I studied abroad in Granada in the fall semester of 2018. I had chosen the program somewhat on a whim early the previous semester because it offered classes in my major of religious studies but still provided the opportunity for Spanish immersion. Even though I dove into my decision knowing very little about Granada or even the program, it was the best decision I could have made.
I entered into the program feeling very anxious but excited about my adventure ahead. Still, I was doubting my language abilities and worried about building a community in Granada. Those doubts were quickly diminished when I experience the warmth and love of the IES Granada staff that grew to become a huge support system for me. I also quickly was feeling confident in my language abilities through the growing relationship with my host mom through our daily lunches together, talking politics or about the latest celebrity drama we would see in the news.
Studying in Granada provided me with new and exciting learning opportunities. One of my favorite classes that I took was Islamic Art and Architecture, through which we visited nearly every corner of the city exploring its architecture. Through this class I had the privilege of visiting the Alhambra multiple times, and we even got to visit parts of the Alhambra that are not open to the public. Each class at IES provided unique learning opportunities, but I was most thankful for the opportunity to improve my language abilities through most of my classes being taught in Spanish. Through my experience abroad, I learned about the rich religious history of Granada through classes like Islamic Civilizations in Spain and Memory and Identity of Sephardic Jews. This was incredibly interesting to me and gave me new learning opportunities within my major. I also gained a stronger sense of independence and a new perspective of how to navigate another part of the world. It was incredibly worthwhile to learn about myself, the city of Granada, and the world as a whole.
When studying abroad on a budget, Granada is a fantastic place. There are so many restaurants to explore throughout the city. Plus, whenever you order a drink, whether it be Tinto de Verano, Fanta Limón or something else, they’ll bring you a tapa along with it! One of my personal favorites for food was Shawarma, a delicious pita stuffed with grilled kebab chicken and loads of veggies and yummy sauces - all for only 3 euro! The city is incredibly walkable, but also very affordable in terms of public transportation. There are busses to the university, bus station, airport, and other parts of the city. A few weekends my friends took the busses out to the Sierra Nevadas and hiked. It was beautiful and so awesome to have fantastic hiking trails so close. Another weekend in December when snow was finally on the mountains, we had the opportunity to ski! The program also provided fantastic excursions including trips to Cabo de Gata, Ronda, Córdoba, Sevilla and Morocco. Each trip provided new immersion into cultures and opportunities to learn about art and history. The Morocco trip was truly a highlight of my experience. I stayed with a host family in Rabat, experienced the Hamman (the traditional arab baths), had lunch with a family in a village of the Rif Mountains, and so much more.
Throughout my time in Granada, I met people within my program that I now know will be lifelong friends. I met Spanish friends through orientadores of the IES program as well as through the intercambio pairing. Should you choose, IES pairs you with a Spanish peer so that you have someone to meet up with, practice your Spanish, and learn more about what it is like to be a young person in Spain. My intercambio grew to be one of my great friends, and I am thankful to have met her.
Overall, my experience in Granada was fantastic and I will always look at it as a second home. It helped me grow as an individual but also as a world citizen. I am incredibly grateful for my opportunity to study there and I highly recommend studying in Granada with IES to anyone hoping to study abroad.