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First Few Days as a Madrileña

Hola! My name is Lauryn. I'm currently a Senior at Belmont University studying Exercise Science with a Spanish Minor. As you can tell, I'm currently studying abroad in Madrid, Spain for the fall of 2017 in the Spanish and Language Program. It has now been one week since I left the United States to embark on the adventure of studying abroad and to say that is has been absolutely breathtaking is an understatement.

Pre-Departure for my study abroad trip, I felt alright. I was excited! I was buying lots of new things for my trip like a duffle bag, clothes and other little things I needed to last me for 4 months. I kept myself occupied packing the months before my trip because I didn't really want to face my emotions of fear about leaving the comfortable state I was in in America, which wasn't my best idea. It's hard to just get up and leave your family, friends and life and live in a place completely new and unknown. Preparing for such a culture shock isn't exactly simple either because you never know what to expect. Also being a senior in college now, I knew I only had one year left and so the feeling of “FOMO” (Fear Of Missing Out) consumed my mind about missing all these activities back at my home university for the semester and thinking that I was going to miss so much, like sorority recruitment, basketball games, cookouts, and all the things I love about my school and would only be able to experience one last time. And all these feelings are real, it's hard to avoid, but I knew that I felt so pulled to go abroad and spread my wings a bit further. I had to keep reminding myself that greater days are about to come and this experience is going to be greater than all I’ve done yet. Now, the thoughts of fear and anxiety surely didn't stop just pre-departure. On my plane ride to Madrid, more thoughts were racing through my head, "Am I making a mistake?" "Should I really be doing this?" "Will people like me?" "Will I fit in?" "Will I make friends" "I have absolutely no idea what I'm doing" and I'm not going to lie, it was terrifying (it also didn't help that I had a 7 hour plane ride to sit with my thoughts). But then I read all these hand-written letters and text messages from friends and family back home and it reminded me that everyone is supporting me and cannot wait to see me grow. Those people are just a phone call away and that I’m not alone in this journey, so I should spread my wings and fly into the unknown. And then the excitement kicked in more because I was about to land in a country I had NEVER been to before and another chapter of my life was about to begin.

Once I stepped foot off the plane, I was excited and I was ready. My bags were not lost and so my process of getting out of the airport and through customs was quite simple. I was picked up by a member of CEA and shortly after, met 2 people who were a part of my program. From my first few interactions, I knew I was going to be okay. The people I met were so genuine and nice and we all shared the same feelings of “We’re excited, but also scared at the same time!” We were then taken to our apartment in the city, roughly 25 minutes from Madrid Barajas International Airport. I live with 7 other girls in an apartment, which overlooks the bustling, popular street Fuencarral, which has tons of shops, restaurants, and delicious gelateria's (gelato shops).

The excitement for the next couple months in this city began to grow and grow every minute once I realized how many incredible things there are to do! The same day I arrived, I met my roommates and my advisors for the semester. My roommates are all from different places and backgrounds, which I have come to realize is one of the coolest parts of this program because you get to learn about everyone's experiences and you all are embarking on this journey together. Our entire CEA program finally met up for our city tour with our advisors, who are hands down the most incredible people I have ever met. They are kind, caring, and friendly and have done and continue to do everything they can to make us all feel right at home. Our tour was full of incredible sights and information on things to do/not to do in the city. We saw a beautiful garden that overlooked one of the palaces here in Spain, as well as other churches, restaurants, parks, and more!

 Here is a picture of the Royal Palace in Madrid by a garden
 This is another view from our city tour of the Royal Palace of Madrid and the beautiful sunset

This was only a short snippet of this great city because we have so much more to explore here in the next 4 months. After my first day in Madrid, I felt confident and ready to explore a new place and experience new things. The next day our entire CEA program got to have lunch on top of a roof at a restaurant, where we ate calamari sandwiches and had the iconic and popular drink in Madrid, fanta with lemon. Afterwards, a few friends and I went to go explore Madrid a bit more. We heard about a park called El Parque de Retiro and heard it was very beautiful, so we decided to go see what the talk was all about. Let me tell you, this park was huge and so breathtaking. They have a small pond that you can take boats out on, you can sit and have some churros with chocolate or walk around and see the various sites in the park. Around the park, you can find sites like the Palacio de Cristal and Pabellon de los Jardines de Cecillo Rodriguez.
 A few of my friends and I at the rooftop restaurant where
we got to see an incredible view of the city!
 3 (of the many) incredible new friends I've made
in front of the Palacio de Cristal

Every day there’s something new to experience and someone new to meet and I feel like time has already gone by so fast. I’ve lived in Spain for over a week now and I feel like I just got here. I’ve learned so much already within the 7 days I’ve been here and I’m already starting to feel more comfortable. The transportation in Madrid is excellent. You can get just about anywhere by hopping onto the metro. Also, the people here are kind and love when people try to speak Spanish because they’re trying. I’ve noticed that Spaniards want to help you learn the language and want you to try because it’s the only way you’re going to learn. I could go on forever talking about the people here and how absolutely amazing they are and how much I’ve learned, but I’ve decided to save that for another post J If there’s one thing I want you reading this to remember, is that going to a foreign country can be pretty scary and it’s difficult, but at the same time it’s exciting and there won’t be a lot of opportunities for you to live in another country for 4 months. So if that opportunity comes your way, TAKE IT. This is coming from someone who’s only lived it so far for 7 days and I’m telling you, you will not regret it for a second.
 2 of my roommates and I after our first day of school!

Lauryn H. is the Fall 2017 MOJO Blogger in Madrid, Spain. She is currently a Senior studying Exercise Science at Belmont University.

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