Yearning for the Year Abroad

Two years ago today I was hauling two enormous suitcases and a little green carry-on through Manchester Airport on the way to my year abroad adventure in Madrid. Exactly one week from today I’ll be hauling two enormous suitcases and a little purple backpack through Gare du Nord, ready for my new Parisian adventure and yet, despite being set to move to the city of lights and love, – the only thing I’ve ever wanted – I still feel myself lusting after the beautiful Spanish capital…

I spent my Erasmus year abroad teaching English in a Spanish primary school. For a whole year I lived in Madrid, and not merely in the sense of habitation, I mean I really lived. There were highs, lows and really lows, and I laughed, loved and cried. I ate, I travelled, I imparted knowledge and I discovered so much about both myself and the world; it’s fair to say that I wouldn’t be the person I am today without having had that experience. In my own kooky way I conquered every challenge that was thrown at me, even if it did involve ten too many trips to the hospital, and two too many to the police station.* From the outset, the year abroad is one of the toughest, scariest and most stressful experiences you will ever have to endure, but it is also probably the most exhilarating, enriching and liberating thing you will ever do, made entirely guilt-free by the fact that it’s the only time in your life that you’ll be given a year off from study or work and encouraged to travel the world.

Madrid will always hold a special place in my heart over anywhere that I ever have or ever will live. Whether that’s my hometown of Lincoln, my university city of Nottingham, or my next home in Paris. Just in the same way that the greatest loves of your life are the people you’d least expect, I came to love Madrid unconditionally and like no other. Although unknown to many as a major tourist destination, there’s something magical in the air that even perpetual protesting and innumerable prostitutes could not even hope to taint – in fact, both add to the charm of the city in their own peculiar way. Madrid is the city that I will return to visit year after year, for the rest of my life, and I can only hope that one day I will return for good. After all, is home the place where you were born, or the place where you were established?

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