Spain: Beyond the Art and Wine

March 14, 2011
Spain: Beyond the Art and Wine

Tapas and tetarias, cathedrals and discotecas. Moorish and Catholic. Gypsies and La Alhambra. Art and wine. Esto es Espana. This is Spain. The contrasts are immense, yet they all seem to fit together in some abstract way.

After a semester abroad in Granada, Spain, I’m a little biased toward the country–especially the southern part of the country that has so much to offer a tourist stopping through or a student wanting to get in touch with a new culture. My three short months abroad were at times challenging, at times wonderful, at times awful, and at other times I could not wait to get the heck out of the country, but over all my experience was one of learning and growth.

I recommend study abroad to everyone. Whether it’s in Europe or South America, Africa or Asia. Go and immerse yourself in a culture unlike your own. Don’t just step out of your comfort zone; run as far away from it as you can.  Put yourself in situations that will force you to depend on yourself and force you to learn something. As scary as it may be to go somewhere where you don’t speak the language, immerse yourself in it. And watch what a few short months can do to change you for the better.

I’m not saying all of this will be fun at every moment, but you will experience things you would have never experienced before and find out things about yourself that you never knew about.

Tapas and tetarias, cathedrals and discotecas. Moorish and Catholic. Gypsies and La Alhambra. Art and wine. Esto es Espana. This is Spain.

During my study abroad experience, I lived in southern Spain in the university town of Granada, home of La Alhambra. This city was terrifying to me at first with small winding streets, no street signs, and not a single English speaker. I arrived and was thrown to my host family. My mom spoke rapid fire Spanish that I didn’t understand, mainly because I didn’t know much Spanish. I got lost one of the first few days without a map and without much Spanish knowledge.

While I became more comfortable and made a few Spanish friends, I still struggled to communicate with others, but I figured it out.  I gestured and pointed and used the words I did know to explain what I was trying to say. I formed such a strong bond with my host mom and brother. I spent most of my afternoons watching American TV shows and music videos with my host brother. While the art, food, and wine make up much of the culture, my relationships with people really made my experience what it was. I still can’t speak great Spanish, but I learned something.

I learned a lot about myself and grew and changed as a person. So for those of you wanting or thinking about studying abroad, here is my list of 10 things to do while abroad…

10 Awesome Things to do While Abroad

  1. Live life in your new culture to the fullest.
  2. Make some native friends.
  3. Find a local bar or cafe, where you can become a regular with the native people.
  4. Experience a true day in their culture. Shadow someone for a day.
  5. Eat as much as you can; the food is usually pretty good.
  6. Try not to call and think about home too much.
  7. Remember to let yourself grow and change.
  8. Get involved in what the locals do for fun, whether it’s the nightlife, or going to a café.
  9. Join a team or club or class of some sort. (I played on a Spanish soccer team)
  10. Journal

Spain, Beyond the Art and Wine photo credit by Abby Norman. 

About Abby Norman

Abby Norman is an avid traveler. She has volunteered in South Africa and studied abroad in Spain. Read more about her travels here.

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