Europe Narratives Study Abroad

Serendipity in Spain

Story and photos by Jenny Tungsubutra

Although my study abroad semester was cut short due to the pandemic, the time I spent in Granada, Spain studying at the Centro de Lenguas Modernas (CLM) at the Universidad de Granada, was undoubtedly the best seven weeks of my life. Regardless, some aspects of my study abroad experience truly made my quarantine experiences “miles” better- as we were actually, physically miles apart. 

Before leaving for Spain I set goals to immerse myself into the culture. I planned to try pan de chocolate, map out the Andalusian Camino, and other cultural musts. However, the most memorable experiences were the ones that were unplanned. That stroke of serendipity, or the saying “things happen for a reason” was something that I live by. I fell in love with going to intercambios (language exchanges held weekly at bars), Flamenco dancing workshops, and going out for tapas with friends. I definitely could tick several Spanish cultural activities off my bucket list such as trying my first paella, but I did more than was on my predetermined list.

 Once back in America, I had a hard time adapting to the feelings of isolation. Though, this only reinforced my study abroad friends and I to stay closer and maintain contact with one another through technology.  During my shelter-in-place quarantine period, I was constantly comforted by receiving loving and warm messages and calls from friends in Australia, Hong Kong, Russia, Germany and of course, Spain, whom I met in Granada.  This really made me realize that there is always hope for the next adventure, and how it was always “see you later,” and not “goodbye.”  Especially when our conversations ended with “nos vemos pronto.”  Although the pandemic prevented us from seeing each other for a long time, my friends ignited a spark of hope, and gave me something to look forward to when the pandemic finally comes to an end.

It’s so lovely to receive a simple “how are you?” text or a random call in the middle of the night from someone living halfway across the world.  My Granada friends know me well enough to know my social media isn’t representative of everything from me.  They also know how much I miss certain things about Spain, such as my love for the little snacks brought into class by my classmates, the night walks through the Albaicin and hikes to the peak of the mountains, which are still memories that keep us close and communicating up to this day, one year later. 

However true this may be for some, this concept of serendipity in Spain allowed me to believe that planning our next trip is a reality, and I know now I am only one call or text away from the memories of reliving my serendipity in Spain.

The story is featured in Spring 2021 (Print Edition).

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