So I don’t think I’ve ever told you this before, but last year I took a gap year working as an au pair (a nanny) for a family of four boys in Madrid. It was absolutely the smartest decision I’ve ever made – and quite possibly the most challenging thing I’ve ever accomplished. If you ever have an opportunity to work or study abroad, I say go for it! I learned more in this one year than I ever had in high school – and I wasn’t even sitting in a classroom! I was simply thrown into a new culture, an unfamiliar language, I had to make friends on my own accord, I had to navigate a city, and get used to living with a different family with customs and traditions that were strange to me. But being faced with this big mess of disorientation is precisely what makes us stronger. Once we are comfortable with making a fool out of ourselves in another language, patient with ourselves when we’re lost, open-minded about other peoples’ ways, we realize that we can actually put up with quite a high level of chaos. And this is a useful skill to have – finding calm among the comotion. Trust me, if you can survive a year abroad, you can do anything! Anyways, sorry – I’m preaching about what a life-changing experience this year was, but you all know that! The real point I was trying to make was how much I miss being in Madrid sometimes. This week, the nostalgia hit me incredibly hard. Something inspired me to wake up this Thursday morning (the days when I don’t have class until 2:45). I think it was a combination of the sun’s rays waking me and the fact that I had been dreaming about Madrid. I woke up with ease and opened the windows, which let in a warm breeze, and I almost convinced myself that it was springtime in Madrid. I had so much energy that I decided to go for a run. It’s as if that beautiful city was calling me back when flamenco guitarra music popped up on my playlist. I couldn’t have been happier. Back in my room, I put on the entire flamenco album and listened to it while I stretched and got dressed. The light streamed in and hit my skin in the warming, soothing way the Spanish sun used to. I closed my eyes, breathed in the warm air and pretended like it was Madrid’s. I was in heaven! And then I woke up (from this trance, I mean) and realized I was in Iowa. Don’t get me wrong, it is beautiful here. I am so content here – but it is hard not to miss this exotic experience I had not so long ago. Sometimes when I think really hard, I can feel just how nice it was to walk the dog on a crisp spring morning through el Retiro park, I can sometimes taste the delicious taste of Jamón Serrano melting in my mouth, the smell of flowers and candles and cigarette smoke that always surprised me when I walked in the apartment. I cannot wait to go back to this magical place…but for now, I’m going to study and discover and work hard, and I’m going to enjoy it!