I am so excited to be going abroad! This is something I have been wanting to do for my entire life and it is finally here. It is both exciting and scary because I have never visited a foreign country for so long. Before I go, there are a few things I want to keep in mind.
In the next few days you are about to pack up your things to head off to Madrid, where you will be staying for the next four months. It will be both an exhilarating and nerve-wracking experience because four months is a long time away from home. You’d think by now you’d be used to it since you’ve traveled all the way to Virginia from Texas to study at UVA. Texas will always be home and every time you leave you miss it a little bit more each time. However, this is truly a great opportunity to embrace an entirely new culture, converse with the locals, and get an insight into global business.
Stephanie’s letter to self:
My top three goals for studying abroad are to improve my Spanish speaking abilities, to secure an internship abroad, and to see as many Spanish festivals and architectural wonders as possible.
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.