It’s 2:30PM. The clock is ticking and my legs can’t stop shaking. I look over at the whiteboard as Señora MariCarmen writes down the last characteristic of Spanish Romanticism. She concludes an anecdote about the life of Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer as my stomach growls for the third time in the last hour. Class is dismissed, and my compañeros (classmates) and I flood out the doors of Centro de Lenguas Modernas. I walk down the cobblestone path past Plaza de Mariana Pineda, where we first arrived from the Granada airport. I enter the apartment and am struck with the aroma of a garbanzo and spinach soup. I take off my backpack and immediately sit down at the dining table. My señora carries a vessel to the table, revealing a typical Andalucian potaje. The thick soup has a sofrito base, usually a simmered blend of tomato, onion, pepper, garlic and olive oil. In my case, she mixes the sofrito with seasoned potato, chickpeas and spinach. As I start eating, my señora brings out a side cabbage salad then offers me sliced artisan bread and fresh Manchego cheese. ¡Qué sabroso!
This is a typical weekday meal of my stay in Granada. When I came to Spain 7 years ago, I remember struggling to find viable options as a vegetarian. However, homestay changes everything.
Food is integral to explore a foreign culture. I’ve marked so many experiences in Granada passing through the various tapas bars, whether impromptu or through intercambio. Tapas are small plates and only served free with a drink in Granada! One of my favorite Spanish tapas is patatas bravas, essentially crispy potato wedges topped with mayonnaise and tomato sauce.
A good question I receive from my friends: do you even study? As much as the experience seems like an extended break where I can hit all my travel destinations, it’s still a STUDY abroad. School indeed exists, and it is quite different than UConn! All 5 of my current classes are instructed completely in Spanish: Medical Spanish, Grammar & Comprehension, Spanish Literature, European Union & Spanish Politics, and Spanish Culture. My typical school day is from 9:30AM-2:30PM (or 14:30 on the Spanish clock) with a 30-minute break.
My friends and I usually use this break to sip a cortado at Dulcimena, our favorite cafetería down the street. Our culture class has shown us great insight into the daily Granidian life, and it is a great supplement to learn about our weekend excursions. We’ve learned about everything from the Mediterranean diet to bullfighting. Although travel to other countries is incredibly easy, these classes help us appreciate the beauty of our home city.
In the US, I love playing basketball, skiing and golfing. However, I’ve found an overlap with skiing since I got here (Check out Sierra Nevada in Part II). Spain certainly values its team sports, but the lifestyle and crowd following are completely different. I am terrible at fútbol, but I decided to give it another try in the Centro de Lenguas Modernas league. Every Wednesday, we meet at the pistas, or hard courts, to play for a full 90 minutes. We’ve played with other CLM students from BC, Bucknell, and Brown. To no surprise, I was terrible as a forward, but I found better luck switching to defense and goalie!
I also tried a sport unique to Spanish speaking countries: paddle! It’s similar to tennis but played in smaller sized courts with glass walls. The ball can ricochet off the walls and still count, so you have to always be alert! Also, the paddle is heavier than a tennis racquet, but the follow-throughs and serves of the game are similar. Eoin and I, being the only ones from UConn, played with some local friends at the courts near the Río Genil. Eoin might say otherwise, but I enjoyed beating him every round 🙂
One of my favorite moments of the entire study abroad has been attending El Clásico: FC Barcelona vs Real Madrid CF. On our school trip to Madrid, we took advantage of the opportunity to attend this traditional rivalry in the Bernabéu stadium! It was a treat to watch Lionel Messi and other famous players put up a good fight on the field. Cristiano Ronaldo even flew from Italy to attend! The experience brought back nostalgic memories of playing FIFA 14 on my PS3 in middle school, lining up the same teams in the same stadium. On our way to the stadium, we bought Real Madrid scarfs to show our support at this home game. Real Madrid won 2-0, and the crowd screamed “Hala Madrid!” before heading out. I never would have imagined attending El Clásico– Spain continues to fulfill my bucket list!
Thank you for reading this step of my journey! In real-time, I sadly must share that the rapid growth of COVID-19 has raised safety concerns and canceled the rest of my study abroad in Granada. Although cut short, this study abroad was such an incredible experience, and I am grateful for every day I’ve spent in this beautiful city. La Casa Morisca has been a platform to capture my best moments and share the immersive experience through my lens. Thank you for walking through this city with me, and I’ll be back soon with some final remarks!