I knew from the first moment that I began to research Spain as the country of my choice for a high school Spanish project that I absolutely wanted to travel there one day. It seemed so far away and a little bit scary to my small-town mind, but it was something I longed to do, and I was determined to make it happen. I didn’t know ‘how’, ‘when’, or ‘for what’. All I knew was that I desired to experience first-hand those beautiful buildings, the surreal artwork, the foreign culture and traditions, and the vibrant nightlife.
Upon beginning my freshman year at Auburn, I had the opportunity to listen to one of my Peer Advisors talk about her summer program in Madrid, Spain. I hung on her every word. It was exactly what I had thought about for so long. It sounded perfect for me! So…. Of course I went online immediately and began my process to experiencing the country that I held in such high regards.
When it came time to depart, I had so many thoughts running through my mind; not one of those thoughts being, “I’ll sure miss my family for the next four weeks” (the most common among my peers who were bidding their families farewell). All of my thoughts were centered on how I was going to see and do everything I had read about in textbooks my whole life.
From the very first minute I stepped off the bus to meet my host family, I knew that I wasn’t going to have any trouble making Madrid my home. The next weeks were filled with countless museum visits, tapas dinners, metro rides, chocolate and churros outings, and tons of celebration. Madrid is already so full of life, but I also happened to be there during their rivalry soccer game against Barcelona (which Madrid won) as well as the World Cup. It was like being a part of Auburn celebrations against Alabama with a million more people there. Before I knew it, Madrid wasn’t a foreign place to me at all anymore.
My new normal consisted of metro rides into the city, afternoon siestas, dinner at 10:00 pm every night, bargaining for items I wanted in Parque del Retiro, and lounging on rooftops overlooking the city until 3:00 am. For the first time, I was fully immersed in a completely new environment relying solely on my own independence. This program shaped my life by making me realize exactly what kind of place I could foresee myself spending the rest of my life; somewhere with so much to do, see, discover, and learn; somewhere that a new opportunity lies around every corner.
— Olivia Hudson
AU Liberal Arts – Summer Program in Madrid, Spain, 2014