¡Hola a todos!
I can hardly believe it myself, but I am finally here, living in Madrid. Is this real life?!
Oh wait…hell yes, it is!! All of the stress of leaving friends and family, of travelling across the world, of moving to a strange and unfamiliar country…it has all been totally worth it. And mark my words: that sentence right there? Yes, that one, right there–I will say those exact words as I finish my term abroad, verbatim. I would put money on it if I actually had money to my name. Ha! But I digress.
After I arrived into Madrid late last night, I shuttled my way to the orientation hotel. Though I hadn’t had anything to eat since lunch, I had just experienced well over 24 hours of travelling beginning the moment I left Chicago, so obviously I was dying for a shower–cleanliness is next to godliness, and by the gods I made it my priority! By the time that was said and done, it was past midnight, so I promptly passed out, hoping that a proper breakfast would be had first thing in the morning. And so it was! In hindsight, I should have taken some breakfast photos, but my stomach was in charge as soon as I made it to the restaurant downstairs. In between trips back to the serving stations, I was introduced to the advisors of the USAC Madrid program, Alvaro (director), Gabriella (housing coordinator), and Susan (admin assistant). I thought it was awesome that each of them approached me by name, and greeted me with such warmth and kindness. I knew right away that I hadn’t made a mistake in choosing this program!
Shortly after getting my fill of a non-traditional Spanish breakfast and camaraderie with some of the other USAC students, the group headed off to the conference room to get our housing orientation done (the first of three orientations over the next couple days, I might add). After some brief introductions, the group was separated and those of us who would be staying in a homestay went for a short walking tour of Madrid. My first thought? “Oh. My. Gods.” This is truly the most beautiful city that I’ve ever had the opportunity to visit! The architecture is breath-taking, the window-shopping is amazing, the street art is phenomenal, the people are so interesting to watch. With every step, my smile became wider and wider, until it was a permanent fixture on my face. Made a friend, Ashley, right off the bat who is a kindred spirit, and we spent the entire walk absorbing the beauty around us while feeding off of one another’s energy. Couldn’t imagine a better first friend to have walked into my life–meant to be!
After our walking tour, we continued with our orientation back at the hotel, before being cut loose for the four hours prior to meeting our Madrid families. Ashley and I hooked up with a lovely group of ladies with whom we spent the next few hours exploring, lunching, and getting to know one another. It’s amazing to find so many like-minded individuals in one place…but as we’re part of the 1% of Americans who actually decide to study abroad, it’s pretty obvious why I would be sitting at an open-air cafe with a group of beautiful, determined, fearless spirits that I clicked with immediately! That is, you’ve gotta be a certain flavor of awesome to have the cajones to do what we’ve done.
Lunchtime came and went, and it was soon time to meet my homestay family. I didn’t even have time to be nervous before I was kissing Sonsoles on her cheeks and we were off to my new home. My Madrid mama is a very sweet, kind, and understanding woman, and is giving me a few days to adjust before speaking totally in Spanish with me. I’m doing my best to speak as much Spanish as possible with her from the get-go, but with how exhausted I’ve been I’m slipping into English easily today. Tomorrow, however, is another day, and I’m determined to speak as much Spanish as possible! I also had the joy of meeting her soon-to-be six year old son, Leo, who is a darling boy and speaks very well. He and I share a love for sea creatures, so I’m sure we will hit it off just fine. I absolutely love the energy of this place, and am looking forward to the springtime when I can open my window and have a beautiful view of the blooming trees at the park across the street!
Before I got settled in, we walked the quick five minutes to the metro to get my abono for the month of January. 52 Euro per month means 24 hour transportation on any of the bus or metro lines! I’m also quite close to my university abroad as well, living only 15 minutes away from the campus proper via metro.
Once that was said and done, we headed back home so I could unpack and settle in. Again, Sonsoles is wonderfully understanding, and let me relax and do my own thing until dinnertime. Since I haven’t had internet access since London, I made sure to update everyone of my safe arrival and set up my bedroom for the next five months:
My room is cute, simple, and much larger than I was expecting. I was able to put up some photos of friends and family close to my bed, which I’m quite pleased about. Dinner was not too long ago, and we had a simple, healthy dinner of ham and green beans, with a dessert of orange. Very tasty! Leo even shared some of his chocolate with me after dinner…such a sweet little lad. Still in disbelief that I’m here…life is so very beautiful, and I’m the luckiest girl in the world to be able to live it to the fullest.
Street art & food journals to be posted shortly, then it’s off to dream land for this jet-lagged little lady!
¡Besitos de España!