Leaving New York (and Why It Was For Madrid)
Throughout the winter break, “I’m leaving for Spain January 23rd” was something I said all the time but didn’t know its meaning until two days after I unpacked in Madrid. I was excited to leave, of course I was excited, but fall and January swept past in a blur of To-Do lists and goodbyes without giving me pause to grasp, “I am going to live new country for half a year… I am going to live new country for half a year.”
Regardless, I suppose mental preparation can only yield so much until you finally leave! I did all kinds of other planning up until spring, such as choosing what country to study and how I wanted to live there. During class I would draw lists in my notebooks that looked like this:
PRAGUE _______________ MADRID
Pro – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – Pro
* nice bridges – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – * I can speak some Spanish
* humanities program – – – – – – – – – – – * paella
* it’s got that gritty, sad-poet cool vibe
* How long do I think I can live
on meat and potatoes?
My values might be questionable (and largely food-based), but they did help me discern what I wanted. A few Quito/Madrid, Monterrey/Madrid lists later, Madrid was my winner. Money and program availability factors aside, my guiding concern was finding the place I could make the most of; ie, finding a culture I thought I could immerse myself in rather than observe from a distance all semester. Speaking the language was going to be key (and I knew some Spanish) and if I could choose what sort of attitude I was going to come away with, I wanted a Madrileño one! To me, the Spanish capital epotimized a playful and relaxed mentality that I aspired to learn.
And thus, January 23rd I was flying to Madrid! It was night as I took off from JFK and from my window seat I could see the length of Hometown Long Island outlined in street lamps, passing by below. Being a LI gal, it was a meaningful send-off, so I sketched a memory and said goodbye to every county.