Study abroad reflections – Through Different Eyes: Seeing Granada as a Vagabond

By: Brittany B., Student Services Assistant, API Texas
(former API Peer Mentor & API Granada, Spain: Hispanic Studies Semester Program)

I first met Sebastian one bright afternoon as he sat twisting aluminum on the front stoop of an old church just past la Plaza Mayor in Granada. Kneeling down to look at the ornate pieces spread out thoughtfully on a rugged swatch of velvet, I admired his craftsmanship. Sebastian turned boring wire into beautiful bracelets and rings, two of which caught my eye as great gift ideas. As my friends and I began chatting with him, we came to understand that his life, much like his art, rides on the free spirit of adventure. Guided by his love for people and nature, Sebastian lives off the land and his jewelry sales—a happy existence for a vagabond. I began to understand that he chose to color outside the lines of traditional society, approaching each day from a more organic point of view. Call him a wanderer, a hippy, an artisan, a free-thinker, a hobo—or simply Sebastian. Regardless of anyone’s opinion, he sat contentedly with the clothes on his back and the tools in his hands, crafting for me the bracelet and the ring I ended up purchasing from him. With a final flick of his metal pliers and a dose of creative genius, he sent us on our way with our purchases and three little aluminum toys to enjoy on our walk home. Even now, over a year later, the memory of that meeting still refreshes me.

You tend to meet a lot of people when you study abroad, and each one expands your horizon a bit further—sometimes in directions you may not have anticipated. Looking back, I see that I almost missed out on a wealth of perspective because of the people I nearly avoided when I walked through the city each day. People like Sebastian. People like Florica…

She sat holding a tattered cardboard sign, tucked between two retail stores on one side of the street called Recogidas. Placing herself strategically beside Granada’s most bustling sidewalks each day, she humbly bowed her head, silently letting the brown cardboard speak for her. Upon introducing myself, I discovered that Florica left her native Romania for Spain, hoping to find the opportunity and provision necessary to support her family. She was still fairly new to the area, and struggled to pay the rent for her apartment. Though her broken Spanish challenged our communication, her sad yet beautiful smile conveyed her sincerity. Our conversations widened my outlook immensely as I began to see reality through Florica’s eyes. I found that the world looks different when you sit curled up on the sidewalk as opposed to walking confidently down the street.

Thousands of stories like these remain untold. Sadly, I admit that for every person I stopped to meet, I could count at least five more that I completely ignored. I guess I always expected that studying abroad would open my understanding to new people and ways of life. And it did. Each day revealed something valuable, whether through the bellowing butane vendor on my street, my weathered anthropology professor, the eccentric jazz trumpeter at Café Bohemia, or my bubbly host mother. Every interaction offered new insights. Yet it was not until I decided to squat down by Sebastian’s jewelry display that I encountered a less-familiar facet of Spanish society: wanderlust. Likewise, it took kneeling next to Florica to see Granada from a vastly different point of view: poverty.

So the next story is for you to tell. You may have to step out of your comfort zone in order to find it, but you will likely not have to look very far. An ordinary sidewalk is one place to start.

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  1. Really like your post. I still have to find the free time to visit the beautiful city of Granada. Maybe then, I can start writing blogs too.

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