Why did you decide to study abroad with IES?
Marianna: I decided to study abroad with IES because their program focuses on the importance of cultural immersion. As aforementioned, even when traveling to Morocco for five days, IES made it essential that we stay with a host family. Given the briefness of our visit, such a detail really helps students get that much more in touch with a culture and it’s people.
Their courses are extremely varied and cover everything from history, culture, and linguistics to gender studies, film, and anthropology. Each class does a great job of having students interact with the people and culture by combining texts and lectures with interviews, events, and excursions. My contemporary Spanish theater course saw a different show each week at “Alhambra Theatre”, took a five-hour payaso (clown) course, and saw Mamma Mia in Spanish at the “Palacio de Congresos”. We also had an actress come to our course to talk about her experience with theater in Spain. I attended numerous flamenco performances with my Flamenco theory and practice course. With my Islamic art and architecture course we visited every monument in Granada, many of which were a ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunity (i.e. rooms unopen to the public in the Alhambra). IES also provides extracurricular activities such as cooking classes with a local chef, senderismo (hikes), and soccer with University students. The University of Granada and various youth centers near Granada are familiar with the program and they welcome IES students as though they were undergrads at the University.
Study abroad is a moment that truly solidifies who you are. The experiences you have and the people you meet will forever shape your life. When I was planning for study abroad, the only certainty I had was that I wanted to be in Spain. What made Granada stand out from the other cities in Spain was its versatility and loyalty to the Spanish culture. Though a city, Granada feels much more like a town. The entire city is walkable and one can easily mix urban with outdoors through activities such as hiking, skiing, and swimming. Some Granadine highlights that truly make it stand out from other cities in Spain are:
- Flamenco performances in the Sacromonte. Though there are many performances that are catered to tourists, you can experience the true improvisation that flamenco is built off of if you spend some time in the Sacromonte where the gitano community resides. IES offers a flamenco class that mixes the actual practice of flamenco with courses on its history.
- There is a strong Moroccan influence in Granada. Teterias (tea shops) are scattered all around and are the ideal environment for studying whilst being culturally immersed. IES provides a five-day trip to Morocco where they set students up with host families. It is a beautiful accompaniment to the program and a truly unique one.
- For one euro, you can get a drink served with a free tapa – portion sizes are often generous.
- Festivities that are unique to Granada include the “Fiesta de San Cecilio”, the patron saint of Granada. The event is held in the Sacromonte with glorious amounts of paella and migas and flamenco. On the fifth of May there is “Día de la Cruz”. This is a day during which various crosses are decorated and put on display in various parts of the city. Granadines go from cross to cross, drinking and dancing to flamenco music.
- History is in the streets. The Alhambra is a must in Granada. I highly recommend taking IES’ course on Islamic Art and Architecture. The city is your textbook. There are numerous visits to the Alhambra that are truly ‘once in a lifetime’ visits that take you into parts of this Moorish Palace that are never seen by tourists.
What made this study abroad experience unique and special?
Marianna: What made this study abroad experience unique and special is the people I met and the place I chose. Aside from IES planned trips, I left Granada once on my own time. I highly recommend truly making the place you study abroad in a home. It’s one thing to be able to say that you saw a, b, and c, and traveled here, there, and everywhere, but it’s a whole other experience to say that you lived somewhere.
How has this experience impacted your future?
Marianna: Granada remains very near and dear to my heart. Though it may sound cliché, I have truly made lifelong friends. I keep in touch with the IES students and Spaniards that I met and consider them family. My host mom and I still skype and email and I had the amazing opportunity to return to Granada and introduce my parents to her, IES, and all the bits and pieces of Granada that I fell in love with. The opportunity to travel to another country is more than an academic experience, it is a bold step into the unexpected, it is a taste, a sound, a smell, a sight, a touch; it is brail to the senses, the country our walking stick. As a friend of mine put it, Granada both “divorced and connected me to my origins”. I further appreciated where I come from while also discovering how quickly an environment and people so unknown can become another home.