Growing from an Experience That Wasn’t What I Planned May 15, 2018

By (Howard University) - abroad from 01/08/2017 to 05/26/2017 with

AIFS: Granada - University of Granada and Internship Program

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
Absolutely! I got to travel across Europe, live in one of the most beautiful cities in Spain, and see the connection between the Islamic community and a language and culture that has always interested me. Being in Spain also sparked my desire to travel more and, to do more with my experiences studying abroad than just going to class (like volunteering). I really grew as a person and have learned whow to translate this intercultural experience into my professional endeavors as well.

Review Photos

AIFS: Granada - University of Granada and Internship Program Photo AIFS: Granada - University of Granada and Internship Program Photo AIFS: Granada - University of Granada and Internship Program Photo

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 2 weeks - 1 month

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

As someone who’s studied Spanish for the past 9 years, and chose it as my major, I’ll say the academic rigor at the CLM was definitely high up. Not because of a heavy workload, but because you only got out what you put in, and if you weren’t prepared to grow in your understanding of the Spanish language, you would struggle. As passionate as I am about Spanish, I let my nerves get the best of me and didn’t participate or try as hard as I could’ve, and that hindered me. Nonetheless, the classes are involved, participation-heavy, andddfjbitely structured in a very Spain-centric way. You will learn a lot, however and absorb lots of new information.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

Edu and Noelia are absolutely fantastic, especially Noelia. She’s almost like a second mother, and will really be there for you when you need her! She’s a great listener and even took me to a sleep specialist when my sleep problems were interfering with my classes. They’re both very committed to keeping us safe and making sure we get the most out of being in Granada.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

I chose student apartments and, although I was able to adapt and find my place, I was woefully disappointed. We had to move apartments 3 separate times, for different reasons. The first apartment was a temporary location because the apartment arranged for us was being remodeled. We were told not to sleep in the rooms because we were expected to be leaving in the coming days. When we got to the second apartment we stayed for about 2 weeks before having to move out again due to a bed bug infestation from the other international students who had lived there before us. The apartment manager, Javi, was very rude and not at all sympathetic to the conditions. Our final apartment was a nice, 3 bedroom that had indoor heating (rare because the apartments in Granada are very old and do not usually have heat), and good WiFi. The inconvenience of having to move around so much however really took away from enjoying the living spaces.

* Food:

Food in Granada is great. Definitely don’t fall into the habits of grabbing Burger King on your way to the CLM - I’m super guilty of this. There’s so many great spots to eat, or you could just grab some shrawma on those really late nights. Food isn’t too expensive, and there’s lots of small bars and holes-in-the-wall where you can get traditional dishes at a great prices. Meals are a little tougher if you’re vegan though, so please be prepared for dietary changes!

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

I only rate this because I didn’t make the effort I wanted to to really get to know Granada. I’m very much a homebody and because I had early classes every day, I missed out on a lot of the nightlife. Nonetheless, I still got to explore Granada and always talked to locals, walked through the neighborhoods, stopped in shops that interested me. I can’t say I ever felt fully acclimated, however, and part of it did come from the kind of outsider feeling that comes from being a black person in a predominantly white space. I think if I had been able to go out more with other people on my trip and pushed myself a little further, I would’ve gotten the kind of experience I wish I had.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

Like I mentioned before, I had a lot of issues with sleep while I was in Granada and it was affecting my academic life. Luckily, AIFS has an included insurance plan that covers not just physical issues but mental ones as well. I was able to see a sleep specialist and get recommendations that I brought home to my doctor at no extra cost. Noelia even escorted me there. Other students in our program who had to go to the hospital also had positive comments, and Noelia stayed with them from the moment they went in until they left.

* Safety:

I almost felt unsafe in this city. I had no problem walking around late at night or by myself. Most people will mind their own business and I never had experiences where I was followed or felt like I would get robbed. A few other students on my trip had things stolen from clubs or bars, but that only happened when they left them out and walked away. The only moment I truly felt unsafe was one time in early January when, while walking past an alley in broad daylight, my roommate and I saw a man masturbating in public. He had actually made a noise to get our attention. His face was covered and when he heard us screaming, he ran, only for us to pass him a SECOND time doing the same thing a few minutes later! It was extremely unnerving, especially since there were lots of people around at the time.

If you could do it all over again would you choose the same program? No

Being in Spain helped me realize that my comfort and familiarity with Spanish comes from my experience with the Latin American dialects of the language, and I wasn’t as interested in learning the language from such a Eurocentric POV. I’m also much more passionate about making connections between Spanish and the African Diaspora, and Afro-Latino/Afro-Hispanic communities, and Spain didn’t really offer me the opportunity or resources to explore that.

Finances

* Money: How easily were you able to live on a student's budget?

(1 = not very easy/$200+ on food & personal expenses/week, 2.5 = $100/week, 5 = very easily/minimal cost)

I’m irresponsible with money so I feel like I shouldn’t speak on this subject. I wasn’t really budgeting until my last month of so if the program, but, if you play your cards right and don’t eat out EVERY day (homestay students were much better at this, but student apartments are given a card that basically equates to food stamps so we can cook at home) then personal expenses are much lower. You can walk almost anywhere so you don’t have to spend much on transportation. Taxis to CLM from pretty much any point in the city are about 10-13€. I spent most of my money while on our weekend trips to different countries because, tourist. I’d say budgeting between 100-125€ every 2 weeks is your best bet. For my travel budget I set aside $1800 (can’t remember this in euros) for flights and housing, and tried to spend no around $100-200 on souvenirs and adventuring. Can’t say I was always successful, but I definitely tried.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? Too much. Easily a couple of thousand dollars but, again, I’m irresponsible with money.
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Don’t buy food when you can eat or cook at home. It’s a waste and you miss out on being able to spend money on experiences. Of course, food is an experience but just like back home you might end up eating through your budget. Also, try to plan trips and book tickets early, within the first couple of months of your program. Why spend an extra €200 on a flight that would’ve only been 100€ if you had booked early?

Language

* Did your program have a foreign language component? Yes
How much did the program encourage you to use the language?

0 = No encouragement, 5 = frequent encouragement to use the language

All the time because most people in Granada do not speak English. However, it was very easy to slip back into English with the other people in the program who weren’t as advanced or as comfortable with Spanish as I was. Still, it’s very immersive and there’s lot of opportunities, like volunteering and intercambios, where you can challenge yourself and be forced to really speak.

How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? Advanced
How would you rate your language skills at the end of the program? Advanced
What was the highest level language course you had completed prior to departure? Spanish Grammar Review
How many hours per day did you use the language?
Do you have any tips/advice on the best ways to practice the language for future study abroad participants? Talk to your professors whenever you can, and get involved in an extra activity like volunteering or intercambios that ISN’T full of other Americans from your program. Also, download apps like SpanishDict and WordReference. I also gave myself the challenge of using one new vocabulary word each day, and writing it down.

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Apartment
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans
* Who did you take classes with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans
  • International Students
About how many local friends did you make that you will likely keep in touch with?

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • Weekend excursions throughout Spain and to Morocco
  • Volunteer and extra-curricular opportunities at CLM
  • Flight package
* What could be improved?
  • A cultural sensitivity orientation for minority students
  • Better housing accommodations/help when there are issues with apartments
  • Outlining protocol for sexual assault/harassment while abroad
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? You have to try, even when the situation is intimidating. I let other people’s skill with the language hold me back from improving my own, and missed out on lots of opportunities. Also, 2€ chupitos are the devil.

Reasons For Studying Abroad

To help future students find programs attended by like-minded individuals, please choose the profile that most closely represents you.
The Academic or Linguist
You went abroad with specific academic goals in mind; the program credentials and rigor of your coursework abroad were very important to you. You had a great time abroad, but never lost sight of your studies and (if applicable) were diligent with your foreign language study. Good for you!