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Remembering Spain

So I’m a week into being home. And it’s pretty jarring. Someone mentioned that culture shock returning home is common, and I couldn’t imagine how that could be possible. Until I got here.

I’m still fairly unsettled. My sleep schedule hasn’t returned to normal, my body doesn’t recognize American food anymore, and I don’t really like that American lifestyle I longed for while abroad. I wake up at 6AM and fall asleep at 7PM. I can’t seem to tolerate any sort of instant foods. And I find everyone around me to be very cold and fast paced compared to the Spanish. I’m re-assimilating and it’s pretty hard.

 

I don’t really know how to round this off other than to say that I had a great time abroad. I learned so much, I experienced so much more, and everything that happened I carry with me now. Studying abroad helped me in more ways than one. I’m very thankful for the opportunity, I hope I get another chance to study abroad again. Maybe to Central or South America next time.

But for now, I’m going to continue to (slowly) unpack my bags to Spanish music, eat some fresh foods (since I can’t tolerate anything else), and relax until the upcoming semester. Until then; ¡hasta luego!

How to get actually lost in Spain: my trip to see Granada CF

I love soccer. Like, I love soccer.

Soccer here in Spain is everything. I feel so at home in that sense here. Nearly every Spanish city has a team in one of the divisions, and luckily for me, Granada’s team, Granada CF, is in the first division, La Liga, again this upcoming season. The city is covered in Granada CF jerseys (and also other team’s jerseys) and merchandise and general excitement.

For my faculty-led program here in Granada, the students are required to write an essay about something culturally important here in Spain that also relates to our studies back home in the States. I chose to write about soccer culture here in Granada and what it takes to work in Communications here, as that’s what I’m studying at home.

I ventured out to find the stadium, and it was a trip. My plan was tout leave class at 1PM and use my two hour break to interview someone at the stadium, maybe grab some lunch, and make it back in time for my final class of the day. How naïve I was.

The trip started with the bus driver telling me the incorrect stop to get off at for the stadium. So after wandering aimlessly for fifteen or so minutes, I finally mustered up the courage to ask a stranger where it was located. I was directed in the opposite direction of where I was walking and arrived at Estadio Nuevo los Cármenes around 2:30PM. Unsure of who specifically I should speak to, a ticketing rep told me to return at 3PM when someone with more clout would arrive. So I went to get some…pretty questionable food…and returned at 3:05PM to a room full of entirely different people. I tried to explain that I was told to return at 3 to interview someone with the team for my essay and it seemed to get lost in translation. Luckily one of the ticket reps, Isi, understood what I was explaining, but told me that I was given the incorrect information. He said that if I wanted to speak with someone “important”, I’d have to come at 4:30PM (which would be 30 minutes into my class time).

Isi told me I could wait there until 4:30 and I threw caution to the wind and skipped class to get the interview I needed for my essay. And waiting with Isi was great! We compared soccer leagues and teams and cities. He showed me videos of Granada CF fans celebrating their team staying in La Liga and I showed him videos from when Sporting KC won the MLS Cup. Isi was so wonderful and helpful.

Then came interview time and I met with two wonderful women who told me about the team, their work with the team, how they got to where they are, and the importance of Granada CF to the community and them personally. The interview ended at 5:45PM. So that made five hours in total to get a 15 minute interview. Yikes!

It was the best/worst adventure of my life. The stadium was beautiful, the people there were helpful and kind, but the circumstances could not have been worse. Now I have a Granada CF jersey to go along with the story of how I was lost at the stadium. We’re truly connected, Granada CF and I.

IMG_2528

 

Maybe I can return during the La Liga season and see a game. That might be a better trip than this one. But remember that super power I told you I have? Now that I’ve been there once, I’ll never get lost when I finally go back.

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Granada CF logo
Granada CF
Granada CF

 

Granada’s Hidden Gems

I love meeting new people and going new places. I’m a true extrovert who thrives in front of new people and doing new things. Because of this, I’ve met a lot of great new friends from other study abroad programs. This past weekend, a group of us decided to get together and explore Granada. One of the girls said her host parents suggested we check out El Parque de las Ciencias: a sensory park that explored the earth, the human body, space, nature, etc.

So on Saturday, we did. Me (a Missourian), another girl from UMKC’s study abroad program, a Nebraskan, Kentuckian, Montanan, and North Carolinian set out to cross the river and find the park.

Well what else were we supposed to spell out with an interactive alphabet?!
Well what else were we supposed to spell out with an interactive alphabet?!

And we had such a great time! It reminded me a bit of Kansas City’s Science City or St. Louis’ City Museum with its interactivity but it was so much bigger with so many more forms of exploration! We started with learning about Earth’s development, saw a planetarium show, hung out with some butterflies in a butterfly conservatory, saw mummies, discovered the human body, played and learned; it was all so fun!

Parque de las Ciencias
Parque de las Ciencias

There were so many kiddos there having so much fun learning and playing, and seeing that was almost as much fun for me as learning and playing myself. Laughter, smiles, and that look of wonder in a kid’s eyes are just universal across cultures and languages barriers.

I think we all felt like kids again. I think learning new things has that affect on people. College can be really jaded with the tedious note taking and textbooks and lectures, so it was so enjoyable to learn by doing again; to see the world as a big playground again.

Te quiero, España
Te quiero, España

If you’re in Granada, I definitely recommend El Parque de Las Ciencias. Go with your class, go by yourself, go with a small group of Americans you’ve just met on this trip: just go! It really is a rewarding experience.

And what science park would be complete without Albert Einstein’s presence?

He's a physicist, but we had great chemistry.
He’s a physicist, but we had great chemistry.

Sevilla’s Little Taste of Home

When people ask where I’m from, I tell them I’m “East Coast born, but Kansas City raised”. My birthplace is very near and dear to me but my hometown, Kansas City, has my heart and soul. Since living there, this is the longest I’ve ever been away from KC in my life.

We spent a weekend in Sevilla. It’s the fourth largest city in Spain, and for good reason. It’s home to some real history and some iconic imagery. One of those iconic images being La Giralda, a giant tower attached to the Caterdral de Santa María.

La Giralda
La Giralda – Sevilla

It might look familiar because there’s an exact replica of it on the Country Club Plaza in Kansas City.

La Giralda - KC
La Giralda – KC

Sevilla and Kansas City are Sister Cities for cultural exchange. The Plaza was built to mirror the architecture in Sevilla. There’s an ‘Avenue de Kansas City’ in Sevilla. Just from that alone, Sevilla looked more like home to me. Not to mention there were three Starbucks’ within walking distance from our hotel.

Even in Spain, the baristas get your name wrong
Good to know that even in Spain, the baristas get your name wrong

I got homesick for the first time in Sevilla. Seeing more “American” restaurants and buildings that looked more familiar to me really made me think of summer days on the Plaza sitting in front of the fountains and listening to the city bustle. Sevilla had all of those same qualities.

There's a replica of this outside the Cheesecake Factory in KC
There’s a replica of this outside the Cheesecake Factory in KC

What really got me was climbing to the top of La Giralda and overlooking the city. One of my favorite things at home is going to the World War I Memorial in DTKC and looking out into downtown. A wave of homesickness hit me hard when I looked out into Sevilla. The top of the cities don’t look alike in any way, but it felt like a familiar moment I’ve had at home.

Sevilla
Sevilla
KC
KC

But I think it was a good moment to have. I wasn’t homesick because I was unhappy or because things were so foreign, it was because things were so similar. Of the forms of homesickness to have, I think a nostalgic one might be the best of them all.

The top of La Giralda
The top of La Giralda

How to get un-lost in Spain:

I have this unreal super power that if I go somewhere once, I can get there again and again without direction or mapping. I can’t tell you the address or cross-street or anything legitimate, but I can tell you how many blocks passed, “that one restaurant on the corner” it is.

This weekend, we went to Málaga to celebrate the Fourth of July the most American way we knew how: on the beach all day. Half of the group stayed overnight and half of the group (myself included) went back home to Granada that same Independence Day evening.

After a mile and a half hike deep into the city with the group to their hostel, half of us split off to head straight to the beach before lunch. Málaga is a pretty twisty city with streets and roads crossing and scattering all over, but like I said, I have a sixth sense for where to go once I’ve seen it.

I led the group out of the middle of the city straight to the coastline all because the road was near a Taco Bell. A Taco Bell, I might add, that I’m pretty bummed we didn’t go to for the sake of American food on America’s day.

Playa de la Malagueta
Playa de la Malagueta

It was a picturesque day at the beach! Perfect amount of sun, not too crowded, and the ocean was perfect. La Playa de la Malagueta welcomed us like home and we spent the entire afternoon soaking in sun rays and ocean waves.

Malagueta
Malagueta
¡La clase!
¡La clase!

Those of us who left that night made it out just fine and made it home in time for dinner with our host families. Here’s to hoping we take the eight hour trek up to a Barcelona beach so I can show off my mapping skills again. And here’s to hoping we hit every beach possible. I’ll fully take on the ‘Lewis and Clark’ responsibility of getting us around to every beach we can go to.

How my first week abroad almost wasn’t

So I made it. Barely. My class has been in Granada a full week. I’ve been here six days.

It seems to be that airlines and the people who run them are difficult, faulty, and mean. Long story short: my mom is a hero and without her I wouldn’t be here (in Spain, or in general).

Anyway: after many tears shed, two flights missed, and two full days spent in the Atlanta airport, I’m here in Granada. I’ve been reflecting. There’s a real panic that sets in when things go awry. And I am extremely dramatic. So when everything started to fall apart, my only thought was, “I’ll never make it to my class. I’ll never get to study. Everything is lost and wasted. I’m trapped in Atlanta forever.” Luckily, that wasn’t the case (shout-out to my momma once again).

But like I said, I’ve been reflecting. Reflecting on what almost wasn’t. Our first full week of class has finished and we’ve done so much. We’ve been in three different cities, seen countless treasured artifacts, and stood in so many historic places. “What if I missed any this”, said my internal dialogue…

Albaicin
Albaicin

…like climbing a mile and a half straight up to see the top of Granada at the Albaicin?

Las Ruinas de Madinat Al-Zahra
Las Ruinas de Madinat Al-Zahra

…or Las Ruinas de Madinat Al-Zahra and everything we learned about the past Muslim empire in Córdoba?

Cathedral of Sevilla

…or climbing 34 flights of La Torre de La Catedral de Sevilla to see this view of the city?

La Iglesia del Salvador
La Iglesia del Salvador

Or especially, meeting the St. Ann family’s saint, and namesake, Santa Ana at La Iglesia del Salvador?

I’m excited for what’s to come. I’m excited for what has happened. This is really the opportunity of a lifetime that I almost missed. Well really: the opportunity of a lifetime that I showed up late for. I told you guys before, I’m bad with time.

Studying Abroad: A Procrastinator’s Nightmare

So here’s my first blog post. Presumably late, but here nonetheless.

Schedules just aren’t my thing. Give me a task and I’ll get it done with outstanding work. Give me the same task, but add a deadline, and I’ll finish it with just a few seconds left on the clock. I just seem to run out of time in the day! Time as a structure confounds me because it’s truly endless, except when it’s not.

I have had all the time in the world to prepare myself for studying abroad in Granada, Spain, but I haven’t taken that time to actually do it. My bags are unpacked, my mother is still the sole person who knows where my passport resides, and I should probably exchange American dollars to Euros at some point in the very near future.

The problem is, I have this theory that if I leave something alone for a long enough time, it’ll just resolve itself. That suddenly I’ll just be in Spain with just my impending classes to concern myself with and all the tedious tasks will miraculously be done for me.

Clearly, at its core, procrastination is a battle of responsibility. The responsibility to get things done when they are supposed to be done, to keep schedule and stick to it. Studying abroad is a huge responsibility. It comes with timelines that have deadlines that need to be adhered to for structure and continuity’s sake of the program and all those involved.

This is where my nightmare thrives. On any given day prior to departure you can find me putting of a simple task with an innocent, “I’ll get to that later!” and then forgetting to do so until the absolute last minute.

They say studying abroad is about growth. Growing cultural awareness, growing skills your program is set to harvest, and growing as person in general. Here’s my proposed challenge to myself: grow out of my procrastination. Grow and buy the plug adaptor I’ve been meaning to for weeks. Grow and make sure I have all of the school supplies I’ll need at the University of Granada. Grow and pack at least one bag. I can definitely do that today!

Or maybe I’ll do it tomorrow. There might be more time in the day tomorrow…