Caitlin attends St. Louis University

No one tells you how hard the first few days of study abroad are, between the numerous days spent in airports and on delayed flights, the immediate language barrier that presents a problem everywhere I go, and the feeling of discomfort that is associated with living as a guest in someone else’s home. If I’m being honest, my first few days in Madrid were not filled with beautiful experiences of a different culture but rather harsh realizations of all the differences between their culture and my own. These few days of hardship are what made today, and moments like this, extra special.

This afternoon, I found myself in Parque Oeste surrounded by friends, enjoying what had turned into a beautifully, simple day. Stopping every few moments to capture the beauty of this place (despite shouts to hurry from one particular friend…) I was able to reflect on all that had happened since landing in Madrid on Monday. Since Monday, I have had several meals with my host mom attempting to converse in Spanish (and ultimately failing most times), begun classes, and somehow figured out the complicated Madrid metro. I have spent several hours in a café planning trips across Europe with friends and stopped in bakeries to buy pastries that looked too good to pass up.

While the first several days here were a blur of paella, tapas, cerveza, flamenco, classes (both hard and fun), and, of course, Español, I am learning to find the beauty in being uncomfortable. Striving to push through this discomfort I found myself dancing the merengue with random strangers in my Latin Rhythms and Dance class, walking through a park for hours snapping pictures with friends, and leaving the comforts of my bed for an underground cave bar. While study abroad hasn’t exactly been what I expected so far, these little treasures each day keep reminding me I am in the right place. I am beginning to find a new comfortable in what will be my home away from home for the next several months and am looking forward to rich, new experiences and challenges.