Settling into Life in Granada: Flamenco in the Albayzín

Mary Diduch is a student at Lawrence University and an ISA Featured Blogger. Mary is currently studying abroad in Granada, Spain, on an ISA Fall 2A program.

It is hard to believe I am finally in Spain! I have been dreaming about studying abroad ever since high school, and it is finally here. I still have to pinch myself every once in awhile to make sure this is real life. My concept of time continues to be distorted – I feel like I have lived here years and years the more I repeat my walk to and from the University of Granada every day. But then I realize, it has only begun; I have more than 3 months left before returning back home to America. I will tell you about some of my most favorite things I have done so far. To start it off, here is the first Spanish song I have fallen in love with since coming here:


Orientation: Madrid & Toledo
I am really happy I chose to study abroad through the program ISA. They have provided some really amazing activities and tours that have introduced me to unimaginable places in Spain. I arrived in Madrid on August 30, and then the following day, we visited two museums: The Prado and The Reina Sofia. The Prado has countless works by Goya, so that was a definite treat, while The Reina Sofia is home to works by Picasso and Dalí. Dalí has been a favorite of mine since I was little, making that experience quite memorable. We then spent a day in Toledo, which was breathtaking. Walking through its streets, churches, plazas. I felt like I was in a time capsule, sending me back hundreds of thousands of years ago. With that to consider, I was ready to finally arrive at the place where I would call home for the next four months — Granada.

Getting to Know Granada
We left Toledo Sunday morning, and the overall emotion consuming me was nervousness. Will I be comfortable in Granada? Is my Spanish good enough to make it here? Will I like my host family? Will they like me? Did I study enough for the placement exam tomorrow? What if I don’t test into a high enough level? The list of nervous questions and thoughts was endless. BUT, everything is amazing now, to say the least. I love my host family (you will hear more about them in a later post), the placement exam went fine, and I feel like my Spanish language skills are getting better (despite the moments when I swear I want to permanently duck tape my mouth shut and not speak any language ever again).
Now it’s time to introduce you to Granada! One of the first things I did was attend a Flamenco show in the Albayzín, the oldest district in Granada. The Flamenco style is incredible to watch. Their movements consist of constant passion and energy. A few days later, ISA provided a walking tour of the Albayzín. I went to two tours in attempt to become more familiar with the area. Going on separate days was interesting because I had different guides from within ISA, so they had different things to say. It was amazing to see the Alhambra from this view. I get to see the Alhambra next week so I’m sure I’ll have more to say about that later.

I also went to a floral offering for the patron saint of Granada — Virgen de las Angustias. It’s crazy because I pass this church every day on my way to class. I would pass by it over and over again, not really thinking about it. But then, on my mom’s birthday, I was drawn into this church. It was the first time I noticed you can light candles on its outside. So I lit a candle in honor of my mom’s birthday, and ever since then, I stop by every once and awhile to have a moment for myself. It’s a beautiful place. So when I realized there was this festival there, I knew I had to go! People of Granada offer flowers, and a huge wall of the flowers are built outside the church (it takes a few hours for the volunteers to create this masterpiece). All those flowers are still there, and it’s almost a week later. This was one of my favorite and most special experiences since being in Granada.

Yesterday I knocked some items off my tourist check-list: the Cathedral and Royal Chapel (Capilla Real). We saw the tombs of Isabel and Ferdinand in the Royal Chapel. And, the Cathedral can in no way be described in words. It’s amazing to think the amount of work and time that people spent on building such an amazing structure. On the outside of the Cathedral, there are so red inscriptions. Legend says that a very long time ago, students of the University of Granada wrote their names there. Yup, that’s my school!

Just think, this is only the beginning, people.

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