Hola! Mucho Gusto!
I've been mentally drafting this post countless times this Summer, but this is not entirely surprising, considering my knack for overthinking. My thoughts often wander, circling the persistent question: "Am I making the right choices?" Initially, I meant to focus this post on my journey in language learning, the chaos of packing and academic preparations, course planning, and registration. However, as I sit down to rewrite this on the eve of my departure, it's crucial to capture the whirlwind of emotions that accompany it.
From changing my major midway through college to committing to a study abroad adventure, 2023 has been a year of transformation and bold decisions for me. (I suspect junior fall is the perfect time for study abroad, given how tumultuous sophomore year can be.) I've always felt like I must have read the guidebook to life backward, skipping over some of the most crucial chapters. In the past few months, I've revisited my decision repeatedly. My mind is a swirling tornado of hypotheticals. Is this the perfect semester for me? Am I sacrificing valuable resume-building leadership roles? Are my chosen classes academically suitable? What about making friends and fitting in?
While I haven't completely cracked these complex conundrums, I've considered my desires and yearnings for a study abroad experience. I've realized that my most inspired decisions have always been a little wacky, spontaneous, and not necessarily what I originally intended.
I'm a mix of nervousness and excitement. The idea of starting fresh in a new country is exhilarating filled with possibilities for reinvention and endless discovery. Yet, it's undeniably daunting. As an international student in the US, it took me a year to finally feel at home. Leaving behind this comforting backdrop and the friendships I've made over two years is terrifying. But in a way, my decision is made easier knowing I've faced a similar experience before. If I could uproot my life and successfully integrate into a foreign culture once, I'm confident I can do it again.
College is a unique phase in a person's life. For many of my peers and me, it's akin to make-believe adulthood. We're entrusted with steering our own lives, yet we're sheltered within the comforting confines of an academic institution that offers the security of routine and companionship. This transitional stage makes studying abroad particularly appealing. When else in life will we have the chance to spend a carefree four months in Spain, free from most responsibilities, learning new customs, embracing novel approaches to academics, venturing beyond the touristy spots, and living (almost) like locals? It's also a chance to learn a new language. If it weren't for this study abroad opportunity, I probably wouldn't have signed up for a Spanish course. While I think the experience would have been significantly enriched if I had had practice with Spanish right from the get-go, I am eager to try and soak up as much as I can; as you can tell, I lean towards spontaneity.
I think my attraction to the study abroad concept comes from my childhood. Quality time in my family meant traveling over summer break, reviewing travel brochures and websites, comparing attractions and considering logistics. In 20 years, I've been fortunate to visit 24 countries, albeit briefly. Despite the touristy nature of these visits, they left a substantial impact, teaching me to appreciate other cultures kindling an interest in history and languages.
And most importantly, I chose Madrid because I was craving an adventure and the thrills that would follow. Madrid presented a unique challenge: an opportunity to prove that I could pack up my life and start anew in a foreign land with a new language, leave behind my campus bubble, and become a part of a bustling metropolitan city. As I wrangle my clothes, shoes, jackets, accessories, and medicines into my suitcases while hastily rushing through Duolingo units, I've pondered my Madrid top five, a bucket list of exciting experiences if you will. In no particular order, here it is:
1. Strolling/shopping along Gran Via and exploring the vintage thrifts of the Malasaña District.
2. Catching a La Liga match.
3. Visiting Ibiza and Mallorca.
4. Going for runs in Retiro Park.
5. College mates who participated in the program last year have all but raved of the Kapital and its five magical levels
Bonus: Just found out that my favorite artist, Gracie Abrams, will be performing at the Wizkid Center in October. I missed her live performance during the North American leg of her tour, so her concert aligning with my trip feels like destiny!
In the words of my favorite novel that never fail to inspire and comfort me "Sometimes you just have to jump and hope it's not a cliff."
Can't wait to share more with you all soon!
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My name is Eeshta Bhatt and I'm originally from Mumbai, India. An avid reader, writer, and dancer; you are most likely to find me sipping coffee with a fantasy fiction novel, watching a murder mystery or charting out new runnining trails.