postcard sent 3/29
Being back in the states I have already begun to miss my previous home for the past 4 months. I miss wandering around Malasana looking for a new restaurant. I miss hearing Spanish on the streets and conversing with people from a totally different culture. I miss going to a sports bar filled with passionate soccer fans knowledgeable about the team and the sport. Thinking about these things along with countless other make me nostalgic about my time abroad. At the same time being home has been amazing. I’ve been able to spend time with my family lounging on the couch watching stupid TV shows, cooking with my mom, and playing tennis with my dad. The familiarity of life back in Arlington is comforting and very relaxing and it really didn’t take much time at all to adjust.
As my time abroad came to an end I spent some time reflecting on my experience in Madrid. I remember just a few weeks before my flight I had second thoughts about my decision to study abroad. Staying in Charlottesville would’ve been the easy way out. I already have a group of friends, I’ll only be two hours away from home, and I’m already familiar with with how things work around campus. Deciding to go abroad was a huge leap of faith for me. Countless people it would be the time of my life but I still had some concerns. I had never been away from my family for this long, I didn’t know anyone going in, and Madrid seemed so foreign to me. I remember even a week or so before leaving talking with my parents about bailing and just staying at UVA for the semester. Looking back I totally get where I was coming from but I’m also so glad I made the choice to step out of my comfort zone and try something that made me nervous. Although every day abroad wasn’t the coolest thing ever, as a whole my experience was completely amazing. I saw some amazing places, met some awesome people and lived in a city all on my own. I don’t want to get too philosophical and pretend like my trip completely changed me, but there are a few lessons that I learned through my experience that will stick with me long after leaving Madrid.
I am on the way back from northern Spain where I spent the last few days exploring San Sebastián and Bilbao. My 5 hour train is taking me through the Spanish countryside, allowing me to enjoy the beautiful scenery of this county that I have called home for the past few months in between my quick naps (because if being abroad has taught me one thing it is how to sleep on any mode of transportation). This trip marks the end of my travels within Spain but I am lucky enough to have one more trip planned to Croatia before I leave Madrid.
I’ve officially left Madrid, and I’m currently en route through the Alps from Switzerland to Munich. These next couple weeks I will be traveling a lot around central and eastern Europe before my final return flight to the US. I figured I would use this last European blog to talk about the major differences I noticed between America and Europe, especially Spain.
I have officially finished finals here in Madrid. After getting back from spring break, I had a week and a half of projects and finals, but I got through them all and am done with the “study” part of study abroad. In realizing that I finished the semester I was struck by how incredibly fast the time has passed since coming abroad. It seems like just a few days ago my mom was saying goodbye to me in Madrid and I was looking forward to having a whole semester in front of me to learn and travel. But now I’ve almost reached the end. As I write this, I am sitting in Lisbon, at the end of one of the last trips I am taking with friends here. Already, a few of my friends have returned home and I am facing the unpleasant realization that my time in Madrid in coming to an end.
I have just returned from a week of spring break travel and am very happy to be back in Madrid. It can get a little exhausting living out of a suitcase, especially when you have to pack economically enough to fit a weeks worth of clothes in a backpack. I’ve gotten very very good at using suitcase space effectively and finding airbnbs with washing machines. We had spring break relatively late in Madrid due to the fact that Easter was so late this year. The entirety of Europe appeared to be celebrating “Semana Santa” as they call it in Madrid. Along with all the college students in Spain, many families in Europe were going on their family vacations, taking advantage of the kids break from grade school. It seems to be the start of tourist season in most of the countries, especially in Southern Europe.
Coming from UVA and having just gone through my first semester at McIntire, my time in Madrid has been significantly more relaxed. Whereas last fall I spent many nights up until 2 am working on group work in the Comm School, this semester I’ve spent many nights up until 2 am doing… well other things. Spain is a land of leisure–not in that they spend more time doing leisurely activities (though they probably do), but that they have many creative ways of enjoying their leisure.
My time in Madrid has come to an end. Last night I packed up the whole room, and this morning I locked my door and turned in the keys. So, I’m sleeping on the couch tonight and heading out in the wee hours of the morning to begin my last European adventure, a 3 week trip around central and Eastern Europe. I will come back to Madrid for about half a day at the end so that I can catch my flight back to the US the next morning. But essentially, this is it.
Earlier this month my parents visited me in Spain and having them here was great. We first spent the first few days down in Seville and Granada during the area’s craziest time of the year, Semana Santa. The Andalusian region of Spain has a deep history in Catholicism so for the week leading up to Easter, they celebrate with processions and festivals. People from all over the country flock to this area known to have the biggest and craziest parades during this time. At first seeing these processions was fairly shocking. Crowds of people would be surrounding these floats depicting a scene involving Jesus or Mary as men and women lead the floats down the street holding candles and wearing these white gowns with pointy hats, very similar to those of the KKK. However, after learning what this celebration meant to the people of the area it all became much more clear. Although historically the holiday is about repenting your sins of the year, at this point the celebration has become much more about tradition then religion. The scenes on the floats usually look very somber but in reality it’s a happy celebration, where neighborhoods gather in the street and embrace this connection with the history of the area. Some people may have been very overwhelmed from all of this commotion but it was actually quite fun to be apart of and we really saw the city come alive.