Time Flies by When You're Having Fun

I can't even begin to believe that I have already been here for a month. I just think about how much I have already learned and explored. I am so thankful that I came a month early for the intensive month of language studies. There were times when I was here and wished I was still home, because all my friends were home.

Nicole-Nerja

It was not until this past week when the rest of the study abroad students got here that I was truly thankful for my extra month of experience. Here are some reasons why I think the intensive month is extremely helpful:

1. The amount of Spanish I have learned in three weeks is unbelievable. There were days where I thought to myself "there is no way I'm going to see a difference in a month." Well trust me there is. The ISA directors kept telling me my Spanish was getting better. I didn't believe them..I thought "they are just saying that because they have to". Haha well now I believe them. When my roommate arrived last weekend I really noticed the amount of Spanish I have learned. I was able to help translate things for her that my host mom was trying to tell her, or help her communicate what she was trying to tell our host mom. Needless to say I was pretty proud of myself.

2. When you take part in a study abroad program that involves a foreign language you are going to have to take a placement exam. With the intensive month I took a placement exam and was placed into a level. After the month if you pass the course it is a guarantee that you will be moved up to a higher level. The intensive month is key to getting into the level you need to be in. I know some students needed to get into a certain level for their classes to even count as credit when they get back to the states and because they were here for a month before they were able to work towards moving up to the level they needed. On the other hand the students who just arrived, they don't have the opportunity to move up levels after they took their placement exam because classes start this coming Monday. So the level they got is the level they have to stay in. Unfortunately some of them are now fighting to be able to graduate on time.

3. The amount of traveling and things I have seen in this month is unbelievable. Seeing all the new people here and getting adjusted makes me realize how much I already know and how adjusted I have become over a single month. The struggles I was facing my first week, they are all facing now a few days before classes start.

So although it is hard to leave your family and friends so early into Christmas break or getting your summer cut short, I highly recommend the intensive month program.

This past weekend I took a trip with a few friends to the south of Spain to explore the coast line. It was so beautiful and everything I had ever imagined. We drove along the coast of the Valle de Lecrín, Salobreña, Almuñécar, and Nerja. In Nerja we had the opportunity to explore the local cave. I was amazed to see how big it was. We ended our trip with spending some time on the beach soaking up the sun with our feet in the sand and enjoying the beauty of the Mediterranean Sea.

The next day I went with a friend to explore a small town outside of Granada called Monachil. Here we found the Los Cohorros. This consists of trails, climbing, and hanging bridges. It was an absolute blast. At times we were required to crawl under overhanging rocks and hold on to metal handles that are set into the rock to help get around the side of the gorges. I can't wait to take this trip again when my mom comes to visit. I hope you're ready mom :)

During this past week I took trips to the more lookout points, hidden gardens, and the local cemetery. You may think its weird that I went to the cemetery, but I think it is so interesting to see how even cemeteries differ in different cultures. The cemetery here is not like ours in the states. It is not common for them to have headstones in the ground. Instead they have have walls after walls field with caskets and the walls then just have the headstones. This is done because the space in european cities is limited. the graves they actually had on the ground were ones reserved for specific families, and it looked like they just placed multiple caskets in one hole and then covered them with one big headstone that had all the family members listed. This cemetery was huge, especially when you think about the fact that there were hundreds of walls and rows filled with hundreds of caskets.

After one of my adventures this week I headed to the school to meet my roommate after she finished her placement test. When I got there and was coming out of the bathroom I looked across the courtyard and a girl turned and to my surprise it was a fellow Anselmian, Jamie Kender. We immediately ran to each other and gave one another a big hug. This was definitely one of the best feelings I have had since I have been here. I had no idea I'd see her that day and there are no words for the feelings you get when you see someone you know in a foreign country.

Yesterday, my program took us to see the Alhambra. I was so happy to finally see the big tourist attraction in our city that we have heard so much about. It was a lot bigger than I would of ever thought and was absolutely beautiful. Even though it was a rainy day it was still amazing to see and the views over the city were still amazing. You can't take a trip to Granada without seeing the Alhambra, it holds so much history and beauty.

Lastly, one thing I would recommend to future study abroad students is to explore. Just set out to find new things, do not be afraid of getting lost, they give you maps for a reason. Exploring the city and hidden trails have not only allowed me to get to know my city better, but also to see some of the most amazing views, grow as a traveler, and have some of the most fun Ive ever experienced. There were times when I thought my feet were going to fall off and I think it is safe to say I have never walked this much at one time in my life, but I wouldn't trade the long hours of walking and the pain for anything. Pain and exhaustion is only temporary, right? :p

Some culture differences:

1. The students here go to school on tour buses. I thought it was so funny when I realized this was the reason why the big buses were trying to make their way through the small narrow streets during the mornings and early afternoon. Yellow school buses do not exist here.

2. When I first arrived back at the beginning of January I was taken back by the amount of graffiti here. I have always thought of graffiti as an eye sore, but here the store owners take pride in the graffiti outside their stores, and sometimes have people design a specific mural for them. Some of the images are stunning while others are truly eye sores and just random words.

Hasta la próxima!