Semester Abroad in Madrid Wrap Up

As my semester abroad is coming to an end, I’ll be writing about my final thoughts and reflections in my last blog post.

I’ve had a blast in Madrid, and I can’t believe it’s already almost over. It felt almost like a fake life. School was fairly easy, I traveled to a different country almost every weekend, I met people from all over the world, and I made some pretty cool memories. I’ve definitely learned a lot living on my own in another country for 4 months, so I’ll share some thoughts:

  1. I’ve learned to never pass up an opportunity to explore and enjoy life. Sometimes it may seem like studying or doing super well in a class is the main priority while in college, but at times I’ve sacrificed actually living my life to do these things. I’ve learned a lot about myself, others, the world, etc. just from my traveling experiences abroad rather than school. While it’s important to study and pass your classes, it’s also super important to balance having a healthy social life and spending time with those who matter doing things you love. Going back to UMD after this semester, I will keep that in mind for my last year of undergrad and try to never pass up an opportunity to enjoy my life.
  2. I’ve learned that having an “abroad” experience is extremely important in my opinion. Only living in Maryland my entire life (and traveling within the US), I’ve been kind of sheltered. There are a lot of different people and cultures in this world which everyone could learn from and benefit. Even though I may not agree with some other cultural values/practices, I still enjoy learning about them and trying to understand where they come from. The cultural values I’ve learned about that I enjoy, I will probably adopt and bring back to the US with me. I believe that meeting and learning from different people from different places helps to expand our mindsets and allow us to become more accepting of others. Having these experiences may even help reduce our tendency to fight others not like us.
  3. I’ve learned that I miss my family, and I’m lucky to have an amazing home life. Living on my own isn’t always the best. There are pros, like doing whatever I want whenever I want, hanging out with my friends and roommates, cooking for myself, not having to clean my room, etc. On the other hand there are some cons, including not having family dinners, not having parents to look after you (especially when you’re sick), trust issues with roommates, etc. I have been living in an apartment of 8, and some of my random roommates haven’t been the best. The biggest issue was the dirty apartment because no one cleaned. I’m definitely looking forward to going back home to my clean house with my own room and bathroom. We also all have different schedules for the most part, so I’ve spent more alone time than I’m used to here. I’ll definitely be glad to have a lot of family time when I get home. Although, I’ve gotten more used to doing things on my own. I think this has been good preparation for living on my own after college.
  4. I’ve learned that I should have saved up more money before this semester. It is very cheap compared to in the US to travel in Europe, which is really cool because as a student you can afford to visit so many different countries and check a bunch of things off the bucket list. However, traveling wasn’t as cheap as I expected and I did run over my budget. Being a summer camp counselor over the past couple of summers, I didn’t make that much money so my funds were limited. I also could’ve payed attention more to saving money during the school year (like passing up on going out or shopping every once in a while) in order to save that money for abroad. There are so many things to do in Europe, so I would definitely recommend doing all that you can. I may have spent a lot, but it was my decision to because it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I decided the experiences were worth it. There’s always time to get a job and make more money eventually. However, there are a bunch of places I didn’t get to visit this semester, so I will definitely need to take a Europe round 2 trip!
  5. I’ve learned that Madrid is the coolest city ever. It has totally exceeded my expectations, and I’m so glad I’ve gotten to live here for 4 months! When you think about Spain as an American, everyone thinks about going to Barcelona. I didn’t really know much or hear much about Madrid before studying abroad. I picked it because there was a direct BMGT exchange program here at an excellent University and because I wanted to go to Spain. I love how I could communicate even the slightest bit because I took Spanish before, and I was able to expand my Spanish speaking skills too. I never pictured myself living in a big city like New York, but Madrid was a really good fit for me. It’s huge, so I feel like I could never run out of things to do. It’s also very diverse. There’s a huge shopping area like Time Square, there’s a main plaza area, there’s the royal palace area on the outskirts, there are small cobblestone road sections with cute shops and restaurants, there’s the business district, there are less crowded neighborhoods like the one I lived in, there are beautiful parks to escape the city life, there are rooftop terraces overlooking the amazing architecture of the city, and more. The Spanish lifestyle is very chill and everyone moves slower than in the US. People are really friendly here, too. The public transportation is also really simple and cheap. It goes as far as the mountains, where you can find hiking trails and go skiing. Spain’s capital is rich with culture, which I have loved immersing myself in. I would highly recommend Madrid to anyone looking to study abroad or just for a visit. I definitely need to come back sometime because I’ll miss it.

As the semester comes to a close, I have realized that I’ve grown a lot from this experience. I’ve learned a lot about myself and about others and cultures I had never been exposed to before. I am coming away with new friends from all over the world, which is such a cool thing to have. I am very grateful to have had this opportunity, and I have my parents to thank for that! I will definitely be sending my children abroad, and I would highly recommend the experience for anyone. It’s been a good time, Madrid.

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