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Day 1

     Awfully strange day. One of those days you remember because of just how unique it is. Completely surreal. It’s ok. If you’re reading this, you’ll know to expect it now. 


     But let me tell you, walking from flight to flight, and finally arriving at Malaga airport, sitting at the cafeteria as CGL students periodically swarmed in by the dozen, I felt something I never really had before. It was a feeling that came from realizing just how monumental the moment truly was. Around me were fellow college freshmen, practically strangers, that I knew were going to become cherished and lifelong friends. When have you ever looked at a stranger, other than perhaps in a moment of love, and thought, with rational confidence- I’m going to know you and make core memories with you, for a very long time. 


     Other than that, there was also the reality check that came with arriving at Malaga- a moment that felt like a distant dream, nothing but an anecdote, just a couple of months before. The entire summer, I hadn’t really processed that I would be living in Spain for three months. I thought I had, of course, but I simply planned for it, and expected it- I never truly embraced the fact that it would one day become my reality. 


     To you future CGL students, I hope the shock that comes with arriving, unpacking, and meeting these dozens of strangers and future lifelong friends is dampened at least slightly because of this blog. However, just know, that the feeling will pass, and the angst, regret, and stress that will initially consume your young, dissociating mind on the bus ride to Granada will quickly turn into excitement as you roam the streets for the first time, and become acquainted with people whose presence you genuinely enjoy. 


     It’s an insane, unique life experience. Today is a day, for you, and for me, like no other. The emotions I felt in the morning, I doubt will ever return with the same strength or inherent formula. Just remember- you have everything to look forward to. Such a large move can be stressful no matter where one goes- but in this case, our move is to Granada, Spain, with the purpose of experiencing a three-month period specifically designed to be incredible, exciting, and life-changing in the best way possible. 


  • Rafa 9/26/23

Day 3

Look, I have to say, this has been absolutely amazing. You’re going to arrive in Spain nervous, sure, but after TWO days that feel like WEEKS your entire mindset will change. It’s three a.m., and my roommate is drunk and probably not a fan of typing, so I’ll keep it short and sweet with bullet points. So, here’s what you need to know about how you’ll feel after the first three days:


  • The people are incredible. It’s a self-selecting group in the best way possible. Everybody around you is going to be smart, open-minded, and genuinely cool. If you have trouble with judging books by their cover, as I do, you’ll soon learn that your mind will change as soon as you talk to one of those people you initially judged so harshly. Long story short- don’t worry about the people, they’re cool as shit. 

  • Two- Granada is a student town. You will meet so many people outside of CGL, don’t even worry. So far I’ve met Germans, Spaniards, Australians, and Italians- and it’s only day three! You will meet a lot of people from around the world and make connections that last a lifetime. 

  • Three- The days are very long. Thinking about this morning feels like something that happened three weeks ago, and I think the first week especially strengthens this effect. Your days will be jam-packed with excitement, tours of incredible historical sites and breathtaking views, and most importantly, dozens of new friends. The days feel like weeks, but not because of boredom, rather, the opposite- because of the thrill of being in a new city, with new people, in a period of time that is utterly life-changing. 


So, long story short- you will become much more optimistic during the first few days. Embrace your life. Process it quickly. Take advantage of everything around you. The sooner, the better. In this case, being pessimistic, anxious, or nervous, no matter how natural it may be, is simply illogical. These first three days are the introduction to what will undoubtedly become some of the best times of your life. 


Good luck CGL students, I hope this blog has helped you so far, 


-Rafa 9/29/23

Day 4

     Well, I’m writing right now just to keep up the habit. However, let me say, that my day three entry has been strongly reaffirmed. Every night is going to be a lot of fun. If you’re a girl, though, be careful- there’s going to be some guys that will try to separate you from the group or try to take you out somewhere late at night, so just stay vigilant. I hope that by detailing this, you’ll be able to be more prepared if and when the situation arises. 


     Today, we had a cathedral tour, and the guides tend to talk your ear off about niche history, so don’t be afraid to take out the earpiece and just look around. If your brain is being flooded with unnecessary information you won’t be able to appreciate the beauty around you. 


     That’s it for today, keeping it short and sweet since it’s 4 a.m. lol. I just had to walk my friend home so he didn’t end up falling asleep on the street. This experience is like the best parts of college all combined without the worry about friends or academics. You’ll find yourself in stereotypical college situations, moments you’ve only ever heard of in stories or seen on TV. Once you’re in those moments, experiencing them firsthand, the reality of being in college will finally sink in. And once again- in the best way possible. Anyway, good night amigos, adios. 


     Also, Spaniards speak with a lisp, so make sure to pick up on that to perfect your accent. 


-Rafa 9/30/23

Day 7

     A full week! Tomorrow we start classes. I’ll let you know exactly what to expect- the difficulty, courseload, and what the professors are like- I’ll make sure you guys know what you’re in for, so you can get the most out of your classes and not sacrifice any fun as well. 


     This past weekend has been pretty incredible. So far, this entire program has just been an overwhelmingly positive experience. My Spanish is the best it's ever been, I’ve met so many new people and had so many new experiences- it's just great, really. On Friday, we went to the Alhambra, which was breathtaking. I’ll upload a bunch of pictures to the blog so you can just take it all in instead of having to worry about pictures. Friday night people stayed in! We had been having so much fun going out the past few nights, as Granada is just such a massive change from our environments at home, taking the opportunity to go out has been a must for most people. So, after four nights of going out, people actually took Friday to rest and prepare for the beach trip. 


     Saturday and Sunday have been by far my favorite days. We went to a beach in San Jose, which is this cozy little beach town nestled between the Spanish hills, with cool, crystal clear water and beautiful, rolling waves. I chose not to hike and stayed with some friends at the nearby beach, but I think either decision would’ve led to great memories. At night, the whole group gathered on the beach. Everyone was having a great time- I recommend setting up a little gathering like the one we had, as everyone bonded immensely and got to know each other really well. 


So, in terms of one week’s worth of practical advice: 

  • Your Spanish will get so much better so quickly. Immerse yourself and don’t be afraid to talk to locals and use Spanish at shops/restaurants. People are really kind here and won’t judge you, rather they’ll appreciate you learning. 

  • THE SERVICE TAKES FOREVER. The waiters take longer to ask you what you want to order, to bring you your food, and to bring you your check. Don’t come in expecting quick service like in the US. It’s honestly been the most annoying part of being in the new culture, and it’s something we all have to get used to. The Spaniards like to sit and talk about the weather for hours. 5-hour meals are commonplace. 

  • Be prepared to get out of your comfort zone but be prepared to embrace that. Don’t limit yourself to one role, or one group- there are so many new opportunities that it can be scary at first, but every time I’ve done something new and scary I’ve ended up appreciating it in the end. 

  • You’ll talk to so many people! I haven’t socialized this much in ages. Don’t worry about finding the right people- CGL Spain is a self-selecting group- you will find yourself surrounded by an open-minded, intelligent, and outgoing group. 

  • Be ready to walk. Bring comfortable shoes, because during the first week, we will walk for hours at a time, whether around the Alhambra or any other sightseeing tour. 


-Rafa 10/1/23

Day 13


      Well, I’m finally settling in. 

     Everybody has made friends, chosen their classes, and gotten used to their host parents and roommates. We’re in the rhythm of things. 


       It’s a great feeling because now we can think about making the best of it. This weekend, I went to a beach town called Nerja, which ended up very similar to the one I wrote about a week ago, San Jose. My roommate went to London, my friend went to Portugal, one group of people went to Paris, and another group went to Barcelona- looking at snap maps, it looked like I had a group of friends in every major city in Europe. 


     Believe it or not, this will repeat itself nearly every weekend. This weekend some of my friends are going to Morocco with Bestlife. I’m going to Portugal. After a couple of months, most people will have been to Paris, London, Venice, Amsterdam, Berlin, and every major city in Spain. 


     This experience will likely take you to more places in three months than you’ve been in your entire life. You will experience more in one day here than in one month of summer. Your first two weeks here will feel like two years, and you’ll love every second of it. You’ll bond with some of the most amazing people you’ve ever met; you’ll be able to say you’ve lived and traveled in Europe. Take everything in. Cherish every moment. Stay on top of your classes, finish your homework as quickly as possible, and go out and create memories that will stay with you throughout your entire life. 


      -Rafa 10/9/23

Day 19

Special edition, personal experience

      This week was a unique one for me. In all the past entries, I’ve tried writing from a more general perspective, including themes that I believe most people would relate to or find helpful in some way. I hope this has been the case so far. However, for this entry, I’m going to venture out of the realm of the general and share a personal experience I’ve undergone in the past few days. 


      A week and a half ago, on Thursday night, I crashed on a Link electric scooter. I flew, shin-first, into a metal pole. In the following moments, I sat down, grabbed my leg, and processed the searing pain. I had a bleeding, open wound, not too terrible, but a wound nonetheless, lining my shin. After the pain had finally ceased, I got back up, and continued on with my night as if nothing had happened. 


     The next day, my friends and I made our way to Nerja, a beach town near Malaga on the Andalucian coast. It cost 30 Euros for two bus tickets, and we found a cheap Airbnb at a great location. With each day of swimming, the salt water slowly ate away at my wound. I thought the sea would serve as the ultimate healing tool and disinfectant, however, I believe I crossed a line, and after three days, my wound was left more apparent and vulnerable than ever before. 


     I thought this was part of the process and ignored the visual warning sign smeared across my shin. After one night back at the dorms, I woke up with a stinging sensation in my shin. I brushed it off, thinking, “It hurts a little more than before, " but it was no big deal. In class that day, the pain gradually increased. In my 8:30-10:30 class, it was an annoyance- a lingering pain that wouldn’t go away. Maybe a soft three on the pain scale. By the time I was in my 10:30-12:30, it had moved up to a four- it had made a point of making itself known- seemingly, my brain hated that I was ignoring it. The pain increased to six during my 12:30-2:30, escalating with every passing second. All I could think about and focus on was how terribly my leg hurt. A throbbing, burning sensation, as if dozens of people with red hot shoes decided to start kicking me up and down my shin, overtook my leg.


    I texted the API emergency contact, and they gave me the address of the nearest hospital and a number to call for the taxi. Sitting and listening to people speak in broken, accented Spanish, about sports and movies in my oral and written production class, for two hours, while my leg was knee-deep in a lava pit, killed me. I vividly remember the unique sensation of making small talk with someone, trying to smile and nod, asking questions about their hometown and whatnot, while feeling like I was suffering from some horrible venom, screaming and cursing inside. 


      After what felt like forty years, I got out of class, limped over to my friend, who’s fluent in Spanish, and told her I needed help getting to the pharmacy.  Despite the severity of my pain, I stayed intent on getting this issue resolved as quickly as possible. After limping to the pharmacy, to my disappointment, they told me I’d need oral antibiotics. My friend and I got in a taxi and went to the clinic. At the clinic, the nurse inspected my wound- upon first glance, she looked at it and said “Oof. Super infetado,” with hand gestures complementing her melodramatic tone. They had no doctor available, so we went to the ER, where we sat for a while, joking endlessly about my leg. Finally, I was sent to a doctor, who prescribed me painkillers and antibiotics. 


     At this point, the lower half of my leg was practically paralyzed, so I shuffled, hobbled, and limped over to the nearby pharmacy with my friend, my arm around her shoulder. There, we got pads, disinfectant, bandages, painkillers and antibiotics. Altogether, this cost 35 euros. The doctor’s visit cost me nothing due to CISI insurance, and the clinic cost 7 euros for the examination fee. With a leg that would’ve been considered gone in medieval times and would’ve cost a minimum-wage employee two weeks' worth of work in the US to fix, I managed to leave with only about forty euros in damages. 


     I planned to go to Gibraltar and Portugal over the long weekend. Instead, I was bedridden on Wednesday and Thursday,  limping heavily on Friday, and only beginning to recover function in my leg this weekend. While people went to Paris and Italy, I watched a French show on Netflix in bed. 


      So, be careful with scooters. If you get an injury, clean it and bandage it immediately, rather than ignoring it like I did. Don’t expect saltwater to be the antidote to your wounds. Expect it to make them worse if you’re in it for a long time. And if you ever do find yourself in a situation where your leg, or your arm, or any other part of your body is infected, head straight to the ER with a friend (I don’t know what the hell I would’ve done if I was on my own), and thank God for the generosity of the European healthcare system. 


      One last thing I’ll add- when I was sitting, alone in my room (my roommate was gone for the weekend), cleaning my wound and bandaging it, I felt truly adult. I thought, this is something that, if it happened a few years ago, my mom would’ve done for me. I would be sitting here, wincing in pain, while my mom gently sprayed disinfectant on my wound and bandaged it for me. However now, it was just me. If I didn’t clean my wound, it would get worse. If I didn’t remember to take my antibiotics and painkillers at the right time, my leg wouldn’t heal, and I’d be back at the ER. There was no one here to tell me to do these things. My health and well-being were in my hands, and my hands only, for the first time. Procrastination, laziness, and blaming others weren’t really an option unless I wanted to be in pain and regress to how I’d felt on Tuesday. Even if I did choose to do this, I’d eventually have to realize that my rehabilitation lay solely in my hands. From now on, I am my own caretaker.


      Furthermore, other than the reality check I’d faced with this newfound, college-freshman independence, I’d been given a lesson on the importance of having friends. Without my friend who went with me to the pharmacy, clinic, and ER, I would’ve been completely screwed, trying to speak Spanish to nurses, doctors, and staff as I underwent the most atrocious pain I’d ever felt in my life. She ensured we got everything I needed at the pharmacy. She was the reason I could sit and rest instead of talking to a million people about technical paperwork and insurance. My roommate, during the days I was completely bedridden, brought me fruit, granola bars, and Red Bull (knowing it’s my favorite drink). He filled my water bottle up for me when I couldn’t walk to fill it up on my own. My friend in the dorms, who also stayed in Granada for the weekend, coordinated with the chefs downstairs, bringing me three meals a day in takeaway boxes so I didn’t have to try to go down myself and risk getting hurt or making my infection worse. After a night out, my friends stopped by the dorms, met me with a big group hug, and we all sat outside (I took the elevator down and limped outside, as my leg was still partially paralyzed), after I’d spent an entire day inside my room in my bed. Without my friends, this experience would’ve been a thousand times worse in every aspect. In times when you need them most, true friends will be there for you, and in those times, you realize how immensely lucky, and grateful, you are to have them. 


          -Rafa 10/15/23

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