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.

Tourist Week Part 2

Welcome to Part 2 of Tourist Week, and quite frankly, some of my favorite parts. Same drill as last time… a little about the city, what we did, and what I liked the best.

Toledo:  Toledo’s claim to fame is the amount of religious buildings it has… meaning there are several synagogues, mosques, and of course cathedrals, which is where the expression “holy Toledo” comes from. Woohoo history… Ok, now for the fun parts. Of course, we toured the cathedral, which like all the others was amazing. I probably sound like a broken record, but who cares.

Every inch of the cathedral is intricately designed to point the viewer to God. The picture below is of the altar (I’m not Catholic, so I’m not really sure if that’s right or not… sorry if that’s wrong.), which depicts the life of Christ. I can’t imagine having the patience to work on something so intricate such as that.

While the cathedral was beautiful, my favorite part was the lookout point featured below. From that spot, you can see the whole city.

Sevilla: My fun fact about Sevilla is that part of Star Wars Episode 1 was filmed in La Plaza de España, pictured below. (Follow the link to see the Star Wars scene: La Plaza de España en Star Wars )

While exploring La Plaza de España was incredible, my favorite part of Sevilla was using some free time to climb the cathedral tour. We entered the cathedral about thirty minutes before it closed and the security guard said we couldn’t make it to the top by then. Little did he know, we skipped the actual tour of the cathedral and practically ran the 35 floors of the tower and made it in about ten minutes. The view was breathtaking, as you can see below. I also made a lifelong friend in Sevilla… but only because I had food.



Torremolinos: Torremolinos was right on the Mediterranean Sea, which made it one of my favorite cities. However, the hotel we stayed at was unique… unique here having the meaning of ridiculous. Typically, when you stay at a hotel, a meal or two a day is included in the price. At this hotel, a meal was included but drinks were not. You had to pay 2.5 euros for water… WATER. That’s essential to life people… I just had to get that out there.

We also had an entire free day in Torremolinos, which made it pretty awesome. A friend from our group and I saw people out on the sea riding jet skis and decided that would be fun, so we tried to find some to rent. We just started walking down the beach, asked for directions a few times, got four different answers, but eventually we found them. It only cost us about 35 euros (40 dollars) to rent one, and we had a blast! We only flipped it once, and it wasn’t while I was driving.

Last thing about Torremolinos: It has the best ice cream place I have ever been to, and I work at two different ice cream stores… It was homemade ice cream and wow, was it delicious. It also helped that the worker said I had “beautiful Spanish”.

Natalie Rediger is a junior at the University of Missouri-Kansas City studying Criminal Justice and Criminology. Natalie is spending six weeks of the summer studying abroad with the 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.

Quien dice España, dice todo

Hello friends! Sorry I haven’t posted since I left I did not quite anticipate just how crazy life gets when you’re studying abroad. I’ve been in Spain for almost 3 weeks now and I am absolutely loving it. The first week I spent entirely with the group from UMKC, traveling on a bus from Madrid to Segovia, Toledo, Sevilla, Torremolinos, Frigiliana, Almuñécar, and Córdoba.


 We woke up almost every day at 8 and spent the days exploring and walking around the cute towns and cities of southern Spain. We toured beautiful cathedrals, mosques, and synagogues and learned so much about the culture and history of Spain.

A random street in Madrid
The Royal Alcázar of Segovia

After a week of travel, we arrived in Granada around 1:30 on Monday afternoon where we met our host families and parted ways. From there I got set up in my new room and had dinner with my host family. I was surprised I could actually follow the conversation at dinner! That first week we spent getting ready for the placement test at the Centro de Lenguas Modernas building where we’re all taking classes. The biggest adjustment for me has been the lack of air conditioning in both public places and the home I’m staying in. Thankfully, my room has a little fan to keep me from dying, but most restaurants and bars I’ve visited have either had their air conditioning off or set to room temperature. Aside from that the differences are small; I get weird looks when I order ice to put in my coffee, restaurants, shops, and businesses shut down to take a siesta (nap) after lunch, dinner isn’t until 9:30, and lunch is the biggest meal of the day. But all in all, I think I’m adjusting pretty well to the Spaniard lifestyle, especially the naps! And having an amazing host family definitely makes this whole experience so much sweeter.

More to come!

Megan Schwindler is a junior at the University of Missouri-Kansas City studying English Literature and Spanish. Megan is spending the summer abroad with the 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.

Quien se fue a Sevilla perdió su silla

This weekend, I returned to Spain’s lovely Andalusia region and visited Sevilla and Cordoba. Both cities lie along the Guadalquivir River. My first stop was Sevilla, which is actually Kansas City’s sister city. The famous Giralda Tower in Sevilla, once the tallest tower in the world, has a replica in the Kansas City Plaza.

The tower is attached to the beautiful and enormous cathedral that was built over the footprint of the mosque that was built by the Moors. I went on an illuminating tour of the city that explained the city’s influential and complicated history over about the last 1500 years. Sevilla lies in a strategic place along the river. The city has been ruled by Romans, Moors, and Christians. At one point, the city held Jews, Christians, and Muslims living in the same city without conflict.

I spent the next morning in the incredible Real Alcazar of Seville, a palace again originally build by the Moors. The style, called mudejar, is distinct and so beautiful.

Although the architecture was so beautiful, my favorite place in the palace was the gardens. The walled garden grounds are expansive. I went early enough in the morning that there were fewer people around, and it was a very peaceful place. I so easily could transport myself back in time with the absence of city noises. I’m sure it was quite the luxury being royalty and living there.


Sevilla was an influential city in the 1500s and 1600s because it was the only place where trade with the Americas could legally take place. This made Sevilla a very important commercial and cultural center. Related to trading in the Americas, the Archivo General de Indias (General Archive of the Indies) stores more than 80 million pages of documents in regards to the Spanish presence in the Americas and in the Phillipines. It was fascinating seeing plans, reading letters, and viewing city schematics from hundreds of years ago. The building neighbors the cathedral and is beautiful in its own right. Below, you can see the grand staircase and the courtyard.

[plans for the new Guatemala City]


Another famous place in Sevilla is the Plaza de España. The plaza is in the middle of a large park. In its center is an enormous town hall; the outside is decorated with alcoves for each of the fifty provinces in Spain.

I found Valencia!

Sevilla has an important role in Spanish history, and I’m so glad I had the opportunity to see it for myself, wander its winding streets, and hear some of the many stories from the city.

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.


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


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.