Four months of waiting and it was finally here – arrival in Granada! I’d like to say that my first impression of Granada was the incredible Sierra Nevada mountains, the beautiful architecture, or the cute and colourful streets. However, after three previous international flights putting me through Dubai and Madrid airports, and a few days in Madrid, Granada airport was the opposite of what I was expecting. We landed in the middle of the countryside, surrounded by fields of crops and animals. We got off the plane straight onto the tarmac and I mentally prepared myself for the ordeal of finding firstly a bathroom, then attempting to follow signs to find my baggage, and finally working my way out of the airport and finding my bus among the numerous vehicles waiting to pick passengers up. All this mental preparation turned out to be for nothing however, as when we entered the airport building, there was the toilet on the right, the two baggage belts to the left, and the exit straight ahead! Five minutes later I was walking out the exit and practically ran straight into the bus I needed, which also happened to be the only vehicle in sight beside a parking lot to my left. After having battled my way through Dubai and Madrid airports, Granada was a dream.
I spent my first night in Granada in a hostale, eating my first paella and exploring with another Aim Overseas student – a definite perk of already having a Facebook group!
The next day it was time to find my host family. My hostale was about a kilometre away from my host family’s home, so I decided I would walk. Surely it couldn’t be that hard. But, after about half a kilometre of pulling my heavy suitcase along sidewalks, I wasn’t so sure. Maybe a taxi would have been a better idea! But, already halfway there, I kept going. I finally made it to my street and breathed a sigh a relief. Rest was in sight! I scanned the street for the right number, but it was nowhere to be found. Out of breath, hot, and sweaty, I sat next to my suitcase and pulled out my phone. After a few minutes of turning my phone every which way, trying to figure out why my house didn’t seem to exist, I realised that there were two streets which the same name next to each other, but not joined. Thank you Spain, for having the most confusing streets imaginable. But my friend once told me that you didn’t truly visit a place unless you got lost at some point, and I stick by that. So, I set off again and made it to my house only 5 minutes after my decided arrival time. It was a quick hello to my host family and the other student staying there, and we were bundled into the car for a trip to the countryside.
A short drive later we arrived at a small, out-of-the-way restaurant where we sat to have a drink and my first tapa. Then it was back into the car for another short drive to my host family’s country house. It was incredible, a piece of tranquillity after days of cramped planes and busy Madrid streets. We relaxed by the pool surrounded by the Sierra Nevada, ate a traditional Spanish lunch, drank traditional Spanish wine, and listened to traditional Spanish music. It was a perfect beginning to the trip.
On Monday we had our orientation at the beautiful Centro de Lenguas Modernas, only a short five minute walk from my home. Quite unassuming on the outside, on the inside the CLM is classrooms surrounding a cool and peaceful, shaded courtyard. We took our prueba de nivel, and headed back to our families for lunch, and to prepare for our first day of classes the next day.
The first week of classes was slightly disorganised as students changed levels, new classes were made, and we found teachers that best suited us. Yet the classes were still interesting and informative, and I finally felt that I was learning new things and being challenged with my Spanish. By the end of the week we had a great class with students from all over the world who were enthusiastic and willing to learn (with approximately five coffee breaks per four-hour class period).
Classes finish at 1PM each day, so we would wander home for whatever great food our host mum had made us, then make plans for the afternoon and evening. Our entire Aim Overseas group has become friends and we tend to spend our free time together which is perfect. We’ve adopted quite a good routine: ice-cream or churros con chocolate, a walk around a new part of Granada or studying at CLM, then drinks and tapas before it’s home for dinner. With a large portion of our group being from Melbourne, where drinks and food is something to save up for, Granada seems magical – drinks are generally 2 euros and Granada still carries on the beautiful tradition of free tapas with a round of drinks.
One great part of our program is the cultural trips. We were able to visit the Alhambra one evening, which provided us with incredible views of every part of Granada, from the Gypsy caves all the way to the mountains. I think we all left wishing we could live in a castle! Our first day trip was to Córdoba on Saturday, and I’ve never seen a group of people more happy to have a three-hour bus trip ahead of them than our sleep-deprived group that had decided a night out with an approximate 6AM return to our houses that night was a brilliant idea. A much-needed three-hour nap later we were arriving in sunny, hot Córdoba. It was a really interesting excursion involving a trip to ruins of an old castle and a tour around a Mosque. The weather made for a perfect day, but I think we all were relieved when we arrived back in our favourite ciudad española, Granada!