Stepping out of my Comfort Zone

Hey everybody!

Another week in the life of Madrid, and I am thankful to say it has been just as amazing as my weeks past. This country has so so much to offer, and I was able to explore more of it this weekend during my trip to Barcelona.

Upon arrival to Barcelona, I very much assumed it to be like Madrid (a big city with Spanish culture), but with a beach… I was very wrong. Barcelona is part of the the region of Catalonia, where they speak Catalan, and are very proud of their Catalonian culture. Due to the hefty price point of Barcelona, my friends and I stayed on the outskirts of the city in a more rural area – what we didn’t know is that this specific weekend the buses and trains that reach our hotel were out of service and no longer running. This arose a small issue and caused us to need to adapt and react quickly and rationally – which is what I believe has been the largest and most transferable skill I’ve developed in my time abroad. I have been with a slight advantage during this program because I am a native speaker of Spanish, but this, unfortunately, did not help much in rural Barcelona. We had to use what we already knew about Spanish customs and norms to navigate the situations and figure out our best course of action. My friends and I were forced to work together to find the most efficient, and cheapest options of transportation, and thankfully were able to overcome this challenge together. (Shoutout Evan)

Experiences like these are what I believe abroad and this program in particular is all about – stepping out of your comfort zone and developing these quote on quote “soft skills” that will be helpful in everyday life: adaptability, teamwork, open-mindedness, and so much more. Something else that I feel is worth mentioning is budgeting and financial planning. Being here in Spain, especially with my adventurous mindset, I find myself really trying to take advantage of everyday, but, unfortunately, after looking at the toll this has taken on my bank account, I quickly realized my everyday spending needed to change. I have had to outweigh the pros and cons of experiences and really decide if I need that extra gelato on the way home from work or not. I try to look into the future and see what spending will be coming out of certain weekends and how much I should save/spend before then. Although it may sound a bit funny, and maybe something I should have learned way before this trip, it is definitely something that I will carry back with me to Pittsburgh and for the rest of my life. You can still have a great meal without ordering the most expensive thing on the menu, which is something I think my parents will be glad I’ve realized.

When it comes to hard skills, my internship has taught me a lot. As I’ve mentioned in previous blogs, the workplace environment in Madrid is much different than that of the United States and has a much more relaxed feel to it. Yet, the company itself also offers me so many new skills. For starters, in my past internships and academic career at Pitt, I have always been shown about marketing products. But, within my time at The Circular Project, all my tasks have been around marketing concepts and ideas – then hoping the consumer likes it enough to buy the product. The Circular Project is a fashion company devoted to reforming the textile industry around sustainability and ethical operations. Every single brand sold in store has passed an in-depth review of the materials/textiles used, operational processes, and recyclability/reusability of the product before it can be sold in store. Therefore, my boss Paloma asks me to send her message out to the world: buy small, and sustainable. I am rarely given a task that is promoting a specific product, and have learned what it is like to promote one message in many different ways.

All in all, the IIP Madrid program is a concrete skill-builder and does so in various ways – I mean, how is one supposed to live in a foreign country for two months and not learn anything? This experience has forced me out of my comfort zone on many levels and I already feel that I have grown so much as an individual.

Until next week,