EXPECTATION VS. REALITY

At the education abroad orientation we had in the Spring, they warned us that the study abroad experience would be like a bell curve. You start on this high of being in a new place and seeing new things and meeting new people. Then, like it has this week, reality sets in. You become more aware of the challenges that this new place brings and you start missing the comfort of the familiar. After a while, you start to go back up as you truly get to know and appreciate where you are. When I first heard this anecdote, I thought it was exaggerated and that I would be exempt from it. I’d lived away from home before, leaving the familiar behind. I was almost sure I’d be above it. Like most things I thought I knew about studying abroad, I’ve quickly learned that the exact opposite is true. And I feel guilty about it. Here I am living in the beautiful place, and I find myself missing my everyday life. Being able to cook myself dinner or do my own laundry or speak English in public without getting an occasional glare of disapproval. Everyone keeps telling me that this will be the experience of my life, that I’ll learn so much about the world and myself, but no one ever mentions that struggling is a part of that development. Questioning if I’m spending my time and money and energy in the right way. If I’ve gotten enough out of these last two weeks. Wondering if I should be more willing to go to discotecas at night instead of sleeping. If I should travel more, be on the internet less, meet more locals. If I’m being grateful enough.

The skylights in the old Arab baths. The mix of Catholic and Arab influences here is really interesting

The skylights in the old Arab baths. The mix of Catholic and Islamic influences here is really interesting

But here’s what I’m realizing: This is my experience and my experience alone. I don’t need to prove anything to anyone but myself, as cliche as that sounds. I don’ t need to spend hundreds of dollars traveling when it stresses me out, I’m just as happy wandering the streets of Granada. I don’t need to go to disoctecas and try and stay out as late as the Spaniards do; I’m pretty sure I’m not physically capable of that. I don’t need to test into a certain level of Spanish comprehension if I’m not there. I know what I know and I want to learn what I don’t. It’s okay to miss my friends and family at home. In fact, it’s a good thing I miss them as much as I do- they’re the reason I am who I am. And that’s just how it’s going to be.

There was a free music festival in Granada the other day. This band, La Kinky Beats, was really good!

There was a free music festival in Granada. This band, La Kinky Beats, was so much fun!

School started this week, which brought with it a nice sense of structure. 4 hours of intensive Spanish language and grammar classes everyday plus 2 hours of culture class every other day is draining, but I know I’m learning a lot. The more I get to know Granada, the more I like it. There’s so much history here, it’s hard to wrap my mind around. There are churches here that are older than my country. Heck, there are sidewalks here that are older than my country! The moments when I get to stop and just stare at the beauty around me are the moments that help keep me calm and make me feel more secure in this experience. Like the other day when I went for a run and wound up trekking up to the Alhambra to just stare at the view for a while.

Granada panorama

Granada is such a beautiful city. I’m in love with the white-washed buildings

Again I’m reminded of that saying that I capped off my first post with: laugh, cry, live your life, and enjoy it while you can. I’m trying my best to do just that, because I really am blessed to be here, struggle and all.

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There are these tiny fountains all around the city. I found this one tucked away in a street leading up to the Alhambra. The water is always nice and cold and safe to drink.

Un abrazo,

Elizabeth

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