I remember when the wheels of the crowded plane touched down on the runway of an airport in Spain. I nervously clutched my passport, trying not to look at the very unflattering picture of myself as we came to a full stop. Even though I hadn’t gotten a wink of sleep during those seven hours in the air, I was much too excited to feel tired. I struggled to get my carry-on out of the overhead compartment, and with the help of a very kind flight attendant, I was soon on my way out the door to an adventure of a lifetime.
My name is Bella Clark and I am a sophomore at UNCG majoring in Spanish! Typically, you would find me on floor 8 of the Jackson Library, studying hard for my next exam (or occasionally watching Netflix to avoid my responsibilities) Now, however, I spend my days exploring the beautiful city of Granada, located in the Andalusia province of Southern Spain. Don’t get me wrong, I still find some time to binge-watch a series or two on Netflix, but you will more often find me downtown trying tapas or belting out Dímelo by Enrique Iglesias at the nearest karaoke bar.
Having never traveled to another country before, I have definitely been met with some culture shock, but after a few weeks, I am starting to adjust to the life of a Spaniard. For example, the milk is boxed and unrefrigerated and hamburgers are served rare. As someone who likes their burgers cooked well, this was certainly a surprise. Although this style of burger is a popular preference here in Granada, I have decided that trying it once was more than enough for me! Another thing that I have noticed is that stores will not offer plastic bags, and if they do, they will always encourage you to purchase a reusable bag before giving you a plastic bag. I first saw this as an inconvenience, but I am coming to realize that this city is very environmentally-friendly and I am hoping to carry this idea into my daily life when I return to the United States.
From the moment I stepped off my flight, I have been constantly learning new things. One of these is that even though I have spent many years studying Spanish, I still have a lot to learn. For example, if you are ordering juice, they call it zumo here instead of the very popular jugo that you would learn in Spanish 101. They will understand what you mean, but they definitely have no problem correcting you when you use improper Spanish! I have found myself lacking the occasional vocabulary word when asking for help in a store, and the result is almost always me playing charades with the owner of the store until we can finally come to an understanding of what I am trying to say.
In the same light, however, people here are eager to practice their English skills as well. I remember mentioning that I am from the United States in a little pandelería downtown, and while handing me my change from the purchase, with the biggest grin, the store owner said, “Thank you very much for your visit!” He was so excited to practice his English, and was very understanding when I made small errors with my Spanish. At first, I was afraid to practice my Spanish, but the natives here are so understanding and I know even if my Spanish isn’t flawless, I will still be met with kindness and an eagerness to help. After just a few weeks here, I am finding myself talking with the native Andalusian accent, leaving the endings off of some of my words and adapting to the popular use of vale. (Anyone who has taken Spanish 301 with Profesora Laura Lopez will be familiar with this one!)
Although my visit here has barely begun, I have already had so many opportunities to meet new people and to explore this beautiful country. Last weekend, I was able to visit the Sierra Nevada, a beautiful mountain range located just an hour away from Granada by bus. The 7-mile hike was definitely a workout, but with Daddy Yankee’s Dura playing from a loud speaker in the background, (the remix with Bad Bunny, of course) the walk wasn’t bad at all. I traveled with a group of about 50 other college students, and I was delighted to see that even miles into the hike when we were exhausted, they still wanted to sing and dance to the lively Spanish hits that were playing. I have noticed that any environment is the perfect environment to salsa dance and sing louder than the music that is playing. There is never a dull moment when you are around a group of Spaniards, and I think I am starting to fit in perfectly. From trying fried squid to learning a Spanish line dance, this experience has already pushed me out of my comfort zone, and I can’t wait to see the adventures that every new day brings me. I hope to write more blog entries which I will advertise on my Instagram page, @bella_rosina for those who are interested; but for now, I will say adiós. ¡Hasta pronto chicos!