Now that I’ve gotten settled back in America, I can sit back and review my semester that I’ve spent studying abroad in Madrid. It didn’t live up to all of my expectations, but it definitely surpassed others and even gave me experiences I didn’t even expect. I can truly say that I’ll look favorably on this once in a lifetime experience that I won’t be able to replicate, even if I end up living abroad again in the future.
Over the past semester, I’ve had the chance to experience life in another country, live with a host family, and step outside my comfort zone. I’ve met lots of new friends from all over the world, and have also gotten to know 35 other AU students, a lot of whom I hadn’t met before or didn’t know as well as I do now. I even feel like I know Madrid better in some ways than I know Washington, DC. We’ve traveled all over Spain and the Iberian peninsula and I was able to visit 10 countries in total since I left the United States at the end of December, making for a pretty intense map of travels. I took five classes, three in Spanish and one at a local university, and also sat in on the program seminar and went on the paseos most of the time they met. During the time, my Spanish has definitely improved, especially my listening comprehension and confidence, because you can’t really avoid the language when you live in a Spanish-speaking country. I didn’t meet as many Spanish kids as I would have imagined and didn’t speak Spanish quite as much as I would’ve assumed, but that doesn’t mean we didn’t make new friends or improve our Spanish.
After having the opportunity to go on all of the program-sponsored trips, I feel we can honestly say that we conquered the Iberian peninsula and really got to see a ton of what Spain has to offer. We visited around 25 cities in Spain, the two biggest cities in Portugal, and went on significant trips to 12 of the 17 autonomous communities. I came across the 12 Treasures of Spain recently and was really impressed by how many we’ve had the chance to visit — though one of them (the Cave of Altamira) requires fudging because we visited a different cave, there’s really only one on the contest’s 12 winners that I haven’t visited, the Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar in Zaragoza, Aragón. What’s more, we didn’t just visit these places, we actually learned a ton about them thanks to the hard work of Paco and our other professors at the AU Study Center. Though we obviously did a lot of travel outside of the country too and haven’t done every single thing in the country or been everywhere, we actually feel like we lived in Spain the country and took in all that it has to offer.
I plan on taking a lot of what I experienced back with me to the United States as I begin my senior year. I’m going to try to be more laid-back, enjoying life and no pasa nada, and I’m going to try to be more inquisitive in class and keep my new eagerness to learn, be involved, and experience new things. I’m also going to look at Washington, DC, with a fresh set of eyes. I did many touristy things while abroad and got to know Madrid quite well — I want to make sure I also take advantage of all DC has to offer and explore life outside of monument row as well. Let’s hope I stick to these goals, but regardless, I’m definitely going to look back favorably on the time I spent abroad, especially all I learned, all I experienced, and all the friends I made!
I’ll close with a few of my favorite pictures from my semester abroad, most of which appeared on the blog… but a few are new ones stolen from Facebook. 🙂