My name is Myah Wells and I am a rising junior at Loyola. I am a double major in psychology and Spanish and a double minor in psychology of crime and justice and Arabic. I knew before I even started college that I wanted to study abroad. I started looking into programs and originally thought I would go to Australia. I ended up choosing Granada, Spain not only because I had already done a month long faculty-led study abroad program in Cordoba, Spain in June 2019 and I was a Spanish major, but also because of the large amount of Arabic influence in southern Spain. I was going to be able to experience Spanish culture and Arabic culture in this one city and I could not have been more excited. Little did I know that my study abroad experience would be a once in a lifetime experience in many ways.
Upon my arrival in Granada, I could see Arabic influence everywhere. It was in the artwork and architecture as well as the food. It was really cool to see the connection between Spanish and Arabic culture as well as how they were intertwined to create this city. I took classes on Spanish Art History and on Spanish Civilization and Culture . Although both of these classes were focused on Spanish culture, it was interesting to learn about how Arabic culture was at the base of southern Spain. Southern Spain was, and still is, very Moorish. The Cordoba Mosque and the Alhambra are the most obvious because they are Islamic works of art.
I learned about the Islamic king that lived and ruled in Spain centuries ago and how they built these mosques and fortresses. The Alhambra was built almost like an entire city behind those walls in a location that would allow the king to see anyone coming from miles away. It was very strategic. Being able to learn all of this made me feel very honored and proud to say that I was learning Arabic and Spanish and that these two cultures that I had chosen to study were actually a lot more alike than I had imagined.
The first time I went to Spain I spent a weekend in Granada and we all went to the Alhambra, but I was excited to get to go again. It was a lot more fun this time because I was able to read some of the Arabic on the buildings and walls. There were two other people in my group who knew some Arabic, so we had fun working together to figure out what some things said. We spent a few hours there and I definitely enjoyed the Alhambra more now that I had an understanding of Arabic language and culture. I also really liked that people would sometimes ask me about the Arabic on the walls and ask me how to read some of it because I will always take the opportunity to share another culture with someone else.
One of the last nights I was there two of my friends and I went to an Arab bath. The Arab baths are a huge part of the culture in Granada and if you ever go to southern Spain you have to go to an Arab bath. I only wish I was able to spend more time in Spain to learn even more about the places where Arabic and Spanish culture meet.
During my time abroad, two of my friends and I decided to take a trip to Morocco for the weekend. Since we were in Southern Spain, we just had to take a bus to the coast and then it was an hour long ferry ride across the Strait of Gibraltar. Out of the three of us, I was the only one who could speak Spanish almost fluently and one of my other friends and I spoke some Arabic. I noticed very quickly that if we spoke Arabic, or even Spanish, it got us a lot further and worked out a lot better for us than if we spoke English. I would use this to my advantage by greeting people in Arabic and then conversing in Spanish. My friends and I were able to get things a lot cheaper from street vendors when we spoke Spanish because they said we were their “neighbors from the north across the water”. This just showed us how much influence Arabic culture has on Spain, but also how much influence Spanish culture has on Morocco.
I was definitely sad that after seven weeks in Granada I had to be sent home because of corona virus, but I know that I will be back one day and I will be able to learn even more about the Arabic influence in southern Spain. For anyone wanting to experience two amazing cultures in one and also be able to travel to Morocco for a weekend (like two of my friends and I did), I highly recommend studying abroad in southern Spain.