Almost 3 months down in Granada and I am super happy to say I’m feeling fully settled and like I’ve found a second home here. But although I’m feeling great, I’ve had my share of down days, and feeling like I’m never going to settle.
I knew this was coming – it’s never gonna be 100% smooth sailing moving to the other side of the world, and that’s ok! So, for those aspiring or current 360er’s who may be feeling this way, here’s what I’ve done in my 3 months that has led me to both survive and thrive in my new Spanish life.
- Put yourself out there from day 1
On my very first night in Granada, I had the choice of staying in my hostel and sleeping or going to a tapas event with a group of total strangers. Boy am I glad I went. This introduced me to people who to this day are some of my closest friends and made the idea of meeting all these strangers a little less daunting. I know this isn’t easy for everyone, but I cannot stress how important it is that you at least make the effort. Join the international student FB groups (for those in Spain, try ESN, Emycet and Bestlife) and keep an eye out for the thousands of events they put on for exchange students. At the end of the day, the people you meet are going to make you feel the most happy, comfortable, and at home – not the place.
- Go hard on the flat hunting
Obviously you’re not going to find a 4-story mansion, nor can you spend your whole 6 months searching for the perfect flat. But I say this because I’m a big believer in going with whatever feels right, and I personally wasn’t able to get a good feel for the flatting sitch just by looking online. I highly recommend staying in a hostel and going flat hunting in person – at least in Granada, there is always something on the market as students are constantly coming and going. You’ll be able to meet your flatmates, see the place and get a vibe for the city too!
- Bring little bits of your old home to your new one
This one is super easy and a great way to get a sense of familiarity on those homesick days. I’m not allowed to stick any photos on my wall, so that method was ruled out. For me, I’ve found that listening to some kiwi music every once and a while actually makes a huge difference – keeping up with Drax Project or Six60, or even a classic banger from Stan Walker gives me a few minutes to picture myself back home with friends and whānau and I’m good to go. Whether it’s a weekly call home or wearing a classic leavers hoodie from time to time, try to have something that’ll help ya remember your roots.
- The exact opposite of no. 3
I don’t mean to backtrack, but I do want to emphasise that you shouldn’t be recreating an NZ bubble in your new country – keep that for days you’re really missing home. In fact, diving into the social and cultural world of your new country is an even better way to start building a new home that is just as special. I’ve started listening to Spanish music, am visiting the quintessential Granada spots like the Alhambra and constantly challenge myself to find new cafes/bars/other magic spots hiding in the city. The more I get to know the city and force myself to immerse myself in the Spanish lifestyle, the more I feel like I’m fitting in and becoming part of the city.
- Accept that things are different
Above all, the ultimate thing you have to do is accept within yourself that every country, or even every city, has their own way of doing things. One of the most valuable lessons this experience can teach you is that there is no right nor wrong way to do certain things – once you’ve accepted this and just go with it, you’ll start to enjoy yourself 100 times more.
So. I’ve slowly (and at times, painfully) adjusted my body to the Spanish food schedule of dinner at 10pm, learnt to avoid afternoon shopping as siesta hours are definitely a thing and I’m even getting used to the wonderful yet challenging Granadino accent. It took a bit of time, but I’m feeling a bit more like a Granadino, and hopefully my experiences help some of you settle in, so you can enjoy your own adventure.
Until next time, ¡hasta luego!