Transitioning from Newbie to Native (More or Less)

A pic of me on a side trip to Morocco and the Sahara Desert!

Let’s be real: there’s a honeymoon phase to almost any new thing we do. Whether that’s starting a new job, new school, new hobby, or making new friends, there comes a point when you see the activities or the people for what/who they really are. You may still enjoy it, but you begin to know the true depth, see the flaws, and generally have a deeper understanding of reality as you become more accustomed and comfortable in that environment or with those people. I have definitely noticed a similar trend with studying abroad.

Now, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and for me, I even welcome it by embracing the sometimes uncomfortableness of the situation. When you reach this point, it is when you really begin to learn the culture and experience something new and beautiful.

For me, this process took over a month. I can’t pinpoint an exact day since it’s so gradual. But I do know that today, compared to when I first arrived in Spain, I am much more comfortable and feel like I blend in (most of the time) to the natives around me. Here is a simple example of when I first noticed this change:

In the busier, more crowded areas of Granada there are typically people stopping others to take a survey, sell a service or product, etc. They usually only target Spaniards, so it’s safe to say I wasn’t called out during my first month here as I probably looked so lost. However, one day a man stopped me in the street, and said (in Spanish), “Is your family missing?” There was definitely something lost in translation (because what I thought I heard could not have been correct…I still have a lot of Spanish to learn) and I repeated back to him with surprise what I thought he asked and he quickly said in English, “Oh, you’re not from Spain?” I replied that I was from the United States and he apologized for stopping me and moved on without a second thought. I, however, was so honored! It was so simple and kind of silly, but I was so proud that someone thought I was a local. Usually being stopped like that by people of the street would bother me, but in Spain it means that I come off as one of their own. I feel that in myself, as well. I am so much more comfortable here than I was at the beginning: I walk more relaxed and continually feel more at home.

Hiking in Alpujarra, Spain. If you look very closely you can see the Mediterranean Sea between the mountains.

As I have mentioned in past posts, I love traveling. But this is more than traveling- it is a learning experience. I learn more about the culture, the people, the history, and myself every day. It’s not all pretty, but it is the reality and that’s what I want to know. I don’t want a sugar-coated semester: I want raw and real. I want to understand the economic crisis of Spain and how that is making it difficult for Spaniards, especially young people, to find secure jobs, forcing them to live with their parents until they are 25-30 years old, for example.

But at the same time, I have loved learning about the good things that this country has to offer. Like the fact that most students pay less than $1,000 for college per YEAR as opposed to universities in the United States costing anywhere from $10,000-$60,000 per year, causing most students to be in extreme debt. The government of Spain understands the importance of education and it shows in the prices of attending university. Spain’s education system and general economy may have its own flaws (for example, the reason that college is so “inexpensive” is because taxes are much higher), but at least it doesn’t cost an arm and a leg outright to attend college. It’s all much more complicated than I know, but that’s pretty incredible.

There is so much more I could discuss regarding the culture and the people. It’s an intricate and complex country with a lot of history and depth. And I haven’t even mentioned what I have learned about myself and my own beliefs by being immersed in this culture. There are still things that I have discovered but haven’t fully grasped and can’t articulate quite yet. I don’t think it will be until I return home and have time to process the semester in its entirety that I will understand how this semester has impacted me. I am looking forward to those realizations, because I’m sure this time has affected me in more ways than I know.

Thank you, Spain (and all other countries I have been fortunate to travel to this semester), for welcoming me, teaching me, and showing me all that you have to offer.

The mosque of Cordoba (now a Catholic church).
La Plaza de España (The Plaza of Spain). A few scenes from Star Wars were filmed here!

Camille Meeks is a senior at the University of Missouri-Kansas City studying Psychology and Languages & Literature with an emphasis in Spanish. Camille will spend the Fall semester studying in Granada, Spain through International Studies Abroad as a Truman Good Neighbor Scholar.

Student blog entries posted to the Roos Abroad Blog may not reflect the opinions and recommendations of UMKC Study Abroad and International Academic Programs. The blog is intended to give students a forum for free expression of thoughts and experiences abroad in a respectful space.

España vs. Me: Round Two

The history and culture shock of Spain continued down its path with me as I began to more fully comprehend the  amazing accomplishments that took place in the last five thousand years or more.

La Granja Royal Palace was an interesting find on our tour throughout Spain. Just outside the small town of San Ildefonso, the summer palace and its gardens were a wonderful delight that I did not think any king would ever want. The 1,500 acres of gardens, trees, groves, and amazing flowerbeds and fountains were stunning.

A flower bed of the La Granja gardens.
A view looking down at one of the main fountains at the garden.

The most incredible thing was how the king had Red Woods shipped from the United States to Spain just so he could have them in the garden. The fountains and architectures were modeled after Versailles, and I found it interesting how the palace now belongs to the people and that they are allowed to visit inside of it. The garden continues to grow all of the original species of plants that were originally planted, and the palace itself contains all of the original furniture and architecture from its original conception as well.

The Mezquita that we had the welcomed pleasure of seeing is the ultimate symbol of how the three cultures of Spain, Jewish, Moor, and Christian, came together and completely redeveloped a new mosque-cathedral as new kings ruled over the area.

View of one of the old entrances to the Mezquita of Córdoba, Spain.

Though the mezquita is mainly a representation of the Moor and Christian cultures, I believe that the history behind it was influenced by all three cultures, even if it wasn’t at the same time. Each chapel represents a different part of the religions and I found most fascinating the pillars that were inscribed with different meanings.

A neighborhood of the “Village of Three Cultures”.

Frigiliana is a town that takes the time to celebrate the Festival de las Tres Culturas (Festival of Three Cultures) at the end of August. This festival commemorates the coexistence between the Christian, Muslim and Jewish traditions, as well as the regions historic confluence.

One of the most pure colored houses of the “White Village”.

This special town, also known as the “White Village” inspired me to find the time during this study abroad trip and visit it again. Though I did not like all of the stairs that we had to climb, this white village full of artists and flowers was the push I needed to continue my journey through the Spanish culture and the Spanish Language.

Grace Englehart is a senior at the University of Missouri-Kansas City studying Creative Writing and Spanish. Grace is spending the summer term abroad with the faculty-led UMKC Spanish Program in Granada, Spain.

Student blog entries posted to the Roos Abroad Blog may not reflect the opinions and recommendations of UMKC Study Abroad and International Academic Programs. The blog is intended to give students a forum for free expression of thoughts and experiences abroad in a respectful space.

El Paseo por Andalucía ;)

Andalucía es una de las más grandes comunidades autónomas en el país entero, con una cultura muy distinta y su propio acento. España fue un país de guerra entre los católicos y los moros por siglos y Andalucía fue el centro de estas batallas porque fue el central área entre Europa y Africa norteña. En los días de hoy, todavía se existen dos pequeñas colonias españolas en Marruecos, Ceuta y Melilla. Andalucía me emocionaba porque he querido visitar Sevilla por mucho tiempo y por fin, tenía la casualidad. ¡Vamos a mirar!

Andalusia is one of the biggest autonomous communities in the whole country, with a very distinct culture and its own accent. Spain was a country of war between the Catholics and the Moors for centuries and Andalusia was the center of these battles because it is the central area between Europe and northern Africa. In today’s days, there are still two small Spanish colonies in Morocco, Ceuta & Melilla. Andalusia was exciting me because I have wanted to visit Seville for a while and at last, I had the chance. Let’s take a look!

Plaza de España

En Andalucía, la primera ciudad que visitamos fue Sevilla. ¡Que alegría que íbamos a visitar la ciudad hermana de mi ciudad, KCMO! Por supuesto, me aseguré ponerme una camiseta sin mangas de KCMO. En Sevilla, primero visitamos la Plaza de América, con los jardines y las fuentes. El siguiente lugar que vistamos fue la Plaza de España. Un gran área con un altar de cada provincia de España. ¡Que bonita era la Plaza! No sólo yo tuve memorias de KCMO y la plaza allá, sino encontré un altar de Alicante también –  mi primer amor español.

Plaza de América

In Andalusia, the first city that was visited was Seville. What joy I had that we were going to visit the sister city of KCMO! Of course, I made sure to wear a KCMO tank top. In Seville, first we visited the Plaza of America, with the gardens and the fountains. The next place that was visited was the Plaza of Spain. A great area with a shrine for each province of Spain. How beautiful was the Plaza! Not only did I have memories of KCMO and the plaza there, but I found an altar to Alicante too – my first Spanish love.

la Catedral de Córdoba

Después de ver las vistas en Sevilla, nos fuimos para Córdoba. En esta ciudad, vi la catedral cordobesa, un edificio de mucho lujo y una historia muy compleja. Al igual que en Andalucía en general, esta ciudad se cambió del control de los moros al control de los católicos unas veces – estos cambios se reflejan de los estilos de la catedral. Hay una parte de un estilo muy árabe, con los arcos entre las columnas, cual funcionaba como una mezquita en una época. Esta parte entonces se conectó con una parte muy lujosa, de un estilo muy europeo. En esta parte, había muchas reliquias muy lujosas de plata y de oro. Era una estructura fascinanate.

Los arcos de la catedral cordobesa
Las reliquias lujosas cordobesas de la catedral

After seeing the sights in Seville, we left for Cordoba (sometimes written Cordova). In this city, we saw the cathedral of Cordoba, a building with so many luxuries and a very complicated history. As in Andalusia in general, this city was changed from the control of the Moors to the control of the Catholics a few times – these changes are reflected in the styles of the cathedral. There is a part with a very Moorish style, with the arches between the columns, which was functioning as a mosque at a time. This part was then connected with a very luxurious part, of a very European style. In this part, there were many very luxurious artifacts of silver and of gold. It was a fascinating building.


Después de ver Córdoba, nos fuimos para la costa. Nosotros entonces vimos unas ciudades por la costa sureña de España – Andalucía ocupa casi toda la costa sureña ibérica, otra de la costa portuguesa y la costa de Murcia. Llegamos a la ciudad de Torremolinos primero – donde nos quedamos por tres días. Torremolinos me hizo pensar en Florida, me pareció como el estado, con las playas y estaba muy cerca del mar. Por el segundo día, vimos tres más ciudades andaluzas – Málaga, Frigiliana, y Almuñécar. Frigiliana es una ciudad del estilo muy clásicamente mediterráneo – casas blancas por la colinas.


After seeing Cordoba, we left for the coast We then saw some cities along the coast of southern Spain – Andalusia occupies almost the whole southern Iberian coast, other than the Portuguese coast and the coast of Murcia. We arrived to the city of Torremolinos first – where we stayed for 3 days. Torremolinos made me think about Florida, it seemed to me like the state. For the second day, we saw three more Andalusian cities – Málaga, Frigiliana, y Almuñécar. Frigiliana was a city with a very classically Mediterranean style, white houses through the hills.

El tiempo que ha pasado fue maravilloso. Apenas puedo esperar pasar más aquí.

The time that has passed was wonderful. I can barely wait to spend more here.


Chico Veinticinco










Natagnél Frisella is a senior at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, studying Spanish Language & Literature. Natagnél is traveling through Spain this summer 2017, concluding with the UMKC Spanish Program based at the University of Granada in Southern Spain.

Student blog entries posted to the Roos Abroad Blog may not reflect the opinions and recommendations of UMKC Study Abroad and International Academic Programs. The blog is intended to give students a forum for free expression of thoughts and experiences abroad in a respectful space.


Another Spanish city of many stories is Cordoba. Walking around parts of the city made me feel like I was traveling back in time, although the city has an energetic modern center. My walk into the city from the train station was magical. There’s a beautifully preserved ancient city wall with a crystal clear stream running alongside it.

Once I got to the old part of the city, I started to get a feel for the city. The narrow streets were bright and colorful, and some walls were covered in flowerpots. If you peek into gateways to houses, you’ll often see lush patios dense with greenery and flowers.

My first stop in the magical city was the old Roman bridge. The bridge, crossing the Guadalquivir River, was built over 2,000 years ago. While walking there, I got caught in a little rainstorm. It turned out to be for the best, because for one, most of the tourists had cleared out, and secondly, the view when the sun came out was stunning. 




Another relic of Roman life are the temple ruins. Cordoba is the kind of city you can wander around without a map; it’s not so large you’ll get lost, and there are always surprises. This was a big surprise for me. I turned a corner, and there were all these pillars. My time in Spain has given me a better glimpse at the Roman Empire that influenced so strongly the world that came after.






A mandatory stop for me was the Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba. This site has complicated history; originally a Visigoth Christian church, turned into a mosque, that was divided and maintained a Christian half; then, after the Reconquista, it was turned into a catholic church, how it remains to this day. This history is reflected in the diversity of decoration and styles inside the building. When I walked in, I was immediately blown away. First thing: it’s enormous. Second: the Moorish arches and pillars are totally unique and have a spectacular optical effect.






The catholic nave in the cathedral was also gorgeous. As I was walking around, the organ player began to play, and it lent the place an even greater solemnity and beauty.

My other favorite stop was the twelve courtyards at the Viana Palace. As I mentioned briefly before, patios are a really important element in Andalusian (southern Spanish) architecture. Each one was delightfully different; some were more austere and relied more on architecture, and some were overflowing with plants.







My last stop before heading home was to the synagogue. Cordoba has one of the three synagogues in Spain. It was a contrast from the cathedral. It was small and simple. The stone walls were carved and parts were inscribed with Hebrew passages from the Torah.





Cordoba reflects the great variety of religions that have cohabitated in Spain: from the Romans, to the early Christians, to the Muslims, to the Jews, and finally Catholics. It is evident the way religion has influenced the movements of history, especially in this country. I love that traveling is a sensory way of experiencing history, and it’s been one of my favorite things about Spain.


My first week here in Spain has been amazing thus far. My dreams have literally come true. I never thought studying abroad could even be a possibility for me, but here I am a week in and literally am an emotional wreck. Besides being excited about living in a different country I am also in a large amount of pain and discomfort. I don’t think that as long as I have lived I have ever felt like my feet were going to fall off at any moment.

Our first two weeks consist of excursions and I definitely did not come mentally or physically prepared to walk an AVERAGE of 8-10 miles a day. Band-Aids and tennis shoes have literally become my best friends. Although there is public transportation around for me to use I decided to stick to a strict budget. I’m saving myself an average of two dollars a day by choosing to walk. Not only will I save quiet a bit of money, but I’m also able to enjoy the city and get my daily exercise. Positive thoughts though do not change the reality of the hot summer weather here in Spain. Granada has been having temperatures in the high 90’s and low 100’s. Personally I thought this was extreme, but I was surprised by the gift that was waiting for me these past couple of days.

We traveled to Cordoba and Sevilla over the past four days and boy was the heat more intense there with temperatures at 104.

Cordoba was very fun filled with amazing historical sights. We traveled to las ruinas de Madinat Al-Zahra where we were able to see ruins of the historical Muslim palace. Such an unreal feeling to be standing on the actual grounds that the inhabitants actually used years ago as a living space. As well as the Muslim mosque located in Cordoba.


We headed out of Cordoba and headed to Sevilla a couple of days later. Sevilla has been by far one of my favorite cities in Spain of course after Granada. We spent three days in Sevilla where we were able to tour around the cathedral, La Iglesia del Salvador, archeological museum, plaza de España, and El Alcazar (where game of thrones has been recorded). Overall a very hot and eventful weekend spent with amazing classmates and professors.



This is just a snippet of the amazing time I am having here in Spain. Although I feel as if I’m melting and my feet may fall of at any moment I am surviving and enjoying my time. I just keep telling myself I will come back home in the best shape of my life with chiseled calves!!




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…


…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.