As the start of a new semester draws closer and I think back both on my time abroad as well as my time since returning to the states, it is hard to find the words to describe what I have experienced these past few months. Leaving Madrid was bittersweet as I was so excited to see my family and friends back home but I was sad to leave the place that taught me so many new things about my-self as well as the incredibly diverse world we live in.
The Spanish have a unique way of life and of doing business that at first led to a bit of culture shock but that throughout the semester I came to appreciate. I think the biggest difference between Spain and the United States in terms of both business and culture is the slower pace of the Spanish. The Spanish really value being present and enjoying the moment without being in a rush to experience or do something else. What this means for business is that shop owners often feel more free to be flexible with their hours, it’s very common for places to close from the hours of two to five in the afternoon for siesta time. You won’t see this occur much in a large metropolitan city like Madrid but we definitely experienced the almost ghostly effect when we traveled to smaller towns outside of Madrid. Another example is on Sundays many businesses are closed, even in the city, because in Spain Sundays are for being with and spending time with family.
More than anything I think my time in Spain was a period of growth and learning, learning both about myself and about cultures and life styles different than my own. I gained so much insight from this one semester that will affect my perspectives and the way I view the world for the rest of my life. Getting to take business classes with students from all over the world provided so many opportunities to hear about different views from different parts of the world and living with an exchange student from Scotland meant we got to learn all about Scottish culture and share our culture with her. Even though I was studying in Spain I was able to get to learn about cultures from so many other countries as well. Not to mention I picked up some pretty practical and useful skills along the way as well, from traveling on a budget to using Google maps to navigate while on foot and public transportation systems, which for someone like me who is from a very suburban area and isn’t used to using a metro system was pretty daunting at first, but most importantly I gained a new level of adaptability. While abroad I encountered many obstacles from lost luggage to homesickness and I can now say I am much better equipped to deal with whatever challenges are thrown my way.
In conclusion, studying abroad for a semester in Madrid was a once in a lifetime experience that I will remember and cherish forever because of the wonderful people I met and all the new things I learned and experienced! For anyone wondering if a studying abroad is right for them my advice is go for it you will make memories that will last a lifetime!
Here are a few pics from my travels 🙂