By Leah McCann, Contributing Writer
My academic goals as a double major in music and Spanish were established during the very first semester of my time at Gettysburg College. Finding my objectives outside the classroom, though, took some more soul-searching. My Spanish major came with more than just a commitment to my classes at Gettysburg; it obligated me to study abroad. So, I chose Spain—a country whose tapestry of culture, music, architecture and life immediately drew me in. A three-month stay was such a faraway concept at the time. Now, I’m still pinching myself to believe I’m here, and I’m learning how to make Madrid my own.
Landing in Spain was like descending into a snow globe: a bustling flurry of language and activity encapsulated in an untouchable shiny veil until the very moment I touched down. When I emerged from Barajas Airport, I felt like one of the tiny snowflakes after a child shakes the globe, buffeted wildly by the winds of change. It was not my first time traveling overseas, but it was my first time doing it alone—which I can now say makes a world of difference. It was my journey in the taxi on the way to my homestay that I realized this country was going to be my new environment for a few months, and it was time to embrace it.
Now that I have been in Spain for a few weeks, the process of settling in has begun. There have of course been obstacles, from memorizing the Metro lines that get me to my classes (Argüelles to Moncloa, if you were wondering) to running the mental marathon of following rapid-fire Spanish. I even went from being an only child to living with a host family of four children! But because of the exhilaration that meeting these challenges has given me, I have discovered how much I want to learn from the people living here. I am simply in awe of how content they are to enjoy tapas on a sun-drenched Wednesday afternoon, dance until six o’clock in the morning and truly live life to the fullest. Americans might complain about the late meal times, but what they might not know is that these nighttime dinners allow everyone to sit, relax and laugh after whatever the day has brought. My host family even sings and dances while they cook. There is a true zest for life that has rekindled my passion, both for the language and for my own aspirations.
So very much has changed after my first day in the “snow globe” that I once perceived Madrid to be. I still might not be able to roll my r’s, but I can tell you where you can find heavenly-smelling bakeries and magnificent architecture that makes your soul sing. Maybe I can’t always find the Lidl on Calle Fuencarral, but I can say that I’ve had some late nights out with friends where I forgot what time it was because everyone was still out dancing! But most importantly, I now find the joy of Spain near and dear to my heart. I’m working to make Madrid my own.
This article originally appeared on page 17 of the No. 2 October 2023 edition of The Gettysburgian’s magazine.