Wednesday, May 23, 2018
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A semester in Spain and places beyond

Travel bug bites 2009 Gothenburg graduate.

From the minute Hilary Messersmith stepped off the plane in Granada, Spain, life has been one enormous adventure.

Sipping tapas in Spanish cafes to riding camels in the Sahara Desert to traveling to the top of the Eiffel Tower were just a few of the highlights for Messersmith.

The Doane College student, and 2009 Gothenburg High School graduate, recently returned from a semester of studying Spanish and traveling about the European continent and to Morocco.

Sprinkled between learning Spanish grammar, conversation and culture at the University of Granada Center of Modern Languages were trips to Italy, France, England, Ireland, The Netherlands, Portugal and Morocco.

“It was life changing,” Messersmith said. “And I also realized what my priorities in life should be.”

While in Granada, she lived with a host family and two other students.

“The family didn’t have a lot of materialistic things like cars,” Messersmith said, noting that she lived comfortably with the family and other students in a four-room apartment.

Walking to school each day, which took her half an hour, allowed Messersmith time to view the city, to watch people, to think and pray and to enjoy beautiful graffiti.

“Here we want bigger and better and to go faster to do more things,” she explained. “In Granada, it’s a much slower-paced lifestyle and family is huge.”

She enjoyed long midday meals with her host family during the 2-5 p.m. siesta.

Messersmith also accompanied her host mother on trips to the market to buy food.

Besides her university classes, a Granadian highlight was ordering drinks with plates of snacks on top called “tapas.”

Messersmith explained that the practice originated with Andalusian tavern owners who used plates of food to keep away flies attracted to sweet drinks.

While in Granada, Messersmith and her friends explored the city and hiked in the surrounding Sierra Nevada mountains.

They also trekked the La Alpujarra region, near Granada, and stayed overnight in mountain pueblos, attended a flamenco show (a Gypsy dance) in a cave and tried local delicacies such as paella—a local rice dish and Spanish tortillas with brains from a bull killed during a bull fight.

On several weekends and holidays, Messersmith and her friends traveled to other cities by train, plane and bus where they stayed in hostels.

Highlights of those visits included:

seeing Pope Benedict XVI while touring the Vatican in Rome.

exploring caves and surfing the waves off Lagos, Portugal.

traveling to Paris and the Eiffel Tower under which Messersmith and a friend always ended their evenings.

visiting Morocco where she and friends traveled by camel, and camped, in the Sahara Desert for three nights.

“We had studied the Muslim religion in class so it was neat to see mosques and people praying five times a day,” she said, noting that they also climbed the highest peak in the desert where they spotted the Algerian border in the distance.

During her semester of study abroad, Messersmith said she didn’t sleep much.

“I wasn’t going to waste a second because I wanted to live every day to its fullest,” she said.

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