Although I have been learning Spanish since 7th grade, I am still not fluent. This, more than anything, is why I decided to study abroad in Madrid through GW. I have always admired people who are able to speak another language and promised myself that, one day, I would be able to as well.
This is a disclaimer to all prospective students: GW Madrid is not your average study abroad program. Most of my friends are studying abroad in places where English is common, and where they share their own apartment with friends—places where they don’t often experience the culture of their host country. GW Madrid, however, is completely immersive, challenging, scary, and most of all, rewarding.
Although I’ve been having the time of my life, my first 11 days in Madrid have been physically and mentally exhausting. My professors, my host mom, and my advisors all speak to me only in Spanish. Absorbing, translating and communicating two different languages 24/7 is one of the hardest things I have ever had to learn how to do. But, it has also been the most rewarding. Just after a couple of days in this city, I was able to speak to a Madrileño on the street, and perfect my order at a Taperia. It’s pretty hard to describe to someone who has never experienced culture shock the inexplicable joy you get from little moments like these. Thanks to the intensity of the program, I feel more immersed into the culture with each passing day.
Whenever I become frustrated over not being able to communicate properly, I remind myself what I am here for. I am studying abroad to be thrown into uncomfortable situations and come out better because of them. If I have realized anything about my Spanish in this short time, it is that I have learned more in these uncomfortable situations than I was able to my entire high school career. The GW Madrid program is a truly unique experience that I know for a fact most students do not receive. I can’t wait to spend the next 4 months here so that I can continue what I know will be a complete immersion into the Spanish language and culture. For any of you who may shy away from a program with a home-stay, or even a Spanish-speaking program in general—please, please, please don’t.