España Thus Far…

My first three weeks in Spain have been a whirlwind of tapas, travel, siestas and new friends. The seventeen students in the early start version of our program have already jived in a way I could never have anticipated. None of us knew each other before meeting in the Madrid airport, but the process of exploring a foreign country has created bonds in a sort of magic way. Being thrown right into life in a country I have never been to, with a group of students I have never met, has been more educational than any class I could ever take. With so much to recount, I had no idea what to write about for this first blog post… As much as I’d have liked to, I couldn’t possibly describe all of the incredible things that have happened thus far, so instead I thought I’d put together a collage from some of the most memorable days:

We landed in the airport in Madrid and were picked up by one of our amazing program directors, Curra. The next few days were full of jet lag, guided tours, and tasty Spanish food. We went to the Prado, the Reina Sofia, the Royal Palace, and El Escorial (the summer home of King Phillip II), seeing masterpieces of Goya and Picasso among others and the stunning grandiosity of palaces of kings and queens past. In addition, I made time to explore Madrid on my own and soak in the bustling culture every chance I had. It was the perfect way to meet everyone in the group and adjust quickly to the Spanish way of life.

Madrid Collage (Picture 1)

Finally on our way to Granada, we stopped in Toledo to spend the better half of a day there. Toledo is Madrid’s older brother. It was once the capital of Spain before King Phillip decided to move to Madrid and is now home to a vibrant mix of Christian, Muslim and Jewish heritages and cultures. Half of our five hours was a guided walking tour through ancient churches, synagogues, and alleyways, and the other half was free time to explore on our own!

Toledo Collage (Picture 2)

The first week in Granada, one of our on-site program directors gave us a walking tour of the Arabic and Gypsy neighborhoods here: The Albayzín and El Sacramonte. These barrios are literally built into the hillsides—there are many natural caves that have been converted into beautiful homes. The tour was amazing (thank you, Carmen!) and it was fun to have the whole group together for the first time in almost a week since getting to Granada.

Abalyzin Collage (Picture 3)

The following weekend was jam-packed… One of the main reasons I chose Granada (and I’m glad I did!) was because of its proximity to both mountains and beaches. On Saturday, a group of us went to the nearest beach, Salobreña, to soak in the sun and salt. Being from the coast of California, I practically live on the beach, but many of my friends from the middle of the United States had only been a handful of times and it was fun to watch them frolic in the waves!

Salobreña Collage (Picture 4)

That Sunday, I went on a hike in the Sierra Nevada mountains with the only other person who wasn’t too sunburnt and exhausted from the day before. We took a short city bus from Granada into a small mountain town called Güejar Sierra, where we found a trailhead for a ~12 km loop through the mountains. We passed bunkers from the days of the Spanish Civil War, caballeros, and stunning vistas of the second highest mountain range in Western Europe.

Güejar Collage (Picture 5)

Last night, I came home from an overnight weekend trip for the first time and was greeted from the balcony by my smiling host mom as I was opening the front door. I feel now more than ever that Granada is my home rather than the site of an extended vacation and am more than thrilled to spend the next 3+ months here exploring and letting life unfold—all the while taking more and more pictures!

Hasta luego,
Until later,

Jake Cushnir

Jake Cushnir is a student at the University of California, San Diego and an official API Student Blogger. Jake is studying abroad with API in Granada, Spain.

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