After four days of non-stop travel in Madrid, El Escorial and Toledo, I have finally started to settle down in Granada; a small but busy city with a relaxed lifestyle. The phrase, “no pasa nada” roughly translating to “don’t worry about it,” is a common phrase here, and I can’t help but compare it to what I believe the island lifestyle is like; I almost feel like Granada has a big city vibe with a much more relaxed tone.
The slower paced lifestyle hit me with a bit of a shock. Upon arrival in Madrid, our first few days there were packed with activities and orientations, and although I think Granada is a more suitable place for me to live, it’s a little hard to transition from a giant and busy city to a smaller city.
I think part of it is because I don’t have to drive. If I was in San Diego and I needed shampoo, I’d have to drive ten minutes to the store, park, walk a mile to go inside the store, buy the shampoo and then drive home. However, here, I can simply walk down the street to the local perfumería and I’m done in ten minutes or less. As someone who hates driving, being able to walk everywhere (the mall, the school, the grocery store, etc.) is a huge plus.
Something that also hit me with a bit of a shock is the language barrier, which I knew it would. I chose Granada primarily due to the small city size and the language because I thought going to a Spanish-speaking city would help me get the most out of my summer study abroad experience. But speaking has turned out to be a pretty large struggle for me. Because my Spanish is so rusty, I’ve had difficulties conversing with my host mom and conversing with others in Spanish. However, it’s so rewarding once you’re able to have a small conversation; I’ve found that a little Spanish truly does go a long way.
I’ve also realized that I overthink and overstress too often. I was full of anxiety before arriving in Spain since I needed to pass into a certain level of Spanish in order to take the classes I needed, so I brought a Spanish textbook, Spanish flashcards and Spanish notes with me on the airplane, even though I knew that I wouldn’t be able to cram in a whole semester of Spanish in one day. I’m pretty sure the other passengers were annoyed when all the lights turned off and they were trying to sleep, but I was there with my laptop wide open, trying to cram in as much Spanish vocabulary as I could.
It turned out that it wasn’t very difficult to pass the proficiency test, and now I’m stuck with a pound of Spanish material that probably won’t fit back into my suitcase.
Despite the small challenges I’ve noticed, I’ve learned a few things after only being here for a few weeks, such as accepting that it’s okay to not be doing something all the time, the importance of taking siestas, the fun in wandering the streets of Granada, the necessity of making the most out of your time — and that the ice cream here is ten times better.
Amber Postert is a speech, language, and hearing sciences major. She is studying in southern Spain in summer, 2017.