I grew up on a small farm in rural Missouri where the summer nights were filled with the sounds of crickets, cicadas, and frogs. I always made sure to crack my window open so I could listen to them before I fell asleep. This is one of the first things that I thought of as a laid down to sleep on my first night in Madrid. With a lack of air conditioning being the norm in Europe I opted to open my window to let a breeze in. The sound of car horns, police sirens, and lively groups of people on the streets of Plaza de España filled my ears. I couldn’t help but think it was a little funny despite knowing that I would struggle to sleep for the next 8 weeks. Interning abroad is something that is massively out of my comfort zone and despite the numerous orientations I attended, I didn’t quite know what to expect.
My biggest fear was that I would feel alone or isolated during my time here. I worried that I wouldn’t make friends with the other people in my program and that I wouldn’t get to share this amazing experience with anyone closer than 4,000 miles. Luckily, my fears were set aside when I made fast friends with two girls in my program. From exploring the city to grocery shopping, we began doing everything together. I feel like there’s a comfort in sharing these experiences in parallel. We often talk about how we feel like we are imposters in our own skin. The thought of ‘What are we doing?’ is constantly at the forefront of our minds. Most days I feel like I’m living a dream, especially when I’m doing things like exploring cathedrals, palaces, or just walking down the cobblestone streets on my way to the grocery store. I have been looking at this experience as an opportunity for growth and self-reflection. My independence is strengthening and my appreciation for the little things grows everyday.
Adjusting to day to day life in Madrid was something that I struggled with at first because of how different it is compared to the United States. I’ve often heard that Americans live to work, and in other places in the world people work to live, and I have definitely noticed the latter in Madrid. My internship is in one of the larger business districts in Spain and is surrounded by cafes and shops. On my walk to work I am constantly wondering how anyone is getting anything done because it seems like everyone is on one long smoke break. One of the funniest culture shock moments I had was during my first day of my internship. I expected to get a brief rundown of the company and then be expected to get started on various tasks. Instead, my supervisor had a long meeting with me and then invited me to get coffee. We all sat and chatted over coffee for about an hour, which turns out to be the norm where I work. Life is much slower here in Spain and it seems like many people are intentional about creating lasting relationships with coworkers that turn into friendships. There are many other moments where I have noticed the staunch differences in work culture compared to America that have made me stop and think. I admire a lot of things about Spanish work culture but I think growing up in America has made me more motivated and career driven which I am grateful for. I am learning more about myself and Spain during this internship and my self-reflection is a big part of this.
Forming lasting relationships, like the ones that Spaniards work so hard to create, is something that I know I will take away from this experience of a lifetime. I have so much more to learn and experience during my time here and I can’t wait to see how I grow and change as a result. Despite the lack of familiarity I feel here, I have grown to count on the constant noise of the city that rings in my ears as I attempt to sleep. It is nothing like the sounds of the night from my childhood but I have grown to take comfort in it as the weeks have passed and in a funny way I think that I will miss it when I leave.