During the autumn semester of 2016, I studied abroad in Granada, Spain for three and a half months. It was such a pleasant and wonderful experience that I do not regret the difficult process I had to go through to ensure a successful journey. I had already visited Barcelona and Madrid prior to this, but I immediately realized that living abroad was a lot different than having a mere vacation. It turns out improving my Spanish was not the only goal for me while I was in Spain, because I found other ways to enjoy myself that I hardly ever did back home.
In terms of living conditions, I lived in a big apartment with Kika Rodriguez de Pineda, my Spanish host mother. She was a very kind, funny and loving person to be with. Along with my roommate Bria Smith (from Denver, Colorado), I had such a wonderful time with Kika that it made me extremely sad to leave her at the end of the program. She cooked me a gourmet meal every day and devoted her every waking moment to ensure my stay would be comfortable. Almost every weekend, I watched home movies with Kika and went on nature hikes with her. She even encouraged me and Bria to participate in family events with her, such as her daughter’s birthday party or her own.
My courses at the small university were somewhat difficult but very interesting and fun at the same time. They included Spanish 401, psychology (the most difficult), Islamic architecture, history of Sephardic Jews and flamenco theory and dancing. My favorite was flamenco because I love dancing and even the history of this dance. I attended many live shows and even participated in a show with the rest of my class at the end of the semester. I especially loved wearing the fancy dresses and shoes associated with flamenco because it made me look like a princess.
IES even organized many fun activities and excursions to keep the students entertained during their time in Granada. Activities with Spanish students included karaoke nights and mountain hikes near the Alhambra. We even had churros with hot chocolate in some of the best cafes. The staff organized excursions to other Andalusian cities like Cabo de Gata, Ronda, Seville, Cordoba, and La Alpujarra. I even went on a day trip to Malaga (where we had orientation) with two other friends. I loved the trip to La Alpujarra the most because I hiked all day in the mountains, and hiking is one of my favorite activities.
Overall, I had a wonderful time in Granada and I would give anything to return to spend more time with my host mom Kika or just have a vacation in general. I highly recommend this program to students interested in studying Spanish, going on nature hikes in mountains, having churros with hot chocolate, and dancing flamenco. These activities are offered mostly in the south of Spain and I would not want anyone to miss that opportunity.