I believe that many of my experiences throughout my life have made me the person that I am today and this summer in Madrid is no exception. Madrid has taught me a lot about myself and the world in general–one of those things being that Madrid may very well be hotter than the Sahara. This past weekend it was 105 degrees! More importantly, I have experienced many different aspects of foreign culture along the way. Thus far, I have tried all types of traditional Spanish food–perhaps a little too much. I have tasted some of the best paella, croquetas, totilla and empanadas in the world. In addition, I have visited several amazing museums including the famous art museum at the reína sofia. The four story building houses some of the greatest paintings in the world including Pablo Picasso’s guernica. Overall, my experience thus far in Madrid has certainly changed my perspective on things but it also has made me a better leader.
In order to go and stay abroad, you have to have some courage. Before traveling across the Atlantic for the first time alone, I was very nervous. I was constantly worrying about being homesick and not adjusting to the international lifestyle. However, now I feel like a very different person than that nervous kid who was afraid to take the leap. I am very happy that I was able to muster up the courage to take the trip and I think that I have only proceeded to gain more courage as I have spent more time here. Before coming to Madrid, I would say that my biggest weakness is that I can tend to be shy in certain situations. For example, sometimes when a teacher asks a question that I know the answer to, I elect not to answer it out of fear of getting it wrong in front of others–but now I feel like my reaction would be very different. There is not many other experiences that take more courage than to have to go through daily life speaking a language that I barely know. At the beginning, I was afraid to talk to people in Spanish because I knew I wasn’t very good at it. Nonetheless, I decided to accept the fact that I am going to make mistakes and I just try my best. I believe that this has contributed immensely to my development as a leader because I think that I will not be afraid to offer my insights and share my knowledge. If I can continue to develop my courage, I have no doubt that I will only grow as a leader.
And speaking of taking leaps, this past weekend I took a leap and visited porto, Portugal which is perhaps my favorite city that I have visited thus far. We flew in to Porto on Friday and immediately set out to try the seafood that the city is notorious for. We tried all sorts of seafood including whitefish, octopus, shrimp and much more. All of the food that we ate was delicious and it is almost impossible to pick my favorite. Despite stuffing our faces for much of the trip, we also toured the entire city, learned about its history and visited some of the city’s most iconic locations. One of those locations happened to be the bookstore where J.K. Rowling wrote much of the Harry Potter series. The library looked very similar to something out of Hogwarts with windy staircases and castle-like architecture. If your a Harry Potter geek like me, you would’ve loved it. We also learned three very interesting things that J.K Rowling used as an influence from Porto for the novels. J.K Rowling actually named Salazar Slytherin after the former dictator of Portugal, mimicked the design of some of the shops after a coffee shop in Porto and designed the capes of the students after the actual gowns worn by the University of Porto students! Besides geeking out about all things Harry Potter, we also visited the main river that cuts through Porto and pours into the Atlantic (pictured above). The view was absolutely breathtaking and it solidified my opinion on the city. I will definitely be returning one day.
Overall, it has been a phenomenal 6 weeks here in Madrid and I look forward to the final 3. Next stop, Barcelona (this time with my family).