After countless hours in the library, my college exams for the year are finally over. In two weeks I fly to Madrid. Between now and until I step onto that airplane, I will be packing, re-packing and reflecting on this past year, and anticipating future, exciting experiences. Even though I have planned and prepared for this study abroad trip for the past six months, it still feels unreal. Every deadline brought me closer to Madrid, and now I am trying to anticipate what I will need. I’m slowly asking myself: what to pack, how warm will it be, who will I meet, how will I get around, and what will I be doing when I’m not in class.
I have read articles about Madrid and why Spain is such a great country to study abroad in. I am really excited about moving out of my safe Spanish classroom in California, and immersing myself into ‘real-life’ Spain. I am imagining delicious tapas, a lively nightlife, friendly local peers, jaw-dropping museums, and a beautiful Spanish countryside. My Spanish classes have taught me times, tenses, definitions of words and phrases, and I hope that my trip will turn all my Spanish words into more fluid sentences and a three dimensional understanding of the language. It will not be easy for me to approach a local and try to converse in Spanish, but that’s the whole purpose of travelling abroad to learn a new language and culture. I already know that I will feel embarrassed and uncomfortable if my Spanish does not sound natural to the locals, but feeling foolish is temporary – I hope. As long as I keep smiling and trying to interact with my local community, I hope to turn my embarrassment into a positive experience.
When I was researching Spain, one thing that stood out the most to me was the rich and multifaceted culture in Madrid. I also read about how Madrid strongly embraces the Spanish mentality of inner happiness and the enjoyment of life. I am looking forward to seeing how a pulsating city with a population of 3.2 million creates that balance between work and relaxation. It is balance that I hope to incorporate in my own life. I hope this summer will expose me to challenges that bring out new sides of me. I have a vision of how the next month will play out, but at the same time I am trying to avoid having too many expectations. I want my new surroundings to surprise me, and I want to stay open to any new adventures that may cross my path.
Barbara Levin is the Summer 2015 CEA MOJO in Madrid, Spain. She is currently a junior at California Polytechnic State University.
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