Daniel: Looking back on a semester in Granada

Kia ora whānau!

Not gonna lie, I’ve been dreading the moment in which I had to begin this blog. I dreaded that moment because it would mean that my time in my gorgeous little city of Granada has come to an end. However, I’m choosing to look back at my time and smile at the unbelievably enriching experience I’ve had that I will bring with me back to NZ, and through my entire life (prepare for cheesiness and emotions). Here we go.

Favourite memories

Dinner nights with pals – nothing beats a wholesome night in with friends. Not only did I get to eat some of my friend’s traditional foods (Argentinian empanadas, Puerto Rican mofongo and French crepes) but these were amazing nights of feeling like I was really at home away from home.

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Ok yes, this is brunch..but you get the idea!

Road trip with friends to the beach – after a semester of fast paced, intense travels, my friends and I decided to take a chill (and crazy cheap) road trip along the east coast of Spain to spend a week laying on the beaches – as you can see, it’s been a tough life.

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Surely I’m dreaming? Views of Alicante

My journey with the Spanish language – On my first day at uni in Granada, I felt like quitting all my classes and backpacking Europe – I barely understood a word. But after keeping at it, making friends with Spanish speakers (most important step!!) and forcing myself to function in Spanish, I survived the semester (and enjoyed it!) and now feeling ready to tackle Latin America with this new-found skill. Language barriers often scare people away, but I promise it is the greatest challenge you’ll tackle!

Things I’ve learnt

Budget – A quick word on money – plan this out well!!! I have made it to the end but probably would have benefited from a little more financial planning at some points..

The importance of people – You never know the kind of people you’re missing out on meeting until you move to the other side of the world alone. The amount you learn from meeting people who have completely different backgrounds and thought processes to you is invaluable. It can be scary but opening yourself up to new people will open your mind and challenge your thinking!

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Exchange doesn’t change you, it brings out who you are! – I hear a lot that “exchange changes you”, but in my opinion, it allows you to be who you really are without any pressures or expectations. Don’t go into an exchange expecting to change, instead take every experience as an opportunity to learn more about yourself and add to who you already are.

And above all, I’ve learnt you just have to put your heart and soul into having the best possible time, whatever that may mean to you. Remember how long you spent planning to get there, so live in that moment! I couldn’t recommend an exchange more, it has been a priceless learning experience and 5 months I will never forget. I’m returning to NZ with Spain in my heart and a hunger for more new experiences, ready to plan the next journey.

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I’ve got you and your stunning views in my heart forever Granada

A huge thanks to all my friends and whānau for supporting me and everyone who read these blogs! I hope they’ve been helpful as you plan your very own exchange, and feel free to say hey or ask any questions if you see me around. But until then…

Safe travels and good luck!

¡Buen viaje y mucha suerte!

Daniel

Daniel: Making the month of my final month in Granada

Kia ora everyone! If you can’t already tell from my previous blogs, I’m in love with Granada. From day one I’ve been captivated by its cheap and delicious tapas culture, the relaxed lifestyle and buzzing nightlife. As I’m now in my final month here, I’ve been trying extra hard to make sure I see everything there is to see and get amongst the city as much as possible, so here’s a few ways I’ve been enjoining living in the south of Spain!

The Alhambra

If you know anything about Granada, you know that the Alhambra is probably the most famous part of the city. The Alhambra is a gorgeous palace with historical documents that date back as far as the 9th century. Something I love about Granada is the fact that it has a lovely mix of modern, student life whilst maintain so many elements of its rich history I finally managed to get my ticket (free for Granada residents!) and go see this amazing site with my own eyes. Let’s just say I was NOT disappointed. This was also a pretty amazing exam study break!

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Granada Pride Festival

Going to a pride festival has always been something I’ve wanted to do but never got the chance, so what better time to get amongst it that here in Granada? Granada in general has a super open and accepting vibe, and this crazy and colourful festival was proof of that. Hundreds of people of all ages and identities came together to celebrate pride and well, it was beautiful! Very happy to have had this wonderful event to my list of memories here in Spain.

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Travelling

I have definitely mentioned this in a previous blog, but I’ve also been taking advantage of the cheap and quick travel opportunities! You definitely don’t realize how far away we are in NZ until you come to Europe and snatch a $50 bus to another country!! During a public holiday (of which Granada has many…not complaining) my friends and I packed up our stuff for a week in Lisbon, Portugal. If you’re looking at doing an exchange anywhere in Europe, make sure to check out the cities/countries around you and make the most of this amazing world of easy travel!

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And of course, I’ve also been indulging in the world of tapas, exploring the caves up in the mountains of Sacromonte and having flat dinners with my friends. Also, these past few weeks have inspired me to put myself out there and keep exploring even when I return to Auckland – it can be easy to get comfortable, but no matter where you are, there is always something to explore.

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Will chat to ya’ll in my next (and final) blog where I’ll try to put all my thoughts and feelings on this whole experience into one blog!

 

Daniel

Daniel: El Piso Perfecto – Finding the Perfect Place to Live in Granada

One of the most important, and at times daunting, tasks of setting yourself up for exchange is figuring out where you’re gonna lay your head every night. I mentioned accommodation in a previous blog, but I wanted to go a little bit more in detail as to how I found my flat here in Granada and a few different ways you can go about finding your new home – and hopefully this will come in handy for wherever you may be going!

Flatting

When it comes to flat hunting, the internet is your best friend. I used the FB pages “Pisos en Granada”, “Granada Erasmus” and “Granada Flat Sharing”, and the app “Idealista”, which all had constant posts looking for people to flat with. Also make sure to download Whatsapp and join groups of the same name.

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My lovely street, Pedro Antonio, where I ended up! The fact that it has at least 10 different kebab places totally had nothing to do with my choice…

You don’t need to do this months in advance. Granada is so student orientated that you’ll be able to find something the month before you go. Most flats come fully furnished with cutlery etc as well, so no stress about that either. The city is literally waiting for you! (Not to mention Granada is super cheap compared to Auckland – like, half the price).

Careful: There are flats that are run privately and those run by student-targeted agencies – these are usually more expensive! Cheaper flats are not necessarily lower quality – a friend of mine lives in a flat the same size but pays almost half the price (woops). Find out all the info before signing a flat – who is renting it out, what does it offer, the bond etc.

Location wise: It usually seems to be better to be closer to the centre than to the uni. This works in Granada because I only go into uni a few times a week by bus, whereas I’m out pretty much every day for a stroll through town, for tapas, chilling with friends at a bar etc. But once again, it’s totally up to what works for you and your timetable!

And finally, if you’re still not feeling set with what you’ve found, do what I did and book yourself a hostel (I went with the lovely Oasis) and go flat hunting in person when you arrive! This way you also meet some cool and crazy travelers passing through the hostel. Not gonna lie, this felt pretty risky, but I have no regrets. I got to know my flatmates before I moved in, saw the area and felt way more comfortable picking my flat – I would highly recommend researching whether or not this is a viable option for your city BEFORE going.

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My little work station from my room – a friend of mine lives right across, so we can chat without even leaving out rooms

Other options include host families and uni accommodation, both of which I have heard are great experiences, just a little more expensive. Unfortunately, I can’t say much more, but my main recommendation would be to weigh up all your options carefully – you’ll be here for 6 months/a year after all! That being said, the perfect flat doesn’t exist, and the unknown of it is all part of the adventure. So plan as much as you can, but be ready to embrace the parts that scare you too! Happy flat hunting!

Daniel

Daniel: 5 Tips for Feeling at Home in your New Home

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.

  1. 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.
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I met these gorgeous people in my first week here thanks to all the student events!
  1. 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!
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My wild, hilarious and always entertaining flatmates ❤
  1. 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.
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Yet another feature from Liv, but this time visiting me! One of Granada’s many lookout spots, San Miguel Alto
  1. 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.
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One of the many funky café’s I have found to get some work done, definitely becoming a regular
  1. 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.
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Even the simplest little streets have a little love

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!

Daniel

Daniel: Starting Life as a Granadino

Although I started my Auckland 360 application almost a year ago, it never felt like an actual thing until I finally stepped foot into my new home of Granada, Spain after a 30-hour flight to London and a contiki around Europe. It’s been a whirlwind to say the least (an incredible one), but I’m gonna start off my 360 blogs with just a few thoughts and feelings so far!

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A warm, loving welcome from Granada

On preparing to go:

Preparing for exchange comes with all sorts of admin and paperwork (which I’ll talk more about in later blogs), but I wanted to focus on the mother of all my pre-exchange stress: my visa. Research EVERYTHING there is to know about the visa you need. And do not, I repeat, DO NOT plan your travel until this is sorted. Luckily, my pre-booked travel plans worked out, but this came with a mountain of stress that I could have avoided if I’d been a bit more patient and organized. It doesn’t have to be that hard – learn from my mistakes! The same goes for all your paperwork. Sounds lame, but its gotta be done (and it is aaaaall worth it in the end, trust me).

On life in Granada: Highlights

Tapas. Granada is the promised land of tapas. Head to almost any bar, order a drink (1.50 – 2.50 euros) and you’ll get a complimentary side dish of chicken wings, calamari, hamburgers or a whole range of other stuff. 2 drinks + tapas and you’re sorted!

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Just a few of the many types of tapas you’ll be served in Granada

Cheap travel. I’ve had a day trip and full tour of the beautiful city of Córdoba for about $30 and enjoyed a whole weekend away in Sevilla for less than $100 all included. Lets not forget my $50 flight to Oxford – Europe really is a budget traveler’s paradise.

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Me and Liv enjoying the little snowfall Oxford put on for us

Lookouts. Granada is blessed with probably the most beautiful lookouts I’ve ever seen. Walk in any direction and you’ll end up watching the sunset over the buzzing city life, the peaceful Arabic-inspired Albaicín and the mountains of Sierra Nevada.

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Breathtaking..how is this my backyard!?

 

Mi gente (my peeps). The endless amount of Erasmus activities offered have introduced me to a whole new world of wonderfully diverse people from all walks of life. Whether it’s out for tapas, dressing up for a carnival or escaping the city for a weekend, I now have a big multicultural family to share all these new experiences with, which has gotta be the biggest highlight so far.

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Challenges

Spanish. Ahhh, español. You are a beautiful language, but boy have you tested me. The people of Granada have a very distinct (yet beautiful) accent which threw me right off – that mixed with my friends from all over Latin America and my brain has had quite the intense workout. That being said, I couldn’t be happier. I am learning at lightning speed and already feeling way more comfortable – sink or swim, right?

Uni. I’m honoured to be able to study in a university rich with over 500 years of history, but I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t tough adjusting to how it all works e.g. more weight on exams, and of course, everything being in Spanish. My advice would be to stick it out as things WILL fall into place (they slowly are for me, I promise!) and communicate with your lecturers so that they can help you out, or at least be aware that you may be struggling!

There’s a million other things I could tell ya’ll about – like adjusting to eating dinner at 10pm, joining a salsa class or Spanish flat hunting – but I’ll save those for future blogs. To round up, I’m absolutely loving life here in Granada and I just know I’m going to learn and experience so much that I’ll be able to pass on to ya’ll. Thanks so much for reading, catch me next month for another update! ¡Hasta luego!

I would also like to share my most heartfelt condolences for those affected in the horrific tragedy in Christchurch on March 15th, especially to our Muslim whānau and community. My love and thoughts are with you all. Kia kaha.

Daniel

Reflections: Bianca

Where do you even begin when you’re asked to sum up six months of your life? There is no possible way to explain/describe every experience, feeling and achievement. So, rather than make a rather poor attempt at it, I thought I would focus on the five skills the 360 International team say we will master while on exchange – although I can only speak from my experience and I’m sure that it is different for everyone.

Navigation

Google maps will quickly become your best friend, I know it became mine within the first week. However, don’t forget about good old traditional maps, they provide by far the best over view of a city as they have the advantage of showing the whole city/area in a reasonable level of detail, while I find to see the same level of detail on google maps I end up having to zoom in and only look at a small part of the city. Like in any city you will quickly become familiar with your regular or daily route but I would encourage you to mix it up every once in a while or not to follow the map and just wander around. This is by far the best way to see things you might have otherwise missed.

Communication

Going on exchange to a country that speaks a different language adds a whole new level of complexity to an already challenging experience. While communication isn’t only about language, it is a key component. Regardless of where you go and what language is spoken you will have to work on your communication. Not only will you be interpreting slang that you may never have used before, but you will also have to adjust how you communicate to make sure that you are understood. At no point was this clearer to me than when I was meeting new groups of Spanish students on a daily basis. But even when I would meet other English speaking students from different countries, I found myself having to adjust how I was communicating to make sure that I was being understood – you would be surprised how many don’t understand that we refer to ourselves as “kiwis”, I had to explain this many times.

Time Management

I don’t think my time management skills improved all that much, maybe they did and it just doesn’t feel like it? I was still no better at starting my assignments early, finishing them a little before the due date so that I could check them or starting to study for a test well in advance. This may be down to the fact that I spent quite a few weekends away, travelling in the north of Spain, but it may also be related to the fact that we were not given an exact plan for the semester. The one thing I do think you learn in terms of time management though is what a good balance between studying and socialising is for you. Everyone I met on exchange did this differently. I know one of my neighbours would go out till 10 or 12pm and then return home and spend the whole night catching up on the study she missed as a result of this. Something like this would never work for me!!

Independence

Being responsible for everything is both a great feeling and a huge challenge, especially for someone like me who has never lived away from home.  I have really made the most of being the one in charge. The sense of freedom that comes with living by yourself is incredible but I did face my share of challenges too. Having the freedom to do what I wanted when I wanted meant that my self-discipline had to improve a lot, there was no one standing over my shoulder telling me that I couldn’t watch the next episode or that I should get to bed before midnight when I had early mornings. Although it can be easy to forget being on your own and so far away, it is always ok to call friends and family from home for advice when it comes to making some decisions. As the semester went on and I found myself growing into my sudden independence I didn’t have to call home for advice anymore.

The Art of Conversation

I have two things to say on this topic. The first is that it is very hard to notice your own confidence growing, it isn’t until you compare how you acted around new people at the beginning of your exchange to how you are acting around them when you are getting ready to leave. The second is that during the course of my exchange I didn’t feel like I was more willing to start conversations with strangers, let alone in another language! But looking back now and comparing my behaviour I would definitely say that I find myself being able to make friends much easier than before my exchange experience.

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An exchange is a huge opportunity for anyone, it is an opportunity to grow and have experiences that you would never normally have. My advice to anyone considering going on an exchange is to do it! But remember that it is still real life and that the experience won’t be perfect or a walk in the park; you will experience the same ups and downs that you experience at any other point in your life.

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The Catalan Question: Bianca

I’m not entirely sure how much coverage this situation got in the New Zealand media, but at the very least after the last few months I am sure that you will have heard about Catalonia and their attempt at independence. I am not a journalist or even studying journalism but after reading some of the reports from the BBC and other international media outlets I thought I would add my opinion of what has been going on, as someone who is living in Spain as it is happening.

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I guess the best place to start when considering recent events is the referendum that was held on the 1st of October in Catalonia (for those who do not know Catalonia is one of the regions of Spain with Barcelona as its capital). Personally, I almost forgot the referendum about the referendum, with so much going on at uni and a number of deadlines fast approaching, it wasn’t until minutes before 6pm that I checked in on the progress. I was incredibly shocked to see a number of reports about the police brutality, particularly in Barcelona. After speaking with a few people in my residence about what we were seeing on TV it was pretty clear that none of us knew the explanation for the violence. What we did find out in class a few days later was that the referendum had been declared illegal by the Constitutional Court of Spain in September as it was in breach of the 1978 constitution – which the Catalan people voted in favour of at the time. Not only had the referendum been declared illegal by Spain, but the High Court of Justice of Catalonia had also given orders to the police to prevent the referendum, which included orders for the arrest of various individuals who had helped to organise it. These orders were not followed by the Catalan police, with videos being posted on the internet showing police officers walking past voting stations, waving and smiling. It is for this reason that the Spanish Civil Guard was deployed to carry out the orders that the Catalan police ignored. Based on the way that I have seen these facts represented in the media I believe that the Catalans played a much smarter game in regards to media coverage, almost every article that I read had the Catalans looking like the victims and the Spanish government portrayed as the oppressor.

Not only was the referendum illegal, it also did not meet the minimum international standards for elections. We found video footage showing people bringing the – supposedly empty – ballot boxes into one of the voting stations before the start of the referendum. This footage shows one of the ballot boxes being dropped and rather than being empty a whole sheath of voting papers fell out, all marked in favour of independence. Usually in a referendum or vote there is only one ballot per person and you are signed up to vote in a specific station, however during the Catalan referendum, the electorate were able to vote at any voting station and print the ballot at home to bring to voting stations; this resulted in there being no limit to the number of ballots one person was able to post in the ballot boxes.

The question on the ballot to which voters could answer “Yes” or “No” was “Do you want Catalonia to become an independent state in the form of a Republic?”. According to the official results of the referendum the “Yes” side won with 92.01% of the votes. However, when everything that we were seeing in the news is taken into consideration along with less than 50% voter turnout with a high proportion of the “No” voters not attending due to being asked not to by the constitutional parties, doubt is cast on the validity of the result.

What I heard from a few of my classmates with family in Catalonia is that their family had voted “Yes” during the referendum and at the time strongly believed that Catalonia both had the right to be an independent state and that it should be one now, were beginning to doubt in their decision. It only became clear after the referendum that if Catalonia claims their independence from Spain they will no longer be part of the European Union and that they will not be recognised as a country by the United Nations. This fact was made even more real by the round 1400 businesses that pulled out of Catalonia in the aftermath of the referendum and the sudden spike in unemployment that this caused. Historically and still today Catalonia is one of the most affluent and successful regions in Spain. The fact that they have always had to pay more taxes to the state because of this has always been a point of contention for the Catalans. They see themselves as a different nation, first Catalan and second – if at all – Spanish.

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The question that I heard over and over during the course of the last few months and the one I want to leave you with is: does every nation have the right to its own state? As an extension of this question: Should the Catalans be allowed independence from Spain?

If you want to discuss this further or have any questions about and exchange in Spain feel free to send me an email to bsta867@aucklanduni.ac.nz.

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