Our First Week in Spain
As we conclude our first week in Spain it is difficult to believe that only 7 days ago we all arrived at JFK airport with such limited information about the people we were about to meet and the faraway places we were about to explore! In these 7 days we have learned about each other’s greatest hopes and fears for the program and we have bonded over our shared feelings of excitement, nervousness, and wonderment for what lies ahead. We have created bonds that continue to grow every day, and we have laid the groundwork for the mutual support and personal fortitude we will need to make the most of this unique experience abroad.
Our three-day orientation period was set in Madrid. There we spent our time exploring the city and (slowly but surely) defeating the beast that is jet lag! On the first day we visited the famously beautiful Parque del Retiro, rowing around in water boats, and watching a fabulous sunset on the capital city horizon.
On day two and three we visited Madrid’s most famous museums where we saw priceless works of art from Spain’s greatest painters such as El Greco, Diego Velazquez, Salvador Dali, Francisco Goya, Pablo Picasso and more! Our students made astute observations about the style and context of the paintings, having learned a great deal about the history that goes along with the artists and their masterpieces. We then visited Palacio Real in Madrid, an enormous 135,000 square meter palace with 2,800 ornately decorated rooms, making it the biggest royal palace in the whole of Europe! To top it off, we celebrated Nicole’s birthday on July 4th by going out for chocolate dipped churros at Madrid’s most popular churrería! It was so nice to see how everyone had already grown so fond of each other. Truly it felt like a family ❤️
From Madrid we drove to the former capital of Spain, Toledo! A drastic change in scenary, Toledo gave our students the chance to experience a more quaint and tranquil version of Spain as compared to the hustle and bustle of Madrid. Occupying a hill engulfed by a beautiful river, Toledo has winding cobblestone streets and alley ways that could barely accommodate a car going one way. The labyrinthine pathways were an excellent opportunity for us to explore and find ourselves pleasantly lost in European small town bliss.
And now we are in Granada, Andalucía for the homestay period of our program. Often, the homestay portion can be the most unfamiliar or challenging (and therefore rewarding) component of the trip. Students are given the chance take part in Spanish family life — trying new things, new foods, new ways of living, and practicing their language skills in a home environment. After two full days with our families, we are so grateful for the unique opportunity to take part in authentic Spanish culture.
Yesterday we took our first Flamenco classes to prepare us for the live performance we will watch next week as a group. Tomorrow we will meet for a city scavenger hunt so that we can find Granada’s most beautiful sites and landmarks together on foot! With mountains at the edge of town, and the Mediterranean Sea just 45 minutes away, there is so much to see and do here! From the town center and all around the Albaicín neighborhood we have enjoyed breathtaking views of the Alhambra Castle, which we will visit in a few days.
With three weeks ahead of us, I am so excited to witness the group continue to thrive and learn together. We have been blessed with truly wonderful students who have brought with them so much passion and zeal for international cultural discovery. They support each other so beautifully and never fail to make us all laugh! What a incredible week it has been!