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MIT student blogger Laura N. '09

Adios, Madrid by Laura N. '09

My attempt at an eloquent goodbye to Spain.

In a few short hours I will hop on a plane back to the US. I have some very mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, I am excited to get back and paint my new room, have fun doing REX stuff, see all my old friends. I am excited for some of the classes I’ll be taking, but with classes come psets so…that’s a wash. On other hand, I am trading Spanish weather for New England weather, and leaving behind a great experience, which is always sad.

So here it is, my attempt at some sort of summary of my summer in Spain. It doesn’t reeeally say what I want it to, but I did my best. What can I say, I suck at goodbyes.

Things I am grateful to Spain for giving me:

  • the warm weather I missed so much in Boston last summer. I am really not happy about trading this weather for a New England winter. I feel sorry for my friends at MIT, I’m sure my complaining about winter is going to be much more vociferous this year.
  • fluency in a second language. Dude, this. is. so. cool. I wouldn’t go so far as to call myself bilingual just yet, but pretty close. I absolutely love it. Nine years after my first Spanish class in the 7th grade (in which I clearly remember one of the students asking, “so, this is going to take forever, right, I mean, don’t we we have to learn what every single Spanish word means?”), I am really and truly fluent. One check mark for the “things to accomplish before you die” list. Wee!
  • perspective. Possibly the most important, and the hardest to put into words. I can be a pretty big critic of the US, but being in Spain, and coming to know and love the culture here has made me appreciate my own even more. I used to have the very narrow-minded view that most of the things in my life were “just normal” or universal. I had no idea how unique certain aspects of my everyday life in the US really were. I expected to come to Spain, love the culture, and reaffirm my belief that the US is boring, too capitalist, etc, and that Americans are just as bad as we sound to the rest of the world, culturally insensitive, unable to pick out Iraq on a map. As I’m leaving, I realize that while in Spain, I fell in love with Spanish culture…and the US culture that suddenly revealed itself to me by comparison. Of course, there are things I like and dislike about both, but I never expected this! Then again, if you only ever changed in the ways you expect to change…well, that wouldn’t really be change, would it? Now I have a whole new way of looking at the world, full of people who are all the same and yet all different at the same time, and who are all in it together. Yes, it’s very idealistic, I know. =)
  • An idea about what I want to do with my life. I KNOW! (And just in time, right?) After my previous state of confusion, this is a huge feat. (Sorry, no details yet, this topic deserves an entry of its own!)

Things I love about Spain:

  • Retiro Park. The Common is nice and all, but no. I am going to miss Retiro so much. *sigh*
  • alcoholic drinks. Wait, don’t judge yet! Let me explain! See, in the US, drinking is usually about getting plastered (among my age group, anyway). You tip your head back and pour down shots of vile liquids that make your throat burn, and I just don’t understand it. Anything with fruit juice in it, which might actually make it taste good, is scornfully called “a girly drink” (don’t even get me started about the sexism…) In Spain, everyone, males included, think shots are disgusting but sangria is delicious. And while at first I was skeptical about mixing soda or fruit juice with red wine…don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. I went out for one last drink with a friend from work on Thursday, and he said “oh no, it’s your last tinto de verano! [red wine and lemon soda] Well, you can make it in the US, I guess…but people will probably look at you kind of funny, right?” I think that’s a risk I’m going to have to take.

Things I don’t love about Spain:

  • baked goods. Seriously, if you want tasty pastries, go to France. I used to be so confused by the Spanish word “galleta,” which means both “cookie” and “cracker.” I was like, dude, what if someone asks you to go to the store and buy some “galletas,” wtf are you supposed to do? There is a huge difference between a cookie and a cracker! Then I came to Spain and it all made sense. First thing when I get back- eating cookies.
  • the way people walk. Okay, I may not be the biggest fan of New York City, but it does have one thing going for it. You walk down the street in NYC, and everyone around you may be a huge jerk, but they know how to walk! You don’t walk 4 people across the sidewalk and block everyone else’s passage, you don’t walk slowly and stop in the middle of the sidewalk every 5 seconds to look at something in a store window, and you don’t stop to chat with the friend you just saw across the subway station half a second after getting off the escalator and cause ten people to break their ankles trying to get around you without setting off a domino effect across the whole escalator. Because if you do any of those things in New York, someone will probably pull a knife on you. But in Spain, all of the above are totally allowed. I will not miss this.
  • leaving it. I’d elaborate on this, but it makes me sad. And the past 3 days of goodbyes have been sad enough for me. So I leave this one to your imagination.

So, that’s it. Now I just have to throw my toothbrush into my bag, and head off to the airport. Twenty “short” hours from now (ugh) I will be in my new dorm room at MIT, sharing stories about our European adventures with Adelaide and hoping I got back before Shaw’s closes so I can go buy some chocolate chip cookie dough.

14 responses to “Adios, Madrid”

  1. Jeremy '12 says:

    OMG I hate the 4-man human sidewalk block. Sooooo annoying!

  2. Jeremy '12 says:

    Can’t wait to read about your newfound purpose in life!

  3. Keith says:

    That must have been a beautiful experience for you.
    P.S. Sangria is delicious.

  4. Piper says:

    You’re ahead on the bilingual curve – Spain’s Spanish is often difficult to understand because of the lisp and how fast they speak =).

  5. Omar says:

    Hahaha, I hate the sidewalk thing too. Happens a lot in Chicago. I hope Boston is not like that.

  6. One check mark for the “things to accomplish before you die” list. Wee!


    i really understand the part where you got a new perspective of the world, that’s the good thing of living in different countries.

    nice post smile

  7. Anon. Troll says:

    When I first saw “lisp” I thought Scheme/OCaml/Haskell. Signs you’ve been at the ‘Tvte too long…

    Have a safe trip back, Laura!

  8. Chris B. '12 says:

    Hey, Us new yorkers are not THAT bad. And no one would pull a knife if it was in the middle of Manhattan or something like that. Curse you out in multiple languages? YES, most definitely. Shank you, no.

  9. Piper says:

    The Yankees.

    ’nuff said wink

  10. Ehsan('15?) says:

    so you actually know what you want to do with your life? I can’t wait to read about it.

  11. Piper says:

    @Laura – I was responding to Chris ’12, who said New Yorkers are “not that bad”. =P

  12. Laura says:

    Um, Piper, I have no idea why you’re randomly mentioning the Yankees on my blog…but you’d better have a good reason!

  13. “so you actually know what you want to do with your life? I can’t wait to read about it.”

    Me too. After two years of research work, I still can’t decide whether I want to continue on with it for the rest of my life.

  14. hmm, I’m gonna have to find a new name it appears…

    anyway, the part where you said you look at people and see how different, and how alike they are at the same time stuck out to me, and reminded me of something I wrote on the plane ride over here. I thought it might be interesting to you:

    It’s weird to think how different we are. I’m home and you’re so far away from it, in the same way at your home I’d be so far away from mine. And yet, we experience these two extremes, being close and being afar, simultaneously,relatively. Humanity is a summation of these paradoxes, life experienced uniquely, constantly, and impenetrably from our own vantage point, our only similarity being how desperately different we all want to be. In that respect we are all alike in our uniqueness.