January 27, 2016
Over 10 hours of flying and countless hours of waiting, I finally made it to Madrid! I walked out the gate to find my host family-the mom, dad, and little boy excitedly waiting for me. I was so tired having not slept much in three days (never pack the night before you leave for a four-month trip) that I could barely think. My Spanish was probably incoherent, but they smiled, kissed me on both cheeks, and excitedly asked me questions. The dad videotaped me as the two-year-old little boy excitedly pulled my hand as he tried to run in front of me to the car.
When we got to apartment of my host family, which will be my new home for the next four months, I started to worry—here comes the moment of truth. From their descriptions, I thought my room would be the size of a walk-in-closet with no room to turn around. It is quite the opposite; it is larger than my room at school.
After I had unpacked my bags, my host mom served a delicious breakfast: strawberry yogurt, toast with blueberry jelly, and fresh cheese, I was starting to wake up. She told me how much she enjoys cooking and said we could exchange recipes if I had any favorites from the U.S.
The little boy, Isaiah, loves to sing and sang many different songs during breakfast. My host mom, Maria, wanted me to stay awake so I would get adjusted to Spain time. I tried, I really did. At about 3pm Spain time (9am North Carolina time), I realized there was no way I could stay awake any longer. I meant to sit down on the bed, but an hour later, Maria was waking me up to eat lunch. Meal times in Spain are very different from the U.S. For my host family, breakfast is between 8 and 9am, lunch is around 2pm, and dinner is around 9pm. The sun rises much later and thus sets later, so meals are all pushed back. Nothing starts before 9 or 10am.
After lunch, Francisco (my host dad), Maria, Isaiah, and I all piled into their typical, somewhat compact European car and drove to the transportation office in an attempt to get my metro card. After no sleep in several days, the transportation worker might as well have been speaking Mandarin. I was glad Francisco was there to translate.
After a quick stop at the mall, we headed to church. The church, Immanuel Baptist Church, is an international church, home to members from 40 different countries! I really enjoyed the Bible Study and met a man from Africa who currently works for the UN in Spain, a native Spaniard, and the pastors who are from the U.S. That one-hour nap was the only thing keeping me going at 8pm.
I collapsed into bed when we got back around 10pm and had a solid 8 hours of sleep before getting up the next morning to start the real adventure: navigating two metro lines and then walking a mile to CUNEF, the university I am attending in Spain.
January 28, 2016
After a quick breakfast, I headed to the metro line near my homestay to start the 40-minute journey to school. I successfully transferred metro lines and walked a mile to CUNEF. The feeling of joy and accomplishment when I walked onto the CUNEF campus was unsurpassable. Take that Spain! Orientation went well and I was able to see the other five students who are also attending CUNEF from USC. Other students attending orientation are from all around the world, from Ireland to Korea to France.
My first two days in Spain have gone extremely well, and I am happy to say I have nothing mandatory that must be done tomorrow. I can finally catch up on sleep and will have time this weekend to explore the historic center of Madrid. Thank goodness I have four months to visit every nook and cranny of this wonderful city!