In the Spanish language, there is a word ‘animado’ which means animated, bustling and in high spirits. ‘Animado’ is how I would describe the city of Granada, as well as our journey there so far. Two weeks in this new city and I am already in love!
I arrived here on a sunny Sunday morning, hauling luggage down the narrow streets of central Granada. I was welcomed into a beautiful apartment by my host mum, Inés, who happens to be a Spanish teacher! Inés has helped me every day with new Spanish words which she messages me after we talk about them, so I don’t forget. This was very handy in the beginning because I felt like the second I arrived in Spain and heard the first “buenos días” from the passport officer, I forgot all the Spanish I had learnt over the past two years!
The day we arrived there was a festival in Spain called Dia de los Reyes Magos, or Three Kings Day. Unfortunately, this meant that all the shops were closed in the city that Sunday and the following Monday as it was a public holiday. Luckily for us though, this festival meant we could try a traditional Spanish delicacy – roscón de los reyes – a special cake shaped like a crown that had some surprises inside!
Before we had even started our classes or met the other people in the AIM Overseas program, Inés had taught us a lot about Spanish and Granadian culture – taking us out for tapas and giving us a mini tour of the city (I highly recommend the first thing you do in any new city is take a walking tour to orient yourself!) The great thing about tapas in Granada is it is free! You buy a drink and out comes your little tasting plate, buy another drink, and you’ll get a slightly better tapas, and so on. Many typical tapas plates include breadcrumbs called ‘migas’ (kind of like couscous) with deep fried anchovies or sardines, cooked pork on bread, rice with vegetables or even a little gazpacho! Another aspect of Spanish cuisine is, of course, churros. I can happily say, I have now been to at least three different churros restaurants around the city, and all of them are excellent – cooked fresh in front of you and served with hot chocolate so this it’s more like a custard than a drink.
Then began our classes. After meeting all our fellow AIM Overseas students on the first orientation day, we took a placement test to allocate us to our appropriate levels of Spanish for classes. I was put into the exact level I needed and with a class of about 12 people – all of which are American other than myself and one boy from Japan! My classes are so much fun, I enjoy them a lot more than I thought I would because the teachers are so lovely and so funny. They are encouraging us to learn everyday conversation skills, so there are no limits on what we can ask them about (one of the first words we learnt was ‘borracho’ meaning ‘hangover’)! We listen to songs and complete worksheets, but most of all we practise speaking in a big circle around the room, conversing and being corrected by our teacher, learning a ton of new vocab along the way. Each night we are given a little bit of homework, but as we only have classes from 9am - 1pm, there is a lot of time to explore the city!
One fantastic part of our trip so far has been our cultural excursions. So far, we have been to the Alhambra, a tour of Romantic Granada, the Albaicin, the Realto and even day trips to Seville and Córdoba. All of these places are incredible, and you feel like you’re walking through some kind of romantic novel! My favourite by far was the Alhambra and Generalife, a Moorish palace with gardens and ornate designs that you would not believe.
One of my favourite things so far has been going to Language Exchanges. There is one every night at different bars and restaurants around the city, but on Mondays and Tuesdays, in particular, there is one run by CLM (the language school that we study at). At the Language Exchange, loads of people come to practice their Spanish and/or their English with other native speakers, drinking and eating tapas all the while. I met so many Spanish people who were helpful in allowing me to practise Spanish with them and who were also grateful for the opportunity to practise their English. It was a weird and enjoyable experience that will definitely become a regular occurrence for my friends and I!
Finally, I cannot go without talking about all the awesome people I have met here! There around 25 Aussies who are in the program with me from all around Australia and they’re legends! Although we don’t have classes together, we have all our cultural excursions together, and this is a great chance to connect with people who are going through similar experiences as you and make sure you’re feeling happy and included. They make the challenge of living and studying an intensive course overseas a whole lot easier!
I can’t wait to see what the second half of our trip brings. Until next time – adiós amigos!
Mia Anderson is a second year Education/Arts student at Monash University. She has been studying Spanish language for two years, although she frequently forgets the word for “pencil.” Mia is an avid language student, having studied both linguistics and Italian language, and relishes the opportunity to explore new cultures and their forms of expression. Along with studying and speaking, Mia is a Yoga and Pilates instructor and thoroughly enjoys teaching as well as participating in new types of fitness classes. Although Mia has travelled overseas before, this will be her first trip to Spain and her first trip on her own. Find her on Instagram at @riseandyogablog