It was a sunny day. We were very excited since our new students were coming to our lovely city. This first point of contact is always important since you can see how cultural differences are clearly present: shaking hands? Two kisses? Three kisses maybe? Saying hello or hola?
Aloha! This Hawaiian word is the first thing I remember from Dillon. Normally students are tired or affected by jet lag and look at you like saying ‘please, take me to the hotel and let me take a 3-hour nap.’ However, this was not the case. In the bus, Dillon was looking at the Sierra Nevada Mountains, smiling, and showing a great willingness to know everything about our city.
Spanish is not easy. Andalusian accents are also a special issue to be considered. However, Dillon demonstrated a good ability to adapt to our lifestyle and the way we speak and communicate. Dillon loved our gastronomy ─except for pokes, which by the way, are not part of it so we are not responsible for this “Hawaiian” dishes.
I also know Dillon and most of the students see me as the crazy member of the staff taking pictures of everything and sending thousands of emails per week. However, my pictures are not the best ones since yours are much more special and unique. I was able to see how Dillon and some other students connected as if they were friends for years. I think their experience was unique and I can swear that their Spanish improved a lot! Please, tell me where you learnt those crazy words!
I would like to present you with Dillon Mathew-Gilmore’s reflections on their study abroad experience. Dillon studied in Granada in the fall of 2019. Since then, many things have happened but Granada is never forgotten. Their reflections and the video attached will show you how personal experiences can change one’s life.
Dillon, Dailon, Dylan, Diyon… Thank you for choosing our program, teaching us that Moana’s plot is not entirely accurate, and how difficult it can be to find a gown and a cap in Spain!
Sergio Pajares Nievas
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Pequeños momentos, grandes recuerdos. Small moments, great memories.
Though this sentiment can be used to describe many things, for me it is the perfect quote for my semester in Granada, Spain. Studying there, I made lifelong friends and had incredible adventures, all while learning more about who I am and who I want to become. My time there was filled with so many special moments which truly made it a semester to remember.
I remember vividly my first days in Spain, because they were absolutely overwhelming. Having studied abroad in London, I thought I was prepared for the challenges of moving to a new country, but I was completely taken aback by the experience. Studying abroad somewhere I didn't speak the language, somewhere with such a vastly different culture, challenged me in such incredible ways. That said, I think the reason studying in Granada was so rewarding for me has largely to do with the Arcadia program itself. Marta and Sergio were so helpful with every situation; it seemed they anticipated our needs before we did. It wouldn't have been the same without them.
I have to say, I believe Granada chose me. When deciding where to study abroad, it almost literally fell into my lap. It was not an option I had originally considered and yet, looking back it seems it was inevitable. I personally can’t imagine a semester anywhere else, with any other group of people. If you are being called to Granada, trust the journey!
For me, it’s important to know what your goals are for studying abroad, and the Arcadia program really helped me solidify what I wanted out of the experience. Within the first few days we were asked to write ourselves a letter that we would read at the end of the semester. What seemed cheesy at the time ended up being one of the most profound parts of my personal journey in Granada. At the farewell dinner, surrounded by friends, I couldn’t believe how my life had changed in just a few short months. I feel so fortunate to have explored Morocco and Spain with a group that consistently challenged each other, and themselves, to explore these different cultures beyond the surface level.
As for the everyday experience of living in Granada, for me it was the perfect balance. It’s a moderately sized city with plenty to do, but not so large that I felt lost. I lived with a host family right near the García Lorca Park so it was a little bit of a walk to the school, but I would often walk with friends or try to take a new path. There was always something new to discover! My only regret is not exploring more, though I did have the opportunity to visit nearby beaches and cities with friends, which were wonderful. The food in Spain was definitely an adjustment for me, and the weather was a bit colder than I expected but definitely manageable. I'd recommend bringing both warm and cold weather clothes and be prepared that the clothes in Spain run a bit small. I'd recommend buying jeans before you leave home. It was a bit tricky to find jeans that fit just right! Aside from these minor adjustments (which are a necessary part of every study abroad experience) Granada was absolutely magical.
I highly recommend the pre-session program! It helped me immensely with my Spanish and, without it, I think the experience would have felt too short. I also suggest participating in as many of the Arcadia activities as possible, each experience was special in its own way. Above all I’d say being open-minded made the greatest difference for me. When I arrived I wasn’t particularly interested in making friends with my peers, and by the end of it I had matching tattoos with two of them! They were absolutely the highlight of my semester and through them I learned how to greet every challenge as an opportunity, to be present in the moment, and to allow myself time to rest. These lessons have proven invaluable to me, as have all the people I met while in Granada. I cannot possibly express how wonderful this semester was; you’ll just have to make the journey and see!