From Classroom to Culture





City of Granada 

Today is the one month anniversary of me studying abroad. I have learned to conform to the culture, traditions, behaviors and language during this first month abroad. What makes this experience different than anything I’ve ever done is learning about these customs first hand.

I’ve spent many of my time contemplating where exactly I want to visit, and why? I understand now that after learning about the history of Spain, being here is completely different. You surround yourself with Spanish streets filled with Spanish history. It takes a lot of longing, desire, as well as courage to fly overseas, but the one month has taught me that it is well worth the ride.

The past three days in Granada has shown me that a single place can hold so much history. To see it in the present day can be both astounding and/or alarming. It is beautiful to look at the monuments, churches, palaces etc. Through them you can understand what life was like back then, who these people are or what they have been through.

Yet, what makes me sad is witnessing what their life is now. Streets so rich with history, now filled with poverty. It breaks my heart. Growing up in an average american education, history is taught to children from age 8 to about age 18. In the ten years of history education I was convinced that Europe was currently the greatest, richest, and most prosperous. The one month of being here has taught me that I was incorrect.

Royal Chapel of Granada 

Growing up, history was my least favorite subject. I always believed one had to be very skilled and smart to “memorize” the facts or information regarding a certain topic. Visiting the Royal Chapel of Granada has taught me that I am a visual learner. All the information that I sought was answered in front of me. Suddenly the people I have learned about in my art history class became real. As I stood directly in front of the dead bodies of Queen Isabel and King Fernando, I realized that they were humans and not just facts in a history book.

The Chapel was filled with beautiful artwork and artifacts. What I was most astonished to see was Queen Isabel’s crown. It was hard to believe that the crown was from the 16th century Gothic era. It still shined like brand new gold. Her crown next to her mirror, both touched and used by Queen Isabella for many years. When I looked into her mirror, I thought about what went through her mind.

Was Queen Isabella the same person we learn about in class? When she looked at her reflection did she see the person we know and learn about? Or did she see someone else? I looked into that mirror and realized Queen Isabella was like any other being. She has a heart, soul, and mind. In that moment I put myself in her shoes, Isabella to me was notorious for being evil, but after standing in front of these artifacts I can understand now that her life was over her control. I look at that mirror and know that Isabella saw herself in a way completely different than the one we learn about.