At the time of writing this finals just wrapped up here at Tufts-in-Madrid, and over the last couple days I’ve been saying goodbye to people and places I’ve met during the last four months. It’s much much more difficult to do than I’d anticipated, especially because I hadn’t realized just how many people have had an impact on me this semester. Everyone, from the doorman to my apartment building and the local baker to my Spanish professors and classmates, made a point of wishing me well; it’s a testament to the true sincerity of the people of Spain.
Some will say it’s not worth going abroad unless you go for a full year; however, I can now say with confidence that a semester was the right choice for me. My experience is by no means universal, and indeed, there are a number of Tufts-in-Madrid students returning to Spain next semester—many of whom decided to stay partway through the fall semester.
For me, a semester was enough time to meet my study abroad goals, and then some: I visited many cities throughout Spain, with nearly everything reimbursed by the program’s generous reimbursement policy; my Spanish improved, especially conversationally; I made friends with native Spanish speakers in my class at the University of Alcalá. I’ve seen myself grow from someone who was timid to send a text or email in Spanish to sending rapid-fire messages back and forth in group chats, whispering to my classmates for clarification during lecture, and overall feeling more confident and comfortable speaking Spanish in any number of contexts.
I’ll always remember the dinners I spent with my host family, hearing my host mom recall stories of her youth, and the crazy circumstances that required my host family and I to move apartments midway through the semester (albeit only down the road). And of course there are the firsts: my first Spanish discoteca, my first time answering ‘yes’ to “do you speak Spanish?”, my first cooking class, and more.
Each person’s abroad experience is unique, but thanks to the Tufts-in-Madrid program, I have 30 classmates-turned-friends who went through similar ups, downs, and challenges. I am grateful for every experience I have had these past few months, and for those new friends, many of whom will be returning to campus in the spring. In just a semester, I was able to find community in a new place and culture, a task that seemed daunting at first but which became a reality over time. Part of that community will follow me back to Tufts, and the part that won’t will always have a place in my heart.