SU Abroad student follows her heart to Madrid
by Keri Sherise Gausney-Jones
Nutrition Major, Class of 2015
After a yearlong countdown, I was preparing for the most anticipated trip of my life. Once I stepped foot onto the plane, my built-up excitement turned into a bittersweet feeling that I couldn’t shake from my gut.
For four months I would be out of the country for the first time in my life and I was going alone to a foreign country with only little knowledge of the native language. I quickly realized I had become accustomed to returning to Syracuse in the winter, embracing the weather, heading to Disney for Cheerleading Nationals, and living with my best friends. The thought of being away from it all was terrifying, but the idea of spending a semester in Madrid, Spain was exhilarating.
I took the organized group flight into Madrid. Directly following the eight-hour flight, we were split into our seminar groups and put on buses, which would take us to where our specific seminars began. I was a part of the Imperium Seminar, which traveled to Cordoba, Granada, Seville, Valencia, and Lisbon.
As a group, we were immersed in the Spanish culture quickly – advised by our professors to get lost in the city. I was both surprised and glad to find out that I wasn’t the only person who came alone. A lot of people were alone and everyone was open to making new friends and exploring the country together. Every two days we were in a new city, new hotel and usually with a different roommate. This made it easy to meet everyone. But before we got too comfortable, the 12 days were up and we were headed to Madrid to meet our host families.
I could not have been luckier to have the host family I had. My host mother and host cousin couldn’t speak any English, which made communication a little difficult, but they were patient and did everything to make me comfortable in their home. Soon enough, our conversations became easier and my hosts were able to teach me all the “ins” and “outs” of their city.
One of the hardest adjustments was getting used to Spain’s eating habits. As part of the program’s arrangements, the host family is responsible to provide breakfast and dinner. In America we are used to hearing that breakfast is the most important meal of the day and that we should start our day with something hearty. In Spain their largest meal of the day is lunch, and many Spaniards partake in siesta, in which they take a few hours from work to have a big lunch followed by a nap. Naps are easily incorporated into anyone’s life, but dinner wasn’t to be had until at least 9 p.m.
The changes were scary, as changes usually are, but when you face your fears you begin to grow. Studying in Europe was nothing short of amazing. Every country had its own charm, every city its own warmth, and the people – everyone so different yet genuine. Words and photos aren’t worthy enough of capturing it all. I was able to learn more than I could have imagined about numerous different cultures and even more about myself.