WEEK 1Tuesday 6 Jan - Survival upon arrival
After a long day in transit, I arrived in Madrid to catch a 5 hour bus to Granada. There was going to be a delay in my arrival to my SeÃ±ora's house so I needed to give her a call to let her know before being a disruption in the middle of the night. As I had only just arrived I didn't have a working phone so I had to ask the guy sitting next to me to borrow his. I hadn't spoken proper Spanish in a good 3 months since uni had finished (relying on duolingo) and being fatigued from on and off napping all day it didn't actually occur to me that my SeÃ±ora may not be able to speak any English. Challenge unknowingly accepted! As soon as she answered the phone I attempted to communicate to her in Spanish that I would be late but words were all over the place and she spoke faster than I could translate. I think she understood the jist of what I was trying to get at so I ended the phone call and soon arrived at her apartment. I found the correct room after questioning this stranger if I was in the right place who turned out to be my new SeÃ±ora. I introduced myself and the first thing she gave me was the wifi password - any traveller appreciates this! I met my roommate Marni (also from Melbourne, Aus) which was exciting to know that we would be experiencing the Spanish home stay together. The shower was my first destination which I had been craving all day after catching several modes of transport and I unpacked all of my things in preparation for our orientation the next day! Hola Granada, I'm ready!
Wednesday 7 Jan - Orientation and exploration
Our home stay seÃ±ora walked Marni and myself to uni on our first day to give us a sense of direction of where we were staying in the city. Absolutely central to everything, it was a perfect location! We arrived at the university; it was so cute and small compared to my university back in Melbourne. We were introduced to the head of our CLM program and our cultural lessons teacher and they gave us a detailed description of our classes and scheduled visits over the next 5 weeks. There were about 20 of us in the classroom and as we sat there listening to her go over each scheduled activity in Spanish, there were a few confused faces. (This was good to know that we were all a little rusty in the beginning). Marni and I returned home after the orientation as the SeÃ±ora would serve lunch between 2-3pm each day. (Don't know how they survive until this time with little breakfast). We made our first attempt at holding a proper conversation, describing our first day and subtly using Google translate a few times. After lunch we met up with some of the others and had a wander through the city and explored the shops as there were so many sales on. Equivalent to our "boxing day" in Australia, on the 5th of January every year they have a Three Kings parade to commemorate the three kings of Granada. We later found a small bar that offered free tapas upon ordering a jug of sangria (yes please!) we stayed there for a couple of hours whilst adapting to the Spanish culture and practicing our language on the waiters. We couldn't end the night without trying some traditional Spanish churros, which were so amazingly fresh before heading back to our apartment. Not long after, along with the majority of the people in our group, jet lag had kicked in and I was out like a light!
Thursday 8 Jan - Test day and a cobble stoned pathway
Returning to the university the following day, we had to sit a placement written test and oral which helped the teachers situate us into different groups depending on our level of Spanish. There were 9 groups that ranged from early beginners to fluent speakers and after only having learned Spanish for 1 year I was happily placed in level 3 which suited perfectly. The teachers were all super welcoming and approachable so it wasn't an overwhelming or stressful situation. Later in the afternoon after siesta time (yes, Europeans have a set time to nap) we had our first cultural class. We learnt about the culture of the Three Kings of Granada where Muslims, Jewish and Christians all gathered together in the time of the Middle Ages. We were taken for a wander through the three religious corners and soaked up the information of the sacred pastimes and cultural understandings of Granada. It was such an insightful walk which we were lucky enough to experience firsthand. Walking around the cobble stoned pathways and bendy corners; we had short sights of the amazing town from a higher point with the snowy mountains of Sierra Nevada in the far distance. Some of the detail in the pathways was also so unusual but incredible to gaze at. Our cultural teacher told us some of the hot spots to come back to in our own time and each and every one of us in our group was so thrilled to call Granada our home for the next 5 weeks.
Friday 9 Jan - First classes and sangria glasses
There are two different university buildings, about a 10 minute walk from each other so I first made a stop to the main building and discovered I was in the opposite which even though it was a little bit further, the gardens surrounding the university were beautiful. There were tall, large orange trees and leaves that covered the pathway to the entrance. I found my classroom and as I arrived early I opened the class doors which led out onto a large deck that overlooked the street of the university. (It will be hard to concentrate now). The rest of the students started to rock up and we introduced ourselves, I soon found out I was the only Australian in my class and the rest were Americans. (They were slowly taking over Granada). We had two separate classes with two different teachers that were 2 hours length. As soon as our first teacher walked into the classroom, no English was to be spoken. Intimidating at first due to the language barrier however, we all warmed up to one another and both teachers surprisingly had a great sense of humour. Playing all of the typical 'get to know you' games and 'taboo' which was quite tricky to explain a certain word (especially if you lucked out with a hard one) but practicing small talk and conversations really boosted everyone's confidence and it ended up being a really entertaining class. (Day 1, success!) Later in the evening a few of our Aussie bunch met up together to check out one of the famous bars off the central road. Many glasses of sangria were shared and delectable tapas continued to amaze me. (I didn't realise how many variations could be eaten). It was another excuse to also practice our Spanish with the waiters and get to know each other better, definitely the best Aussie crew going around!
Saturday 10 Jan - Tranquil in Seville
Waking up early to get the bus with our Aim Overseas group and a few Canadians and Americans we had picked up along the way, it took us 3 hours to arrive in Seville. I didn't know what to expect of Seville but as soon as we had stepped off the bus I was fulfilled. There weren't many crowds, just the odd jogger or two going for their daily run along the central river, but it was beautiful. We visited the Plaza and walked past the main cathedral where there were several horses in carriages patiently waiting for people, like something from an old movie. We learnt a lot about the history of Seville whilst visiting the AlcÃ¡zar of Seville, the royal palace which was originally a Moorish fort. One of my favourite spots was the Plaza de EspaÃ±a (Plaza of Spain) which appeared as an old building or cathedral on the outside but once you walked inside and through the outdoors, the sight was breathtaking. A large river ran through the middle of the courtyard with an old wooden style bridge and there were many tourists in small boats paddling through the river. I had no expectations for Seville so I was extremely impressed, and to top it off the weather rose to a nice and hot (maybe not hot, but sunny) 18 degrees, which was stunning. The 3 hour drive back to Granada on the bus was perfect for catching up on our loss of sleep in the morning, definitely worth the short day trip in the end.
Sunday 11 Jan - A run in the park before dark
As yesterday was a long day, a lot of the group including myself decided to have a quiet one, finishing off homework for the beginning of the week, winding down with a movie or listening to Spanish music and trying to translate the lyrics. (It was actually really amusing). Later in the afternoon I decided to go for a run in the park that was at the end of our street. As cold as it was, there were so much more people than I expected running or walking their dogs around the park which was so nice to see. There was a small river that ran through towards the end of the park with bench chairs which was also quite peaceful. A lot of our Aussie group lived quite close to one another so we all shared the same experience of living so central to everything. It was so convenient to be able to meet up with one another at any time; especially as a lot of us didn't have working phones and we were living through the wifi areas! My roommate and I were ready for bed at 9pm but had to wait up until around 10pm for our dinner (still getting use to the new routine!) However, it was good to continue practicing more Spanish with our SeÃ±ora and discuss our day trip to Seville. (The dinner table is always entertaining when we end up playing charades or something similar to describe what we are trying to say).
"One of the main highlights was the passion in which all teachers provided. The fact that they also provided information not just on architecture but about culture and life experiences. Going out in Rome (field work) and drawing is the main catalyst for enjoyment and to invoke passion."
The experience really ignited my passion for the topic of International Security and gave me an unquenchable thirst for adventure, culture, and for involvement in anything that might take me back abroad.