3 a.m.

That’s what time it is right now.

And I have to be up in about five hours.

Because I’m getting on a plane.

After five weeks of stress, anxiety, difficulty and–of course–some fun, it’s hard to believe that I’m officially returning home tomorrow. I’m excited to have some free time, but I suppose I’m worried about how bored I’ll be when I have nothing to stress about. After spending the last several weeks constantly doing work (even if it wasn’t purely my own), with relatively little time off, the prospect of free time, television and sleeping late just doesn’t compute. Not in the slightest.

I spent my last 24 hours in Madrid as I imagine I should have. I ate incredible tapas, did some shopping, trekked to Atlético Madrid’s stadium, visited a museum. The day was then concluded by a farewell dinner, complete with fun, laughter and sangria.

I’ve already had to say some goodbyes–and while there were no real tears, I was actually somewhat surprised about how sad I was. Spending five weeks with the same group of people can be tiring and can test one’s patience. But, despite that, it’s sad that I won’t be seeing them frequently.

And I won’t be seeing Madrid. I won’t be waking up to head to school, to do some reporting, to visit Juicy Avenue for a smoothie.

We’re leaving in fewer than 12 hours. And I’m really not sure how to feel.

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The Final Countdown

Two days.

That’s all we have left in Madrid. In Spain. In Europe.

For now, anyway.

Tomorrow will count as our last, full 24 hours here.

We’ve all been asked to start considering how we’ve grown professionally and personally here. And I completely understand the intent. But that’s a very large task to undertake. Where do I start? How do I finish? Surely there’s a long process involved.

I’ve been extremely lucky while here. I was able to report on two very interesting and vivid events–one in Salamanca and one in Madrid. These two things–a protest and the UEFA final–truly reflected different segments of Spanish culture, and I felt completely immersed.

In both cases, I essentially had to turn around a story within 48 hours or less. In classes, I’ve always had days or weeks to complete a story. There’s nothing wrong with longer, feature-type articles by any stretch of the imagination–in fact, they’re some of my favorite things to work on and write. But I think that it was important that I was able to experience true deadline-based journalism. It’s something I had really yet to do.

It’s hard to for me to pinpoint exactly what I’ve experienced and what I’ve done that I think I’ve learned from because I’ve learned from everything. I don’t mean this to be too general, but there’s just so much to discuss that there’s almost nothing to discuss.

I’ve helped people in my group with reporting, writing and editing–but all of the help I’m giving them has also helped me improve as a reporter, writer and editor. I feel like maybe I should be saying ‘thank you’ to them for giving me the opportunity to see how others do things, and mimic the parts I admire.

I think, most importantly, I’ve proved to myself that I can survive in an environment like this. Before leaving for this trip, I really had no idea if I would be able to succeed, and I was worried about how my skills from home would be applied to work being done in Spain. But I’ve overcome a language barrier and some culture shock. I’ve improved my writing and reporting skills. It was by no means easy, but I’m proud of what I’ve been able to accomplish.

So. We’ll be gone in fewer than 48 hours.

There are lessons I’ve learned and things I’ve seen here that I know will affect me immediately–some that already have. But I’m positive that this trip will continue to have an influence on my life. There are things that, I’m sure, I’ll look back on and find much more exciting in 5, 10, 20 years. And I’m sure I’ll wish that, despite all the stress and anxiety, I could do it again.

And now, enjoy the silliness that is “The Final Countdown” by Europe. (And there’s some cosmic goodness, for you–the song I wanted to refer to is actually by a band called Europe. It could only be more perfect if the band were called Spain!)

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Powerpuff Girls

Today marked our last official excursion of our trip to Spain–we visited a radio station and some television sets within the same corporate park. It only makes sense that something went wrong beforehand…

Myself and five other students arrived early to where we are all supposed to be meeting. After that, though, the metro system seemed to completely shut down. As in nothing was moving. Nothing. So, by the time the problem was fixed, I had been waiting there for about an hour.

How did we amuse ourselves in that hour, you ask? Well, we talked. We rode the escalators up and down for seemingly no good reason–although “because I feel like it” is always a good reason. As is needing water, which was the cause for some of the trips up. But, most importantly, my friend Shandana and I reacquainted ourselves with the Powerpuff Girls.

It needed to happen…

Clearly.

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A fuzzy face to look forward to…

Our time in Spain is quickly coming to and end, which has its pros and cons. But right now, I’m having trouble focusing on anything but the pros of going home soon. Or, at least one specific good thing:

It is not humanly possible for me to be more excited to see this little lady. 

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Princess Nike.

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Reading & writing

I don’t really get the chance to read enough, anymore.

I used to have this rule (circa 6th grade) that I would only read books that were at least 300 pages long. And then came high school, where I didn’t finish one required book until my senior year. Oops, sorry English teachers. Now, in college, it takes all of my effort to read what is required in (often dry) textbooks.

This week we took a trip to the Spanish Senate–which was lovely in its own right–but I was completely taken with the library.

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I grew up in a family of book lovers, so I suppose I should have seen this coming… but wow. I want one. This is what I’m now aspiring to. When I’m done with school and make my first $5 million, (which will happen, right? Right.) I’m building a library like this for myself.

I think there’s absolutely some truth in the thought that reading makes one a better writer. There’s usually inherent skill, yes, but reading and figuring out what works and what sounds good can certainly improve writing ability.

I feel that my writing has improved since being in Spain–at the very least certain skills that affect my writing have improved, such as working under deadline and dealing with less-than-optimal situations.

But maybe my goal for the rest of the summer should be to read more…

Officially taking suggestions.

 

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13 Going on 30

I hated that movie.

Hated.

Loathed.

But the title always resonated with me. I feel like I’ve been going on 30 for years now.

I don’t know if I grew up quickly, or if one day I just started acting older than my age (most of the time, anyway… I can still act like a five year old… just ask my mom…). My friends and I always joke that I’m the “mother” of our group. And it is a joke. Mostly.

But I definitely check in with people frequently and overuse the phrase “I don’t mean to sound like a mother, but…”

I try to be as helpful as possible, and to be there for other people as I’m needed. I much prefer that people come to me for help than not be able to talk through problems. Everyone needs an outlet or some help sometimes. I’m hesitant to call this a problem, but it’s the best word I have for it: I feel like I let other people’s stresses become mine. When other people that I care about are upset or worried, I’m upset and worried for them and about them. I don’t think empathy is a bad thing, by any stretch of the imagination, but I certainly think I need to compartmentalize even more than I already do.

We’re down to our last full week in Madrid, which is both a blessing and a curse. Everyone is feeling the pressure, which can actually often result in awesome work. But it also means that I’m surrounded by people who are (at least) fairly stressed most of the time. I’m lucky enough to be close to being done, which also means that most of my personal stress is, at this point, diminished.

Yet I’m still stressed. Almost everyone else here, who I’ve come to care for, is stressed. So I’m stressed for them.

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Babies and John Tucker

I think today was the closest I’ve been to being truly ‘homesick’ while here. And even that isn’t exactly the right word. Fear of missing out, maybe?

Today was my sister’s baby shower, and I couldn’t be there. I feel like one uniting theme in what I write is that yes, of course, Spain is an absolutely incredible reason to miss out on things, but there are still times when I wish I could be home, even if temporarily.

To make up for it, I’ve been surrounding myself in old music (early 2000s, which, for me, is old) and some new friends who seem like old friends. This time in Spain is sort of hostile–not exactly in the traditional sense of the word–but hostile nonetheless. There’s the language barrier, of course, and the stress all of us have. In this environment, complete strangers become close friends in no time at all. So my ‘new’ friends, who I’ve now known for about a month have become friends that I feel like I’ve known for years. A month in Spain time seems like two years in ‘real world’ time, we’ve been joking.

Last night, a group of these ‘old’ friends and I watched “John Tucker Must Die.” It’s been a while since the first movie suggestion was actually the one chosen–but it happened. For those who don’t know, it’s one of those awful-but-awesome movies, and I think it’s what we needed–a dumb movie that didn’t require too much thought.

After a month, I think a few of us are experiencing a type of cabin fever that comes with spending too much time with the same group, but it’s still great to be surrounded by such cool people.

jtmd

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Always an “adventure”

Today I went on an “adventure.” And while today’s happened to be fairly fun and funny (in the nervous giggle kind of way), it was still an adventure. Those who know me should already know I hate the word adventure in relation to unexpected detours–my mother knows this all too well.

In any case, I found myself in the back of cab with my two favorite grad students. Kelsey, whose computer decided not to work, was accompanied by Jess and me. We were three explorers in search of an Apple store. Several confusing interactions later, we found ourselves leaving the center of Madrid, which should have been our first sign that something was up. Then we came to the highway, which we all know to be “the road to Salamanca.” After 20 minutes, we had arrived.

So there we are, casually walking across a parking lot seemingly in the middle of nowhere. Because what else would we be doing right now? We had gotten out of the taxi–the ride definitely cost over 30 euros–in what I can only describe as a desert that happened to have a mall in the middle of it. If I hadn’t been there and been perfectly hydrated, I would’ve said it was a mirage. But the mall has a name, so you can check it out for yourself–Gran Plaza 2.

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Inside the mall, the first thing I noticed was the escalator. Which wasn’t quite an escalator. It was sort of like what would happen if an escalator and those moving belts you find in airports had a child. I was intrigued and perplexed, which always seems to be a good way to start things.

But it turned out fine, as you can clearly tell from the fact that I’m blogging. I’m alive. I got home. No drama.

So, we found the Apple store in the mall after using the (touchscreen!) directory. We passed a Dunkin’ Donuts, which, I’ll be honest, I was a little bit TOO excited to see. But what can you do, right? Jess and I were given permission by Kelsey to go wander while she waited to be helped, so we went to the only place we could logically go.

For fro-yo, obviously.

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I’ve been missing out on Pinkberry for the last month–and don’t get me wrong, Spain is wonderful reason to miss out–but it was great to have some frozen yogurt that tasted the way I’ve decided it’s supposed to. It was just what we needed.

Unfortunately, the Geniuses were unable to help Kelsey. She’s been a trooper through this whole mess, but it really makes me question how Apple decides just exactly who can be a “genius.” So, we were resigned to figuring out how to get home…

Which was entirely different adventure of its own.

As it turns out, there’s a bus that goes from a train stop very close to our apartments to the mall we found ourselves at. Good. The bad news was, we seemed like crazy Americans because we clearly had no idea what we were doing. No really, no idea what we were doing. We were definitely made fun of, and no one even attempted to hide it. But, despite the long ride and the stifled giggles of people on the bus, we made it home (without a fixed computer…).

To be honest, I probably would have made fun of us too…

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Coffee, coffee, oh and… coffee

Thank goodness I’m in a city. That means that regardless of which direction I turn on relatively any street, I’m bound to be, at most, three blocks away from somewhere that serves coffee.

Today, I opted for Starbucks. I know, I know, I’m in Spain and I went to Starbucks instead of going to a non-chain café that’s bound to have better coffee than Starbucks. Sue me.

But I really needed some caffeine this morning (and afternoon–let’s be honest), and heading somewhere familiar just seemed to make sense.

I found myself helping quite a few of my colleagues today–overcoming writer’s block, interviewing, editing and just putting a second pair of eyes onto pieces that they’re working on. I’m happy to be able to help, but I think I’m most happy that I’m trusted enough to be asked–that makes me feel wonderful. I keep being reminded of how talented all of these individuals are, and I’m blown away by their creativity and drive.

Caffeine = being able to help others.

So thank you, coffee, for all that you do.

GG

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Christmas in May

It’s the return of Katy Perry right now.

So not really, but I’m once again going to complain about the weather AND talk about music.

It’s almost June. Read: Summer. Read: Should be warm! And consistent!

It never rained once in Salamanca, until, of course, our last night there. The weather in Madrid doesn’t seem to have the decency to make up its mind. Either that or my iPhone’s weather application is lying to me, which could also easily be the problem. But let’s go with it being the weather’s fault, shall we?

It was pretty chilly today, and when that happens when it shouldn’t, it can only mean one thing: I’m listening to Christmas music. To be fair, I like Christmas music anyway, and would probably listen to it regardless. It’s relaxing and it de-stresses me, which, to be honest, I sort of needed today anyway. I suppose I have some free time now (and I use free VERY loosely), but I’m still trying to figure out a way to ignore the tiny stresses which seem to be piling up.

So here I am in my room singing along to Christmas music.

It gets better though! Or worse, I suppose, depending on your preferences and how well you know me. Naturally, I’m only listening to Pentatonix covers.

Naturally.

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