Four months have sure gone by fast. It’s crazy to think my time living and studying in Granada is soon coming to an end.
It’s been almost nothing like I’d expected it would be, but in a lot of ways it’s been more than I could have imagined.
=> First of all, it was a dream come true.
Studying abroad in a Spanish-speaking country had been a dream of mine since I was 12 years old.
In my sixth grade Introduction to World Languages class, Spanish was by far my favorite. While I found French and Japanese to be very confusing and extremely difficult to pronounce without feeling foolish, Spanish was easy. I could totally handle this!
I was sure I sounded like a legit Spanish speaker when I ran through the following phrase, over and over again, oh-so-proud of my pronunciation and the way the words just rolled off my tongue:
Quiero presentarte a mi amiga, Carmen.
I’d like you to introduce you to my friend, Carmen. Well, the facility with which I pronounced that phrase, on that day some nine years ago, sold me. I could totally see myself studying abroad in Spain or another Spanish-speaking country one day, and (hopefully) becoming fluent in Spanish in the process. I thought to myself, let’s do it!
And by 2013, eight years of Spanish classes later (including AP Spanish and AP Spanish Literature at Roosevelt High School), I’m 90% of the way through my Spanish major at the University of British Columbia, AND I’ve spent a semester studying at the University of Granada in southern Spain.
I still find it incredible that the dream I first envisioned as a twelve-year-old has now come true for me twice.
=> Second of all, despite all the ups and downs and the occasional frustration or setback, there are so many positive things I’ve gained from this study abroad experience:
I’m basically fluent in Spanish; I have no problem ordering in restaurants, asking for, or even giving directions, and understanding my professors in class.
I’ve gotten to live in a place that is utterly surrounded by amazingness; the Sierra Nevada’s my backyard, I can see the Alhambra from my balcony window, and I’m no more than a 20-minute walk away from the quaint Albayzín, the stunningly-graffiti’ed Realejo, a number of hopping and oh-so-cosmopolitan plazas and cobblestoned-sidestreets lined with churrerías (yes, churro-restaurants) and eclectic tapas bars, and, of course, and endless amount of churches and other historic buildings.
I’ve met people from all over the world; my homestay parents are Argentinean, my friends and other people I’ve met in hostels hail from the States, Canada, New Zealand, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Italy, France, Mexico, and Puerto Rico, to name a few.
And I’ve gotten to travel…a lot. In Spain, I’ve been to Córdoba, Sevilla (three times), Barcelona, and Madrid. Around Granada, I’ve been to Ronda, the Alpujarras, Salobreña, and Nerja. Outside of Spain, I’ve been to Morocco, the Canary Islands, Portugal, and France.
It all sounds pretty picture-perfect, eh? And I essentially do nothing but rave about it all in my blog posts.
Ultimately, while there have been a fair amount of ups and downs, highs and lows, disappointments and lessons learned (not to mention my recurrent frustration with the University of Granada’s administration), this trip has been a rewarding one, full of awesome memories and fun times, and most importantly, one from which I have made several lifelong friendships.
=> Last but not least, this trip has provided me with a starting point for an upcoming two-month adventure around Europe!
Starting Monday, June 24th, after ditching my giant suitcase in Madrid, with just my trusty backpack (thanks Mom and Dad!) I’ll be off to:
Central and Northern Spain
I’m finally getting the chance to hit up the Toledo–Salamanca–Segovia triangle! There was an Erasmus trip to these destinations earlier this year, but as I’ve learned I prefer to travel solo or in a small group, I decided to hold off. Luckily I managed to work these three cities into my post-Granada itinerary! I am so looking forward to treading the cobblestone streets through three of Spain’s most iconic and historic cities! As you may know, I’m a HUGE architecture fan, and the architecture of these three cities appears to be simply oozing with…well, awesomeness.
From there I’ll head to San Sebastián, the most famous and well-loved destination in País Vasco (Basque Country), to indulge in some of if not the best tapas (called pinxtos in Basque), in Spain, luxuriate on the gorgeous beaches in the scenic Playa de la Concha, and wander the friendly old town and perhaps…attempt some Basque? We shall see.
From this point on, I may not return to Spain again until mid-August when I return to Madrid for my flight home to the States. I could easily spend the whole summer in this wonderful country, but there’s also so much more of Europe I’m dying to see.
From País Vasco, I jet off to…
The land of the Matterhorn, chocolate, melting cheese, skiing, and the United Nations headquarters. I’ll be meeting one of my dearest UBC friends in Geneva, and we’ll be spending a short jaunt in the towns of Fiescheralp and Zermatt. The former is just a hop-skip-and-a-jump away from the huge and famous Aletsch Glacier, which, weather-permitting, we’ll hike along and spend some time marveling at the Swiss landscape; and the latter is close to the Matterhorn (pictured above), which we hope to marvel at at on one of the many trails in the area.
After we part ways I’ll spend a night in the capital city, Bern, a UNESCO World Heritage site and, from the looks of it as I’ve gathered from my Lonely Planet, a insanely cute, quaint, and charming little town.
My time in Suiza (I prefer the Spanish name than the boring old English Switzerland) will be short (and, unfortunately, really expensive), but I cannot even BEGIN to express how excited I am to be there!
A full-fledged, first-time-solo-traveling EuroTrip wouldn’t really be complete without at least a brief tour in Italy, now would it? Having spent two weeks in Rome five years ago, I thought I’d go somewhere new! I’ll be making stops in Milan, Florence, Bologna, and Venice, and oh my GOODNESS am I stoked!
The last region I’ve got more or less worked into the itinerary of the first leg of my adventure is the Balkans. Ever since becoming an avid reader of the solo female travel blog Adventurous Kate, I’ve been DYING to go to Croatia. Also it just so happens the capital city Dubrovnik (pictured above) is where they filmed King’s Landing scenes in Season Two of Game of Thrones…I have to admit, that makes me giddily and childlishly ecstatic!
I also hope to pay Slovenia, Montenegro, and Bosnia and Herzegovina a visit, again as per my inspiration from reading Adventurous Kate and other travel bloggers. From Plitvice Lakes National Park, the idyllic Lake Bled, the breathtaking scenery of Kotor, and the not-so-long-ago war-wrought towns of Mostar and Sarajevo, I am equal parts intrigued and THRILLED to be venturing to this fascinating region.
And from there on out…
Western or Central Europe…TBD
Switzerland, Italy, and Croatia were at the top of my list of places I had to see within the two months I have to travel around Europe. The list is dreadfully long, however, and so that’s why I’d like to ask for your feedback on where I should go next!
The list of countries I’d like to see in central (slash eastern) Europe are as follows: Slovakia, Hungary, Austria, Czech Republic, and Germany.
As for western Europe, I’d really like to visit Ireland, England, Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium, and (southern) France. But obviously I won’t have enough time or money to visit all of these countries. So I thought I’d enlist your help!
=> Have you been to any of the countries I’ve mentioned in this post?
=> Was there one you enjoyed the most?
=> What do you think are the must-do’s and must-see’s in that country (or any of the ones mentioned in this post, for that matter!)?
I would be beyond grateful for any input you may have! 🙂
It’s been four months full of exciting experiences, but I think I’m ready for a new journey, a new challenge. Granada, it’s been real, but boy am I stoked to embark upon what will no doubt be an exhilarating adventure!