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Dear Future Globetrotter

Flamenco show in Granada, Spain

Spain is amazing. Traveling is such an adventure. Studying abroad is a gift. I truly cherish the months that I have had the privilege of living in this beautiful country and all that it has taught me. As the semester comes to an end, a handful of consejos (advice) come to mind that I think are important for anyone about to embark on their own journey abroad. These are some things I have learned (in no particular order) during my time in Granada, Spain. Everyone is unique and has their own story, struggles, and journey abroad, so they may not apply to every person out there. But, I do think what I have observed and learned is very useful and I hope you find it to be as well.

1. Make every effort to get out of the American bubble. You are going to make new friends in your program and in your classes, and that is wonderful! But odds are most, if not all, of those people will be from the United States, which means you will mostly be speaking English and it will be more difficult to meet locals. This happened to me, and while I love the friends I’ve made, I didn’t meet many locals. It was a lot more challenging than I expected. I spoke English more than I imagined I would when at the start of the semester I really believed the majority of the language I used would be Spanish. All I’m saying is to find a balance and be intentional about meeting the locals in your city.

2. Don’t wait until you have the perfect friend(s)/group to do something you are interested in… Similarly, don’t be afraid to do things alone. The biggest example of this for me was when I took a solo trip to Manchester, England. I went for the sole purpose of visiting the Chatsworth House, which is Mr. Darcy’s home in the newest movie adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice. I really hadn’t found anyone that was interested in going there, so I went alone. It was a very challenging experience but one I really cherish. I’m the type of person that loves to share experiences with others, so at times during the trip, I felt very alone. However, this also meant I got to learn even more about myself: what I like, what I don’t like, how I travel without outside influence, and so much more. It’s okay to do things alone and you’ll even grow from it!

3. If you’re abroad to learn and practice a new language, don’t shy away from continuing to speak in that language if the person you’re talking to responds in English. This happened to me far more often that I would’ve liked. It’s usually in situations where the person I’m speaking with is in a hurry and I’m taking too long to get my point across (like ordering food at a restaurant). It sometimes made me question my Spanish abilities. Were they switching to English because I wasn’t speaking Spanish well enough? I was there to learn so I wouldn’t let that stop me from speaking. Who knows? Maybe they want an opportunity to practice their English. Just keep practicing! You’re there to learn.

4. If you see something potentially interesting or are curious about something around a corner, through an archway, up/down stairs, go explore! You won’t regret taking those few extra steps and seconds to check it out. Even if it doesn’t end up being that noteworthy, you won’t leave the country wondering what could’ve been. Plus, you just never know what you will find!

5. Learn how to use public transportation systems; it’s a great feeling when you get it down. I still struggle with it at times, but Google Maps is a lifesaver. Keep in mind, some countries are easier to navigate than others with this mode of transport, but you’ll get the hang of it.

6. Front load the time you’re living in the country by doing a lot of activities, exploring, eating new foods, meeting locals and new friends. Time really does fly when you study abroad and you don’t want finals week to suddenly be upon you and you still have so much on the table. It’s not fun to be studying for finals and still trying to cram a few more activities in. It just it makes it hard to enjoy it all. I was a victim of this… the procrastinator in me really revealed itself this semester. Don’t wait!!

7. Just take it all in! Enjoy every second and find special moments in each day. I know this is very general, but there is so much to discover and take in. Make the most of your time!

Thank you for joining me this semester and for taking the time to read about my adventures! I hope that those who are planning to study abroad have a wonderful experience. And if you are still on the fence about whether you should go or not, I have one piece of advice for you: do it! You won’t regret it.

The Alcázar in Segovia, Spain

 

Picos de Europa, northern Spain

 


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.

Disclaimer:  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.

The Countdown Dwindles & Adventure Begins

As I write this post, I am a mere 6 days away from departing on my flight for a semester-long journey in Granada, Spain. The excitement and anticipation are growing with each passing day, but so are the nerves, questions, and expectations. However, the emotion that best encompasses how I am feeling is alegría (joy)! I feel so blessed to have this opportunity to spend four months overseas in a country I have always dreamed of visiting. Now, not only do I get to visit, but I get to live in Spain and truly immerse myself in what I know will be a beautiful culture and all-around amazing country. Here are just three of the many aspects of this adventure that I am most anticipating.

1. Improving Spanish

I have been learning and studying Spanish since the second grade, but you wouldn’t believe that if you heard me speak. I am probably better at the language than I consider myself to be, but living in Spain will be the true test. I have always had a desire to become fluent in Spanish, but classroom learning simply doesn’t do it for me. I believe that immersion is the best teacher and I am looking forward to the improvements that will come, especially increasing confidence in myself and my speaking, writing, reading and listening abilities. One way that I will improve is through the housing that I’ve selected for the semester: I opted to live in a homestay with a Spanish family. I thought that this would be the best way to not only learn more about the culture and lifestyle of Spain, but also to essentially be forced to speak Spanish around the clock. It would be too easy for me to use my housing situation as an escape from speaking Spanish, so I chose the homestay as a catalyst for me to continue practicing, even when I am at the home, a place where I usually would let my guard down and relax into English speaking habits. That is why I chose to challenge myself in this way. I’m sure my expectations will be met!

2. Self-discovery and independent travel

I love traveling! If I could, I would make it my full-time job. I’m pumped for this semester in Europe where I will have the freedom to travel in addition to completing my coursework. This is the first time that I will be traveling outside of the United States alone. It’s intimidating, a little scary, but also exhilarating. I’ve heard from other solo travelers that this is an amazing way to really learn more about who you are. I don’t doubt that for a second! I have always been pretty sure of myself, but I am looking forward to learning more about who I am. There are things I haven’t yet discovered simply because I’ve never been in this situation before: I’ve never been away from my family for more than a few weeks at a time, never traveled abroad alone, and certainly have never lived my life using another language in every-day circumstances. All of these scenarios, and more, are sure to highlight many of my strengths (and weaknesses, also important to understand about oneself) that I had never realized I had. I fully expect to be stretched beyond my comfort zone, but I am embracing it. I know this semester will be a challenge, but I am up to the task, whatever Spain has for me!

3. The city, culture, and people

Okay, okay, I know that is three aspects in one post, but I can’t help it. How could I only choose three to discuss? I first fell in love with Granada when I read three simple words describing the city: eclectic, mountainous, historic. I read these descriptors in the International Studies Abroad (ISA) packet that contained all of the study abroad locations available to students. Surprisingly, I had never heard of Granada before researching where to study, but when I read those words I actually became misty-eyed. I felt so drawn to the city. For one, I love mountains. They are so majestic and they make me feel so small but in the best way. They seem to speak to me saying, “There is more in the world beyond yourself,” if mountains could speak, of course. My affinity for mountainous regions makes living in Missouri kind of a bummer, but that’s what traveling is for. Anyway, all that to say, I know this city, like most cities in Europe, will be lovely. I hear (and have seen through pictures) that the city of Granada is beautiful. Likewise, I hear that it is as beautiful as the people who inhabit it. Everyone I have talked with who has been to Spain raves about the kind and welcoming nature of Spaniards. Additionally, I love other cultures that are different from my own and I strive to experience them from the perspective of the locals. I am looking forward to experiencing the diversity that Granada has to offer by living in such an eclectic city with quite a rich history. I enjoy how traveling allows one to meet so many different people from all backgrounds, each with their own unique stories. I am excited to have the people of Spain as a resource to make my experience the best it can be. As a generally introverted and reserved person, I am not typically one to initiate conversations, especially with strangers. However, I want to use this experience to break that cycle since I desire to have an authentic Spanish semester.

Pictured is me wearing the only luggage I plan to bring: a 60 liter Osprey backpack (it’s much roomier than it looks)! I’m embracing simplicity this semester!

There is no telling whom I will meet,what I will discover, the experiences I will have, or the things I will see. The mystery and uncertainty going into this semester is what makes me so excited. All I know is that I will have breathtaking adventures, eat amazing food, meet incredible people, and walk A LOT (I really enjoy a good walk) all while gaining confidence in myself and my Spanish-speaking abilities. This is going to be a semester of learning and discovery. I may not know the details of all that I will encounter, but that is all part of the process. I have an open-mind, an open heart, and the flexibility I need to have a truly maravillosa (wonderful) adventure in Granada, Spain.


Camille Meeks is a senior at the University of Missouri- Kansas City studying Psychology and Languages & Literatures 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.

Updates and Apologies

It’s been a while, hasn’t it?

I’m on the last leg of my study abroad experience, currently on a ferry from Ireland to Wales to make my way back Londontown (*EDIT: this was a few days ago, now I’m homeward bound!). I leave to go home in less than a week (*EDIT: today), and the last time I’ve updated you was mid-March. Since then, I’ve traveled with my best friend, crushed (and was crushed by) my exams, and embarked on my first ever solo trip.

I wanted to make this quick post to let you know, if anyone is exclusively following this blog, that I am, in fact, alive. I’ll be updating this blog pretty frequently with a different post for each city I’ve visited:

– Madrid, Spain
– Barcelona, Spain
– Venice, Italy
– Rome, Italy
– Naples, Italy
– Athens, Greece
– Budapest, Hungary
– Prague, Czech Republic
– Krakow, Poland
– Copenhagen, Denmark
– Amsterdam, Netherlands
– Edinburgh, Scotland
– Dublin, Ireland
– Leeds, England
– Dover, England
– Brighton, England

Hopefully you’re more excited than overwhelmed by the amount of posts coming your way. Again, I’m truly sorry it’s taken me so long to write this post, any post. I appreciate you keeping up with me!
Xx Jessica