This summer, I had the opportunity to study in Granada, Spain at the University of Granada’s Center for Modern Language. It was an incredible experience that helped me grow as a student and citizen of the world. I took classes on the history of Spain, art history, and Islamic history and culture in Spain. I enjoyed classes thoroughly. The professors were friendly, accommodating, yet challenged all of us in our practice of Spanish. My classmates were primarily fellow Americans, with a few from other European countries. Aside from my usual in-class studies, I was offered many opportunities to broaden my knowledge of Spanish culture. I visited several art museums, went to flamenco shows, and regularly met professors or friends for churros or Arab tea. Also, I took part in a weekly cultural exchange program, where people of different cultures met at a pub or restaurant to hang out and better their language skills. This was an incredible experience. In one meeting, I talked with people from Belgium, Norway, England, and Germany about anything from sports to different schools of philosophy. I had planned to go to Granada last fall, so I had been dreaming of this trip for almost 2 years. I thought that the pandemic had eliminated my chance to study abroad, but the Rudolph Scholarship made this amazing experience possible.
I lived in a residence hall, which consisted of about half American and half Spanish students. I was initially nervous about living in a dorm as opposed to a host family, but it was one of the best decisions that I have made. Everyone became fast friends and the Spanish were eager to get to know us and show us the city. Through them, we were able to meet many of the locals. We were constantly together when we weren’t in class. We explored the city, studied together, went hiking, and had watch parties for the European Championships. We also traveled together. One weekend was spent in Malaga, relaxing on the beach and visiting landmarks such as Pablo Picasso’s childhood home. Another weekend, we visited Barcelona to see the Sagrada Familia, Parc Guell, and spend more time on the beach. These people were the most valuable part of my experience in Spain. I spoke far more Spanish with my friend group in the dorm than in class or class excursions. Also, getting close with a group of complete strangers, from drastically different places, taught me a lot about myself and opened my mind to new ideas. Some of them will surely be my lifelong friends. I will always be thankful for the opportunity to live with such amazing individuals.
This is one of my professors, Aurelio, as he leads us on a tour of the Alhambra. The Alhambra is the most famous landmark of Granada, and one of the most visited sites in Spain. The fortress served as the capital of the Granada Caliphate, the last Muslim kingdom in Europe before the Moors were completely expelled from southern Spain. The intricate architecture and artwork of the Alhambra were incredible, but the visit wouldn’t have been nearly as enriching without Aurelio. Aurelio had written and illustrated a picture book about the Alhambra which we followed on our tour, and I am confident that he was more knowledgeable than the official tour guides. Aurelio was my favorite professor and a large part of my experience in Spain. Every day, he would teach class without much structure or a class plan. He would simply talk about the Islamic history of Spain off the top of his head and have a conversation with the class about what interested us most. It always felt like we were just hanging out, yet I am sure I retained more information from that class than the others. Aurelio also incentivized us to take interest in Arab culture outside of class. He conducted his meetings with students at an Arab tea house and, one day, he offered me extra credit to wear kohl eyeliner to class and explain its significance in Arab culture.
I learned a lot and made some lifelong friendships in Granada. I cannot think of another time where I have learned and done so much in such a short period of time. I am immensely grateful to the Rudolph family and Wabash College for giving me this transformative experience.