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Getting Lost & Finding Yourself

Leaving your home and those you know behind for any period of time is a very hard thing to do. What do you pack? How do you prepare mentally? How do you deal with the airport? There are a million questions that race through your mind, and you’ll find yourself and your Google search history being bogged down by those questions.

One question that I don’t believe enough people truly consider, however, is how to figure out getting around a new city. If you were a student who moved away to college, you might have found yourself in this predicament before, when it took you an hour to find the local Walmart. The same applies to your new host city, and the same applied for me in Granada. How can I find and experience things in the city whenever I don’t even know where my residence hall is located? Well, worry not because in my first two weeks, I’ve gotten a reputation for being good at navigating, enough to where my study abroad classmates and friends have been using me as their map, and I use a series of very simple tools to traverse the brand new environment.

Adapting to any new environment is going to be difficult, but I have some tips that will help you adapt to traversing (and in turn, understanding) your new city.

 

1. Be okay with being a little bit lost!

Some of my best finds so far in Granada have been the result of being lost and not freaking out. In the first few days, I would take walks to try and see what was near my residence, and in turn got lost a few times. Because I continued the walk and kept exploring instead of freaking out and attempting to return home as soon as possible, I now had some really cool experiences.

 A great view of the Sierra Nevada that I found due to being lost.

2. Recognize your own personal landmarks

Every city has its famous landmarks, but you can actually learn to make your own. The meeting point for a lot of our meetings was at a post office in the city center, and now every CEA student likes to meet up there before going to do anything because we all know where it is! If you find recognizable sights, even if it is just a certain shop that you recognize, you’ll be able to figure out where you are and also where the path you have taken is in relation to everything else.

 A giant fountain that is in the city center. VERY hard to miss!

3. Start building your own map

Although maps are an invaluable resource, you don’t have to rely on them all the time. If you can figure out where your home is in relation to the map, you can start to think of your pathways as heading a certain direction on the map. Many times that I’ve not been sure where I’m at, I’ve at least had a good idea of what direction I was headed in (North, South, East, West). This has helped me get to a recognizable point so much faster.

 

 One of Granada's giant Cathedrals.
North-eastof my residencia and south
of the CEA office (right next to each other).

4. Never be afraid to ask for help

The locals will have the best knowledge of the city, and I guarantee they’ve been asked for directions before. If you don’t know the language of the country you’re going to, I would suggest brushing up on some key phrases to help yourself figure out how to get to a place. That way, you always have a backup of being able to ask someone how to get back home, get to school, etc.

In all, just be prepared to figure out your new city, your new home. Understanding how to traverse this new environment will help you enjoy your experience more and understand the culture/language in a much easier fashion. If you just open yourself to experiencing the city in all its glory (including getting lost a few times), you’ll see that you can find yourself a lot easier.

 

Chase is the Fall 2015 CEA MOJO Blogger in Granada, Spain. He is currently a Senior at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.

 



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