My study abroad experience was with Blinn College through Sol Education, and it took place in the summer of 2017 in Granada, Spain. The entire experience was great and truly eye-opening. In the past, I have traveled around the world with my family for vacations, but this particular trip was unlike anything I had experienced before. From beginning to end, whether studying or exploring, the study abroad trip was amazing.
The first few hours in Spain were a little bit shocking, due to the language barrier and new surroundings, but I was immediately mesmerized by the city of Granada and the beauty that it presented. After meeting my host family and settling myself in, I felt more relaxed, and overall it was comforting to know that I wasn't alone in feeling initial discomfort and awkwardness—the other students, the professors, and I were able to constantly communicate through Group Me, and we shared our thoughts, pictures, and individual experiences throughout the entire trip. Not only did I feel like I could depend on the other students and the professors for guidance and support, but I felt the same about the Sol Education staff. Our group's Sol director, Miguel Pinto, plus the rest of the Sol staff, were always available to lend their support or give assistance whenever or wherever needed. I am grateful for all the work that everyone did to make sure our group had a safe, fun, and successful trip abroad.
We were able to see and visit so many beautiful places in Granada and the Andalucia area. Although the summer heat was difficult to endure sometimes, the sights and views of Albaicín, Sierra Nevada, La Alhambra, Sevilla, Córdoba, plus many others, were completely worth the long hikes and sweat.
I want to encourage students to take the opportunity to study abroad, whenever possible, because I do believe it is a great experience to have, but that doesn't imply that everything will be smooth and easy going all of the time. The other students and I took two intermediate level Spanish classes while in Granada (over a span of one month), and it was hard work. It was easy to get sidetracked and forget about studying for class or for exams, especially when we were tired from long days, but it was important to keep pushing ourselves and figure out the best strategy for ourselves as individual students. Although studying abroad is fun and exciting, it's definitely not the time to slack off.
In general, here are some other tips that I would recommend for students planning to study abroad in Spain (or anywhere else where these tips may apply): pack a good pair of tennis shoes to protect your feet while walking and hiking; bring an insulated water bottle so you always have cold water when you're out; bring a decent amount of cash, or plan to withdraw from a trustworthy bank abroad, because shops and restaurants prefer quick payments by cash; pack a small table fan, or bring money to buy one, for the hot days when air conditioner isn't available; pack a power bank charger for your phone so you always have power for pictures or an emergency; consider purchasing an international phone plan for your time abroad, I used Travel Pass through Verizon that cost $10/day for unlimited talk, text, and data; and, bring a secure wallet, purse, or bag to carry in front of you to prevent easy pick pocketing. Also, try researching your abroad city before your departure date to find interesting or fun places to go on some of your free days. Or, ask your host family for suggestions and learn what they enjoy doing in their city.
And, overall, enjoy yourself. The most important thing I feel like I can say is to not be afraid to explore. I believe there is great importance in traveling, especially when there is an opportunity to not only discover a new culture, but also yourself through learning and interacting, or even just observing. Whether you're a student going out to participate in a cultural activity with your abroad group, or just a person going to walk the streets of your new, temporary home, you should always take time to absorb and appreciate whatever surrounds you. It seems there is never enough time to learn and to enjoy what stands in front of you, so fully experience every moment you have.