The first time I landed in Madrid was to study abroad for a semester in college, this was the start of a lot of firsts for me. First time I’d ever left the country, first time I’d ever been on a plane, first time English wouldn’t be my primary language. I remember sitting on the plane in Chicago and my friend looking over at me and saying “You are unusually calm given that this is your first plane ride, aside from the fact that we are going to live in another country.” I didn’t really have an answer then. I just knew I could not WAIT to get out of Indiana. To experience something new and exciting. To be somewhere where no one knew me. To explore and get lost. I couldn’t wait for this adventure. I was also surprised at my calm demeanor, especially since I felt like my seat on the plane was a specially designed ejection seat, quivering for me to pull the lever and rocket launch right over to Madrid.
I studied from January until June and then continued to live in Madrid until August. But it wasn’t long enough. I got “home” to Indiana and had THE WORST reverse culture shock I think anyone could every experience. Madrid was the first city that I’d ever lived in that I felt a strong connection with; it became to feel like home. Everything was different in Madrid. Better. I couldn’t stop talking about it to my friends and family. I couldn’t stop comparing every aspect of life to it. I missed so many things about it. I missed biting into a piece of fruit so fresh that the juices would pour down my face and hands. I missed the way time seemed to stop in that city, causing an overwhelming feeling of satisfaction I’d never experienced elsewhere. In Madrid, I never had to rush or feel frantic, and still I could accomplish so much in a day. It was as if I personally got 36 hours instead of 24, delivered to me each morning by some marvelous European time God. I could jump on a plane for 50 euro and wake up in Rome, eating lasagna from a tratorria in a piazza, which melted in my mouth. In Madrid, literally steps from my apartment I could walk in a museum and lose myself in history, art, and architecture-so mind-blowing, THE CULTURE! It changed me. Shifted who I was and how I looked at the world and the things I wanted. So, in a sense, I did get lost there. A part of me didn’t come back to the United States. I had to finish school, but I knew I HAD to get back to Madrid too. I had to go home.
After college I decided to teach English in Madrid. When I got off the airplane arriving to Madrid the second time, I felt the part of me that had gotten “lost” there pick me up from the airport, and welcome me home. I now work as an English teacher’s assistant in a public Spanish school 16 hours a week with 2nd, 3rd, and 4th graders. I get paid to live and speak English in what I know as the best city in the world.
I’m not kidding when I say LIVE. Yesterday morning I woke up and by 10 am I was hiking 10 miles up a mountain on the outskirts of Madrid called La Pedriza with a group of Spanish friends. That night I went to a bar in my neighborhood and sipped one of the sweetest tinto de veranos I’ve tasted, with a group of close friends. Among them, 2 Mexicans, 4 Venezuelans, another American, a Moroccan, and a Spaniard. Rich culture, language exchange, friendship, and vivacious atmosphere don’t sleep in this city. I don’t think anything I’ve experienced while living in the United States has ever been comparable to how living and teaching abroad in this city has impacted my life.
So it was never really a question for me as to ‘Why Madrid?’ so much as it was, well, why not?