Living in Madrid
At my eleventh grade graduation I was asked, “Where do you see yourself in 10 years?” My response: “Spain.”
Less than five years later, I was on my way to Madrid for the spring semester of my junior year.
Through Cornell, I enrolled in Boston University’s study abroad program at the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, where I took classes to satisfy my major requirements: History and Theory of Museums, History and Theory of Film, Cultural History, and Seminar on Contemporary Spain. Cornell financial aid covered all of my expenses in Madrid, as well as my airfare and visa.
At first, because I had only studied Spanish for two and a half years, my classes were challenging—since the instruction was exclusively in Spanish. But I got used to it and adapted pretty quickly.
In Madrid, I had the opportunity to direct the first scene of my original play, "Life Sentence," which would be performed at Cornell’s Schwartz Center later that spring. I also had the chance to view a wide variety of art forms, including paintings and sculpture, architecture, theater, dance and film. And I visited other Spanish cities: Barcelona, Seville, Córdoba, Toledo and Segovia.
My time in Spain was, in one word, phenomenal. I love the culture, the food, the music, the language, the day-to-day life. I loved my classes, the people, my host family, and all the memories I made with friends.
The students in my classes were very friendly. I also made friends with the people who were involved in staging the scene from my play, as well as with fellow runners in the local Nike Running Club.
Living in Madrid, it was hard not to become a soccer fan. One of my fondest memories was when my host family gave me tickets to watch the UEFA championship match between Rome and Madrid at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu. I got to see Cristiano Ronaldo live and even ran into Alvaro Bello on the streets.
My five months in Spain were a time of self-discovery. I was especially drawn to the Spanish phrase “No Pasa Nada,” meaning “no worries.” I love this phrase. As opposed to drowning in stress, we can instead appreciate the small moments and realize it will all eventually work out.
Studying abroad helped me piece together the puzzles in my mind (which I hadn’t yet figured out,) and see myself in a new light. Sometimes we get too caught up in grades and GPAs, and we forget to live and do what we love.
The expectations of students are different in Madrid because they can retake their exams if they don't pass the first time. Something about the academic environment is less stressful. It's not that the classes were easy, and it's not that you didn't have to do a lot of work. The people are just less competitive, I suppose.
Spain is my dream country. I have always been a fan of Picasso, Gaudi, Dali and Almodóvar. I wanted to see the land of all these great minds.
My greatest challenge was leaving Spain after having fallen in love with the country. I hope to return one day soon.