I made it to Malaga, Spain and my next move was to get to Granada where I would be living for the next six months. After spending the night in Malaga because my plane got in so late, I was trying to figure out how to get a city bus to the main bus station to get another bus to Granada. After eating breakfast with a nice Polish family who spoke perfect English and telling them I had to cross the highway with two suitcases to get to the bus stop, they were kind enough to offer me a ride. After they dropped me off I knew I would be speaking Spanish from there on out and that I was on my own until I got to Granada where a lady named Vickie, also from the University of Montana, was going to meet me. After talking to the bus driver (in Spanish) and him not responding to me and just shrugging his shoulders, I thought to myself maybe it would just be obvious where I needed to get off. At one point I saw a bunch of bus stops and what looked like to be a city center so I got off. I ask some different people at newsstands where I could find a bus to Granada and they all told me I was in the wrong place. When I asked what bus I could take to get to the main bus station most people ignored me or just didn’t say anything. I felt invisible but stood out like a sore thumb. I was wearing a white Nike hat, a sweatshirt, black yoga pants, and sneakers that day with a backpack and two suitcases; apparently looking like a complete tourist and speaking Spanish with a semi American accent wasn’t working in my favor. I started crying in the middle of this “city center” already feeling defeated my very first day in Spain. Then not too long after this little old lady came up to me and asked me if I needed help. After I told her where I needed to go, she grabbed one of my suitcases grabbed my arm and we headed onto a bus. She rode all the way with me to the real city center of Malaga, got off the bus with me and pointed to exactly where I needed to go to get a bus to Granada. She told me she had a granddaughter and hoped someone would do the same for her if she were ever in this kind of situation. I thank her and grabbed a bus to Granada. I showed up without having a place to live and without knowing anyone except Vickie. Vickie helped me find a place to live after a week, showed me the bus routes, the city, and all the things I needed to know before starting school in February. I realized at this point that even though self-reliance was so important to me on my trip, I needed others along the way to guide me and help me. I wanted complete independence when moving to Spain but without the few connections I made with Vickie, my Russian roommate Elina, my Mexican American friend Crystal, and my German friend Christina, I would have been even more lost and alone than I already was at times.
One of my first weeks in Granada in the Albayzín district
Writing about my experiences abroad has proven to be far more challenging than I thought. I keep typing then deleting my thoughts, and I have had trouble reflecting on some of my thoughts and emotions since I have been back in Montana. My experience studying abroad in Spain for 6 months contained some of the highest of highs, and the lowest of lows of my life thus far. When I first started applying to study abroad programs I thought I was completely ready. I had already been to Spain 3 times (twice with my grandma to visit family when I was little, and once with my Spanish class in high school) and had a good amount of other travels underneath my belt. Once I bought my one way ticket to Iceland though and then another one-way from Iceland to Spain, I had a melt-down. This was about 2 months before I left in January of 2015. I was sad to be leaving my friends and family let alone my comfort zone behind for 6 months. I felt vulnerable and felt so much anxiety I went to Curry Health Center to talk to a doctor. I talked to Dr. Bell and told him I wanted anxiety medication in case I had an anxiety attack while abroad. Dr. Bell told me medicine wasn’t going to solve what I was going through, and that it was okay to feel the way I was feeling. He told me I had to think to myself “I wonder what it’s going to be like…” and be okay with the unknown and not have too many expectations set in place. After that I really started working on myself and now realize my journey began before I even left for Europe.
Iceland was my first stop on my adventures. It was my first time doing solo travel. I really wanted to push myself and get out of my comfort zone when starting my trip. I think I wanted to prove to myself that I didn’t need anyone and that I was self-reliant. I decided to couch surf and stay in Iceland for four days. Couch surfing is a website you can join to stay at other people’s homes while traveling, host people, or meet up with other travelers all for free. I completely got out of my comfort zone by couch surfing for the first time alone and stayed with a man named Petur, and his little boy named Snori. It was a humbling experience to have someone let you into their home and host you as a traveler. Petur drove me into the center of Reykjavik everyday on his way to work, gave me a house key, and even took me outside of the city one night where we tried to chase down the northern lights. It really opened my heart seeing the kindness of people and how much more an experience means seeing somewhere new from a local’s perspective. Iceland was honestly a magical time for me and made me feel like I could do anything. It was a little lonely to experience such a beautiful place by myself and not to have anyone to really share those memories with, but it was the solo trip I wanted. My favorite day was when I did a horseback riding tour and rode an Icelandic Pony named Garpur. I was with a good, kind group of people and felt really alive that day. After a blissful time in Iceland, I was off to my big move to Spain where I immediately received my first dose of reality.