2016 Fall External Programs IES Abroad Richelle Kota Spain

Cabin Fever

It’s been hard writing recently because, frankly, the feeling of being alone in Madrid is overwhelming. It’s not like I don’t have friends or people that care about me, but the schedule I work on is extremely static. There are about 40-50 students in my program so it feels a little bit like high school. I take the same route to school everyday, have my 9am, and see the same cliques that surround me. I almost feel like I’m suffocating in a high school like situation. There is rarely any variety in my day. I really miss that about Temple. When I was home, I rode my bike to school in different routes every morning. I was able to spontaneously see one of my friends walking to class; I was able to change buildings often or casually start a friendship with someone new by being in the same class. But here, it is very hard to not already know everyone and know which group they fit into. The groups at this point feel impenetrable and even so, there is no one new to meet.

I was able to talk to some friends from home this week and it is nice to have that support and understanding coming from them, but they are so far away. When I visited Budapest to see my friend Annalise the other weekend, I was able to meet so many people.

My day had so much variety and we decided to do everything spontaneously, but as soon as I came back to my hackneyed routine, I felt trapped again. Friends who I have expressed this to who have also studied abroad have felt the same in their programs, and they said that I’m writing blog posts about things no one talks about— feeling lonely or down abroad. I am in such a beautiful place, receiving so much love and support from back home and some from here too, but it is affecting me to not feel 100% comfortable with my program and how small it is.

Small things I was able to do this week to improve my mood, was talk to a counsellor about my feelings and be listened to and affirmed. Those are the best feelings. The directors of the program have also been very good with listening to my concerns and trying to accommodate me as much as they can. I was also able to write postcards to friends and family so that they knew I was thinking of them. That felt more gratifying to me than anything. I visited a place called the Gatoteca with friends. It is a cat cafe and you get to go in and pet and play with stray cats who need homes. People even adopt the cats!

I had a great time being there, and being able to show the kids I teach English a short video about Philadelphia was really exciting! I even saw a Spanish movie with my film class called Tarde Para La Ira in theaters, and it was cool to be able to see contemporary Spanish film! I was shocked that I really understood everything that was happening WITHOUT SPANISH SUBTITLES! That was kind of the high point of my week.

What I took from this week is that I wish I had done more research on program size and asking people how they really felt during their time abroad. Doing so might have better prepared me for having the best yet most challenging time of my life coincidentally. But I am determined to still leave with lots of irreplaceable memories and feel like I am still enjoying all my classes and my Spanish is improving tremendously!

I’ve been listening to this song a lot lately, so I leave you all with this.

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