After nearly 5 months, I am on my flight home to the good ol’ US of A. I didn’t get a chance to post much during the end of my experience 🙁 but after studying for almost 2 weeks straight, the last thing I wanted to do was write or even look at a computer. Once I finished finals, I got the chance to travel to Germany, Austria, Hungary and Switzerland. I have now gone from only having traveled to 2 countries outside of the US to 13!
I have very mixed feelings about returning home. Before I felt as if once I left, my life at home would pause for me and resume once I returned. But a lot can happen in 5 months, and the thought of going home after being completely independent for so long is actually kind of scary. I’m already worried about losing the level of Spanish I have gained in Spain.
Its hard to sit and reflect on my time in Spain while I ‘m so busy thinking about what to expect once I’m home, but I think reflection is an important tool in not only realizing the goals you have accomplished and how far you have come, but what you have to look forward to.
My main goals for my time abroad were to become more independent, improve my Spanish, travel, and make new friends. Sitting on the plane, I am proud knowing I accomplished all these things. Study abroad was NOTHING like I expected, with it being much more challenging than I anticipated. Tough academics paired with getting accustomed to a new country and culture were not a fun combination at times (I’m looking at you Complutense). On top of this, being apart from friends and family while coming to Spain not knowing a single person added to this challenge. But you know what they say, the higher the risk the higher the reward!! Of course, I had the best months of my life and got the opportunity to do all the things I have dreamed about for years, but it wasn’t always easy and fun despite how it may have looked. In the end, I’ve made some of my best friends, learned more Spanish I ever did after 6 years of learning in the US, and learned almost as much about myself in Spain too.
I’m going to miss so many things about Spain. Here is a little list of some things I am already missing:
- Relaxed punctuality.
This is a REAL thing in Spain. I’m saying the majority of my teachers would not start class until 10 or 15 minutes after when it was scheduled to. I will be the first to admit I am always running late. That is just who I am. To say Spain’s nonchalant attitude towards being on time was a blessing is an understatement.
- Long meals
Something that once annoyed me to death when I first moved to Spain was how long you have to wait for service when you’re out to eat. The servers will almost never bring the bill or come check on you unless you flag them down. You are required to sit and enjoy your company for an hour or two after you’ve finished eating. Now I’m realizing how unexcited I am to go back to the US and be practically shoved out the door so the next table can sit.
- The Spanish directness
Again, something I didn’t love at first was how direct Spanish people are. They do not beat around the bush like Americans do, they get right to the point whether its going to offend you or not. Don’t ask them if you look fat in that dress if you don’t want a 100% honest answer. I’ve come to find their honesty refreshing. I don’t know that my “Midwest nice” family and friends will say the same thing if I come home channeling my inner Spaniard and tell it how it is.
- Physical Proximity
The Spanish tend to stand very close to you when talking, and its very common to affectionately touch a friends arm during everyday conversation. Americans love their personal space bubbles, but mine was destroyed in Spain.
- Living in a big city
I know there are big cities everywhere, but Madrid is seriously the BEST! There are things to do for everyone (hiking, sightseeing, shopping, nightlife, etc. ), its almost always sunny and warm, the public transportation is to die for, the light Mediterranean cuisine will ensure you maintain your figure, and the people are lovely! After only living in Madrid for a relatively short amount of time, I felt right at home and am almost offended when people go to Europe and don’t stop in Madrid because why would you not want to stop in Madrid!?
This list does not even begin to cover all the great things about Spain and Madrid that I’m going to miss (I didn’t forget about you 10pm tapas), but it’s a start. I am so grateful for my experience and I know it is something I will cherish for the rest of my life. I hope if anything this post will encourage someone who is on the fence about study abroad to go! If you can fit it into your schedule, this may be the only time you are able to live in a different country and experience another culture so profoundly. Not only did I learn a ton of Spanish, but I learned about myself. These are things I never would have learned in a classroom at home. Not many careers will let you take a few months off to do so. Your life back home will be waiting for you when you return and you will get to bring back an indescribable experience that is unique to you. SO GO STUDY ABROAD!!!!