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New Friends in New Places

If you asked me to pinpoint my favorite part of study abroad, it would be almost impossible to choose just one thing… but can you really blame me for that? I’ve spent the last four months with an endless supply of fresh olive oil, multi-cultural exposure, and continual Spanish practice; life in general has been pretty great. However, if you really pressed me, I think that I would settle on the friends I’ve made here as the best part of Spain so far.
 A very disheveled, happy crew returning from a hike. (Pictured Left to Right: Megan, Juanje, myself, Melissa, Allie, and Kaylee)

Most people in the US have heard of “Taco Tuesdays”, but have you ever heard of “Tapas Tuesdays”? This was the tradition my small group of friends from the states formed at the beginning of the semester. Every Tuesday night after a language practice event, we hopped between restaurants, sampling from long tapas menus, bonding over glasses of Rioja wine with small plates of “tortilla española” or “berenjenas y miel”, and practicing Spanish together. Over time, we met some local Spaniards, and our “Tapas Tuesdays” group began to grow.
 One of the best tapa menus we've found to date.

Making friends with locals is a strange experience, but strange in the best way possible. There are differences in traditions, the way you interact with each other as friends, and your senses of humor, but it’s really cool to see that the roots of the friendship are the exact same as those of your friendships with other US students. Within our mixed group of friends, the Spaniards have helped the rest of us with our Spanish, explaining grammar rules or teaching us more colloquial ways to say things. They’ve hunted down the best tapas and dance clubs with us, and they’ve made us feel welcome in a country that (although absolutely amazing) can feel overwhelming at times when you’re homesick. In turn, we native English speakers have helped the Spaniards with their English, traded stories about our culture, and answered questions about our respective regions of our enormous country.
 The gang goofing off on an early morning hike in the Sierra Nevada mountains
 Everyone returning from an amazing late night (early morning?) dancing, some of the best times!

Studying abroad has let me meet the people that I’ve come to consider my closest friends. Those from the states are heading home next week, and although I’m sure that it will be strange and difficult to be here in Granada without them, I’m excited to maintain the Spanish friendships I’ve made. All this to say, when you actually arrive in your new country, fight the urge to stay in your bubble of study abroad students. Get out of your comfort zone and meet some locals, they (along with the people in your program) might turn out to be some of your best friends.

Megan V. is the Fall 2017 CEA MOJO Blogger in Granada, Spain. She is currently a Junior studying Political Science and Spanish at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. 

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