Immersion is the best way to learn a language, and studying abroad gives students the opportunity to take advantage of being immersed in a different culture.
This semester, senior Maria Boretti and I are the first Elizabethtown College students to study Spanish in Granada, Spain through the new affiliated program with SOL Education Abroad. Granada is a city located in the south of Spain, near Morocco.
For a semester, we are living with host families in the city and taking Spanish classes at the Center of Modern Languages (CLM), a part of the University of Granada. Most of the host families are located within walking distance of the university.
The CLM has two buildings in Granada, each dating back to the 16th century. In these buildings, students take classes in either English or Spanish, depending on their level of Spanish. The university determines students’ levels through a language test that they take during their first days in Spain.
At the CLM, Spaniards study other modern languages, such as English, French or German. Because of this, American students can sign up for a language exchange partner. This is for a Spanish student who is learning English and would like to practice with an American student. Language exchange partners meet regularly and help each other learn Spanish and English.
The city of Granada itself is like one huge classroom. Students can practice Spanish every time they read signs, interact with merchants and listen to the conversations around them.
The city is also full of history. It was the last Muslim stronghold in Spain and this Arabic influence can be seen in the architecture. A part of the city called the Albaycin is the largest Moorish quarter in Spain. Silk shops and tea houses fill its streets.
Granada is also home to the Cathedral, the first Renaissance cathedral to be built in Spain. Next to this historical site is the Royal Chapel, where King Ferdinand V of Aragon and Queen Isabella of Castile are buried. In another part of the city, there is a statue of Christopher Columbus giving America to these famous Spanish monarchs.
Perhaps the most famous site in Granada is the Alhambra, which was once a palace for the sultans. It is full of gardens and is visible from various parts of the city. Depending on how cloudy it is, the Sierra Nevada mountains are also visible from Granada.
People can go skiing and play in the snow of these nearby mountains year-round. In contrast, Granada is also an hour away from the Costa del Sol beaches and a day in the sun.
Compared to other cities I have visited—New York, London and Paris—this city is clean and safe. There is rarely any violent crime. Elderly couples often go out at night and feel safe walking home. However, tourists should be aware of pickpockets and impatient drivers. Some of the sidewalks are so narrow that cars and people share the road.
Orange trees, parks and fountains bring nature to the otherwise urban environment. Although the oranges look delicious, they are covered in pesticides and other chemicals and are therefore inedible. However, many Spaniards eat local oranges that were not grown on the streets.
Granada is also like a college town. One fourth of the population is college students. The University of Granada is ranked third in Spain and is best known for its scientific research facilities.
In addition to studying Spanish, learning about history and interacting with Spanish students, American students can learn about Spanish culture. For example, meals are different in Spain.
Breakfast is the smallest meal of the day, usually consisting of a piece of bread with jam and coffee or tea.
Lunch is the biggest meal of the day and is served around 2 p.m. The whole family comes home to eat lunch together and then takes a siesta. Stores close from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. for this reason.
Dinner is small like breakfast and consists of tapas, or snacks. Ham and cheese with bread and salad are popular. Dinner is usually eaten at 8 p.m. or 9 p.m. while watching the news.
The people of Granada are also very aware of the environment because it hardly rains in this part of Spain. Conserving water while showering is important.
It is also important to turn off the lights when no one is in a room because Spain has less natural resources than America. The monthly electric bill is often more than the apartment rent in Granada.