There comes a point in every study abroad student’s life where they come to the sudden, unfortunate realization that they aren’t paying a semester’s tuition to gallivant around their host country for a few months, but rather to take a full, legitimate course load (while gallivanting around their host country). I just recently came to this realization—a little late, I’ll admit, given that I’ve just completed my second week of classes. It took me so long, I think, not (totally) because I’m in denial, but because they are more like an extension of the cultural immersion I’ve already been experiencing daily for the past four (what?!) weeks. Take my art history class, taught entirely in the world-renowned Prado museum, as a clear example. My past, so unsophisticated, self used to look at centuries-old paintings with religious motifs as though they were one and the same. When I saw for the first time original works that were literally fit for a king, though, this sentiment dissipated immediately. It takes a good professor to make a subject come alive, but seeing the works in person tells the whole story. Learning that the Prado museum was conceived specifically for the tastes of Spanish royalty led me to focus on particular brush strokes and changes in texture with the knowledge that the piece may have appeared in the king’s bedroom or corridor. I have absolutely zero, write it down, zero years of experience with art history, not to mention am a pitiful artist, frankly, but how could I not be in awe of 12-foot-tall, angelic masterpieces? “La Gloria,” a piece by Tiziano circa 1551 was particularly magnificent. Hitting the floor and nearly scraping the ceiling, the piece screams its title, full of angels joined by the purity of heaven. I thought for a second how cool it would be to have something like this in my dorm room—then I came back down to reality and agreed that it might be a tad overwhelming for my room/closet. Even if I don’t bring a copy home, I’ll be exploring the halls of the Prado for the next two months, taking in its glory.
So, while I may not be gallivanting quite as much as I had been before classes started, don’t pity me. Beauty fills every corner, each step I take a blessing. And so the journey continues.