Tell us a bit about Granada.
Eric: It's a beautiful, picturesque city that manages to blend the vibrant feel of metropolitan life with a more traditional, homey atmosphere. The city is an important historical landmark, and you can see the echoes of centuries of civilization in the architecture, the surrounding landscape, and the culture of the people. Having seen other cities in Spain, Granada is hands down my favorite, and I would highly recommend coming to this gem of a city. For those passing through Granada or looking to spend a semester there, here are a few things you can't miss:
- Café Bohémia, located near Plaza de los Lobos: it's a small jazz cafe that's bursting with character and serves a mean milkshake (dirty, of course).
- Mirador de San Nicolas: It's a tourist trap, but offers the best view of the Alhambra and the surrounding region; located in the Albaicin.
- El Genil: The river that runs through the eastern part of Granada; it's pretty and there's a path that runs along it, take a walk or a jog sometime and see how far you get!
- Good tapas bars: Bella y la Bestia (off of calle Elvira), Poe (close to Plaza de Gracia), Omkar Sum (close to Poe), Ecu (way out in the Zaidin, ask someone), El Espejo (also on Elvira). Also, trying schawarma is a must. The shops are everywhere, you can't miss them.
- Los Cahorros: Here is located a hiking trail that leads into and through some low mountains close to Granada. These paths are great for a day trip, and if you follow them up to the top of one of the hills, you can see for miles around.
Why did you decide to study abroad with IES?
Eric: I decided to go abroad with IES for a number of reasons. The breadth of courses offered was certainly a factor - courses are interesting, relevant, and excellently taught. More than that, I came for the immersion experience. IES boasts that as you study in a foreign land, you will change and a part of you will feel like you belong there. It definitely lives up to that reputation. The option to spend my months there in a homestay (among a Spanish family) was another aspect that impressed me with IES and, although a little daunting at first, ended up being the most rewarding experience imaginable. I also chose to go with IES because they're an accredited, respected study abroad organization with well-established practices and a good rapport with US colleges. This made registering through my university and transferring credits an almost painless process, which is not something to be overlooked.
What made this study abroad experience unique and special?
Eric: So many things made my experience overseas special. Part of it was the sights I got to see, hitting probably a dozen different cities in six countries. Part of it was the food I got to eat, because no one cooks like a Spanish mom. Part of it was the city itself, exploring the old neighborhoods of the Albaicin and Sacromonte, running across a new plaza after every turn, and generally just enjoying the sheer beauty of it all. Part of it was, of course, what I was learning, acquiring new knowledge from a new perspective and really opening my eyes to things that I had never thought of before.
The biggest part of it by far, though, was the people. On one hand are your classmates. In general, IES is good at choosing intelligent, kind people who are really passionate about studying abroad and want to make the most of their experience. I made some of the best friends I've ever had during my semester here. On the other hand are the locals, whether your teachers, your host family, or just other people in the city. Spaniards are, as a rule, super nice. There's a joke that the French will make fun of you if you're anything less than fluent in their language, while the Spanish will appreciate that you're trying; this is absolutely true, and it's really easy to talk to people and become part of their lives. My host mom will always be a second mom to me now, and the Spanish students I met were all awesome people who couldn't have been nicer. If for no other reason than that, if IES plopped you down in the middle of a desert island with these people, it would be worth going. You will meet people who will change your life and will forge lifelong friendships with people that you otherwise would have never known.
How has this experience impacted your future?
Eric: This experience has changed me in more ways than one, all of them good. Although I lived in a homestay and essentially had a mom to look after me, I was on my own a lot of the time and learned to function more or less as an adult in the city. I traveled to other places in small groups or occasionally by myself, and am now comfortable with looking after myself and adapting wherever I may go. Academically and culturally, my Spanish skills increased by leaps and bounds. I also feel that as a result of my time and studies abroad I have a much greater awareness of the world as a whole, as well as where my country and I individually stand in relation to it. I'm also a more confident person.
Intellectually, this experience has made me reevaluate my habits of living and my preconceptions about people, places, and regions. Sometimes you don't even realize you're thinking a certain way until you see it from a different angle. As an American, I had a very distinct worldview, one that was fairly limited and isolated. Americans tend to think we're the most important people living in the best country in the world. There are a lot of people out there, and we're only a small part of this world. That's something that's hard to see from here, but is all to clear in Spain, where people have their own problems and their own ways of life. Because of my time abroad, I think of myself not just as an American, but as a global citizen.