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Take a Deep Breath

July 22, 2015
by CEA CAPA Content Creator
People will stare at you on the metro. You’re different, and staring is not considered rude in this culture. You kiss a stranger on each cheek when you first meet them, and every other time after then when you say hello and goodbye. Keep your purse in front of you in sight--pickpocketing is present at the most unexpected times. Stretching in public is considered rude, and so is sitting crossed-leg in class. You usually won’t be eating dinner until at least 9pm.
 Enjoying the Famous Retiro Park in Madrid
 View Over Madrid for a Sunset Run

Orientation was not easy. I somehow expected to love a completely foreign place within an hour. But they don’t tell you how overwhelming the first few days feel. After a short night of sleep with severe jet lag, it became a challenge to keep track of all the things I should and shouldn’t do in a foreign culture compared to what I was used to. My head has been bottled up with emotions that are nerve racking, yet also so much excitement that it has kept me from sleeping for at least a few good adequate hours.
 Streets of Valencia

I was sitting at orientation filled with so many emotions that I couldn’t quite find a word to describe. At that moment where it felt as if I could barely keep my head above water, I sat back for just ten seconds and took a deep breath. Then I realized that despite those utmost overwhelming emotions, this is the beauty of traveling. This is exactly--or at least what I am starting to think--the major stage of transition that students going abroad face. It is when the most challenging obstacles stand in your way from settling in and completely immersing oneself into the new culture that surrounds them. At this point, it is all about small adjustments.
 Street Art in Valencia

Once I recognized the beauty behind such terrified emotions, I began to appreciate all the things I was feeling. Good or bad, this is the charm of traveling and I am lucky to be able to feel such strong, yet confusing emotions about my future in such an elegant city as Madrid.

When I first arrived, I kept asking myself practical questions. How exactly do I switch metro lines? What kind of food do I buy at the grocery store? How do I get to school? How do I become friends with local Spaniards? What if I get lost? Although it’s good to be thinking practically about certain things, those concerns can only help me to a certain extent. Within only 24 hours of being abroad, I was starting to let these questions go, and be here in Madrid in the moment. The answers will unfold by themselves everyday I spend here. At first my biggest fear was that I would get lost in this big city by myself. But even after a few days of being here, I am starting to ask myself: Why NOT get lost? Why NOT indulge myself in something that completely sets me out of my comfort zone? That is the purpose of this trip.

 Flamenco with CEA in Madrid

One of the main things that I have learned within my first week of being in Madrid is that being overwhelmingly nervous actually is a GOOD thing. Asking questions is also good, but don’t turn such minor practical questions into large concerns. That attitude can easily become negative and make you feel lost. Once again, I am letting myself be surrounded by my surroundings and not forcefully trying to get answers to all my questions. Such anxiety initially took away time that I should be embracing each moment with any types of emotions. Once I took that deep breath, I started to release the nerve-racking moments and enjoy the endless beauty around me.

Barbara Levin is the Summer 2015 CEA MOJO in Madrid, Spain. She is currently a junior at California Polytechnic State University.

 Playing Soccer at Local Beaches in Valencia
 Gay Pride Parade at Banco de España in Madrid
 Plaza del Sol in Madrid
 Park in Valencia
 Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía en Madrid

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