I did not transform religion, get married, contract a serious illness, among other events that are considered “life-changing.” However, moving 4,000 miles a way to a foreign country without knowing anyone, knowing how your schedule will look there, whether or not you will get along with the family you are assigned to live with and so on is pretty crazy and scary to imagine. However, this is not the transformative experience everyone talks about.
A woman who spoke only Spanish, ran around her house like a mad lady cleaning, preparing food, and setting the table for lunch quickly became my best friend in Spain. My host mom was one of the most influential people I met during my time in Spain. She encouraged me to get out of the house, try new bakeries, hike to the sites to get the best view of the city, the best stores to shop at, and even took me along with her to run errands for her job. We watched a Spanish TV show called "First Dates" together every Tuesday, danced in the kitchen to the radio, and had the best conversations with a cup of coffee and Marias cookies at the small kitchen table. Because of her, I took every opportunity to wander the streets of Granada, spend time between classes with friends in a park, became a regular at coffee shops, and soaked up every moment and experience of each day with the best attitude.
The beauty of study abroad is living in an unfamiliar place that becomes a home by the end of your experience. Developing a love for a culture, place, and people that was once unknown is a beautiful attribute to studying abroad.
Mackenzie Brady is the Spring 2020 Alumni Ambassador in Granada, Spain, and is currently studying at Illinois State University.