The GoGlobal Blog

¿España?

¿España?

¡Hola! It only seems fitting that now as I prepare to start the last part of my study abroad that I blog again. I started this amazing and wonderful year in Europe blogging, and now, I shall finish it blogging. To date, I have lived and studied in two counties in Europe: Freiburg im Breisgau in Germany, and Roma in Italy. And now, it is time to start country number three: Madrid, Spain.

The last time I started a blog for Loyola, I was sitting at my home in the US, wondering if I would be able to handle studying abroad for 10 months, or if my language skills would be able to get my through University in a foreign country in a different language. Well, some things have not changed. I am still wondering if my language skills will be good enough for University in a foreign country. However, this time I am not looking out over the cornfields of central Illinois. Instead, I find myself wondering these same questions as I sit in my cousin’s dinning room outside the city of Madrid.

It has been a crazy year so far. I have gone from the United States to Germany to Italy, and now Spain. I have made the language switch from English to German to English/Italian, and now, I am attempting to switch to Spanish. In one week, I will be moving into University housing in Madrid, with roommates I have never met, who may or may not speak English, and will start class at Universidad Rey Juan Carlos. Since taking Spanish at Loyola my freshman year, I have since taken 2 semesters of Italian and had an intensive language program in Germany. Thus, I do have a few concerns about taking Spanish again. But if going to Italy is any indication, after speaking it and hearing it, it will come back.

Until 2 June, though, I am enjoying my “summer vacation”. After I finished classes at the John Felice Rome Center in Roma, I traveled for two weeks with my sister in Greece and Spain. When she left last week to return to the US, I came here, to my cousin’s house. This time has not only allowed me to start to make the transition into Spanish culture and language, but to also take some time and reflect on this past year, and help me decide what I want to do to make the most of these last 38 days in Europe. So here is what I have come up with, which I guess also doubles (for some parts) as advice to anyone who will be studying abroad, either this summer, next year, or in the future:

1. I have taken many photos, from side trips, to random moments with friends, to daily life. However, it seems that the best moments happen when my camera is at home sitting on my desk. Therefore, I want to have my camera (with plenty of batteries!) with me as much as possible. There are so many moments that I have captured on film and I am grateful that I have them. So for all those who will be studying abroad (or even those at school in the States), bring your camera and take those photos, random or otherwise! You will enjoy them and cherish them, even photos of simple items such as a bus stop you use every day.

2. Get out of the apartment and live and explore!!! Last semester I spent way too much time inside or in the library. Yes, I do need to study and do homework, but that can be done outside at a cafè or in a park. I want to see the city, the country, and enjoy the life here. After class, I want to do homework as soon as possible and then get out and see all that I can. You only have this opportunity once! Make the most of it. As Mark Twain said, “Never let formal education get in the way of your learning.” I plan to make this my motto for these last days in Europe.

3. Jump into the culture and language. In Italy, I was afraid of making too many mistakes with Italian. Thus, I shied away from going out and using the language. I would rely on others who were better at the language. I learned later in the semester that this fear held me back. Thus, in Spain, I want to go out and use Spanish as much as I can, even if I make many mistakes. I know more people than not appreciate you attempting to speak their language, and the language of your temporary home, than not. They don’t mind that you make mistakes. Some may even help you and further your knowledge of the language! It also can help you make friends and allows you to see more, as people might even suggest places to go, things to do, or even foods to try.

4. Be better at blogging and recording what I see and do in Spain. I wasn’t the best blogger for my family and friends this past semester. And looking back, it was foolish. While I do have 5.000 plus photos that jog my memory of many events, reading about them is better. There is more information contained in words in combination with photos. These memories are to precious to me to forget-thus in conjunction with goal number 1, I want to blog/write anywhere from 2 to 3 or more times a week. Yes it will take time, but it is worth it. I also know I will really appreciate the written record next year, and in the years to come, when I am missing my friends here in Europe and the adventures we have had.

5. Don’t worry about returning to the US. This may sound strange, but I am terrified of returning. A lot has changed in the past year, not only in my life, but in the world. I have grown as a person, spirituality, athletically, mentally, and emotionally. That is part of the process of growing up and university, along with studying abroad. However, I have kept in contact with my friends from the US, and my friends from various countries here in Europe that I have made since August. I know that with a bit of effort that will continue because it is important to me and to them to keep these friendships alive. I also know that I have many friends in the US who have been abroad and have returned. They are there to help ease the transition back to the American culture and lifestyle, as others were there for them.

6. Do what I want to do, even if it means doing it alone, such as going to a museum that I want to see. This may sound silly, but it is true. It is one of the hardest things to learn while abroad. You want to be with someone you know as you are in a new environment and the companionship makes life easier. But, I only have this opportunity once. Thus, I am going to take full advantage of it. There were a few times last semester that there was something I really wanted to do, but no one else wanted to, and thus, I did not do it. While I do not regret my decision, I also know that I held myself back in those instances. Thus I am not going to let that happen here. I am going to live life to the fullest extent possible.

I think Buddha sums up all of these goals perfectly: The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, not to worry about the future, or not to anticipate troubles, but to live in the present moment wisely and earnestly.

So for now, it is about time for bed as it is 23.00 here in Spain. I leave you with the following photos. Enjoy! And check back soon!

Joel

Toledo, Spain

The Royal Palace in Madrid, Spain

Plaza de España, Madrid, Spain

Sunset in Spain

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