Last Thoughts

I wanted to make a small post, well it was supposed to be small, with some of my thoughts and reflections of my time abroad within the first week of being back in the U.S. again.

One of the biggest things that surprised me was in my adjustment process. When I arrived, I was sleep deprived and hungry after being stuck in an airport all day and experiencing delayed flights for over 8 or so hours. When I arrived, I immediately assumed everyone would judge my Spanish abilities and so I was very careful and precise with my language when I spoke to others. I immediately felt like I needed to be careful with speaking so as to not make myself standout or embarrass myself. When I wandered the streets looking for a place to eat, I felt like a blithering fool by not understanding what they expected of me at restaurants (it turns out, just walking in and sitting down, pretty simple really) and how to make casual conversations and requests. However, by my second day when I finally felt rested and no longer hungry, I felt a bit more confident in all aspects and I had less trouble asking others for help when I had no idea what I was doing. By the time I was halfway through my time in the program, I had few, if any, reservations about talking to others and understanding social cues. So, in my reflections, I do not really believe I had much of a culture shock. My main issue was my confidence, which after managing being abroad for so long with the addition of over a week of solo travel across much of the country, I feel is significantly greater than before I left. I never missed home too much until I was leaving for the airport to go home, in which home was all I could think about. But now that I have been back in the States for a few days, I find myself thinking about being back in Spain everyday. One of the biggest things I realized I have taken with me from Spain beyond just speaking and understanding Spanish better is a new sense of confidence that I feel that I have earned through my actions and experiences and one which I hope does not fade.

I really enjoyed that whenever I had a question about Spanish culture or norms, I could ask the directors of my program, one of my professors, or my roommate from Spain. I felt like I had a comfortable group of people that I could ask for help in terms of understanding when I needed it. Additionally, I came to understand the culture just as much when I was off exploring on my own. When I was alone, I would partake in a generous amount of people watching, trying to intake as much as I possibly could about the average day in Spain. A number times, I talked with the locals about whatever topic seemed relevant in the moment. I spoke with a lady in the dog park about the city of Merida, her hometown, and how life differs between Madrid and Extremadura, two of the regions in Spain. On one of my tours, a man from Cataluña explained the controversy and related events of the region’s effort to become independent. With all of these and more, I felt like I was beginning to take in and absorb more of the culture and understanding of what made Spain unique. To supplement this, I also went to countless art and history museums detailing just about everything in the history of the country.

In relation to my perception of Spain before and after, I feel like it was very much what I expected and more. One of the surprising aspects for me is how modern and how old the cities feel at the same time. Cities have sleek amenities, fantastic public transportation, modern shops and appliances yet they also have monuments and buildings dating centuries and ruins dating millennia. For example, in Sevilla I passed the Technology Parks, which showcases the innovation of science and technology, boasting a life-size replica of a space rocket and many exhibitions of all things science and technology, but just down the street is the Torre del Oro, one of the last remaining structures in the city from the Moorish era and the Royal Alcazar of Sevilla which dates back to the 11th century. Based upon my own experiences, I was a little surprised by the pride in the heritage and history of Spain, which makes sense due to the sheer size of all there is in its history and its many highs and lows. For example, figures like Christopher Columbus, Hernan Cortes, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, the other kings, mariners, and explorers are viewed as sort of heroes in many ways, reminiscent of the American perspective of figures like George Washington.

A small thing that is funny to me is that I am still unsure of all the conjugations of vosotros (the plural “you” used in Spain) and how to implement it in my own speech, but I realized I never had trouble understanding others when they used it.

In the end, I feel that my time in Spain has been one of the most formative and one of the most FUN experiences of my life to date. I went in with the goal of making everyday an adventure, trying to meet as many new people, see as many new things, and try as many new things as possible, and I believe that what I got out of it all was equal to if not greater than the effort I put in.

Parks of Madrid

Now going on to what I promised in one of my very first blog posts, I want to do a brief comparison and review of some of the many parks I went to in Madrid.

El Retiro

The Retiro was the first park I went to. A massive park on the eastern part of downtown just behind the Prado Museum of Art, this park reminds me of what I would expect Central Park in NYC to be like, and although I have never been to Central Park, I have heard natives of Madrid make the same comparison. Of all the parks that I visited, this one had the most families going out together to enjoy an evening, the most street performers, yoga classes, a surprise art expo, and plenty of paths to wander about. Here, you can rent a boat to paddle about on the park’s main pond, grab something to eat at one of the many pop-up vendors, or enjoy a glass of wine in the shade of some trees. It was very relaxing each of the many times I came over to enjoy an afternoon or evening. I feel like this park is a must see for anyone going to Madrid.

Casa de Campo

When I say a huge park, Casa de Campo fits this description perfectly. Because I keep using it as a reference point, Central Park in NYC is 341 hectares large, meanwhile Casa de Campo is 1535.52 hectares large. One afternoon, I was bored and decided to walk around the park for a bit with my hiking shoes. It is less of a park and more of an outdoor experience. While it would certainly not be a bad place to enjoy an evening with the family as there is quite a beautiful green space next to a large lake with a great view, the park itself feels like a semi-mountainous savannah with tall golden grass, a fierce sun, and sparse foliage along with incessant hills and slopes, it felt like a getaway from the city rather than a park on the boundary the city. My walk from one end of the park to the other end and back was a little over two hours long, and I walk at a decently fast pace. In that time, I climbed large hills between spotty trees that gave much appreciated shade, a large expanse of just tall grass and almost no trees, to a complete forest, to a high up hill overlooking the city for miles in most directions. The majority of my time here, I did not pass anyone else, and I had much time to relax and contemplate in the fresh smells and sights of nature alone. While I never got much of an opportunity to explore any of the national parks of Spain or do some mountain hiking, with Casa de Campo, I do not feel like I missed out entirely.

Parque Juan Carlos I

While at first it did not look like much at first, this park with a size of about 160 hectares showed me a number of interesting bits here and there which rounded it out as a very worthwhile experience. To the south of this large circular park is not much beyond large swathes of grassy paths. In the center is a river which mimics the circular shape of the overall park. Going through much of the park is a trail which displays the sculptures and displays of various artists giving beauty to the landscape. I discovered a train that does free sightseeing tours around the entire park and a large hill in the center in which I could look off at the mountains far away in the distance. My favorite part of the park was the “Garden of Three Cultures”: a place with three sections with one dedicated to Judaism, one to Islam, and one to Christianity, packed with symbolism and architecture with signs that explained the significance of each aspect of each garden.

El Capricho

Formerly the grounds of a duchess who built a park to feel like she was out in the countryside, this park displays many different styles within its brick walls. Only open on Saturdays and Sundays, which I found out by repeatedly going on the wrong days, this park has an Italian style garden with pillars and fountains, an English garden with knolls and hundreds of flowers, and in between it all dense yet gorgeous woods that gave a feeling of being out in the forest. In one section of the park that had a pond with a fountain with grassy spaces and heavy shade from all the trees, it reminded me of the St. Stephen’s Green in Ireland.

Parque del Oeste

This park, named “Western Park” is understandably found in the western part of downtown Madrid and was the closest of all the parks to my residencia. In the southern part of the park, called “Parque de la Montaña” is a steep hill/cliff which overlooks the royal palace, much of the downtown area, and way off into the distance at the Casa de Campo. There is also an Egyptian temple called, “El Templo de Debod”. Yes, it is an actual Egyptian temple built over two thousand years ago that was excavated and moved to Madrid as a gift from the Egyptian government to the Spanish government in the 20th century. In the middle part of the park, there is a large rose garden with roses of all different colors and fountains. While I did not get to the northern part of the park, I saw many trees and streams all over it.

This concludes my reviews of the parks of Madrid and while I did visit some other smaller parks like the Royal Botanical Gardens, these were my favorite, and I also excluded the parks that I explored outside of Madrid because this would be way too long otherwise. I hope it was worth the anticipation. And as always, thank you for reading.

Farewell, Spain

As it is my last day in Spain, I wanted to comment and reminisce on a few miscellaneous things.

I found it very interesting how each part of Spain has its own very strong and unique identity and traditions, and because of these, it makes exploring each of these comunidades, regions/states of Spain, incredibly fascinating and a necessity to understand the Spanish culture as a whole. I also enjoyed going to museums in every single city that I visited because, not only did I learn a lot about the history of the Iberian Peninsula as a whole, but I was able to see each comunidad‘s regional perspective and spin on the same history. Some examples include: El Escorial, where I learned about the different dynasties of Spain and their influences, Segovia, where I learned about the Roman and gothic influences as well as the early and middle stages of the Reconquista, Toledo, where I learned about the blending of the three cultures of Christianity, Islam, and Judaism and the Visigoth kingdom, Barcelona, where I learned about the famous mariners and nautical events in the history of Spain, the effects of the civil war, and the works and legacy of Gaudí, and many more examples which I will spare you from.

Other small differences include the fact that in Madrid and especially in Andalusia, people do not eat dinner until around 8 or 8:30pm, and most restaurants close around midnight. As this is what I became used to, you could imagine my surprise when I was walking about Zaragoza around 10:45pm, looking for dinner and finding almost all of the restaurants already closed.

I also can gladly say that I had the chance to go an many tours, and when I had the opportunity, I opted for Spanish tours to enhance my learning experience: history, culture, and language all in one. For example, I was able to take guided tours in Spanish through “Madrid de las Austrias”, on a vineyard to the famous region of Ribera del Duero, in the Triana neighborhood of Sevilla, around the Alhambra in Granada, and through the historic streets of Toledo, as well as a few others.

I believe that I have made the best usage of my time in Spain, and I wish I could have stayed another 40 days here. I definitely wish to come back to Spain in the future and see all that I could not due to lack of time. Despite being here for so little time, I have grown a very fond attachment to Spain and to Madrid in particular. If my hometown is my first home and Notre Dame has become my second home, then Madrid is my third home, a place where I am familiar and comfortable.

¡Adiós Madrid, hasta pronto!

Different Perspectives about the United States in Spain

For this post, I would like to look at how some of the people that I have met, non-Americans, view the U.S.

For some, I outright asked the question: “What do you think of the United States, the good and the bad?” and if I was asked for more direction I said, “in terms of the people, the culture, the government, entertainment, foreign policy, or whatever you would like.” And for others, the topic came up naturally and I wrote down afterwards some of their viewpoints.

First is a friend my age that I met from Barcelona, I asked him about his thoughts on the U.S., and his response was really interesting. He said that overall, his view was pretty negative. His first and biggest complaint was that America had a unique brand of patriotism that he saw as deeply rooted and was used to justify bad things throughout history. He looked at today and pointed to the topic of guns as an example for what he believed was an injustice or at least led to injustice and saw that many Americans refuse to give up guns on the basis of tradition or patriotism. He also said that there are social issues in America that bother him, and the example he gave was transphobia in Texas. In relation to America’s foreign policy, he said that America is always involved in foreign affairs, and not all of them are good. Lastly, he described the American economy as “radical capitalism” with a strong presence of monopolies and the ability of media to influence politics.

The second person that I asked was my professor at my university here. He said that America is known for exporting culture primarily, which he pointed to Hollywood as the main example, and he said that they have had the most prominent and relevant media in the world with movies and other influences. In terms of American politics, he said that it drastically depends on the president for whether or not the American government is good. He thought Trump was a very bad president who said a lot of things he should not have and was leading the world towards war. The last topic he mentioned was that America is a fellow democracy like Spain and they are both members of NATO, so they collaborate and work together often.

The third is a friend and a helper with the program that I studied with. She described American culture as a melting pot of the world and is composed of many values, beliefs, and backgrounds. She said that American has always had the goal of progress and growth, which it often achieves or works to achieve on its own. She said that although America is considered a democracy, she sees it more accurate to describe it as a republic that is directly influenced by the current president. She said in recent times, she sees Biden as somewhat ineffective in comparison to his promises and platform. She said that he is probably one of the most unpopular presidents of America, which may have a part due to his handling of COVID-19. Lastly, she said that it seems that his administration has been focusing on the revitalization of leadership and having a larger presence in the global balance of power, but recent events and developments like the handling of China and Russia and the signing of the AUKUS agreement, a deal between Australia, the UK, and the US with the goal of intelligence sharing and the acquisition of nuclear submarines in the Pacific, have made this “lofty goal” somewhat tenuous and questionable.

When I asked for these questions, I was genuinely curious how the outside world views America, and I found it very enlightening with the differing viewpoints and all of the similarities between these responses. While my own views are somewhat different, I believe all of the perspectives that I found were valid and had a lot of merit to them, and they even changed the way that I look at the American economy and government. Americans look at the country with a lot of entrenched beliefs from the inside about how the country works and how it should be, but it is imperative that we look with objectivity and an outsiders perspective when looking at many of the problems, developments, or just traditions that we have.

In addition to these interviews, I have had some conversations which I can summarize here. I had spoken with a police officer who said that the general view of America changes with each president. One Spanish student at the university asked my friend about the topic of school shootings immediately upon finding out we were American, which I find very sad and telling of the portrayal of America internationally. Finally, I spoke with the waitstaff at a restaurant during the off-peak hours, and they were excited when I told them I was from Indiana and talked about the car industry and wanted to know if it was really as flat as people say it is (it is).

Until next time…

Mis Estudios y Excursiones de la Segunda Semana


To start with, I will be posting many more posts soon about my experiences and studies soon, but for now I will focus on my personal excursions and my classes.

Nebrija Main building

To begin, I am taking two courses at Universidad Nebrija, named after Antonio de Nebrija, creator of the first Castilian grammar book, thereby standardizing the Spanish language for the first time. In the mornings, I go to my generalized Spanish language and grammar class, and in the afternoon, I have my Español para la Empresa (Spanish for Business) class. I chose to wait to speak about my classes until I had taken my midterms, and those are what I had last Monday and Tuesday. I feel like the classes that I am taking now are a strong mixture of review and learning new material. Due to the speed of the lessons and the assignments for class, I feel like I am being challenged but not overwhelmed in the slightest. For the first class, midterms consisted of about 6 pages of grammar and creative writing in Spanish, and they do not hesitate a moment to mark off points if a prepositional phrase is slightly off or if a word has subtle implications that lie below the surface which obscure the intent of the sentence. Overall, I love my professors because they have great personalities and each of these little things that they call me out on will improve my skills way beyond simply letting me get away with my mistakes.

My trips

Me sitting next to statues of Don Quixote and Sancho

Now for my personal excursions. During the weekend after orientation and the beginning of classes, my program provided a day trip to the town of Alcalá de Henares. This little city is the site of the UNESCO University of Alcalá de Henares, an extremely old and beautiful university, where individuals like Saint John of the Cross, Antonio de Nebrija, Saint Ignatius of Loyola and many more studied. We were brought through on a tour of the history and architecture of the city and its sites. We saw the replica home, right next to the actual site of the birthplace of Miguel de Cervantes. I was able to see some Roman ruins, and I stumbled upon a free outdoor concert where I was able to watch some bands perform in the comfort of some much appreciated shade in a park.

The following day, I decided to take the train by myself to the gorgeous city of Toledo. Upon arrival, I decided to wander for a bit on my own. I ended up attending mass in the Cathedral of Toledo with the bishop of Toledo as the celebrant (as I assumed because of his miter). It was a really amazing experience to attend a mass in such a breathtaking location, surrounded by locals, and celebrated in another language. The style of the cathedral was a mixture of gothic and mudejar, causing a resemblance to the Notre Dame de Paris. Afterwards, I found a small tour that brought me through the entirety of the old city and showed me hundreds of things that I would have missed about the city´ s history that I never knew. Additionally, it was a great chance for me to practice my listening skills as I signed up for a tour in Spanish. Once the tour was over, I toured another recognizable church of the city where I was able to enter into its upper towers and look down upon the entire city. I then wandered out of the medieval city to see the ruins of a Roman circus. As it was scattered about a public park, I was able to get up close to see the architecture and craftsmanship of the arches, and I was awed by the sheer size of it in. While I had seen plenty of pictures and diagrams of what a Roman circus would look like, seeing one in person was a completely different experience, and I couldn’t help myself but imagine what it would have been like to watch a horse race here nearly two thousand years ago. When I arrived back in the medieval part of town, I decided to go to the Museum of Queso Manchego, where I learned about the history of Manchego cheese, how it is made, and the equipment used. At the end, I bought a cheese sampler where a worker gave me a full flavor profile, as well as the history of each item on the plate, and steps on how to eat it and savor it best. Because I still had over two hours to kill before my train would take me back, I decided to let myself get a little lost and wander without any purpose or direction. I ended up in an art gallery where after spending about half an hour taking in all the art, I started a conversation with someone who happened to be the artist of the gallery, and I left the exposition with a piece of his work to remind me of my day in Toledo. The last thing I did before leaving was checking out the Museum of Torture, which I did not expect to be so fascinating and so intimately intertwined with the history of much I had seen. Here, I learned more about the details of the infamous Spanish Inquisition, learned about the procedures of the Inquisition like the autos-de-fé (the public trials of supposed heretics), the causes and effects of the Inquisition, and I saw many of the tools and equipment used in extracting confessions or punishing sinners.

Because there is much more to talk about with my multiple trips, I will save some more stories and information for my next post, which will be very soon.

La Cocina y Más Viajes (Segovia y Valencia)

The theme of this post is the mixture of gastronomy and culture and its origins in my trips.

Following the week when I traveled to Toledo, I decided to take a day trip to Segovia after my classes finished on Friday. As my bus was taking me into town, I will be honest when I say that I was underwhelmed by the incredibly normal city surrounding me. It was not until the bus drove through multiple streets and eventually took a turn that I found myself looking over the railings of the road, down a steep hill, at a beautiful countryside. Immediately, I was left speechless at the sight of the massive Roman aqueduct and the medieval city looming on top of the hill. At the suggestion of my Spanish language professor, I tried the famous Segovian cochinillo, roast suckling pig. I ordered the full menú, so I received multiple courses of traditional Segovian dishes for my meal. I asked the waiter about how they prepare the suckling pig, and he explained that they divide a suckling pig in half and roast it in their large wood fire oven for around two hours where it develops a crispy skin and extremely tender meat. With my full menú, I also got a dish made with judiones, a large bean grown in Segovia, that seemed to me something like a Spanish jambalaya or gumbo, as well as a sopa castellana, a traditional soup from the region. It was truly a great experience with the combination of the sights from my table, the taste of the meal, and the tradition of it all. After my lunch, I was able to visit the Cathedral of Segovia and a few smaller churches, walk around the aqueduct, and my favorite part, I was able to tour the Alcazar of Segovia. The alcazar is a beautiful castle that sits atop steep slopes and overlooks the countryside. In the centuries after it was built, it was used as an artillery school with much of the memorabilia from that time being on display today.

The following day, two of my friends and I decided to take the train to Valencia. I had planned a large itinerary of things to do, but due to it taking longer than expected to get to the city center and shopping for a bit, we ended up ditching the whole plan and decided to spend the whole day on the beach. As a student from Indiana where our only beaches are on the shores of lakes, the Valencian beach remains the best beach I have visited in my life. Of course, I ordered the traditional paella valenciana, made with rice, rabbit, chicken, vegetables, and most notably saffron. As paella is a dish from Valencia, I thought it was necessary that I try it while I was there. The dinner during sunset on the beach was a perfect capstone for the day.

Lastly, just two days ago, I attended a cooking class with some friends in the same program as me where we learned how to make four different dishes. The first was Andalusian gazpacho, a cold soup that is drank like a beverage made with many vegetables and tomatoes. This was my third time having gazpacho, and while I did not exactly enjoy it the first two times, I was surprised by how well our gazpacho turned out. It was the simplest of the four dishes as it essentially just requires throwing chopped vegetables into a blender until completely pureed, adding a bit of salt, and leaving in the refrigerator until cold. Gazpacho has its origins as a cold and fresh dish that is intended to refresh the drinker in the hot Andalusian sun. The second dish was the tortilla española. At the time of writing this, I am sure that I have had tortilla española at least 10 to 15 times, and I think its a classic staple that never disappoints. Again, I appreciated learning how to make such a simple and delicious dish. It involved chopping potatoes, cooking the potatoes in olive oil until soft and golden, scrambling eggs, combing the potatoes and eggs, and putting it all in a deep pan with olive oil to get its recognizable dome shape. The most exciting part was flipping it in the pan to cook both sides. I received applause from my entire group and the head chef for successfully flipping it without messing up (which I was not sure I could do). For the main course, we made paella de mariscos, another form of paella from Valencia but made with seafood instead of rabbit. For us to make the paella, we needed the help of nearly everyone in our group to work on different parts, chopping vegetables, chicken, and squid, cleaning shrimp, and preparing the other ingredients. The dessert we made was called the tarta de Santiago, a Spanish almond cake with origins in the Middle Ages. The hardest part of the cooking class was trying to focus on chopping ingredients for everything else while we could smell this cooking in the oven. It is relatively simple to make as well as it is almond flour, cinnamon, eggs, and sugar. It tasted as amazing as it smelled, and to top it off, we decorated it in the traditional style with a cross of St. James on the top made out of confectionary sugar. It was a great experience, but I just hope that I will remember how to make everything when I return home.

I am very glad that I have the experience to not only see culture but taste the tradition of the places that I get to visit. To top it off, it was even more fascinating to be able to go to a cooking class where I was learned what goes into making multiple dishes that I had already tried before.

¡Mi Primera Semana!

Now that my first week is over, I can look back and give a little insight on my first my thoughts and experiences in Spain! Firstly, I arrived two days before my program actually started to get accustomed to the area and fix my jetlag. I arrived on a Saturday night that just so happened to be during the Final Champions League match between Real Madrid and Liverpool. While I was walking around the downtown area to reach my hostel, I could tell whenever something was happening in the game because I could hear cheers and shouts echoing through the streets. Every restaurant that I passed had people with their faces pressed up to the glass to see inside and watch the game on the TV, and most bars that I saw were packed with people inside. Even my taxi driver had the game playing on the radio. It was a really cool atmosphere to see everyone so excited and all crowded together, fixated on every moment of the game. The atmosphere around the city reminded me of game days back on campus in the U.S., except it was the entire city.

The following day I decided to take the train to El Escorial, home of “El Real Monasterio de San Lorenzo de El Escorial”. Here, I saw the retreat and residence of historic Spanish monarchs built by rey Felipe II in the 16th century. I bought my tickets to explore the beautiful location, now museum, and ended up spending my entire afternoon there. The architecture and history of the location had me grinning from ear to ear and constantly whispering “oh my gosh” because of just how significant and gorgeous everything was. In the center of the location was one of the most beautiful churches I had ever seen, well actually, a basilica. Upon entering, I immediately had chills running down my back as I looked up at the high-up, vaulted ceilings and the jaw dropping designs in the construction. The nave of the basilica was light by a dull, blue-gray light through small windows from the cloudy sky outside, and the altar was lit in a red-orange glow from hundreds of candles. It was truly breathtaking, and I would have gotten hundreds of pictures of it all, but sadly the security told me no pictures were allowed. However, the most amazing thing at this already fantastic location was seeing the tombs of many Spanish monarchs and even Holy Roman Emperors like Charles V (Carlos V) and others. It was a truly astounding experience.

The following days I met my fellow classmates in my same program, began my classes, saw the royal palace in Madrid, went to a few parks, met my new roommate who is studying here from Barcelona, and continued my gastronomic tour of Spain that I began nearly immediately on arrival. As of now, the majority of money that I have spent has been on food, and I regret none of it.

Surprising and New Things

I have noticed a few differences and surprising things upon my arrival in the language and culture of the people. Firstly, no one says “baños” in my experience when talking about the restrooms. It is “aseos”.

Additionally, I have learned that instead of what I am used to in my own experiences of saying “sí, s´´í, sí” all of the time to express agreement or understanding, I hear madrileños using “vale”, which according to my roommate is the equivalent of “ok”. While I am more than ready to add this to my seemingly restricted vocabulary, I always feel as though I am using it incorrectly in my day-to-day speech, even if no one outwardly calls me out.

This may be obvious to anyone who knows anything about Spain, but it is genuinely hard to adjust to the new eating schedule that is engrained in Spanish culture. Breakfast at 7-9am is usually coffee, a piece of bread with tomatoes and olive oil, or a pastry, and is always relatively meager. Lunch is the main meal of the day that begins around 1pm (though still a bit early for many here) and goes until 3 or 4pm, and in some cases, you can see people finishing their lunch of midday merienda around 5pm. Don’t even think about dinner until 8pm but most do not begin to eat until 9 or 10pm. Despite all of my mental preparation before hopping on the plane to go to Spain, I am still adjusting to this difference even now.

Although I may already be almost done with my second week, I will wait until my next post to explain my second week and all of the other new experiences. As it is now, one of my main goals is to go to every park in Madrid, there are a lot of them, and do a comparison with pictures, but my mission is still incomplete, as of now. Until my next post, ¡chao!

Un Viaje Emocionante

I am very excited for my departure for Spain in late May. I believe this opportunity to study the Spanish language and culture will be much more immersive, involving, and most of all, memorable. This will be my opportunity to utilize what I have read and studied in books for about seven years and put it to practice. I am interested to see how my perceptions of the culture, cuisine, people, and daily life will adapt as I am presented with more and more. I want to have a dynamic view of the culture and language that never ceases to become more developed.

My primary goal for this program and experience is to become more fluent in my speaking, reading, and writing. I want to be able to participate in fast-paced, everyday conversations. I want to remove all inhibitions I have towards practicing with others and becoming stronger. I hope to get more practice by talking to shop clerks, restaurant owners, and anyone who would not mind talking with a tourist. I am thrilled to say that the neighborhood of Spain where my university is located, Malasaña, is known for its coffee shops, bakeries, large student population, and it is near multiple beautiful historic buildings. I want to augment my perception of Spanish culture by trying as much new food as possible, exploring historic parts of the city, and visiting museums, of which there are plenty of opportunities nearby. I think I will start delving into Spanish pop culture soon by listening to the top songs of the radio so that I can have a conversation starter. Anyways, I am optimistic and enthusiastic for my trip, and I cannot wait for my expectations to be changed, altered, built up, knocked down, or all of the above as I get to learn to love the culture more and more.

Well, I am looking forward to seeing just how many experiences, sights, sounds, and more I can cram in during my time abroad.

¡Hasta luego!