in Spanish so that I can retain more.

The classes I took were certainty one of the things that I will remember most about my study abroad experience. I spent a lot of time in classes so it was great that they ended up being so engaging and interesting. Reading about the Alhambra on Wikipedia just isn’t the same as discussing its history and cultural significance in class and then visiting it and seeing these things appear in the construction of each tower and palace.


The Alhambra

The Alhambra

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