On March 24, 2014 I officially confirmed my participation in the study abroad program for Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Spain. I was congratulated with lots of hugs and well-wishes from friends and family who knew this was something I’ve always wanted to do. Studying abroad has been a goal of mine ever since my high school took a trip to Ecuador in 2010 and it completely changed my perspective on the world. But it’s a crazy feeling to think that now I’m actually doing this. It’s not something I’m hoping to do anymore, it’s something I’m doing. I’m going to be in Spain for 9 months. LIVING in Spain for 9 months. At this point I’m both nervous and excited and I don’t think it’s officially sunk in yet about what I’m about to embark on. But I have such high hopes and expectations for all the adventures and experiences I will gain through studying abroad in Madrid.
A couple weeks ago I went to the orientation for my program in Spain and got the 411 on everything I should expect along with what all needs to be accomplished before I leave. It was really great to have people who have been through this exact program talk about their experiences while they were in Spain. It helped to hear this from a real person who was in the exact same position that I am in now. I can only hope that in a little over a year, that person talking about all their wonderful adventures is going to be me.
During the orientation, the past participants touched upon some topics they were nervous about before they left which included taking difficult classes at the university, communicating with people, and searching for an apartment- all of which I am nervous about too. Each semester I’ll be taking approximately 15 credits divided between Complutense classes (which are taken at the university with other Spanish students) and Reunidas (which are classes taken with other study abroad students and follow more of an American style of teaching). Of course all classes will be taught in Spanish but the mix of these two types of classes with allow for a great balance and will be sufficiently challenging. Although I am a Spanish major, I am by no means completely fluent in Spanish. In fact, that is one of the reasons I decided to study abroad in the first place, especially for the year. I’m studying abroad to become better (if even fluent) at speaking Spanish and to learn about the culture through complete language and cultural immersion. I am also very nervous about the process of finding an apartment. I have only known dorm-style living, so hunting for an apartment is something I’ve never had to do. But at the same time, it’s something I’m also really looking forward to doing. How many people can say that they leased their very first apartment in Spain? Either way, by mentally preparing myself now, I know I’ll be ready to start my apartment hunt when I arrive.
Despite my anxieties surrounding classes, communicating and apartment hunting, I still am still overwhelmed with excitement and anticipation. I can’t wait to call the city of Madrid my home. I’ll learn all the great places to eat, relax and have a good time that might not be known to the common tourist. I’ll learn the ins and outs of the metro and bus system as Madrid and I slowly discover one another in the process. Madrid will also provide the backbone as I travel to other places around Europe. I have a passion for travel and I know there will be plenty opportunities for traveling and gaining new experiences while I am studying abroad. Some of the places I hope to visit include Barcelona, Germany, France, England, and Italy just to name a few. Something I didn’t know about this program is that there are planned trips throughout the year that I can take and the costs are already included in my fee. How fantastic is that? By the end of my time in Europe, I hope to have experienced a wide variety of different cultures that aid in my lifelong journey to become cosmopolitan.
So here I am now writing about my hopes, fears, and expectations for studying abroad from my UW- Madison campus dorm room. There is still a lot to prepare for which includes the pain-staking process of applying for a visa (Yikes!). But I’m ready. I’m ready for the good days, the bad days, and all the days in between. This is the time of my life where I have the opportunity to experience something amazing and life-changing. In the next year, I have no idea what my experiences in Spain will bring me. That’s almost what makes it as exciting as it is! But I do know that there is a lot of excitement and adventures to come, so stay tuned.