Reflecting on the past 4 months…
On Tuesday, I turned in my last final of the semester, which means my study abroad semester is officially over. These past 2 months have definitely been challenging at times, knowing I “should have” been living in Madrid, traveling throughout Europe every weekend, and enjoying the freedom, independence, bliss, and adventure that comes along with studying abroad. These past 4 months have genuinely been something I dreamed about for more than 4 years, and it is hard to swallow that there are many things I was hoping to experience but did not have a chance to before needing to come home, thanks what’s going on in the world right now. But instead of dwelling on those things,I want to focus on some of the highlights from these past few months, both in Madrid and New York, because I do feel like as a result of all that’s happened, I have become more confident in who I am as a person and more clear on what I want to get out of life and the kinds of people I want to be around along the way.
I was inspired to write this after reading the “Semester in Review” journal entry I wrote at the end of the fall semester, and it’s funny because in that one there were so many concrete, impressive things I did and accomplished… accepting a dream summer internship, being named one of the top salespeople in my Sales class, making positive changes to my business fraternity while serving as president. This semester, I don’t have quite the same grand list of things, instead, most of the highlights from the semester are lessons I’ve learned. But one of the things I’m most proud of is that lately, I feel like I’ve been showing up for the world as an evolved person, with more joy and confidence in my heart, for no particular reason, just growth. It’s like, these past few weeks, I’ve had plenty of time to think, and I’ve decided that I really like who I am becoming and where I am headed.
Before I get into the lessons, I wanted to first mention two big things that stand out as some of my biggest blessings of the semester. First, I met a bunch of amazing people that I am really grateful to have in my circle and hope to call forever friends. I’d walk into the IES building and see so many genuine people with awesome energy who made me feel so comfortable and loved. My roommates were an absolute dream, and I could not have picked a better group of gals to live with. All my Bravo Murillo peeps (if you’re reading this, hi ily) will forever have my heart and share some of my fondest memories abroad. From going to 100 Montaditos on our first night in the city, to fam dinners at 194, and everything in between, we really loaded up our 2 months in Madrid with lots and lots of mems and laughs. It felt so comforting having a group of people I trusted and loved being around to make Madrid feel like home. And second, I went SKYDIVING! One of the most prominent, long-lasting items on my bucket list… check! I loved every second of freefalling out of a plane 13,000 feet in the air. What. A. Rush. It felt like an out of body experience, and words can’t exactly describe what the Swiss Alps and the whole planet look like from that angle. Honestly… I’d love to do it again.
And now, for some things I’ve learned along the way… Sorry if this gets a lil cheesy, just sharing from da heart:’)
- Make it count. Nothing is ever guaranteed, and I feel like early on in my time abroad I was subconsciously just going through the motions because I believed living in Spain from January through May was a given for me. After all, that’s what I signed up for! I put off doing some touristy things I wanted to do in Madrid, simply because I assumed I’d have time to do them later. For this very reason, I didn’t get the chance to tour the inside of the Royal Palace of Madrid before heading home (My friend & I booked a tour a few days before we were flying home, but then we moved our flights up and the tour got canceled too…sad.) So long story short, don’t wait.
- Savor every moment. Every morning, 3 of my roommates and I took 5 escalators down to catch the Metro, where we’d normally catch up with our guy friends for the 35 ish minute commute to school. Yes, it was early (8:15 AM to be exact) but it was honestly such a fun time together, which I’ve learned to appreciate even more in this time of social distancing. When else in my life will I be able to cram onto a packed Metro car with 6 of my friends, speak loud English the whole ride, annoying everyone around us on their morning commutes?! On March 9th, we took our last morning metro ride to class together, and we had no idea it’d be the last time, but late that night we found out our classes were moved online. In fact, that morning I was so in my own world, getting little sleep the night before from studying and flipping through index cards the whole ride to school to review for the 2 midterms I had that day.
- Make sure you record some videos horizontally. Don’t stay stuck behind your phone screen, but ya never know when you’ll feel inspired to make an iMovie about your adventures.
- On an academic note, I do believe my Spanish has improved throughout the semester. (That’s what taking 5 classes taught entirely in Spanish will do to you 😉 ) I feel more comfortable with my comprehension of the language, but I also recognize that I still have ways to go before I’m speaking it with ease at the pace I’d really like.
- Never stop learning! There is always a “next level” and there is always room for growth. Get out there so you can witness great things happening in our world, that way you can feel inspired to strive for the same greatness. For me, it was so exciting listening to fluent people speak because I’d think to myself, Wow, I want to sound like THAT.
- Speaking many languages is truly a gift. Communication is one of the most valuable things in my opinion, and every language you learn opens up more doors for communicating with others. After living in Spain and being exposed to the language much more than I ever have, I was able to identify the faults of my own learning experience. I did not start speaking it soon enough, so this is something I want to improve when I have my own kids. I plan to hire tutors to speak to them in multiple other languages while they are infants and continue teaching them throughout childhood when the brain is most receptive to retaining this knowledge.
- Alone time can be a good thing! Especially in the beginning, I felt myself doing most things with my friends because ya know… it was comforting but also safe. We got so close and I am so grateful to now have a few new best friends, but on the other end of the spectrum, once I was comfortable with my neighborhood and my commute to class, I found I really enjoyed taking a little bit of time every once and a while for myself. Running an errand, walking home from class, or taking the metro solo were good times for me to get comfortable in my own skin and be one with my own thoughts. It was cool to just think, be, and observe.
- Good things happen when you step outside your comfort zone. Make it a habit to do things that make you scared every so often… it’ll build confidence and make you feel good in the end. I learned this big time is when I signed myself up for a Bikram yoga class which I knew would be fully taught in Spanish. No, I’d never taken a Bikram hot yoga class before, and no, I never took a yoga class in Spanish before either. Would the poses have different names? Would I melt to death in a hot yoga class? I was super intimidated and nervous as I walked to the studio, had a brief conversation with the owner to sign in, and throughout the class as I’d be in folded over or upside down in poses while trying to interpret her Spanish cues. Quite the experience, but it was an AWESOME workout and I liked it so much I went back for a second class! It was humbling to know that I was not an expert and that there was plenty of room for me to learn and progress, both physically and with the yoga and linguistically with my Spanish comprehension.
- Life happens. It is important for me to pray, manifest my dreams, and send out love and light, but sometimes things won’t play out exactly as I envisioned. And that’s okay!! It doesn’t mean my manifesting didn’t work or my prayers were not answered, it just means I was meant to re-route because God wanted to teach me an important lesson.
- Meditating makes me feel good. I think back to one of the last days when I knew I’d be going back to the US, and I needed to take the time to be by myself and listen to a 20-minute world peace meditation to get me in a better state of mind. This little investment in myself has the power to boost my mood and make me feel okay.
- Remember your strong foundation of faith. On Ash Wednesday, I went to church for the first time since Christmas. Panic and tension had started to settle in Spain regarding the virus, but taking that time to pray the rosary in Spanish (thanks to high school Spanish I knew how to say the Our Father and Hail Mary in Spanish) really helped me reset and feel peace and protection. And turns out, this beautiful church was right across the street from my apartment. You could see it from my living room window! God was with me, watching over me, all along.
- Reading the news does not serve me well. Period. There’s just way too much negativity. I was aware of what was going on and taking the proper health precautions to keep my body as strong as possible, and beyond that, I didn’t feel that there was any need for me to constantly be refreshing the number of cases in Madrid (unpopular opinion, I know, but it worked for me). I just genuinely believed while I was in Madrid, I was meant to enjoy the city and fill my mind with uplifting information so I could maintain a positive mindset.
- I love traveling. It really brings me so much joy. I need to make it a priority to integrate global travel into my work, while also frequently making time for leisure travel to experience new cultures and explore new cities.
- Madrid is a GREAT city to live in, especially at my age. The Metro was easy to navigate and always made me feel connected to other neighborhoods. (Not to mention, it was extreeeeemely clean, nothing like the NYC subway I’m used to.) And I loved the fact that Spaniards like socializing outside of their homes. It was fun to see everyone out and about on the streets. From shopping on Gran Via, checking out rooftop views of the city, and just walking around feeling like such a city gal, I really enjoyed the day to day lifestyle there.
- Feel and express gratitude often… especially for the little things. After all, I feel like it was a billion little moments and laughs that made my time in Madrid all I could’ve hoped for.
I hope these lessons give you some points of reflection in your life! For all my college friends reading along, if you’re feeling bored in quarantine, I’d encourage you to journal about your semester in review, too. It is a fun, introspective exercise that will be enjoyable to reread after graduation to see how much we’ve grown.
Much love & light always! Let’s be friends on Instagram @essentiallybrie!