I can now say that I’m in my final two weeks in Madrid, which seems surreal. I feel like I just got here and like I’ve been here forever, which makes no sense at all. In between freaking out about studying for my millions of finals, I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting on my experiences these past months. I’ve learned so much about this country I’ve loved calling ‘home,’ about the world, and even more about myself.
- There are so many ways to make a foreign place feel like home. These past few months, I’ve really worked hard to make Madrid feel like my own. For me, this meant that I needed some form of routine or I’d go crazy. I loved living with a host family so that I had people to come home to and space to call mine, and was provided with meals at specific times every day. My friends and I take the metro daily and have weekly hangout spots. I always need some time to do my own thing so I found a dance studio with weekly classes I attended. A few of us even volunteered teaching English classes at a local high school, and tutoring at an after-school program for younger children. Not only did this make my experience in Spain more rewarding, but I felt more welcomed. When walking down the street I don’t seem like a tourist; people ask me (in Spanish) for directions because I live here. Madrid is my city, too.
- It stinks having to do homework when all you want to do is explore. When I decided to study abroad, I was so excited to see the world that I didn’t exactly think too much about the whole schoolwork part. While I’ve been here, work I had to do has sometimes felt like a roadblock. Going to the library to study isn’t an option when you go to such a small school in a big city. Going home in the afternoon after classes means there are so many distractions; I would often stay at the school until it closed at 8pm to get homework done. Being in a foreign country with so much to see makes doing work so much harder. The thing about Madrid is that there’s always something to do: a fitness class at the park, free entrance to some club, a restaurant to check out, or a museum to go to for class. When you’re traveling for the weekend, you don’t want to be lugging your laptop around in your backpack. To be completely honest, though it’s necessary, homework can be the last thing you want to do. While studying abroad, even more so than while I’m at Endicott, I’ve needed to find the balance between schoolwork and social life.
- I have mixed feelings about coming home. At this point, I miss my friends and family so much that I’ve been counting down the days until I get to see them again. That doesn’t mean, however, that I’m not incredibly sad about leaving a city that’s always bustling and so full of life. I’ll miss meeting up with my friends at 100 Montaditos, laughing about our hilarious weekend adventures, or being on a mission for churros at 4:30am. Though I have a countdown going, it doesn’t seem possible that at the end of it I’ll be back home in my tiny little town. Somehow it seems more plausible for me to jet off to another country than to go back to my ‘real life’ in the United States. I already feel as though I’ll be leaving a chunk of my heart in Spain, but there are many things I am looking forward to at home. I can’t wait to be reunited with my family after four months, to see my dog’s tail wagging when I walk through the door, and to he back at the nest with all my friends. Though I’m sad to see this chapter in my life come to a close, I can’t wait to see what kinds of adventures the next chapter holds.
- There are some things I would do differently. I’ve come to the conclusion that there is absolutely wrong with this, though, because it doesn’t mean that I didn’t love all the crazy experiences I’ve had. I would have loved to make more Spanish friends, so maybe if I were to do it again, I would pick a larger university to attend. I wish I spent more time at the beautiful parks in Madrid earlier in the semester when it was nice out. My only real complaint is that there’s just never enough time (or money!); I didn’t get to see all the places I wanted to see or do all the things I wanted to do. This time around skydiving and visiting Portugal, for example, didn’t get checked off the list. But I guess when you’ve gotten to explore twenty-four cities in seven countries during one trip, while also going to school four days a week, you’re not allowed to complain. And anyway, that’s just even more incentive for another journey!
- I can see the world through different eyes. This study abroad experience was a chance for me to grow as a person. When you travel not everything works out 100% like you thought it would, which is often the best time to learn about yourself and how you react to the unexpected. I’ve missed flights, gotten sick in foreign countries, and spent twenty hours on a bus from Spain to Germany. When things go wrong or when they are not-so-ideal, sometimes all you can do is laugh it off. So many more things will go right, and they have for me. Previously known to the world as directionally challenged, I’ve somehow gotten my friends and I around countries I’d never been to before. I have learned many ways to communicate with people whose language I don’t speak. However, I’ve also learned about my own weaknesses. I have a strong personality and I know that I’m not always going to get along with everyone, no matter how hard I try or how much I want to. I’ve learned that, even if it can often be convenient or helpful, I don’t always need to be in charge. I’m still always late for everything… still working on that. Although I love to have things planned out- you should have seen my itinerary for 9 days in Italy- I am learning to love just going with the flow. These four months abroad have confirmed what I previously thought; that my life isn’t meant to be lived in one place. I’m able to be the best version of myself when I’m more conscious of the world I live in.
If you are passionate about traveling, want to become a more well-rounded person, need a change of scene, or are looking for a challenge: study abroad. I dare you to discover the experience. You won’t regret it….