Exams are over, and I have officially said all my goodbyes so I thought it would be fitting to do a reflective piece on my first semester in Madrid.
A lot has happened in 2017, and one of the most important things for me was starting my year abroad in Spain. Like most students, I was both excited and terrified at the beginning. However, I was also ready for the challenge. I have learned that to grow and accomplish great things; you sometimes need to do things that are terrifying for you. That, my fellow readers, was what this semester was all about; stepping out of your comfort zone.
Here are my top 5 first semester experiences and what I learned from them.
1 Spaniards: They are an expressive bunch. At least the ones I had the pleasure of meeting. They are also very crude, though I have to give them some credit since they have the most creative and colourful ways of expressing themselves. The most surprising factor for me was the fact that most do not speak any English at all. When I first arrived, I remember how much I struggled to order something when eating out. Now, I would like to think I’ve become much better at it. It also helps that most of them provide you with an English menu, you just need to ask for it. I have become accustomed to using the Spanish one which I am quite proud of. Personally, I find Spaniards to be a friendly, chatty group which is why I quickly found myself engaged in interesting conversations from the very beginning.
2 Travelling: In a previous post, I wrote about how you should have a list of all the places that you wanted to visit but not be disappointed if you only see a fraction of it. The reality of the situation is that you may get overwhelmed with the number of things that you will have to do and experience so having a long list of places that you want to visit can be disappointing if you do not get the chance to visit them in the end. I did manage to cross a couple of places off my list during the semester such as Zaragoza, San Sebastián, Bilbao and Toledo which I will write about in another post. For now, let’s just say that Spain is a beautiful and charming country with plenty of hidden treasures disguised as cities.
3 Birthday Celebrations: I blogged about this awhile back, so if you haven’t had the chance to read it, you can check it out here. We had four birthday celebrations in total. All done differently to reflect the birthday girl/boy. Celebrating your birthday in Madrid is already an incredible experience alone but spending it with your friends in Madrid, that makes it memorable. We put our research hats on to look and come up with a list of things that one could do to commemorate this special day. I had the pleasure of celebrating the existence of three great people that quickly became as close to me like my own family. If semester one was to be known for anything then may it be for the birthday celebrations that brought a lot of joy, laughter and a plethora of stories to tell.
4 RESA: I love living at RESA. The daily banter with the staff, the facilities and the friendships I made while living here are just some of the reasons I am having such a great time. My first semester was terrific. Late nights were spent with friends either playing games or engaged in deep, meaningful conversations that ended with us dancing around the room to some of our favourite songs as well as questioning and analysing our choices which meant that it was time to go to sleep. Don’t get me wrong. Nothing is perfect, but RESA is the ideal place for me. The trick is figuring out what you want and then finding the right accommodation that caters to those needs. I just hope that I have as much fun this second semester as I did in my first one. So far, I am happy with my choice of accommodation.
5 Spontaneity and the international environment: I don’t know if this is a common symptom for Erasmus students, but it was for my friends and me. I spent a good portion of my life planning and organising a lot of things. If there was one thing I always had, that was a plan. However, just like I mentioned above, this semester was about stepping out of your comfort zone. That included being a more spontaneous version of myself. I often found myself trying to get ready for last-minute trips and events that ended up with us having to wait until the trains started functioning to make our way back home. Other times, it was the result of the amount of stress and workload that led to some exploring that ended with a trip to the Portuguese cafe for some pastéis de nata. Being a part of the ESN community meant that we kept a busy schedule as well as having lots of opportunities to interact with people from all over the world. There is this misconception that ESN is only for Erasmus students but from my experience, anyone who is involved in an exchange program is more than welcome to join, regardless if they are Erasmus or not. If you are an exchange student, chances are you are more than happy to meet new people and practice those language skills.
I found this short video by ESN Greece that best describes the international environment. I hope you like it.
Like always, thank you for taking the time to read my post and feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section below.
Until next time,