Well folks, it’s been an entire month. I think I am a true Spanish woman! (Maybe not entirely, but I like to think I’m off to a good start.)
If I have learned anything this month, it is that the best experiences come from outside the comfort zone. To be honest, there has not been a perfectly “comfortable” moment here in Spain.
Leading up to this experience, I was constantly overwhelmed with not having a single clue on what the heck I was doing. Now in Spain, it is a day-by-day process. I am slowly wandering around the city and figuring out my Madrid-life one step at a time. There has not been one day where I haven’t been lost, confused, or completely unaware of what I am supposed to do. But it has been one heck of an adventure so far!
On my second night, we celebrated my Italian flat-mate Claudio’s last night in Madrid. Before we embarked on our evening endeavors, he reminded me of the quote by Ernest Hemingway “Nobody goes to bed in Madrid until they have killed the night.”
In a nutshell, we did exactly that.
Claudio invited Louisa and I to go out with his friends he made that semester. We went out for drinks with other students from the Netherlands, Sweden, Germany, Italy, France and Spain. We met on the terrace of a local bar. We sat outside among the warmth of fire-pits and I listened to the memories shared by a great group of friends.
We continued the night at the iconic seven-story “Kapital,” which is one of the largest and well-known clubs in Europe. We pursued the night the Spanish-way by jammin’ to reggaeton, dancing ridiculously under raining confetti and by finding our way home at 7:30 a.m. It was one of the most fun things I have ever done!
That night was also the moment I learned that it is OK to accept/extend invitations from strangers- like Claudio (who knew me for a day) did for me. It opened my eyes that there are incredible people everywhere around me, and it is discouraged to say “No” and not give a random opportunity a chance.
Since then, I have decided to say “yes” to everything! My random “yes’s” include:
I randomly said “yes” to a day-trip with other students from my university to Toledo, Spain. We ended up accidentally getting ourselves into the middle of the Carnaval (a massive Spanish parade where everyone was in costume) which was one of the most exciting festivals I have ever seen!
I randomly said “yes” to an Italian girl who kept offering me Italian digestive cookies each day in class (Maybe I looked like I needed to digest…I’m not sure). I finally took her cookie one day, and we became friends.
I randomly said “yes” to booking a spontaneous flight to Sweden. I was able to see one of my greatest friends-Anton-for the first time in two years!
I randomly said “yes” to taking a salsa/merengue dance class. Although I lost part of my dignity because of my embarrassing inability to dance, I might have learned a move or two. Most importantly, it was a great night of speaking Spanish and meeting new people.
I randomly said “yes” to taking a tequila shot in my school cafeteria. (yes, my school cafeteria sells tequila. When will I get that opportunity again? )
I randomly said “yes” to a random Spanish dude I became acquaintances with to a walking-tour of Madrid. He showed me the coolest bars, cafés, clubs, restaurants and hang-outs for the local Madrileños. He has helped me learn A LOT of Spanish from 4-hour chats over coffee. He has also become a great contact for all things I need help with in the city!
I randomly said “yes” to going to an unknown-artist’s concert with a fellow Theta that lives in Spain. We may be 4 years apart in age, but I quickly realized how much we had in common. We had an absolute blast exploring Madrid together, and I have found it so comforting to find a friend in her!
I randomly said “yes” to whatever my blind-finger falls on the menu. I ate a tapa with pig’s blood! (Ok, it wasn’t the best thing I have ever had. But at least I can say I tried it!)
My “I randomly said ‘yes’ list” goes on and on.
This experience cannot be described in a better word than exhilarating. I have noticed an incredible escalation of my own confidence. I have not “said no” to things like freaky-looking foods or roaming one of the largest cities in the world alone. I have been meeting people from every continent. I have had the opportunity to travel to new cities. My Spanish skills are improving daily, and awkward invitations (where I was tempted to say “No”) have turned into unforgettable adventures and GREAT friends.
School is officially starting and my new classes are definitely overwhelming. It is intimidating being the only foreign/blonde/English-speaking person in the room. It is a struggle understanding Spanish professors who speak at a pace of 100 mph. I am not going to kid anyone- this whole “school” thing is downright terrifying. However, my university experience is still in the beginning stage. I am still in the process of figuring out my final schedule, as well as navigating my new campus. BUT I am super optimistic that this daunting and challenging process will help me grow in all the ways I need to.
Even though I am sometimes unsure of myself, learning along the way has been my favorite part of studying abroad. So far I have conquered the subway system. I have learned how to pay rent for an apartment each month. I have learned how to maintain conversation for hours with strangers in Spanish. I have learned how to do “grown-up” things such as pay utilities/phone bills, grocery shop and cook each night. I have not hesitated to ask lots of questions. I have become confident in traveling the world.
Everything seems to have fallen perfectly into place, and I am proud of how much I have progressed. I am SO glad I “randomly said yes” to throwing myself into this new culture, because this experience has been everything I have dreamed of and more.