Pre-Departure Post

I am writing this as I’m sitting in the waiting room of the Adolfo Suárez Madrid Barajas Airport. Crazy to think that the day has finally arrived for me to start making my way across the sea and over to this side of the world. I feel all sorts of things: nerves, excitement, fear, and happiness. 

My parents and grandparents are waiting for me in Venice and we will take a week-long trip around Italy together. Then, on June 1st I will be taking a flight from Rome to Lisbon and begin my journey in Portugal for the Summer. 

I just got off my first flight: Quito, Madrid and I got what I can unfortunately call one of the worst spots you can get on a 10-hour flight: middle seat, middle column, row 52 (out of 53). There I sat, middle seat near the bathroom in the back of the plane for probably the longest flight I have ever been on. The excitement, nostalgia, and nerves that I had felt the day before hadn’t allowed me to get a good last night’s sleep at home and so I was already tired. I was definitely not excited for the 10 hours ahead of me. 

As I was getting settled into my seat a lovely couple sat down next to me and that’s when I heard it… a sign? I don’t know what it meant but a smile flushed through my face. The language I began to learn to love a year ago sprang at full speed from this young couple’s mouths as they coordinated the logistics of their own 10-hour flight experience. The words were familiar, the accent not so much. Although, it did sound a lot like the Cristiano Ronaldo interview we had heard in class… It’s Portuguese! I get little butterflies in my stomach, the nerves begin to show as this interaction marks the beginning of my two-month adventure. I turn towards the couple on my left and without much thought go “Olá! Vocês são de Portugal?”. I quickly regret it, ‘did I sound like a rookie? Of course I had to say that! Was that stupid? Is that how you say it?’ They both turn to look at me with big smiles on their faces and say “Sim! Tu?…” Immediately, what felt like a 3-hour (but was probably more like 10-minute) conversation started. They were from Lisbon Portugal, they had come to my home country for their honeymoon and they were just now returning home from what they thought was an amazing vacation. I told them about my internship, how I was learning Portuguese, and how I would be spending my next two months in Lisbon attempting to continue to grow and expand my abilities. They told me that sounded great, that they hope we see each other again in Lisbon, and wished me the best of luck. I ended the conversation by saying “Obrigada! Parabéns pelo Casamento!”. I don’t know if I spoke Portuguese, Spanish, English, or Portuñol. I don’t know if half the stuff I said during that interaction was correct or not. However, what I did know was that this is going to be a summer filled with a lot of growth and that I already did love Portugal and its people!

As my adrenaline rush from the conversation settled in I plugged my earphones to the built-in tv on the back of the seat in front of me. I always like to play a movie for me to sleep with background noise on during the flight. I picked the first movie that caught my attention “Eat, Pray, Love”. I had never seen it, never read the book, and never really heard much of it but 2 hours and 10 minutes later I was in tears and had slept for exactly 0 hours, 0 minutes, and 0 seconds. I think this might be my new favorite movie. I’m not sure if it was the actors, the plot, or the way the movie seemed to have been written for me at that moment but I felt a new sense of inspiration for my nearing future. 

The movie is about an American woman who changes the course of her regular boring life by exploring the world and learning to “Eat, pray and love”. At one point she says “Sometimes, you have to leave behind everything you know, every comfort zone you’ve built, and step into the unknown. It’s in those moments that you truly begin to learn and grow, for every interaction becomes an opportunity for discovery and self-evolution”. It is with this thought that I end my first blog post. I am leaving behind the comfort of my summer at home, my friends, and my family to go do something I’ve never done before at a place I’ve never been to before in a language that is relatively unknown to me but I find peace in thinking about all the growth I will undergo in the next couple of months. I consider these two small, yet meaningful, interactions I had on my 10-hour flight, my first opportunities for “discovery and self-evaluation” as part of my journey in Portugal this summer of 2023.