The countdown has steadily been ticking away and I can’t believe that in just a few days I’ll be boarding a plane and heading back home after four and a half months in Spain. For the most part, the time really does seem to have flown by, but I guess it always seems that way at the end of a semester. This semester has certainly been different though: I’ve been surrounded by a new language, I’ve learned how people in Madrid live their lives every day, and I’ve been lucky enough to have traveled around six different countries.
We recently attended a “Reverse Culture Shock” workshop to learn about how the process of adjusting to life back at home is just as difficult as getting used to life abroad. While I don’t know if I 100% buy the idea of feeling like a foreigner again in your home country, the workshop got me thinking about the differences between living here in Spain and living back in the States. At the workshop, they also told us that in order to get the most out of your study abroad experience, you’ve to got do a little reflecting. So here goes my first attempt at this whole “reflecting” business. I thought it would be interesting to discuss a couple things that I’ll miss about living in Spain, along with a healthy dose of things that I’ll be happy to leave behind. Got to be balanced, right? Let’s get started on a negative note so I can end on a positive one highlight some of my favorite things about Madrid.
Yeah, I know it’s called “study abroad.” And I definitely cannot complain about the workload here. I have to think that if a Spanish student from La Universidad Complutense de Madrid came to Boston for a semester at BC, they would be so overwhelmed by the workload they’d turn right around and fly back home. So while the lighter workload was a nice change of pace, my school here itself, well, wasn’t. I enjoyed my classes overall (save for Spanish Cinema and the fact they started at 8:30am), so the actual learning part was mostly great. Where the learning happened on the other hand … Maybe it’s the combination of dark, frigid, and uncomfortable classrooms, the entryways constantly filled with smokers, or the walls and signs covered in Communist/Socialist/Fascist/Let’s-Rebel-Against-Something-ist graffiti. Whatever it is, Complu doesn’t exactly have the same atmosphere as The Heights. I’m just looking forward to being back on BC’s beautiful campus in the fall, that’s all. Let’s compare.
The sign in front of our building at Complu.
The sign at BC’s main gate.
Another thing that I can’t really say I’ll miss about Spain is the food. If I had to describe typical Spanish food in a single word, I’d probably choose “plain.” They seem to be afraid of anything remotely spicy or seasoned in any way. Spanish cooking uses very few spices and is really heavy on rice, potatoes, pork, ham, and unidentifiable vegetable mush. That being said, I would say that my host mother here is actually a really good cook - it’s not her fault that Spanish food is really awesome at being mediocre. It’s also not her fault that I’m a little put off that Spanish people hardly refrigerate anything. Meat, cheese, eggs, fish, drinks, and even ice cream (ok, not ice cream) are just kept on the counter all day. When eating out, it seems like Spain doesn’t have much of a taste for Mexican food, Chinese food, or BBQ-style food. The rarity of Mexican food here (probably due to its spiciness) is the worst. I want a burrito. And finally, I can’t say I’ll miss the now familiar site of patas de jamón (pigs’ legs) hanging in shop windows.
One little food-related thing I definitely will miss is our tradition of grabbing lunch at 100 Montaditos every Wednesday, when you can choose from their 100 different mini bocadillos (sandwiches), and they all cost just 1€ each. 100 Montaditos, you will be missed!
Since BC is basically in the suburbs of Boston, my semester in Madrid has been the first time I’ve really lived in the city. Madrid really is a beautiful and amazing city and I’ll miss being right in the middle of it all. It has everything - an overload of famous museums, a bunch of distinct barrios, a ridiculous nightlife (They say “Madrid nunca duerme,” or “Madrid never sleeps”), a humungous central park, and of course a rich and interesting history. It’s got traditional bullfights, busy plazas, leaning skyscrapers, and a pretty epic royal palace too. And of course, the most convenient way to easily get around to see all that Madrid has to offer is by hopping on the amazing Metro. Back in Boston we don’t have the luxury of riding a subway that does crazy things like, you know, operate on a reliable schedule. Madrid has a little bit of everything and being the country’s capital, it’s about as Spanish as Spain gets. When I finally leave my homestay on Avenida de América to fly back home to actual America, I’ll miss walking around Madrid, getting lost, and always finding something new in this giant city.
While it’s great to be in Madrid, one of the things I will probably miss most about studying abroad is the opportunity to easily travel all around Europe. When else do you get the chance to decide just days beforehand that you’re going to spend the weekend in Lisbon? And how often do you find yourself climbing the Eiffel Tower in Paris, checking out a carnival for Queen’s Day in Amsterdam, and having Easter dinner at a restaurant in Copenhagen all in the same week? Although I didn’t do as much traveling as some people in my program, I think I traveled just enough for me, and I feel pretty lucky to have had the chance to see all the places I did visit. Getting to see the classic European destinations like London and Paris was great, but I’m really glad I traveled to some cities (like Lisbon or Copenhagen) that are a little off the beaten path too. I love getting to see new places, and I’ll definitely miss how convenient it is to travel not only around Spain, but also around all of Europe.
So there you have it, some things I’m excited to leave behind and some I wish I didn’t have to. There are, of course, more on both sides of the fence, but that’s enough for now. I fly back home on Wednesday, and I’m not sure if I’ll write another post before then, but who knows? Blogging is more fun than studying for two finals though, so you’ll probably be hearing from me again soon. Until then, ¡hasta luego!