Maya Suzuki-Jones - 2014 Program Participant

Study Abroad students in Granada, Spain

Last day in Granada at the IES Abroad cocktail, celebrating the end of the semester with great friends.

What made you decide to study abroad?

One of the main reasons why I chose to study abroad was because of my decision to dual-major in International and Intercultural Studies (IIS) and Hispanic Studies. As part of my IIS major, I must have a regional area of focus. Therefore, I chose to focus on Spanish-speaking countries, especially given my seven prior years of studying the Spanish language. However, even with that many years of Spanish under my belt, I wasn’t confident in my language skills. It wasn’t until I was in Granada, completely surrounded by Spanish in every aspect of my life (in my home life, school life, and social life), that it all started to click. Now, I am much more comfortable speaking Spanish with native speakers, as well as reading and writing in Spanish.

Why did you choose study abroad in Granada in particular?

Granada has such a rich history. Before the Reyes Católicos, or Catholic Kings, conquered Granada in 1492, the city had been under Islamic rule since the 700s. Therefore, one of the reasons I chose Granada was because of my interest in its Islamic past and how that has influenced its present.

I also talked to some students from my school who had studied abroad in larger cities in Spain like Madrid and Barcelona, and I quickly realized that I wanted a different experience. Granada still had a strong city feel, but it was definitely smaller. By the end of the semester I had come to know the city very well and I came to know it as my own.

A street in Albaycin, Spain

Maya’s Islamic Art & Architecture class on one of their “visitas,” walking through the Albaycín, eating empanadas.

Can you explain what your housing arrangements were like in Granada?

I was in a homestay, living with a host mother, her 27 year-old daughter, their German shepherd dog, and another IES Abroad student. We both had our own bedrooms and shared a bathroom. We ate breakfast and lunch everyday with our host mother, and our host sister usually ate with us as well. My host mother was an amazing cook, always making two or three different courses for lunch! Outside of class, I practiced my Spanish the most during these mealtimes, and because of this I got to know my host family very well. Now that I’m back in the U.S., we still keep in frequent contact via WhatsApp, Facebook, and Instagram.

Describe a normal day for an IES Abroad student in Granada.

A normal day in the life of an IES Abroad Granada student starts with eating breakfast with your host mother around 8:00 to 9:00 a.m. I usually had two or three classes in the morning; the Spanish language course was always the first class of the day. Around 2:30 to 3:00p.m., I would go home to have lunch with my host mother. Every other day, I would have afternoon classes. On the days I didn’t, I would meet up with friends at a cafetería for coffee and to do some studying. Although groceries in Granada are fairly cheap, I ended up going out with friends for tapas most nights, returning home around 11:00 p.m. or 12:00a.m.

What was the biggest challenge you encountered while studying abroad in Granada?

The biggest challenge I faced while studying abroad was finding the right balance between studying, socializing, and sleeping. One of the advisors at IES Abroad Granada suggested this breakdown: eight hours of studying, eight hours of socializing, and eight hours of sleep. I found be a very useful guide in managing and making the most of my time in Granada.

Carrera de la Virgen street in Granada, Spain

Maya’s favorite street in Granada, Carrera de la Virgen.

How has studying abroad with IES Abroad impacted your life?

My experience studying abroad has impacted my life in so many different ways. First of all, it was the first time I had lived or even traveled outside of the United States. Therefore, I had never experienced such a difference in cultures before. It also expanded my world perspective, from only knowing life in Hawaii and California, to learning about different ways of life in other countries. I came to know and love so much about Andalusian culture as well as Spanish culture in general. I hope to return to Granada, sooner rather than later, to not only visit but to work and live for an extended period of time.