I can remember, as a kid, my dad coming home from work and saying “Let’s see what happened in the world today”. This meant inevitably we would be watching the news, and for a 10 year old that was akin to torture. At the time, I hated it, but now I realize that I was actually being taught to think critically about current events and politics. Fast forward ten years or so, and I’m majoring in Political Science and Spanish, while studying abroad in Granada, Spain.
With Spanish as one of my majors, it was obvious that my study abroad country needed to be one where I could be immersed in the language. What was not obvious was which Spanish-speaking country I should pick (there are quite a few to choose from...), and this is where my Political Science studies helped. Several of my classes in the US had included Spain as a case study on democratization, and I knew I was interested in knowing more, so I started to do some research. Spain is unique in that the modern Spanish government is relatively young, having developed after Francisco Franco’s death in 1975, but the country transitioned from a dictatorship to democracy with incredible speed and ease. Very rarely can you live in a country so soon after a huge political change and see the vibrancy, life, and stability I’ve seen in Spain.
|In the midst of the chaos in Cataluña, Spanish flags are everywhere. What a time to be a Poli Sci major!|
|More Spanish flags in city center|
What’s more, within the United States, we’ve recently seen an increase in racial, religious, or political division and conflict. Of course every country has this, but as I researched Spain I was surprised to learn that racially diverse communities of Muslims, Jews, and Christians lived together peacefully for over 700 years here. I had no idea that kind of harmony existed in the middle ages, and I wanted to see how that coexistence influenced Spanish culture. Granada was the final Moorish stronghold taken by the Spanish monarchs during the Reconquista, so this was a logical step once I settled on Spain. You can hear, see, taste, and feel the contrasting cultures in every part of this city, and it’s like nothing I’ve ever experienced before.
|Almost identical to the Albaycín neighborhood in Granada (the historically Arabic area of the city), this picture was taken in Tetuan, Morocco. How cool is it when cultures overlap!|
Studying abroad has definitely helped advance my area of study, and I feel confident that this would be the case with any major. In a different culture, you gain perspective, learn to work with and respect people you disagree with, and gain an incredible amount of independence. These are all things that are benefits in any career field. So if you’re on the fence about whether or not you should study abroad, my answer would be a wholehearted yes! Chances are that you’ll learn things about your studies, about the world, and about yourself that you didn’t even know you didn’t know.
|Glimpse of a traditional French-styled garden in the middle of the Alhambra (worlds colliding!)|
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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