Looking back to before I arrived in Spain, I have realized my expectations have changed a little bit. Before coming here, I wasn’t sure how my level of Spanish ability would align with the situations I’d find myself in. Given that Madrid is known for its specific variation of Spanish, I feared that my course work taught by mainly Latin-American teachers would make it difficult to understand the locals I encountered. Much to my surprise I have found that my understanding of Spanish spoken to me is probably what has improved the fastest and in the greatest manner while being here. I learned quickly just how fast the native speakers here talk and had to quickly adapt to be able to parse out the different words being said in such a fluid language. While I did expect to speak more Spanish in my life outside of class, I have found that little things like cab rides have proved to be excellent opportunities to practice Spanish. For example, I was able to have a 30 minute conversation with a cab driver from Colombia, who was driving me from Madrid to Alcalá de Henares, in which I learned that he was a huge salsa fan and had actually worked on the security team of my grandma’s brother, Tito Rojas, or el Gallo Salsero, a famous Puerto Rican singer. These interactions remind me of how small our world truly is and the immense value of global experiences.
In a professional sense, I wasn’t sure how much direct value I would get from being here, but rather I thought this program would help me professionally indirectly by making me a more globally and culturally aware candidate with a Spanish working proficiency. However, in my coursework, I have learned skills that I think would definitely directly benefit me professionally if I have the opportunity to work in a role where knowing Spanish relevant. In my Medical Translation course, I have learned so many valuable skills within translation and interpretation and I believe it is in this course that my command of the language has grown the most.
From a personal perspective, I didn’t expect to make so many new and great friends while abroad. The experience has reminded me of moving into Tower A for the first time freshman year and I feel like I have used and learned from that experience to step out of my comfort zone more to meet people from all over the world at my university residence here in Alcalá de Henares. The photos I have included in this blog are from my trip to Menorca. Menorca is one of Spain’s Balearic islands in the Mediterranean sea, known for its turquoise waters and beautiful beaches. I had the opportunity to travel here with my friend Julien during the time in between the June and July program sessions. This is just one example of one of the awesome things I’ve been able to do since being in Europe and I am so grateful to have had this experience.