Alumni Spotlight: Nora Peterson


Nora studied in Granada, Spain from January to June 2012. She is a student at Illinois Wesleyan University and is pursuing dual degrees in anthropology and women's studies. She enjoys Bollywood films, puppies, and singing along to the radio in her car.

What was the highlight of your trip?

Nora: I went into my study abroad experience anticipating being exposed to new perspectives. As an anthropology student, I am very interested in cultural differences and the way these differences influence behavior and attitudes. I was looking forward to taking classes that would give me a new perspective on topics that I had already been exposed to in my studies in America and also on topics that were completely foreign to me. Lucky for me, both of my fields of study had relevant courses in IES Granada's program so I was able to continue my studies, but through a new lens. Of the five courses that I was enrolled in, four were in Spanish, which was originally very intimidating for me. Being exposed to that much Spanish on a daily basis really improved my speaking ability and encouraged me to be more bold and confident in my abilities when out in public, which was a push I certainly needed.

What I had not anticipated, however, was the level of comfort and contentment that I experienced while studying abroad in Granada. Of course it took some time to become adjusted to living with a stranger and eating with her on a daily basis, but I never felt ostracized or unsafe. And while every day may not have been a fantastic day, it was still an adventure. There were plenty of times when I would get lost or be put in a situation in which I wasn't exactly sure what the proper thing to do was, but I always learned from my mistakes and felt more secure because of the way I navigated the situation. Learning how to completely reorient your life is scary, but it really makes you realize how competent and capable you are. My six months in Spain were the best time of my life. I have never had so much fun, learned so much, and been so happy. Studying abroad in Granada, Spain was one of the best decisions I ever made and I know it will continue to affect me for the rest of my life.

Describe your typical morning?

Nora: I lived with a host mother who worked full time, so on weekdays she would make me coffee and leave me breakfast every morning before she left for work. I had to walk 20 minutes to class so I woke up an hour before class every day (which varied from 8 AM to 10 AM depending on the day) to get ready. There was a drought in Spain while I was there so showers had to be quick and were often quite cold. I had classes every day throughout the morning and until 2 PM. I had lunch with my host mother every day at 3 PM so I would chat with friends for a bit after class or run a quick errand before coming home for lunch. On weekends it was expected that I would sleep until lunch.

What about your afternoons?

Nora: Lunch was always the biggest event of the afternoon, no matter what day of the week. I would help the table while my host mother cooked and I would help her clear the table and wash the dishes afterwards. I was always STUFFED after lunch- my host mother rarely accepted that I had a small appetite. Luckily, siestas are highly encouraged after lunch so I would often nap for a few hours or do homework in my bed. I would often meet up with friends to do homework as well, either meeting in one of our favorite cafes (Manila and Noche y Dia were always hot spots) or soaking up some sunshine in Parque Garcia Lorca once the weather was nicer. On the weekends we enjoyed exploring the city, taking hikes on our favorite trails, and taking day trips to Malaga beach.

And evenings?

Nora: Dinner was not provided by my program so I went out with friends every night. This habit was only feasible thanks to tapas, which are free in Granada with any drink purchase. I would meet up with my friends between 8 and 10 (depending on how much homework we had that night) and go out to one of our favorite tapas bars to have a few rounds. On weeknights I would usually get home between 11 PM and midnight. On the weekends we would hit the town: visit a few tapas bars, go out for a drink, and then go dancing until 4 AM.