“You are living your best life.”
I’ve gotten that text from a couple of friends recently. It’s something I struggle to comprehend. Am I living my best life? Right now, I am pretty darn homesick, but I’ve learned a lot from my time here.
Madrid is very nice. It is a melting pot of people from all over. The streets are bustling with people living their lives in various flavors and types. There are so many talented street musicians—it is insane! The musicians are by far my favorite aspect of this city. The culture is fun, and people really enjoy themselves here. Also, it is very safe. When a loud BANG is heard, no one thinks it’s from a gun.
A lot of people love Madrid because there’s a lot to love, but I believe that cities cater to a type of personality in people. Austin is made for someone different than who Dallas is made for. The same is true between Madrid and Barcelona, and all cities, for that matter.
Perhaps I feel homesick in part because of my expectations for studying abroad, which is supposed to be the best part of the best years of your life. I try to set a grounded perspective on my expectations for things while abroad, but like anyone, I succumb to disappointment.
My school experience is one such example. All the courses heavily rely on work with a randomly selected group of students that I find challenging to collaborate with. A silver lining of this could be that I am learning how to deal with a difficult work environment, but I hope to never need to use these skills.
Outside of school, things are a lot better. I am learning and growing SO MUCH! Life lessons, geography, independence, people skills, different cultures, and so much more. Something I’ve learned in my travels to other countries is how important a country’s economy is.
I give spare euros to those I come across, but just as often I don’t. There are just too many people out there needing and asking for help. I ponder this a lot: the practical limitations of my giving, where my empathy ends and greed begins. Sometimes the world is not fair.
So, then I think back to myself. How fortunate I am to have the privilege to go off to the other side of the planet. I’ve gotten to make friends with people from all across the world. I’ve learned how beautiful Islam is, how dedicated those who practice it are. I’ve gotten to laugh with the Scottish, talk philosophy with an Irish man, debate with the French, party with the Dutch, and skate with one of my idols. All of these things could never have happened without me studying abroad.
Even my problems have been good problems, in that they are making me grow stronger. They’re making me realize more about myself and the world around me. I am still gaining insights and value in knowledge. And it’s all subjective, so what I don’t like about Madrid, someone else might love. (As proven when I had my German friend proofread this essay. She loves Madrid!)
I am so extremely lucky to be studying abroad. Not everyone’s passport lets them go places. Not everyone has the resources or money to afford airfare. Not every human in history has had technology like commercial aviation to make this travel even possible. It is an absolute blessing that I get to study abroad.
They say travel is the only thing you can buy that makes you richer. Studying abroad has definitely enriched my life by letting me learn more about myself and the world around me. Some of those lessons are painful, but growth is painful. Because I am growing into a better person each and every day, I really am living my best life.
This post was contributed by Uriel Gavito, a Global Ambassador for Fall 2021. Uriel is a Radio, Television and Film major studying abroad in Madrid, Spain.