February 21, 2016

“Excuse me,” she said.

I’m on the right side of the escalator, I’m not in the way, I thought, not even realizing she spoke in English.

“Sorry,” I mumbled, annoyed that a Spaniard was annoyed with me.

“Do you go to Maryland?” she asked.

My backpack. I was wearing my cheer backpack, with the school’s name and my own embroidered on the front pocket.

Finally becoming aware of my situation, I replied, with a smile, that I am a student at Maryland. She asked if I played a sport, and I told her that I cheered until I came to Madrid.  She explained that she’d know a school-issued athlete backpack anywhere, and shared that she was an ex-field hockey player at Michigan, currently doing a graduate school business program in Madrid.  We chatted about collegiate sports and the Big Ten briefly, and then she asked where I was from. I told her Pennsylvania, and was a little surprised when she asked, “Where in PA?”  Pennsylvania is only Pennsylvania to people who don’t live there.  To those who know, it’s PA.  Though she was from New Jersey, both of her parents were from areas of Pennsylvania that I was familiar with.  We were taking different trains so we had to cut our conversation short, but this 5-minute exchange on the walk through the metro station was a welcomed encounter with a stranger who felt a little like home.

It’s interesting to consider the communities you belong to.  I’m from Pennsylvania, I’m a student at the University of Maryland, I was a Big Ten athlete, and I’m an American.  While abroad, these groups can set me apart from the locals, but unite me with others on a similar journey.  Though everyday in Madrid is a blessing, reminders of home are an extra reason to smile.

 

On a semi-related note, what is going on on Maryland’s campus!? Armed robbery, burglary, indecent exposure… I have received more UMD Alerts while two months abroad than I have all of last semester!  I never feel unsafe in College Park, but I am concerned and confused at the amount of questionable activity at school.  Be smart and safe UMD friends!

 

Paz, Amor, Madrid

A.J.H.

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