The fact that I will board a plane to Spain in three days is still very hard for me to believe. I just finished up an amazing co-op at Onyx Specialty Papers in western MA last week, and haven’t had any time to wind down. But hey, who needs a break? Simultaneously unpacking from one trip and packing for another is fun, right? (If you listen to Spanish podcasts while you do it, it’s even better!)
Preparing for a trip like this is pretty darn stressful for me – I have never been to another continent, and the only times I’ve left the country are many trips to Canada (how exciting!) and a cruise in the Caribbean (that one is actually exciting!). Not to mention the fact that I will be embarking on this trip essentially on my own. Yes, there are 19 other Northeastern students, but my parents won’t be joining (yahoo! freedom!). For our classes, we’re heading to Tarragona, a city in the region of Cataluña, in the northeastern part of Spain. Afterwards we’ll spend a few days in Barcelona, and then I’ll be exploring Madrid on my own for a week. Luckily, I know Spanish, although I’m a little rusty since I haven’t been actively practicing much since high school. In preparation for this trip, I listened to a ton of Spanish radio, and also read Bajo La Misma Estrella (poor translation, but it’s The Fault in Our Stars, Spanish language version). My confidence in my Spanish skills is still not where I want it to be, but one of my goals is to improve my Spanish on this trip. Unfortunately, a lot of Catalonians speak catalan, so I may not get as much Spanish practice as I want there. Hopefully navigating Madrid alone will supplement those limited opportunities nicely.
Now, why exactly did I decide to go on this trip? I’ve always been a little against studying abroad – if you’re paying all this money to a school, might as well get the best quality education you can, right? And doesn’t that mean staying at Northeastern, where the best professors and resources are? Also, as a chemical engineering major, it seemed pretty impractical to try to fulfill my requirements at another university in a different country. It would end up being a lot of wasted money, in my opinion. However, my whole outlook changed when I found out about this dialogue. First, a Northeastern professor will be teaching us, and we are taking two courses that are both required for a chemical engineering degree. Plus, they’re the exact courses I would be taking in Boston this summer two, and fit in perfectly between my co-op and the fall semester. Second, it did not cost any extra money upfront – I’ll be paying more for food and shopping than if I were in Boston, but it’ll be worth it. And finally, the dialogue was to Spain. I took Spanish in high school and always wanted to go to a Spanish-speaking country. Whenever I was asked the question, “If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go?”, my answer was Spain. There was really no way I could not go on this dialogue.
I think that since I’ve never been to a place with a culture much different than mine, this will really be an exciting experience for me. Hopefully I’ll be more open-minded and “cultured,” as they say. If it weren’t for this, I wouldn’t be leaving the country until I had enough money to do so (i.e. a looooong time from now. I’ll need a salary and I’ll need to have paid my parents back for my education. So yeah, maybe never?). I think I’ve had a pretty sheltered and somewhat boring life so far (sorry, mom and dad), and this will be my opportunity to try new things, take risks, and let go. I plan to step out of my conservative, straight-laced box a little, and I’m really interested to see how that goes. However, I still plan on doing well in my classes – Thermodynamics 1 is no joke, and it will really be a challenge to balance studying time with exploring time.
On that note, I’m nervous about sleep. Between classes, cultural visits, and chemical plant visits, will there be time for sleep? We shall see. My high school self survived on 5-6 hours of sleep a night, but I’ve been spoiled on co-op. That will definitely be an adjustment. Besides that, I think my fears are pretty typical – a new city, a new culture, and new classmates – there’ll be a whole lot of adjusting to do, but I think I’m ready for it. I like a little adventure. I’m really looking forward to the old-world architecture of Spain – architecture was a career I considered at one point, and I have a soft spot for beautiful buildings. Also, the food – who doesn’t love food? But really, I’m excited for every single part of this trip. Anyways, I should go – so much left to do! 3 days, 4 hours, 58 minutes, and 16 seconds until departure! ¡Hasta luego!