This summer I studied abroad in Madrid, Spain. I did a homestay with a single mother and her two children Alicia (13), and Pablo (11). Coming home every day to a welcoming Spanish family and spending time with my new “siblings” allowed me to be fully immersed into the Spanish culture and language.
Upon arrival in Madrid, after a brief orientation, everyone was sent off by cab to find his or her host families. We had to decipher Spanish addresses and get in touch with our host families, our first task in a foreign country alone. After a long flight my phone had died, and when I reached my apartment no one was home. The cab sped off and I was stranded on the curb with a suitcase as large as me. Right away I had no choice but to ask anyone who passed me on the street in Spanish for help and if I could borrow their phones to reach my host family. Even though I was perpetually lost for the beginning of the trip, I was pushed out of my comfort zone and into the Spanish culture. It was inevitable that I would get lost, and each time I did I became more connected to the city. I quickly made new friends and we began exploring the city, and eventually other cities in Spain.
Everywhere we walked there was a new palace, a cathedral, and a piece of history. Towards the end of the trip I felt at home in Madrid and engaged in the culture. I felt more confident, and when I was approached by a lost Spaniard and asked directions in Spanish, I was the one, for a change, with the answers and the ability to communicate them.
The experiences I had and classes I took abroad were truly unique and allowed me to discover parts of myself I did not know existed. By being knocked completely out of my comfort zone I was able to absorb a different language and culture. I highly recommend studying abroad, engaging oneself fully, and sharing these experiences with new friends.