Studying abroad was something that I always wanted to do, but never thought I would have the opportunity to do. I was on a fast track to graduating college early, considering I would have to complete more school afterwards. Additionally, my rather conservative mother told me that she would never let me go out of the country. The odds seemed against studying abroad. However, I did make it work. This past summer, I studied abroad in Madrid, Spain for four weeks through Binghamton University. My experience in Madrid helped me to fulfill my goal of graduating early as well as my goal to studying abroad.
At first, I was so excited about studying abroad, but as everything grew closer I began to worry. The thought of leaving behind everything I had at home worried me. I also was concerned with struggling to make friends and failing to communicate with the locals. Little did I know, all of my worry subsided after studying for a week in Madrid.
The first week was tough. Spain was experiencing a heat wave during the time that I went abroad, so this was something I wasn’t used to. The temperature hit a high of 106 degrees. Living in a suburb, I was not used to public transportation. I had difficulty navigating the subway throughout Madrid at first. With the help of the staff and professors at the college in Madrid, my transition to living abroad was much smoother. After the first week, I had made an amazing group of friends. We would see each other everyday, eat meals, and explore the city at night. Everyone was in the same boat; they were in a different country with people they didn’t know. For this reason, everyone was very welcoming and friendly. It was nice to get to know who lived all over the United States.
One of the most amazing experiences I had in Spain was traveling to Barcelona. Barcelona was easily one of the most beautiful cities I had ever seen. We had an extended weekend one week so we decided to fly to Barcelona. The flight was great, as it only took 45 minutes. Once we arrived, we were ready to get settled into our apartment and explore the city. 10 of us stayed in an apartment together. We only knew each other for approximately a week, but we became best friends during the trip. As a matter of fact, I still keep in touch with my friends abroad as much as I can. One of our friends from Florida even came to visit us in New York for one weekend.
My experience in Spain definitely threw me way out of my comfort zone. In the end, it was an extremely positive experience. Studying abroad helped me grow as a person. I was able to adjust and succeed in an environment that was so foreign to me. Being a person who hates change, I was able to embrace the differences around me. This was the biggest impact that the trip had on me. When I returned home, my mother was so glad I had an amazing time, although she still claimed that I wasn’t allowed out of the country again. Little does she know, I’m already researching my next trip to Europe.
Alexis Porcelli, a current Binghamton University student ambassador, who studied abroad in Madrid, Spain last summer