API: University of Granada
by Mackenzie Frackleton
I spent the spring semester of 2017 abroad in Granada, Spain with Academic Programs, International (API). API is a study abroad program, not a direct exchange, with the University of Granada; that means I had a semester specifically structured for American students studying abroad. We had 2 coordinators who helped us with enrolling at and communicating with the University of Granada, and we had cultural events, taught English classes, and took trips to larger cities like London and Madrid. I had 20 other students with me at API, but I was enrolled at the Center of Modern Language(CLM) at the University of Granada(UGR) with students from countries like Bosnia, Iran, and South Korea. I also lived in a residencia, which is like a combination between a first year dorm and a boarding house. It was a 60 person residence that was a pretty even mix of genders and nationalities (spaniards and americans). I had pretty much the perfect experience for an American student living on her own for the first time. I made native friends in my residencia and the English classes, American friends all over, and international friends in class, where sometimes our only common language was Spanish.
Mackenzie and her roommate welcoming May with Las Cruces de Mayo. Las Cruces is a festival in Granada that features an explosion of flowers, flamenco, and generosity.
I ended up taking 5 classes in the Hispanic Studies program (because I’ve taken Spanish classes since elementary school), and that became my arts and humanities concentration. I studied everything from Islam in Spain to the diversity of the Spanish language across the world, but my favorite learning experiences were never in the classrooms. My most impactful education came from non-programmed activities like 1) Skiing with my Spanish friend 2) celebrating all the local festivals and holidays, and 3) taking spontaneous trips across Spain and the rest of Europe (see photos below). Each experience still sticks in my mind as a highlight, and the pictures just can’t do them justice.
I can’t stress enough the importance of leaving the Olin bubble. I knew I’d be living abroad and taking arts and humanities classes, but there’s a certain amount of gravity to just living with and experiencing the different people who deal with the results of our engineering. It’s easy to pay lip service to the idea that we are totally people-centric engineers, but I’m not sure just 1 semester of UOCD is enough to encapsulate living as an outsider and incorporating yourself into an entirely new way of life. My best friends were the college students with whom I struck up conversations in cafe’s and met by chance at karaoke. My best conversations were with drivers of the cars in which I hitched rides between cities. My sweetest memory was backpacking up the slopes of El Mulhacen and watching a meteor shower with a herd of wild donkeys. I appreciate everything so much more, and I’ve become far better adjusted as a student and engineer for having adventured away from home.
If I had to cite 1 low-light, it would be that I felt like I could have done with more autonomy. I actively chose not to live with a host family because I knew I wouldn’t want a mom waiting up for me; I’ve already lived on my own in new cities during summer internships. I didn’t expect the residencia to have a familial dynamic, but in fact my residencia was run by a family and felt like we were all their children, to one extent or another. We were still expected to be there for certain meal times, and we were asked not to have friends over. That said, I wasn’t sure at the beginning if I was ready for the full responsibility of living on my own a whole new continent. It’s only now that I’m ready.