If you’ve ever been on the Madrid Metro, you’ve probably heard the announcer voice say: “Próxima estación, (insert stop name here)” which means “Next station, (insert stop name here).” As an “aficionado” of the Metro de Madrid, I’ve heard this voice more times than I can remember. In a way, it’s been very comforting getting used to hearing that phrase as I learn to explore and navigate not only the city, but myself as well.
One of my goals at the start of the semester was to explore as much of the city as possible and immerse myself as a “true madrileño.” I wanted to explore the areas outside of where I live and go to school because I knew that Madrid is such a huge city with so much going on. I decided that, at least once a week, I would take the Metro and go to a random stop. There wasn’t any rhyme or reason behind the majority of Metro stops that I decided to explore, rather I decided in the moment when to make transfers and when to get off.
Being completely honest, I wasn’t able to follow this plan for more weeks than I would like to admit. One of the biggest obstacles was actually myself. I was (and still admittedly am) reluctant to explore various parts of the city by myself. Before studying abroad, I heard a mountain of stories about people who “solo traveled” quite a lot and I thought to myself, “Wow! I want to try that too!” Of course, traveling to a different country by yourself is very different from getting off at a station 20 minutes away from where you live but the fear was still there.
I think this hesitation came from being self-conscious. In other words, I was scared that other people would judge me for traveling alone. It seems like everywhere I went, people were hanging out with friends and family while looking and whispering right at me. There were people with whom I was able to travel but of course, there were times when our schedules didn’t line up.
It took me a long time (while still struggling now) to be able to confidently travel the city by myself. No matter how many people told me that it’s completely normal and that people (for the most part) aren’t really paying attention to you, I still always had that fear in the back of my mind. It took a lot of practice and reassurance but it worked. Take it from someone who is incredibly self-conscious: don’t let the fear of being judged stop you from doing things you enjoy. It’s much easier said than done but I promise you the results are worth it.
Exploring Madrid has not been easy. If I could go back in time and do it again, I would explore more by myself and (try to) focus less on what other people think. Nevertheless, exploring various Metro stops around the city has been an amazing experience. The diversity and rhythm of the city makes that climb up the stairs and out of the metro station worth it every time. Every time I look around and see the buildings in those neighborhoods for the first time, I realize that it's all worth it. I would like to think I’ve grown since starting my study abroad. For me, hearing that “Próxima estación…” has been a small testament to the growth that I’ve made and hope to continue making.
More Blogs From This Author
My name is Jacob and I am a current junior at Haverford College. I love all things related to learning about different cultures whether it be food, language, customs, etc. In my free time, you can typically find me playing video games, listening to music, or just spending time with friends!