I guess you can say that when I landed in Madrid I considered myself screwed. I was screwed because I knew at that moment my life really would never be the same. I knew that I would forever be doomed, because I was always going to be chasing moments that felt like this.
Minus the initial shock of jetlag (I am a girl that definitely needs her sleep), I was immediately in love. I had never been to Europe before, and after diligently studying History as my degree for the past 3 years, I was in heaven.
After a 3-day glimpse upon what Madrid had to offer (the Royal Palace, Museo del Prado, Puerta del Sol…) we were on our way to Bilbao. Ironically, I remember thinking to myself that I would never live in Madrid. I thought it was beautiful but I was sure that it was not the place for me. Fast forward two and a half years later and I am sitting in a café (café might be a stretch…shamefully currently in a Starbucks) in Madrid writing this. I have happily lived here for 6 months. Funny how things work out…
Anyways, our 3 days of Madrid in our Study Abroad comfort bubble were quickly over when we had to each be dropped off to our respective host families. Reality steeped in. I said goodbye to my best friend (who was doing the same program as me) and was introduced to my new “family” in a whirlwind. We immediately hopped into their car to go wherever they were taking me. They were a young couple, probably in their mid 30s. They only spoke Spanish. My Spanish at the time consisted of the colors and days of the week. Reality was further steeping in.
I remember they took me to this restaurant that served burgers, which I thought was a nice thought from them. Because of course an American would want burgers. A few of their friends came to the dinner, and I found out that it had just been my host dad’s birthday. One of the friends gave him condoms wrapped in wrapping paper that had little cartoons about sperm on it. Another glimpse into Spanish culture was discovered… be open and have a sense of humor. We laughed about it and I thought about what other things were in store.
After dinner we arrived at my host family’s apartment. They told me where everything was, and finally showed me my room. My room was right next to the metro, which passed by every 10 minutes. Another thing to get used to, I thought to myself. There was a list of rules to abide by (in Spanish), a desk, closet, and full sized bed. It was probably around 11pm, but I had no concept of time at that point.
That day felt like the longest day of my life. It was my first time in a completely unfamiliar place, and reality had officially fully steeped in. I was there. This was real. I only had 7 more weeks to go. To a girl that had never been away from home for any long period of time, this felt like eternity. I am pretty sure I cried myself to sleep.
Well, I survived. The initial culture shock turned into familiarity. I don’t think I slept at all that summer. We lived on adrenaline and awe. I just remember every day I would think to myself and wonder how I got so lucky. Everything about that summer was magical, and that is really the only word to describe it. I consider my summer in Bilbao the catalyst that pushed me into this life of chasing adventures, and I’ve never looked back.