Throughout these past few months leading up to the beginning of the IU Madrid program I have been experiencing extreme emotions about my departure for Madrid.
On one side of the spectrum, I’ve fantasized intensely of sightseeing and conversing in perfect Castilian Spanish (in these imagined moments I’ve even been using the uniquely Spanish “vosotros” form on occasion to really show my “stuff”). In these dreams I feel completely at ease with the Spanish lifestyle and culture in my Spanish mind—that is, until I’m startled awake by the nightmarish plunging of my stomach that reminds me of all the questions I have about what my life will be like living in Madrid, all the details that living abroad requires.
When I think of “study abroad,” I think about pictures I’ve seen on various social media of friends smiling next to foreign national monuments and landscapes. I think of excursions and tasting local cuisine, taking photographs, and making new sets of friends in interesting places. These thoughts and images are what have driven my passion for learning the language and culture of the region. However, the prospect of studying abroad in Madrid also frightens me when I begin to wrap my head around the fact we will be living for the next few months (or year) in Madrid, a city 4,000 miles away from Bloomington.
In a few short days, we will begin our journey with IU Madrid on the campus of Universidad Complutense de Madrid. I imagine that during the first few days my peers and I will be busy and excited with orienting ourselves to the city, the time zone, and the many idiosyncrasies of Spanish culture. But reality quickly returns as I am reminded of our new normal: life in Spain. We will not simply be tourists on an exotic field trip; instead, we will be beginning a new stage of our academic and personal journeys, studying, eating, and living with native Spaniards. Over the next few months I hope to relay what an American’s life in Madrid looks like. For now, however, after finishing the last errands and making the final arrangements, I’ll continue daydreaming about Madrileñan architecture and cafés and museums, hoping not too many of my friends will notice the hundreds of Instagram pictures I’ve perused in the process.