Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Anthony Z. - Granada, Spain - Fall 2013

¡Hola de España! About a year ago, I was sitting in my dorm room with the brochures from three different programs across my bed, each in a very different city on an opposite corner of the earth. It was immensely hard choosing between Buenos Aires, Santiago, and Granada, but in the end, the “Moorish Jewel” of Granada became my choice, and now that I’ve been here for three weeks, I can see why it has received such a prestigious title. This city is indescribably beautiful. Granada is a melting pot of past and present, east and west, new and old, and familiar and strange. Every neighborhood here is totally distinct from the next. Traveling one block can take you from historic winding cobblestone streets full of Arab artisans and street vendors to modern marble buildings that tower above a center that rivals those of any other European city. The people here are incredibly friendly, albeit somewhat difficult to understand, and are incredibly proud of their heritage as Granadinos. As a city that is not as popular among tourists as Barcelona or Madrid, knowing only English here will severely limit the amount of things you can do. If you want to go to any restaurant or place that is not located on the few main streets, you’re going to need to know Spanish, and I love that. Everything here is incredibly cheap, and after hearing the horror stories of how much some of my friends spent when they studied in other cities in Spain, I was greatly surprised to find that things are cheaper here than they would be in the USA.
Within the next week, Granada is going to change greatly. Classes at the University of Granada are about to begin, and 60,000 students from all over Spain and the rest of Europe will soon be filling this city. Living in the university section of the city, I can’t wait to see the shops and bars that seem empty at the moment to fill with others my age.
The IES program here is wonderful. All of the staff is totally committed to making this experience great for us. One of the classes I’m taking is an internship. Two days a week, I go to a local school to help with its English classes. The students there are amazing. Because I’m one of the first three Americans to help out in their school in this way, the students are incredibly curious. Wherever I go, I get greeted by the students and am bombarded with questions about what the USA is like. I’ve only been there a week, and I can tell that it will be the highlight of my time here in Granada.
I’m living with a host mom who is a fantastic person and an amazing cook, but some of cultural norms that exist in homes here have taken me a while to get used to. For one, it is a major no-no walking around the house barefoot or even with socks on. Because of this, slippers need to be worn all the time. Also, because Granada is in an area with little water, taking really fast showers is the norm. However, the largest single thing that gave me culture shock is the culture of dogs here. In America, it is not uncommon for people to let their cats out at night. In Granada, dogs run around unsupervised during the day. Nothing really says “you’re not in America anymore” like seeing dogs casually walk into a bakery to beg for bread. In addition, Americans tend to baby their dogs and express how cute they are if one crosses their path. Here, nobody pays attention or makes remarks towards strangers’ dogs, and I have to admit I’ve had to restrain myself quite a few times from telling dogs how fluffy they are.

For all of you Elmhurst students who know you want to go abroad but are still unsure of the destination, don’t count out the smaller cities. I am having a blast, and I have not even come near to being bored even once. So far, with the program, I have been to Málaga, Sevilla, Ronda, and a natural park known as Cabo de Gata. While I loved each of the destinations, every time I’m gone, I can’t wait to come back to Granada. There’s just something wonderful about this place, and I’m incredibly lucky to be able to call it home (for the next three months).


Blogger ErikPantoja246 said...

Hey Anthony!

I'm glad you are having a splendid time in Granada! I think it is hilarious how you mentioned dogs coming into bakeries begging for bread. That is definitely not common in the US. I can imagine that you are having a blast learning about Granada's culture and just experiencing something completely new living in a spanish home. I hope there are many more great experiences for you to come in Granada!

-Erik Pantoja

12:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Anthony! I will be studying in Granada in the Spring and I am absolutely thrilled to hear you're having a great time! I know you've touched on some of the cultural differences (I'm going to have a hard time refraining from talking to fluffy dogs too), but what have you experienced in terms of culture shock? Thanks! Beth K. CPP250

3:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Hey! Granada is so awesome! The whole dog thing just caught me off guard so much. It's just so different...


You have chosen an AMAZING city. I honestly feel a bad for people that only come here for a single weekend. In terms of culture shock, aside from the things I mentioned, personal space is another thing that will take a bit of getting used to. It's really common for people, mid conversation, to just put their hands on your shoulder. Nobody makes room for anyone else in the street... you honestly have to play Frogger in larger crowds. Also, I don't know if this counts under "culture shock" but Granadinos are incredibly hard to understand... I consider myself pretty good at Spanish, and I never really have problems understanding people from other parts of Spain... Andalucians tend to leave out sounds in the middle of words and speak quickly. It kind of caught me off guard how little I understood upon arriving, and after a month and a half here so far, I'm still adjusting to it. If you have any more questions or want to know of my favorite restaurants/places to see, I'd be happy to share that with you!

Good luck this semester!

5:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Anthony!
It's great to see that you're getting along well abroad, only a few short months from now, I will be going abroad as well! I was curious, did you experience any noticeable moments of culture shock? Im sure you did but if you could pick one example out, I'm very curious as to what happened and how you handled it. Thanks!
- Alex Cpp250

3:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Alex,

Aside from the things I've already talked about, another HUGE thing that kind of struck me as totally new (and still does) is that people do NOT wait in line. The concept of lines does not exist at all... There's a thing here that the locals know about which is called vicious grandma syndrome, where, because during Franco's time (when they were growing up), they had to push to the front to get food when they didn't have any, old habits die hard, and they still do that everywhere... at gelato stands, in the super market, at the fruit store, etc. They just cut in front of everyone and don't really think anything of it. When I first got here, I thought they were being rude to me because they knew I was an American, but now that I understand their culture and why they still do it, I kind of smile and laugh it off. Elders here get an insane amount of respect, so I've been super careful to do the same.
If you have any other questions, let me know!

5:16 PM  
Blogger Deyanira Chacon said...

Hi Anthony! It sounds like you had such a wonderful experience in Granada. I will also be studying abroad in Spain this upcoming semester and it is really interesting to hear about the cultural norms that exist in the homes. I will also be living with a family and I’m so glad that you had a good experience. Also, I was wondering if you could tell me the best way to travel around Spain and Europe overall. Would you recommend trains/planes or a combination of both? Thanks for sharing!

1:07 PM  

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