Planning for a Year in Spain

A couple months ago I found out I was accepted to the academic year program at the Universidad Complutense in Madrid, Spain. This will be my second study abroad program in the past year. During winter break I went to San Jose, Costa Rica for a 3 week intercession where I took a 3 credit literature course. Since I delayed in starting the application for Madrid, I actually ended up writing some of the essays for the program while I was at the airport on my way back from San Jose. Upon my arrival back to the states, I hurried to be sure I turned all of my materials before the due date.

When I found out that I would be spending the next year overseas I felt a mix of excitement, nervousness, and relief. The relief was because I wasn’t planning on staying in Madison again for the next year, I hadn’t signed a lease on a place to live, and was really hoping for a change of pace from the heavy load of science classes I had been taking the past few semesters.

The nerves came when I realized how difficult it was going to be adjusting to taking classes and speaking in Spanish all day. I had gotten a taste of this in Costa Rica when I was with my host family, but it was a different scenario since I could always speak English with the other people in the program. However, I also decided I wanted this challenge and that I wanted to push myself to struggle with my Spanish and not to give up and speak English. Since I didn’t have time in my schedule to take any Spanish classes this year I needed to figure out different ways to practice. To start I borrowed the first Harry Potter book in Spanish from my girlfriend, which I enjoyed tremendously. I liked that I was able to piece together sentences I didn’t know since I was familiar with most of the lines already. Also, I had heard talk of the Spanish tables in the Memorial Union where people just go and speak Spanish, so I decided to give them a try. I found out there is quite a diverse crowd that attends regularly. I’ve spoken to professors, fellow students, native speakers, and even a few people who had done the Madrid program in the past. The Spanish tables have been both a lot of fun and great practice. I would highly recommend them to anyone who wants to practice since the best way to improve is by speaking.

Of course, the emotion I felt the most was excitement. Everyone I’ve talked to who has been abroad always tells me about what an incredible experience they’re had. And the ones who didn’t go always tell me how much they wish they would have. While it may be a bit daunting, I couldn’t be more enthusiastic about what lies ahead. I realize that this may be the only time in my life that I am able to spend an extended period of time in a different country and I intend to take full advantage of it.

However, I’m not in Spain yet and there is still plenty to do in preparation for next year. About a week ago we received information about how to apply for our visas. The process is supposed to take a few months so it’s important to begin early and avoid the stress of trying to hurry once the end of summer rolls around. Along with applying for a visa I have also had to figure out when I want to arrive in Europe and work on finding a flight. Since I will be free towards the end of August I decided I would take the time to explore other parts of Europe that I might not have a chance to see during the school year. The bad news is that it has been pretty difficult to balance planning a trip with all the work that piles up during the school year. This means at this point I’m not sure where I’ll be going. The good news is that, as my dad told me, “you can’t choose wrong in Europe because pretty much everywhere you go will be amazing”.