Upon arrival in Madrid, I was mesmerized by the extravagant architecture and the lively city streets. I was finally living the life that I had anticipated for so long. At first, I was jet lagged, ill, and lonely, but that didn’t stop me from dropping off my luggage at my hotel room and wandering the historic streets. It didn’t take much walking for me to stumble into one of Madrid’s most renowned treasures…the Royal Palace of Madrid. I could not wrap my head around the fact that it contains more than 3,400 rooms decorated with art from distinct periods. I was living in what’s considered the honeymoon period of a study abroad experience.
During orientation, I was pleasantly surprised to meet plenty of University of California students. It was comforting to know that other students were experiencing the same type of transition. I instantly connected with them and we stuck together as we awaited the official start of the semester. Meanwhile, we brought all of our knowledge together and helped each other to establish a home away from home. Prior to the start of the semester, we got accustomed to life in Madrid. Collectively, we learned how to navigate the city’s public transportation system. As a California native, I had never experienced public transportation such as an underground metro- it was challenging and distressful. To get acclimated to this new way of life, it was crucial for me to step out of my comfort and reach out to people for help.
On my first day, I felt excited yet anxious. I was uneasy about the fact that my classes were all going to be taught in Spanish. Enrolling in the program, I presumed that it was going to be easy because it is my native language; however, it was far from the truth. Latin American Spanish and Spain Spanish are very different in nature- the accent, the speed at which it is spoken, and the slang. At first, I was conscious of the way that I speak Spanish but I learned to embrace my distinct accent. I enjoy speaking to my Spanish peers because I can immerse myself in their culture and learn their colloquial language. On the other hand, I provide them with a different perspective and cultural insight into American culture. I will say that being an “international student” has made me more perceived in every setting. My professors call on me often to give insight on particular topics that relate to the United States. My first week at a foreign university has taught me that I am an unofficial diplomat to my country. This idea comes with a lot of pressure but it encourages me to be the best version of myself. All of the discomfort I have experienced thus far has already brought about personal growth. The best way to sum up my first week abroad is like starting university for the first time. It is not easy but it surely is rewarding.