I can’t believe that the semester is almost over! Finals end on the 13th, my grandparents’ plane arrives on the 14th, we’re leaving Spain on the 17th, and I’m flying home to Baltimore on the 29th.
Before this semester, 18 days would have seemed like a pretty long European trip since my two previous trips were in the 10-11-day range, but it really seems like the trip is almost over. I’ve had a lot of work this week between studying for final exams and completing final projects, so I’m very excited for my grandparents’ arrival on Thursday. I really love Madrid, and I can’t wait to show them around where I’ve been living for the last four months. After spending three days in Madrid, we’re flying to Berlin to begin a river cruise that ends in Prague.
Last weekend, I ate lunch at Alhambra with some friends. Alhambra is a restaurant near Sol which is the city center of Madrid and it’s probably one of the best restaurants in the city (10/10, would recommend to a friend). While we were there, I saw a man dressed in one of the most patriotic outfits I have seen in my life. He even had a Spanish flag tie.
Spaniards are very proud of their country. Many are not happy with the political party in power, but that hasn’t affected their love of country. Nationalism has caused a fair amount of problems over the years, but I really think that patriotism is a good thing. The places in our lives become a big part of who we are.
Just yesterday, I noticed a group of clearly lost American teenagers and I had a short conversation with them before pointing them in the right direction. As connected as I feel to the United States, I am also immediately interested if someone is traveling to or from a place that I’ve been before. If I ever meet someone who is from or traveling to Spain, I will have a lot to talk to them about.
Relationships are composed of shared experiences. Even if they didn’t happen in the same place at the same time, shared locations can unite us too through our similar experiences. I remember during one of my Peabody concerts, we sang “America the Beautiful.” The audience joined in at the end and it was a very powerful experience. If you’ve ever seen recordings of British people singing “Land of Hope and Glory” or “Jerusalem” (my chorus singing “Jerusalem” in 5th grade) this uniting power is very noticeable.
As great as it is for us to be brought together by our shared country, I think it’s really important to recognize how even in spite of cultural differences, we’re really not that different from people in other countries. This semester, I’ve met people from all over the country and the world and I have an even more geographically diverse group of friends now than I did just from being a Lafayette student. Some of them have never even set foot in the United States.
We’re all human. I have definitely gained a lot of respect for people living in the United States with limited English skills. I really wish that I was a fluent Spanish speaker, and though I have greatly improved this semester, I have still had my fair share of communication struggles.
One of the things that I noticed almost as soon as I got here is how often I was saying either “No hablo Español.” Or “Hablo un poco de Español.” If I know the context of the conversation, I can usually get by, but I can’t yet have complex conversations. After saying this a few times, I realized that whenever someone had said “I don’t speak English” to me at home, my immediate mental reaction had been “yes you do, I just heard you speaking English.” Since coming here, I have a much better understanding of what it is like to be a Spanish speaker in the U.S. and as a result, much more compassion and patience for Spanish speakers living in the U.S. who are frustrated by their grasp on the English language.