Pre-Departure

Hi y’all,

It is important to know that prior to Spain, I studied abroad in Cape Town, South Africa for 5 weeks. It was amazing and I loved it. The decision to study abroad in South Africa greatly influenced the decision to study abroad in Madrid, Spain.

I chose to study abroad in Spain because I am receiving a minor in Spanish and wanted to be totally emerged into the culture in order to better my Spanish-speaking skills. The factors that influenced my decision were the location (since I am minoring in a foreign language) and the courses that transfer over and count toward my degree(s). Additionally, I had a great time in South Africa and knew I would also have a great time in Spain if I went. Luckily for me, my parents encourage travel and studying abroad. Therefore, there were not many “key things” I had to consider before going abroad; only if the money spent was worth the credits received.

I am preparing to study abroad by attending all the director’s orientation meetings and the University’s pre-departure orientation. Besides those, I am keeping track of current political and religious events and starting to mentally prepare to pack to be away from my home for 2 months. Physically, I am (trying) to work out everyday at the University’s gym, take my dog on daily lengthy walks and drink lots of water. Emotionally, I have told all my friends that I will be out of the country for a long period of time and probably will not have time to stay up-to-date with them. I am seeing my parents for a few days prior to my trip to “get in the zone” of being in a foreign country on a distant continent in a different time zone. The items that I will carry in my carry-on bag are: my phone, phone charger, journal, book/crossword puzzles, my daily medicine, passport, wallet, ID and some Euros. Although I have not planned that far in advance, the above mentioned items are what I know I will have to have on me during my flight. The only intangible items that I will carry on the flight are the memories I have of my dog, friends and family.

The only process I am following before I leave is the one provided by the director of my program. He is extremely helpful in terms of sending important emails with attachments, documents, packing lists and reminders.

Some thoughts going through my head are: “I know no one going on this trip with me”, “I don’t want to begin packing”, “I’m going to miss my dog SO MUCH”, “How will I go a day without calling my sister/dad/mom 5x/day?” and “Will the classes be too difficult?”. Without a doubt, anytime someone were to ask me if I were thinking about my sister/mom/dad, I would say yes in an instant. For me, it has not truly sunk in that I will be in Spain for 2 months yet. It only will feel real the moment I arrive at the airport for my flight to Spain from Chicago O’Hare (the same thing happened before South Africa). The only thoughts and/or feelings I am experiencing now are blissfulness. I am still in awe that I will be in another foreign country for the first time ever on my own exploring everything it has to offer!

Upon my arrival back into the US, I hope to have gained an understanding and appreciation for the world and its views. Additionally, after studying abroad, I hope to have expanded my world and cultural views and to have changed how some Europeans view Americans. The top thing I want to do while abroad is to genuinely live in the present moment and take in all the city’s architecture, food, people, tourist destinations, events, etc. I hope to learn more about how the decisions of Americans affects the lives of people living countries away. Furthermore, I hope to change and grow as a person through the locals I encounter, the places I go and what I see. One of the only things I certainly want to experience is Retiro Park. I have heard incredible things about this beautiful piece of land and I am excited to experience it in person. Retiro Park, or El Parque Retiro, is located in the neighborhood of Retiro, Madrid in the Independence Plaza, or The Plaza de la Independencia.

Author: Mackenzie L

Senior at UA majoring in Social Work & minoring in Spanish

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