I studied abroad in Granada, Spain twelve years ago during the Spring semester of my junior year. I was a doe-eyed twenty year old college girl who prior to this, had never been to Europe let alone outside of the US. Well, the Caribbean doesn’t count. If you or anyone you know is contemplating studying abroad, I would tell them to do it and don’t look back. It was the single best decision I’ve ever made in my life and in many ways it changed the course of my life. Looking back, that time was so magical. It was a time about self-discovery, traveling throughout Europe, and learning Spanish. When do you ever get opportunities like that in life?
I learned a lot during that time; one thing I discovered was that I was supposed to be born a Spaniard. I fit in rather seamlessly in the Spanish lifestyle and culture. It makes way more sense to me than the American lifestyle. During the week, I went to classes in the morning and then came home around 1pm for lunch at my host family’s house. I took a proper two hour siesta then went back for a few more classes. I would go home around 7pm and then meet up with friends for tapas or have conversations with Encarna, my señora, in Spanish of course. The weekends were spent either discovering new spots in Granada, traveling to other parts of Spain or other countries in Europe. I lived there before instagram and social media so the days felt longer and time felt like it stood still. Unlike other parts of Spain, Granada has a lot of Moorish influence in the architecture, the food, and the music. It’s what makes Granada unique.
When I left Granada twelve years ago, I knew I would return but I didn’t know when. It wasn’t until this year that the stars aligned and that I was able to return. I met up with my girlfriend Alice (who I met in Granada and who is also American) in Madrid. We’ve some how stayed in touch through out the years. We oddly enough lived in San Diego at the same time. Anyway…we did it the old fashioned way like we used to twelve years ago; we took the 5 hour bus from Madrid to Granada. It was a surreal experience driving into the Granada bus station like I had done so many times before. Riding in the taxi through the city to our apartment (via Airbnb) in the Albayzín. I felt like I was in a time warp but seeing everything through different lenses. In two days, we walked the entire city, went back to old haunts like our university and our favorite bars, had unsuccessful attempts at tracking down our host families (they still live there!), and reminisced about the memories.
My favorite memory from the weekend was when we went to the Mirador San Nicolas in the Albayzín to watch the sunset over the Alhambra. Picture this scene: locals and tourists crowding around to gaze at the Alhambra with gitano music playing in the background. As the sun was setting, both Alice and I got very emotional because we felt so lucky that we were able to return to our beloved city twelve years later together. Granada will always hold a special place in my heart because it was the place where I started to dream and to want more in life and knowing that it’s all possible.