Grace Lower is a student at The Ohio State University and was a Spring 2015 ISA Featured Blogger. She studied abroad with ISA in Granada, Spain.
Describe the place where you studied abroad in 150 words or less.
Granada is a vibrant city that stays true to its multicultural roots. Here, a rich blend of Islamic architecture, open-air markets, and plentiful tea houses offers a unique glimpse into the city’s Moorish past. Despite its age, Granada remains delightfully dynamic. With thousands of university students and a heavy demographic of artists and musicians, the city is alive with creative energy. On any given day, you can visit Las Cuevas del Sacramonte for a traditional flamenco show, admire larger-than life murals by El Niño de las Pinturas, or embrace your inner foodie with all of the free tapas you can eat. While it may not be as well-known as Barcelona or Madrid, Granada is the ideal city for students with a sense of adventure!
What was your day-to-day life like as a student?
As a student, I lived in the city center, just a few blocks away from the university, so my day would begin with a 5-minute walk to class. I would usually grab a fresh orange at a fruit stand along the way, but on some mornings, I would treat myself to a tostada con tomate from a nearby cafe. I’d then enjoy my breakfast on an outdoor patio and watch groups of students, young professionals on scooters, and families on bicycles as they passed by.
After a morning of language and culture classes, I would head home to enjoy a hearty lunch with my host family. Since lunch is the main meal of the day in Granada, the entire city would shut down for a few hours at midday. The idea of a daily siesta certainly took some getting used to, but as time passed, I came to embrace these laid-back afternoons. I would then head back to the university for my last few classes before going for a run along the Río Genil, or working on my homework at a nearby park. Of course, no night in Granada is complete without a trip to a tapas bar, so my evenings were often spent enjoying drinks, free food, and wonderful company.
What was the “vibe” of your city?
Although Granada is a small, historic city, it comes with a huge amount of personality. I’m convinced that there’s something in Granada for everyone: historians marvel at the breathtaking Alhambra palace, athletes from around the world flock to Granada’s rugged mountain ranges, and laid-back visitors enjoy soaking up the sun at the Costa del Sol.
During my time in Granada, I loved being immersed in a dynamic community. Granada has been repeatedly ranked as a top Erasmus destination, so it’s common to meet fellow students from every corner of the world. This young, diverse population has given Granada a noticeably multicultural–and slightly “hippie”–vibe over the years. Rather than adopting the hustle-and-bustle that comes with urban living, the people of Granada unapologetically celebrate relaxation and well-being.
What types of activities did you do with your friends in your city?
Granada is nestled in the heart of the Sierra Nevada Mountains—as a Midwesterner, I loved taking advantage of the fantastic hiking destinations! On more laid-back weekends, my friends and I would explore Granada’s cultural attractions; together we visited the Alhambra palace, relaxed in the Arabic baths, and admired historic churches. In the evenings, we could be found chatting with locals at nearby bars, and if we were feeling particularly well-rested, we would go salsa dancing at a nearby club. Above all, I loved going for walks around the city—there are so many hidden treasures in Granada if you take the time to look!
How much Spanish was spoken your city (as opposed to Catalan, English, Arabic, Basque, Klingon, etc)?
Unlike the more metropolitan parts of Spain, most people in Granada only speak Spanish. For me, this level of immersion certainly paid off—after 5 months in Granada, my Spanish had improved more than it had in three years of university-level classes! That said, try not to worry if you ever find yourself in a pinch: most bartenders, bus drivers, and sales associates know a little bit of English.
How many hipsters did you see in your city?
While Granada certainly had its share of hipsters—especially in the stylish cafes near the university—it was really the hippies that stole the show! Dreadlocks, harem pants, acoustic guitars, and bare feet are all considered to be acceptable fashion statements in Granada.
Did you visit other cities in Spain? If so, what would say made your city unique? Why should someone study there?
I was fortunate enough to visit Barcelona, Madrid, Sevilla, Cordoba, Malaga, and Toledo during my time abroad. While each of these cities was beautiful in its own way, it was Granada that truly stole my heart. To me, Granada represents a city of contrasts: where historic cathedrals loom over modern restaurants, where businessmen rub shoulders with street performers, and where Andalucia’s Jewish, Muslim, and Catholic roots are honored and celebrated. The food is hearty and always local, the people are refreshingly boisterous and laid-back, and religious festivals like Semana Santa are both reverent and delightfully whimsical.
While it may be quieter than Sevilla and more rustic than Málaga, Granada possesses a youthful energy that captivates visitors from around the world. I found that living in Granada granted me a deeper sense of independence and self-assurance. Its medium size made it the perfect place to learn how to navigate–foreign bus systems can be surprisingly challenging–and its friendly locals made it easy for me to build my confidence as a Spanish-speaker. It didn’t take long for Granada to become my home away from home, and I’m sure it won’t be long before I find my way back again!
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