The Madrilenos have a lot of different customs, such as eating their meals 2-3 hours later than Americans are accustomed to. Another cultural practice is the siesta, a nap the whole city takes from around 2-5pm. This practice originated due to extremely hot weather and usually follows a large midday meal. Most shops and restaurants are closed and the streets are drastically emptier.
The Spanish lifestyle caught me off guard. I have always liked being busy and having a full schedule. I’ve personally found the busy-ness to be extremely rewarding, and often is simply a result of trying to get the most from my experience. The downside is that my mental and physical health are not always able to keep up as planned. Caught up in a day-to-day routine, it can be easy to forget the bigger picture and I sometimes forget to take time for myself.
In my Spanish language class, my professor discussed some of the differences between our American perspective and the European perspective of the American lifestyle: what we would call “individualistic,” they called “alienating;” what we called “focused,” they called “workaholic.” The Spanish criticized the corporate ladder and emphasized following a passionate path to happiness. They valued a more relaxed lifestyle–in which they “work to live”–and I admit my summer was unquestionably fun and free of many of my usual stressors. This cultural difference revealed to me a different way of living and made me think a lot about the lifestyle I followed.
Despite the appeal, I realized I could never completely live the same lifestyle as the Spanish, but the lesson I took from it is clear: do what you love, and it won’t be “work” as the Spanish define it. The pre-med path will be hard and I will have to dedicate many hours, but the challenge only fuels my determination and drive. At my core, I truly do enjoy maximizing my time and following through on my commitments, but perhaps I need to take a leaf out of the Spanish’s book and remember to take a break every once in awhile. I had decided to study abroad to maximize my college experience and every part of it was indeed an amazing learning experience. The break from my usual routine at UC Berkeley forced me to take a step back and re-evaluate my life–and in the path I had chosen, I felt clarity and contentment.