Madrid, Hasta Luego….

Recently, I posted the first part of my experience in Spain, however it was hard for me to share everything in one post. I left out many people and experiences I wasn’t able to mention; one of the challenges of giving you something short and sweet. Additionally, with my experience, I want to share a journey that most of you have either already taken and share similar experiences, or are thinking of embarking on your own.

The feeling of living in a city that’s waiting for you to explore it is undeniably scary, but its one that fills you with ambition and the courage to discover new things every single day. This time, I have to do justice to those people and experiences that made the difference for me and convince you that the decision I took to go to Madrid was only the beginning.

Oh lovely Spain, I will miss you...

Oh lovely Spain, I will miss you…

Second semester: Travel, travel, travel!

The second semester was more of a rinse and repeat scenario. Most of the classes were extensions of the first semester’s schedule; all of us knew what the game plan was this time around. It was apparent in most of our behaviors as trips to the library ended, and there no longer were 3 am overnights on regular weeks. Those only happened when they should – the week before the exam or even a day before. This time around, we were seven group mates. I was lucky to have a fellow countrywoman this time around, while the rest were Serbian, German, Russian, Spanish and South Korean.

Lebanese, Serbian, South Korean, Russian, Lebanese, German and Spanish. Phew!

From left to right: Lebanese, Serbian, South Korean, Russian, Lebanese, German and Spanish. Phew!

If you were to ask me what was the best city I visited in Europe, it would have to be Rome. Our visits were touristy yes, but when you’re in Rome and you’re an international student, do as the tourists do. Registering for a tour of the Vatican Museums before the trip was a first for me; I felt like a father planning out a trip with the kids. Nonetheless, it was a fulfillment to finally see the Sistine Chapel, and many of the famous works that lay within. Naturally, the Colosseum, Fotana di Trevi, Spanish Steps and the Pantheon were our next stops. While I’ve made the trip sound like it was based on sight seeing, it really was based on food. Large amounts of it. Dinner at the Taverna Trilussa, frequenting ice creams between landmarks and catching any pizzeria in sight were just tastes of the bigger picture.

Showing off my photography skills

Showing off my photography skills with no hands

Madrid’s final days

The third and final semester was our specialization period, where I saw my class downsize from roughly 60 students to around 23. If second semester dragged on like a blur, the third was the exact opposite. The final push was upon us and it was going to be ugly. We had presentations and assignments almost every week, although this semester was the best one yet. I had been waiting to finally experience our Digital Business Specialization and all it had to offer. We learned about how the media industry is changing due to convergence in the digital world. We took a trip to a research center in Madrid, where technologies such as augmented reality and automated houses are being tested daily. We presented ideas for our own online businesses, crafted digital marketing campaigns and created our own blogs (like this one).

I couldn’t have completed the specialization without my third work group. A group where all the members spoke French except me. In spite of that, I still had a Lebanese to speak Arabic to, while the Dutch, Norwegian and Frenchman took to their common tongues.

Wouldn't have done it with out them...

Wouldn’t have done it with out them…

Learn from each other…

Nearing the end of the program, we all learned more about ourselves and each other. More than just friends, but as potential colleagues and teammates.

We were constantly evaluating and being evaluated by our peers. Who was a hard worker? Who wasn’t? Who could be trusted to finish their task on time? Should I delegate? Or should I just do everything myself? Am I contributing? All of these questions went through our heads, and we all experienced conflicting feelings. We had to work with each other on group projects, but come exam time, it was every man for himself.

Of course, none of it was simply black and white, but tensions arise when you have projects due and there is little to no work done.

every-group-project-the-hangover

As the last semester rolled on, I found myself constantly traveling which had its own rewards.

Driving to Portugal was my first proper road trip on the Iberian Peninsula. Porto and Lisbon were our destinations, where we soaked up some Portuguese culture. We visited Lisbon’s Padrão dos Descobrimentos, glanced at the 17.2 km Vasco da Gama bridge, and ate some pastries in the Belém district.

The sheer size of this monument is inexplicable

The sheer size of this monument is inexplicable

The month after, I spent my birthday in A Coruña in Galicia. This time, the belligerents comprised of Armenian, Italian, Spanish, and German. “We rent a VAN” was the motto of this trip. It was our preferred mode of transportation as we drove across the country, singing songs in five languages and constantly stopping at gas stations for cigarette breaks. Although testing out the shores of Galicia left our legs numb due to the biting cold, we were still able to grace what the sea had to offer in glorious, dare I say it, food yet again. Galician-style octopus, succulent lobster and buckets of mussels really made the trip worthwhile.

We were glad we made it back in one piece

We were glad we made it back in one piece

A trip to remember

One last trip to the Balearic Islands awaited us after our final project; boy was it well deserved. A rented villa was our safe haven from the wild Ibiza nightlife; a place where we’d spend hours by the pool and cook our dinners. We also had the chance to visit Formentera, where I really found out how dangerous a Vespa could be. Near-death experiences aside, Formentera’s beaches provided us with the peace and relaxation we were looking for.

Unsurprisingly, a very diverse and multicultural group embarked on what would be the last time we were all together. A Russian and a Cuban made up the Fashion Committee for “always look good no matter the time of day”. Three Germans, two Portuguese, one Italian, one Spanish and a French lady formed the European Travel & Tourism Authority. Latin America was represented by a Salvadoran and a Panamanian. Lastly, the Turkish Arab League (in charge of Food & Beverage) was represented by three Lebanese, one Kuwaiti and one Turkish.

The headcount comes to seventeen. Seventeen international students on a graduation trip to Ibiza, each with the “I got my degree and I don’t care what happens now” attitude. Quite a logistical nightmare.

Italian dining in Ibiza...

Italian dining in Ibiza…

Madrid, why did you do this to me?

At the end, it was time to come back to Madrid and finally be handed that degree we all worked ten long months for. I’d have to say that filling out job applications and finally clicking on “Master’s Degree” for the level of education was extremely satisfying.

On the day of our graduation, our keynote speaker urged us to do one thing before we leave Madrid – to leave a piece of our hearts in her beloved city.

It pains me to say that I have actually left pieces of my heart with the people I’ve met, and in the places I’ve been. Madrid gave me the opportunity to learn, befriend, and travel with the most interesting people. Whether it was watching Real Madrid at the Bernabeu, seeking out Madrid’s endless pubs or planning the next weekend trip, there was always something to look forward to. While many of the classes in the program took a lot out of us, we still made the best of our time; it was enriching to see how much we’ve changed since the start. I can only label my year in Madrid as the most influential and eye-opening experience ever.

The end of the road

The end of the road

If there was any way I could go back to the start, I’d do it every single time.

I’ll leave you now with the wise words of Andy Bernard from The Office.