As I sit here in the Madrid airport waiting for my flight home, I reflect upon an unforgettable trip full of newfound stories and learning experiences. Summing up an action packed eight days is near impossible, but I’ll try my best to do it justice.
I have never been a city person (yes I’m looking at you Boston and New York). Instead, I’m one who appreciates the peace and quiet of areas outside the city; I can’t stand the hustle and bustle of city life. Still, I held onto hope that Madrid would change my perspective on big cities, and that it did. I learned from my time in Madrid that my issue isn’t with big cities themselves, but rather the environment created by the people in it. Speaking from experience, I can tell you that it is a disservice to Madrid to compare it to a New York City or Boston.
People in Spain do life different, and they do it right. What is there to life if we give into the “go go go” atmosphere that many Americans abide by? Spaniards understand this, and it reflects in their culture. During our time in Madrid, we endured many lengthy meals and slow walkers. While this was initially frustrating for many of us Americans, I learned to embrace this culture. I challenged myself to enjoy our two and a half hour meals and not get frustrated when our futile attempts at signaling “la cuenta por favor” to the waiter failed. Meals in Spain are seen as a time for relaxation and a break from the monotony of a work day, often taking breaks as long as three or more hours for their meals. When walking the streets, I challenged myself not to plow through the snail-paced crowds to get to our destination faster but rather to slow the movement of my feet and take in the views around me like the locals were doing. Life is precious and goes by too fast, so adopting the Spanish attitude of taking it all in and enjoying every second is something I hope to bring back to my everyday life with me, even if it may seem difficult to adapt to an American lifestyle.
Lessons aside, I think I can speak for everyone when I say that it was a trip we will never forget. Our arrival into Madrid simply did not feel real to many of us. Walking through the streets on our first day in the city, many of us kept repeating the phrase “we’re in Madrid right now”, as if to convince ourselves the experience was real. Only now as I sit here and write this reflection does it finally feel real to me. Our time in Madrid may have been short, but we most definitely made the most of it, getting roughly five hours of sleep every night and spending almost all of that time not spent sleeping out of the hotel and soaking up the city.
Being such an action packed trip, it’s hard to discuss only a few favorite things, but these would most definitely be some of the highlights. One of my favorite things about Madrid was the magnificent sights. Ranging from the historic architecture of buildings such as the Royal Palace to the wide-open, lush greenery of Retiro Park, there’s certainly no shortage of bliss-inducing views in the city. Even outside of the city, Spain had even more extraordinary views to offer at sights such as the Valley of the Fallen and the city of Toledo, which each have a fascinating history and background of their own. While all of the sights that we saw were undoubtedly awe-inspiring as they were, the rich history behind each somehow makes it all even more amazing. Each sight to see in Madrid has its own story to tell, and that all connects back to the evolutionary history of the city into what it has become today.
In addition to the educational experiences we had in Madrid, there was also plenty of time for fun. Some of the best memories made and laughs we had were simply from walking around the city, laughing at our own mistakes and lack of knowledge being in an unknown environment. There were also plenty of Spanish errors that lead to unintended translation among a group of zero fluent Spanish speakers. However, learning from our mistakes, especially when practicing language, is vital to improvement. We also had plenty of laughs when taking flamenco lessons, making plenty of wrong moves and embarrassing ourselves in the process. The same can be said about when we were watching our classmates fight a bull in virtual reality at Las Ventas bullfighting ring. Again embracing the spirit of Spanish culture, we shared lots of laughs and really treasured life in moments like this.
In order to get the most out of experiences like our study abroad trip to Madrid, you have to be ready to fail and embarrass yourself. It’s inevitable for everyone, and if you fear this, you won’t be able to get the most out of the experience. Our group really embraced this attitude, allowing for a fun and unforgettable trip. I’m very thankful to UML, Professor Zabalbeascoa, API, and more importantly my classmates for making this trip as memorable as possible, and I anxiously look forward to my next trip abroad.