I spent five of the best months of my life living and studying in Granada, Spain. It was an incredible experience and there are honestly no words to fully capture the memories. The relationships I developed with Spaniards, the places I traveled to, the different cultures I experienced, and the overall immersion from which I deeply benefited all contributed to my remarkable time abroad. Each and every day was so full of new adventures, memories, relationships, and self-discovery. I grew so much in my independence, personal growth, faith, and confidence in speaking Spanish.
Though I try hard to remember each day I was abroad in detail, there are certain aspects of my Spanish life and time in Europe that I will never forget. I will never forget how I felt when a wild monkey jumped on my back in Southern Spain. I will never forget the way my five year old Spanish host sister, Marga, would wrap her arms around me and whisper, “Sarah, cuánto te quiero” (“Sarah, how much I love you).” I will never forget jumping off of a huge rock in the Atlantic Ocean while in Portugal, or struggling to communicate effectively with people in Prague. I will never forget the chilling feeling as I walked around Auschwitz in Poland, or the experience of listening to the Pope in Rome and then eating my weight in gelato. I will never forget hiking through the Swiss Alps in Switzerland or riding a camel in Morocco, Africa. I will never forget eating churros and chocolate as well as tapas in Granada. I will never forget watching a bullfight or seeing a Flamenco dancer perform. Most importantly, I will never forget the lifelong friendships I developed with my Spanish family and Spanish friends.
From day one, I felt completely at home in Spain. I couldn’t have been blessed with a better host family. My host mom and dad were so nurturing, loving, and supportive, and my five year old Spanish sister couldn’t have been more adorable and playful! I looked forward to coming home from class every day to spend time with them, whether it was talking with my host mom as she prepared dinner or playing school with my little sister. Meal time was always guaranteed to be a time full of laughs, good conversations, and delicious Spanish food such as paella and hearty stews.
I knew I wanted to get as involved as possible with the locals and Spanish community- not only to develop my Spanish speaking skills, but to build lifelong relationships. I joined a church the very first week, which allowed me to grow spiritually as well as form a community of Spaniard friends. It was with these friends that I sledded down the Sierra Nevada Mountains, enjoyed tapas at night, and fully experienced the Spanish culture, like when I visited my friend’s hometown in Cadiz, Spain.
I volunteered weekly in a bilingual school where I taught some of the cutest 5 year old Spanish children. This experience was truly remarkable as I further developed my passion to be a bilingual teacher and learned firsthand how to better work with students learning English. I even found my inner pop star while singing “Wheels on the Bus” in front of over one hundred students and grandparents on Grandparents’ Day!
I learned that living outside of one’s comfort zone allows for immense personal growth. The independence and wisdom I gained through my traveling, new cultural experiences, and once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to experience different ways of living proved to be truly irreplaceable. I traveled to seven countries in Europe as well as Morocco, Africa. In every country I visited, I gained a new appreciation for the uniqueness of each culture around the world. It prepared me for the diverse population of students I hope to both work with and teach one day.
From watching the sunset over the famous Alhambra Castle, playing “Pretty Pretty Princesses” with little Marga, running around the beautiful Garcia Lorca Park five minutes from my house, and eating an unhealthy amount of churros con chocolate with my new Spanish friends, life in Granada was so exciting and full of opportunity to immerse myself in such an exhilarating culture. The classes and overall lifestyle prepared me to be a confident, more experienced Spanish speaker. My experience abroad has already helped me back in the US! I currently volunteer in a first grade bilingual classroom where my Spanish is definitely put to use, as well as at church and with international friends. I am currently developing a bilingual Reader’s Theater Program and tutoring Spanish!
I can’t talk about Spain without smiling. I am beyond grateful for the Rose Scholarship, as it allowed me to fund my incredible experience abroad. No matter how old I become, I will always remember my time in Spain. It shaped who I am as a person and quickly became one of the highlights of my life. I still enjoy staying in touch with my Spanish friends and family, and have high hopes of one day seeing them again.