Tired. Intimidated. Inadequate. Confused. Lost. Overwhelmed. Unable to understand.
These words characterized my first two days in Madrid.
I didn’t sleep on the plane from Charlotte to Madrid, but watched an old movie called The Color Purple and cried 3 times during it.The Marine next to me thought that was hilarious. Whatever. It was the best movie I have ever seen. Needless to say, I entered my first day in Madrid in an exhausted, emotional daze. By the time I went to sleep the first night, I had been awake for about 40 hours.
My greatest fear in coming abroad was that it would be a waste of time. I feared I was not supposed to be here, that I made a selfish decision in leaving Richmond, and that my time here would serve no purpose in the beautiful narrative God has woven throughout the history of humanity. How can I love people well when I don’t know their language well enough to express that love for them? Are they all casting me off as an ignorant American tourist before I even say a word? How can God use me despite my pride and selfishness and weaknesses? Although on a surface level it seemed like my first couple days were going well, these questions weighed heavily on my heart.
When I arrived in Madrid, my roommate Amalie picked me up from the airport and helped me take the airport to get into our apartment. She had already been in Madrid for a week and had it dowwwwwn. This girl could navigate like a pro, her Spanish was already back up to speed, and she had already met our host mom earlier in the week. I was thankful for her help, but had a sinking feeling I was already behind and would never catch up. Classic me, making everything a competition instead of just being grateful for a friend who already was beginning to grasp the culture of Madrid, and was willing to walk with me while I figured out this place I would call home for the next 4 months.
The first day, Amalie and I picked sides of the room we would share, unpacked, went on a walk with our host mom and new baby brother, had dinner, explored downtown Madrid, and met up with a couple friends who had also just arrived. It was a long day, I was running on zero sleep, and I just felt really confused, incapable, and out of it the whole time.
The second day we had our orientation at SLU Madrid, the university we would be attending, and it was discouraging at best. I felt sure that the caliber of my classes and professors would not meet my expectations due to my deep love for the faculty and programs at U of R. It also seemed like every person had come with a huge friend group from their school, and I was a lil’ fish in a big pond of people who all knew and liked each other. My usual outgoing and extroverted self just wanted to curl up in a ball and journal away my frustrations rather than being with people.
Fortunately, Jesus doesn’t waste things. The story He desires to tell through us will be told. I serve a God who is in the business of instilling purpose, meaning, and value into even the darkest and most broken places and people. Regardless of my abilities or inabilities, He promises that He will use me wherever I am, and that I am simply enough, nothing more or nothing less.
My third day in Madrid was my first day of classes, and it blew my expectations out of the water. That morning I was able to wake up early to read and journal on the porch, and I wrote down all of my doubts and fears, and asked God to take them from me. As soon as I stepped into my first class, they evaporated. My ethics professor wrote his dissertation on Altruism and Egoism, which is very similar to what I hope to write my senior thesis on! I felt confident speaking Spanish for the first time, and my Public Health and Social Justice class was amazing. The professor had just returned from Guatemala distributing HIV/AIDS prevention medication to the population there, and a guy in my class had worked with the Nobel Peace and Clinton Foundation the past summer.
Jesus surprised me a lot, took away my fears, and reminded me that He has placed me in Madrid for a purpose. I left school filled with excitement about discovering what that purpose is.