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Studying Abroad as a Person of Color in Granada, Spain

June 05, 2024
by CEA CAPA Content Creator
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A study abroad student smiling at the camera and sitting on a ledge overlooking a garden and city view

What to Expect as a POC Studying Abroad in Granada 

For as long as I can remember, studying abroad was a goal and a dream of mine. During the pandemic, my opportunities to do so had completely vanished, so in my third year of college, nothing was going to stop me from living and studying in another country. I was tired of online school, tired of being locked up in quarantine, and tired of the same old routine. I wanted to push myself completely out of my comfort zone and studying abroad in Granada, Spain did just that. But my eagerness got the better of me. I knew I wanted to go to a non-English speaking country and force myself to be surrounded by a new language and culture. I was naïve, and did little to no research about Spain, but still was so excited to take on the new adventure. I had no idea what to expect when I touched down in Granada.  

A study abroad student smiling at the camera and sitting on a ledge overlooking a garden and city view

Me in front of the view of the Alhambra in Granada. 

First Steps to Studying Abroad: Do your Research 

When I arrived, I immediately noticed how homogenous the community was. Being a Caribbean woman from Queens, New York (the most diverse city in the world), I was forced out of my comfort zone.  

Also, although research couldn’t have told me this, after living in Granada for three months, I unfortunately learned that the community is quite ignorant of their past histories and of what equality truly means. At times, the attitude and stares that I received from the residents in Granada got exhausting. This is a large generalization, but finding my community and the people that made me feel safe is what helped me to stay grounded in my identity as I lived there.  

Finding the Hidden Cultures in Granada 

The population in Granada is entirely made up of native Spaniards, with a small Romani community in an area called the Albayzin, or the old Arab quarter in Granada, which is separated from the rest of the town. The Albayzin was one of the most beautiful communities I ever experienced. Being a POC, walking through the streets was refreshing and honestly made me emotional at how rich the culture was.  

An interior shop room with dozens of colorful decorated lamps hanging from the ceiling

The common Arabic trinkets you can find in Granada. 

I was lucky enough to be in Granada during the last World Cup, where the Moroccan national team made an astonishing run of history-changing wins. Hearing the cheers and screams of joy from the Moroccan descendants was something that I’ll never forget.  

A study abroad student smiling and waving off camera while seated on a camel on a beach

Me on a camel on a beach in Morocco. 

Although the Albayzin is hidden from the rest of the community, it is a short uphill walk from the center of Granada, and it isn’t something you want to miss. Experiencing the culture of so many beautiful and diverse peoples was something that kept me grounded and stopped me from losing my POC identity in such a homogenous, European white community.  

You’re not Trapped in the Small Town 

Granada is a very small town in Andalucia, Spain, and it could be hard to remember that Spain itself is a huge country. As soon as I left the small province, and traveled to cities like Madrid and Barcelona, I realized how different these communities are compared to Granada. Madrid was one of my favorite cities that I visited, and it was easy to see that the lack of diversity in Granada was only specific to Granada. There’s a huge immigrant population in big cities like Madrid and Barcelona, and the community is way more aware of discrimination and what it means to be POC in a country like Spain. 

A large red-brown archway with people walking underneath it

El Arco de Triunfo de Barcelona. 

Also, one of the first things I always talk about when I speak about my study abroad experience is traveling. Traveling in Europe was so easy! I went to so many different countries while living in Spain, even with limited time. Again, it was refreshing to leave the small-town mentality and experience the big city life in places like Paris, Florence, and London. The weekends I spent in other countries were some of the best moments of my life, and something that’ll stick with me forever.  

I'll also always mention the CEA CAPA study abroad excursions, which helped so much when I sometimes felt trapped in the small town. My favorite trip was to Morocco, which was completely administered by CEA CAPA faculty, which was such a relief after organizing and booking trips myself. I would 100% recommend taking advantage of this beautiful trip to Morocco; it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.  

A stone staircase painted blue and highly decorated with people standing and sitting nearby

A particularly beautiful corner in Chefchaouen, Morocco. 

Finally, I want to make it clear that no matter the struggles and discrimination you might face abroad as a POC, do not let anyone take this experience away from you! Studying abroad is a privilege and such an amazing opportunity, and finding a community that makes you feel safe, and exploring the world are things that made this a life-changing experience for me.  

This post was written by Sabina Ali, a CEA CAPA Granada alum from Fordham University.


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