Hola, Spartans! My name is MaryKent Wolff, and I am an English major with minors in Spanish and Women’s and Gender Studies. This summer, I had the incredible opportunity to study abroad in Madrid, Spain, through one of UNCG’s faculty-led programs. Madrid is actually the capital of Spain, home to what seemed like endless amazing museums (namely the Prado and Reina Sofia), some of the nicest people I have ever met, and the most gorgeous park that I’ve ever seen (Retiro, if you’re curious).
I couldn’t tell you what I expected going into this trip—I had travelled abroad before, but never for an extended amount of time or without my family. I spent the week between the end of the spring semester and the start of my trip in complete denial, anxious because I was unsure of what to expect and how I would adjust. That all changed the moment we landed.
Sure, I was intimidated. I knew some Spanish, but I didn’t feel like it was enough to get by on. I was unfamiliar with the food that I was eating, and felt lost in such a big city. But I’d never felt so excited or so independent! I could ride the metro by myself, eat foods I would have never eaten otherwise (I tried goat!), and expand my knowledge of Spanish by trying to talk to everyone that I could. I explored city after city, from Segovia to Toledo to Seville. I frequented Primark more than I probably should have. I touched an aqueduct built by Romans. I was in a bar full of Madrid natives when Real Madrid won a high stakes soccer game. I saw where part of Star Wars was filmed in the Plaza de España (it was only Attack of the Clones, but still). I started incorporating slang like claro and vale into everyday conversations. I became close friends with people I likely would have never met otherwise, despite going to the same school, and laughed until I cried with them and our host mom at dinner every single night.
I loved Spain, namely its people, food, and landscapes, and I especially loved Madrid. I would go back in a heartbeat. After our classes ended, I traveled to Paris, Brussels, Cologne, and Amsterdam, but none of them compared in my mind.
If you ever get the chance to go abroad, as many of you will, absolutely do it. Do it especially if you have any hesitations. When I applied to the Lloyd International Honors College, I wrote my entrance essay about how I wanted to study abroad as a way to get out of my comfort zone, and my experience was exactly that. Every day was a new practice in growing, in stepping out of the world I knew and was pleasantly complacent in. There’s nothing else like it.
|My dragon, who sadly remains nameless due to a lack creativity, and I at a La Mezquita in Córdoba. La Mezquita was a mosque dating from the late 700s that was turned into a Catholic church in 1236.|
|One of Spain’s gorgeous landscapes, seen from Alhambra in Granada, a fortress that was the last stronghold of the Árabes during the Spanish Reconquest.|
|Paella is the quintessential food of Spain! Our host mom cooked it for us every Thursday night, and we looked forward to it this week. Sadly, this wasn’t hers, but a vegetarian paella from a restaurant in one of Seville’s main plazas.|