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.
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.