Becoming a Granadino in Spain
Hi, my name is Katie. I am Canadian although recently I have been spending more time away than being there. I speak both English and French and the moose is my favourite animal. I can’t live long without maple syrup and yes, I have a maple leaf stitched to my backpack. you might think I am typical, but I am not. I studied in Granada, Spain for one year in 2007-2008 and I would do it again in a minute.
When I first walked into my university’s study abroad office a few years ago and told them I wanted to study abroad in Granada they told me great! It’s just a matter of looking up files and starting an application. I should start by saying one thing about myself I don’t usually like to do things the normal way; I prefer back routes and doing things out of order, you might say.
I started looking through the files, the last time my university sent anyone to the Universidad de Granada was 1998. I read her report. Her advice to future students looking at Granada: turn back and run away. It is not worth the effort. Hm, I thought. Very interesting, I’m intrigued even more. I did some reading and sent some emails and handed in the application. I was determined to study abroad, even if it was going to be an experience just getting there. I had no idea it would be such an experience.
Once my application through my university was approved, I sent it off to the Universidad de Granada to be approved. I’d like to point out just one thing, when it comes to paperwork in Spain don’t get strung out because it takes so long. The phrase mañana has never rung so true than with this application. Finally in July my acceptance letter arrived. I was due to leave in September, leaving me mere weeks to get my student visa in order. Several trips to Toronto later and the final response was there was not enough time. The university had waited so long to write to me that I had missed my window of opportunity to apply for the visa. Just a few days before classes were to start in Canada again I had to plan a year, find a place to live and totally defer my plans to study abroad for an entire year. Dreams crushed, I thought I’d never make it.
The following year, I made my preparations, collected my paper work early and it was easier, less painful making the application in Toronto. I got it on time, my passport returned to me with a fresh visa sticker and my flight was booked for September 11th, 2007. Yes, I know. You’d never believe how much cheaper it is to fly on that day than any other. Direct Toronto to Paris. I didn’t plan very well upon arrival. I had arranged to stay with a couchsurfer, I paid way too much for a train from Paris to Madrid and when I arrived in Madrid it was a holiday weekend, meaning every hostel in the city was full. Okay I thought. I will just go to where I used to live in Alcala de Henares outside of town and call up a friend there. I arrived and after figuring out how to use a payphone got a hold of him: He’s out of town, on the other side of the country. “Cool! You’re in Spain!” he said, “I’ll be there in a few days, you’ll be around?” Yes, I thought. Waiting for you buy this phone booth. I climbed back on to train to go back to Madrid, took the next bus south to Granada where I wasn’t expecting to arrive for another 5 days.
At 6am the bus pulled in. I made the few kilometers walk from the bus station to the city centre (yes with my backpack and my suitcase) and found the hostel I had planned to stay at. I crashed in exhaustion on the couch and waited for the morning staff to arrive. I booked two nights, certain I’d be able to find a flat in a day. I did, in a few hours actually. I took the first place I saw in a little fevered desperation with a young Argentinean (I would have known to say no if I knew what Argentinean men were like then). It worked for 2 months and then I moved out.
I showed up at the faculty of Fine Arts, where I was to study, a few days before school, to sort out papers and forms. They asked my name, where I was from and looked surprised that I was standing there in front of them. “But you applied a year ago, you never came,” said the woman as she pulled out my file. A file! I thought, at least this country keeps files on students. She said they did not expect me, passed me a sheet where I could pick classes and they said they’d figure something out to get me registered. None of the classes I had planned to take were available, of course, so I ended up in a wide variety of studio courses: abstract painting, experimental drawing, photography, image theory…
I had arrived and it had taken around two years of planning, missed deadlines and sleepless nights to get there. I settled quickly into the Spanish lifestyle, had my paperwork sorted out in no time, forgot about any obligations I had at home, never sent the papers I needed to, I started living.
To sum up:
-Be exhaustive when it comes to preparing paperwork. Make copies of everything!
-Be prepared for the worst, always be a step ahead
-If someone says “You can’t”, step up and tell them “I can!”
-When it comes to travelling, make some plans, at least until you get to where you need to go.
-Don’t try to be a gallant vagabond if it’s just not you. Travelling is the best way to find your limits and push them further. Just don’t go over the edge.
-If you’ve made a budget, give yourself a generous cushion, you never know what will happen.