Take 1

Max Harrison-Caldwell
January 15, 2017

On Monday I fly to Madrid and on Tuesday the demolition crew comes to knock down the walls of my childhood bedroom. I’m packing my suitcase, my duffel bags, and my backpack with all the clothes and appliances I’ll need abroad but I’m also filling plastic containers and trash bags with the relics of my years at home. Everything needs to be packed up for storage, thrown away, or taken to Madrid to accommodate the renovation that will transform my parents’ house. So as I pack my bags, I anticipate not only the beginning of a new era, an exciting four months, my first prolonged stay outside of the U.S, but also the end of another. Although I’ve been going to school 3000 miles from home for five semesters, this is the first time I really feel like I’m moving out.

On Monday I fly to Madrid and on Tuesday I arrive a day late and take a taxi to the apartment where I’ll be staying with a local señora and another IES Abroad student. Am I excited? Absolutely. I’ve been studying Spanish since fifth grade and especially since declaring my Spanish major last year I’ve become determined to attain true fluency. During my senior year of high school I spent two weeks in Burgos on a foreign exchange trip, and there were a couple mornings during the second week when I would wake up and my first thoughts would be in Spanish: “Tengo que ducharme, no tengo mucho tiempo, espero que yo pueda comer.” It was wonderful to think automatically in another language and although I would inevitably speak English at some point in the day I felt like I was becoming part of the city. That’s the feeling I’m most looking forward to in Madrid. I want my whole existence to be Hispanicized for a semester, for my Spanish to come as naturally as my English, for Madrid to feel not like a city to be awed at, each plaza and restaurant significant in how different it is from home, but to be appreciated as my home.

In addition to speaking like a madrileño, I also want to skate like one. I have a habit of choosing locations for my higher education that have famed skateboarding scenes. L.A. is of course the mecca of American skateboarding, which is much of the reason why I decided to move across the country to go to school there, but its smooth asphalt schoolyards pale in comparison to Madrid’s marble plazas. Barcelona is widely regarded as the city with the most skate-friendly architecture in the world but as far as I’m concerned Madrid is a close second. For two decades it’s been an international skate destination and for two weeks I’ve been watching countless videos, looking up the addresses of different famous plazas, and reading online lists of the best Madrid spots.

Skating the city will also be a great way to meet locals. I’m hoping to make friends with Spanish skaters and go with them to the bars, restaurants, and concerts that the locals really go to. The best way to culturally and linguistically immerse myself will be to spend time with Madrid residents and while skaters worldwide are generally friendly with one another I’ve heard the Madrid scene is especially hospitable. I suppose I’ll find out for myself in a few days.

On Monday I leave Boston, I leave my bedroom, I leave my language and my American customs, I leave 20 years worth of evidence of my life here. But on Tuesday I start speaking and skating and living like a Madrid local and I couldn’t be looking forward to it more.

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Max Harrison-Caldwell

<p>I&rsquo;m a Spanish major in my third year at Occidental College. I want to pursue a career in journalism after graduating so right now I&rsquo;m trying to get as much writing experience as I can. In addition to writing, I like skateboarding and pita chips.</p>

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