My decision to study abroad with API in Granada, Spain was the most rewarding and life changing decision I ever made. There is not a day that goes by that I do not think of the amazing experiences and opportunities that this program provided me, and for that I am forever grateful. Each of my expectations were met, and most often exceeded, thanks to the endless, helpful support of the API Granada staff.
I selected Granada as my study abroad city actually through the help of Go Overseas! I submitted a question to Go Overseas, asking the pros and cons of studying in Salamanca, Sevilla, and Granada, and received a response with a ton of information which ultimately helped me make my selection. I chose Granada because it was beautiful and I wanted a smaller city with a more intimate feel, making it easier to learn the language. It was a great decision for me. In a big city like Madrid or Barcelona, English runs rampant. Granada provided more consistent access to the Spanish language. It is an inexpensive city that offers everything. It has a bustling small city feel in its center (far more urban than I was actually expecting), with lots of shopping and eating opportunities, but as soon as you get to the center limits, there is nature and beautiful, extensive views. Places like the Albaicin and Sacromonte are amazing cultural hubs and offer fantastic opportunities to explore. Take a 10 or 20 minute bus ride, you can be in the mountains on a breathtaking hike. It really is a city with everything.
With a primary goal of improving my Spanish, I quickly decided to live with a host family. Looking back, it was the smartest and best decision I made throughout this process. While I could see how choosing to live with a host family is a make or break experience, the decision is a necessity and a no brainer with a supportive program like API. I personally had an amazing host family experience. I'm a vegetarian and had come to the conclusion well before my semester started that my Spanish diet would most likely consist of only bread for my four month stay. This was far from the case. API asked extensive questions before our stay that made the transition abroad seamless. This included dietary restrictions. API paired me with a roommate who was also a vegetarian, which off the bat made the experience far less stressful. My host mother was more than accommodating, making us well-rounded and delicious meals each and every day.
Before studying abroad, I heard a lot about the fear of a lack of freedom to come and go as one pleased when living with a host family. This was never a problem. My roommate and I were each given a key to the apartment, which therefore allowed us constant access. and extensive freedom. There were no curfews or restrictions, with the understanding that we would be respectful when returning late at night. Traveling for long weekends or days throughout the semester wasn't a problem either. We were just asked to tell our host mother our travel dates, both for safety reasons and so she could plan our meals.
Classes were an adjustment at first, but not as difficult to adapt to as I was expecting. Each of my professors had extensive experience in teaching Spanish to foreigners, which made them easy to understand. They were clear and understanding, always willing to answer questions and help their students. Although the actual workload was very light at times, the classes were some of the most helpful Spanish courses I have ever taken. I was in the Spanish Language and Culture program, and therefore didn't have classes on Fridays. This was an added bonus and made it much easier to travel for long weekends!
The one experience I wish I was better-prepared for was the Spanish placement exam at the start of the semester. It was a bit downplayed and ended up being a three hour exam consisting of several parts, including various reading comprehension, listening, and writing sections. My advice would definitely be not to arrive to Spain very rusty on your Spanish language skills, specifically grammar, if your goal is to place high and gain certain college credit. This would require a certain score on the tedious placement exam. If you're a beginner, there's no stress, since you're not looking to be placed in a high level. Overall, it wasn't the most pleasant experience, but it short-lived, and any issues as a result of the exam were quickly fixed by Carmen and Curra, our fantastic Granada resident program directors. In the end, no one started the first week of classes unhappy with their placement.
While abroad, I also had the opportunity to teach an English workshop with my friend. This was a unique opportunity that allowed me the chance to experience what it is like teaching English abroad, which especially great since it's something I'm considering doing after graduation. It was interesting to teach this workshop while improving my own language skills at the same time, because it really demonstrated a universal desire to bridge cultural gaps and learn language, while simultaneously pointing out the universal struggle as well.
In my opinion, a strong highlight of API is the excursion aspect of the program. Being the most reasonably priced program I found, API still offered the most resources for its students. My semester, students went to Cadiz, Las Alpujarras, and Rome, Italy. All of our trips were extremely well organized and allowed for extensive amounts of freedom. There were many opportunities available to us, and most of them were optional, so we were able to pick and chose how we wanted to spend our time. Plus our hotels were stunning and in great locations as an added bonus. We also did a lot of travel during orientation our first week, which was a bit overwhelming but a great experience. We visited places like Madrid, Toledo, and El Escorial. API Granada is a fantastic value for the price of the program.
Ultimately, API Granada was an experience that beyond exceeded my study abroad expectations. I had endless resources and opportunities available to me, in addition to meeting fantastic people. The kindness of Carmen and Curra cannot be matched. The only change I would make next time would be to do it for a full year.