Growing up in Southern California, I was always surrounded by the Spanish language. I took Spanish in high school, but it wasn't until I studied abroad that I really became comfortable with my ability.
Here I am in the town of Lanjarón, located in the Alpujarras, at the Fiesta del Batalla del Agua, held every June, where people rush to the streets armed with buckets of water, bota bags and water pistols. The water fight starts at midnight and lasts exactly one hour. People dance, splash and sing songs. The Lanjarón Water Fiesta celebrates the feast of San Juan Batista, as a way to recreate baptisms throughout Spain.
The Centro de Lenguas Modernas (CLM) offers a great number of cultural trips to sites such as the Alhambra, the Mezquita in Cordoba, and the beautiful city of Cadiz, as well as adventure and sports programs. Here I am with my teammates of the Fall 2010 Champion Intramural Soccer League team. The teams are co-ed, with the rule of needing one girl on the court at all times. We played with and against Spaniards, other Europeans, Americans and people from all around the globe. Definitely an easy way to get active and meet new friends!
Flamenco originated right here in Andalucía! It is not hard to find a flamenco cave and bar in the neighborhoods of Sacromonte, but be careful which one you choose; some are more authentic than others. I attended many flamenco shows during my year abroad. One of my CSUIP group mates happened to be taking classical guitar lessons from the man featured in the picture playing, so if music is your thing, make sure to check out these shows (sometimes they're even free!).
Finding housing was my biggest stressor pre-departure, but as an experienced alumna, let me just tell you: Don't worry! Students in the Granada program move in a whole two months before the Spanish students return to the city, so there are plenty of options for housing to choose from. And if you don't like where are living you can always move! I lived with an English girl, a French girl and an Egyptian boy, where our common language was Spanish. I would definitely recommend living with Spaniards or other international students to help enhance your experience by learning about other cultures (as well as improving your language skills!).
Here is the Facultad de Filosofía y Letras, which is part of the University of Granada, located on the campus of Cartjua. Courses offered at this college are considered in the humanities department, as well as social science: geography, anthropology, history, art history, and musicology. All CSUIP students are required to take at least one course here during the year, where students interact with Spanish students in an Ivy-league campus like setting.
One of my favorite things about Spain was how seriously they took their festivals and breaks (called puentes). I attended Las Fallas in Valencia in March, and it was by far one of my most memorable experiences abroad. During the festival, different organizations construct huge figures made out of combustible materials, known as ninots. On the final night of the festival, the ninots are set on fire and burn to the ground. The days and nights of Fallas in Valencia are one ongoing party! There are processions galore—historical processions, religious processions, and nightly fireworks.
The Alhambra is the palace and fortress constructed by the Moors in the mid-14th century who at the time were the rulers of "al-Andalus," present day Granada, Andalucía. After the Reconquista by the Catholic Monarchs Isabel and Ferdinand, the Christian rulers occupied sections of the palace. This picture was taken from the Mirador de San Nicolas, a favorite hangout for our CSUIP group. To get there, it is a bit of hike, but the view is definitely worth it. Oftentimes you can find locals singing and playing guitar and people of all ages sitting around and enjoying the view of the majestic Alhambra.
Public transportation is one of the best aspects of living in a metropolitan city like Granada. Here is a picture of three friends and me on the metro in Madrid after the welcome dinner for CSUIP. At first, navigating public transportation was a little daunting but after about a week it became second nature. We mainly relied on foot-power to get around town, but for farther places, city buses were the perfect solution. Granada had both a train station as well as a bus station where you could travel all over—anywhere from Salobreña, the closest beach in Costa del Sol, all the way up to San Sebastian.
Tapas are a wide variety of snacks served with a drink in the restaurants in Spain. Depending on the province, tapas are sometimes free with the drink, as they are in Granada and depending on the restaurant customers can choose the tapa. My friends and I would often make a meal out of going out for tapas and would venture all over town to try all the different tapas bars.
For the adventurer, Granada has endless possibilities to get outdoors. One of my absolute favorite things to do with my friends was to go hiking in the hills behind the Alhambra where you would have a gorgeous panoramic view of the city and the Sierra Nevada Mountains. We went to a town about a 20-minute drive outside of town to rock climb. It was quite the challenge to master the terms for climbing in Spanish, but a fun experience. The view at the top of the face overlooking the groves of olive trees was absolutely beautiful.
Learn more about the study abroad program in Spain