Studying abroad is, objectively, a great experience, not only academic. However, we all tend to forget that there can be some bumps in the road. No matter how prepared you are, some days may be more difficult than others, but in the long run it is a unique opportunity to grow from. Nicol´s experience in Sierra Nevada is an excellent metaphor for the journey of study abroad.
Marta Cabrera, Director, Granada
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Sierra Nevada is a National and Natural Park of Spain that is located between Granada and Almería; its highest peak is at 3,479 meters (close to 11,500 ft) above sea level. It is well known for its biodiversity and cold climate. Many activities, such as cycling, hiking, and skiing, are practiced there.
Last weekend, I had the opportunity to visit this beautiful park with my friends and Arcadia; we prepared ourselves by wearing comfortable and warm clothes, bringing snacks, water and sunscreen. Before I begin to relate my experience, I think it is pertinent for you to know that I am from Puerto Rico, where it is hot all year round and that we live at sea level. When I got to the park, I only thought about two things: how cold it was and how beautiful the mountains were. At the beginning of the hike, the guide told us to be prepared to feel short of oxygen, because at that height the amount of available oxygen was less.
I was not worried, I thought that the fatigue I was going to feel would be like jogging or exercising, but 5 minutes into the hike I was already limited in oxygen. The worst of all is that the higher we got, the colder it was. The group kept moving forward, but I had to take breaks because I could hardly breathe. The lack of oxygen combined with the cold and I began to shiver, my chest hurt and made me dizzy; I had to stop to catch my breath. I had never felt so physically ill in my life, but even so I kept walking because I knew that this discomfort would be temporary and that what awaited me at the top was worth it. Almost reaching the top we ran into the snow, for me it was a very special moment since I had never had the opportunity to touch it; still nothing compares to reaching the top. The view and the landscape are at another level, it has been one of the most beautiful things I have seen. Once there, I experienced the coldest temperature of my life (50⁰F or 10⁰C). For many that temperature is insignificant, but for a person who lives on a tropical island it is difficult.
It was an experience that I will never forget; getting there was very difficult, but I think that contributed to making it so special when reaching the top. I think everyone should take the opportunity to go to Sierra Nevada because at the end of the day it was all worth it.