This weekend was the first in a while where I stayed in Madrid and elected not to travel somewhere else. I was able to take full advantage of this and sleep in and mostly just relax for the weekend. While this was a nice change of pace I didn’t want to waste the whole day away so I started thinking about where in Madrid I could just wander around or explore a little bit. As soon as I opened my map I realized that I had never made it to Parque Oeste, which is a park very close to my homestay. After getting some food I decided to go and check it out. Before I knew it I had spent well over two hours just wandering around and exploring the place, stopping every now and then to just sit and enjoy the shade and the atmosphere. It was actually a lot more interesting than I had originally imagined. There was more than just trees and grass, there was a whole area dedicated to a rose garden, a statue here and there, fountains, and even a small recreational area with a kids playground and a basketball court.
These few hours got me thinking about why it had taken me so long to come a see the park. Coming from a relatively small city like Pittsburgh, its very interesting for me to see how different a large city like Madrid in that there’s so much more to see and do other than just the obvious tourist destinations like Sol and Retiro. This gave me the realization that to really get to know and conquer all of Madrid, it would take months. This gave me a new appreciation for the IIP program and made me realize how fortunate we are to be able to spend two and a half months here. I know for some schools and programs, there are summer study abroad options that only last for about six weeks, sometimes less. To say that you really lived in a foreign place and in a new culture I feel like this just isn’t enough. For me, originally I though two and a half months was a really long time but now it feels like its absolutely flying by and I have a small fear that I won’t be able to do everything I want to before I leave. On top of that, this is only talking about one city, to really get to know and experience multiple countries in Europe would take even more time. This whole experience has definitely been something new to reflect on and I’m glad I took my long walk through the park because it really helped me realize what this experience has meant to me.