Communication studies junior and study abroad columnist Caroline Hollister studied abroad in Spain this past quarter. “After you’ve been the recipient of an act of kindness, big or small, in a situation like studying abroad or simply traveling on your own, you develop an appreciation for it that is truly indescribable, you realize the importance of showing compassion toward others and you become part of the best revolution there is,” Hollister said.
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Caroline Hollister is a communication studies junior and Mustang News study abroad columnist.
Residents of Granada are known throughout Spain for their “malafollá,” or pompous attitude. The story behind this uniquely Granadino term is that the city was created a perfect distance between the mountains and ocean — there had to be a flaw to offset this perfection, and that was accomplished by making Granadinos sour.
On the surface, this reputation holds true: you never see locals — middle-aged and above, at least — on the street without their scarves and sunglasses, which give them an intimidating, almost arrogant appearance. They walk around with their perfectly groomed purebred dogs or with their super-fashionable toddlers, dressed much nicer than myself on a regular basis (apparently children dress even better in Northern Spain … I can’t imagine). However, the minute you approach someone and get to talking, you find this reputation is mostly a façade. The people here, just like in every Spanish city I’ve visited so far, are inherently kind.
My first encounter with compassion, and the diminution of this malafollá theory, happened before I got off the shuttle from Granada’s airport — before I even knew this snobbish reputation existed. I was unsure which bus stop I was supposed to take to meet up with Katy, a good friend from high school also studying in Granada, who I was supposed to stay with until my apartment was ready. I chose the 3rd stop instead of the 4th, and arrived 30 minutes earlier than planned (no, I couldn’t shoot her an iMessage to give her a heads up, and I didn’t have an international phone at the time). A professor from the university who I’d been talking to on the bus also got off at this stop, took me to coffee and waited with me until long after the time Katy and I agreed on. It was then I realized I was probably supposed to be at the 4th stop. Without hesitation, the professor helped me lug my giant suitcase and backpack at least six blocks to the correct stop and waited patiently with me until I found her. And so, within my first hour of landing in my new home, I encountered someone who was not only willing to lend me a hand, but to go above and beyond my expectations.
I’ve had many similar encounters in the past seven weeks since that first kind Granadino. The family I babysit for here is so patient with my less-than-mediocre Spanish, and earlier this week, one of the grocers at the market opened his checkout stand for me when he saw me let an older woman cut in front of me at the end of the mile-long checkout line. Abrahim, my favorite kebab joint owner, welcomes my roommate, Michelle, and me several times a week with open arms (I’m going to turn into a giant pita sandwich before the end of this trip). He gives us unlimited tea, falafels, pita and hummus. He asks about our classes, weekends and travel plans, while teaching us Spanish and Arabic words and giving us little pieces of wisdom. Not to mention, he’s welcomed us into his home and has shared his amazing culture with us.
Those are just a few contradictions to this so-called malafollá. Beyond that, Granada is a city centered around its university, and centered around learning and growing as a result. Everyone is looking to expand his or her breadth of knowledge, to be accepted and understood. It’s only natural, then, that the vibes here are very positive and warm — contradictory to the country’s historic perception of Granada’s plague of pomposity.If this kindness can be found in a population known for its aloofness, then I think it’s something you can discover no matter where you are in the world. The catch is that you don’t really notice or fully appreciate compassion until you’re on your own, outside of your comfort zone when you need it the most. My roommate has a sticker on her laptop that reads “Compassion is Revolution,” and ever since I spotted it, the phrase has been imprinted in my head. After you’ve been the recipient of an act of kindness, big or small, in a situation like studying abroad or simply traveling on your own, you develop an appreciation for it that is truly indescribable, you realize the importance of showing compassion toward others and you become part of the best revolution there is.