student experiences in Spain cracked open many doors. Prior to
1985, I had been drifting from one meaningless job to another.
Although I had been studying computer sciences and business administration
at Baruch, practical progress did not afford the personal growth
that I craved.
My year-and-a-half in Madrid was a turning point. Although I traveled
on a student visa, I lived the life of many an immigrant. I rented
a room across the street from Retiro Park, and then, to save money,
in a blue-collar neighborhood on the outskirts of town. I earned
subsistence-level wages teaching English and performing odd jobs
(e.g. small construction jobs for newly-formed friends, picking
grapes during the harvest season). I came to know my neighbors
and members of the university community, the baker, the grocer,
my professors, store clerks, the beat cop, the people at the local
gym, subway workers, etc. I opened up personally and professionally.
The big difference, though, was manifested in the intellectual
growth of improving my spoken Spanish and learning to write. Within
a year, for example, I was enjoying lectures in art history at
the St. Louis University and the Prado, reading diverse dailies,
such as El Pais newspaper, participating in the creation
of a bilingual journal, and getting together with friends for
tapas. Living in Spain also afforded me the opportunity to travel
to other countries in Europe. Adventures included the Canary Islands,
France and Italy.
After I had been in Madrid for a year, Father Sullivan at St.
Louis University [in Madrid] offered me a temporary position as
an orientation leader for incoming American students. Showing
my compatriots “the ropes,” I felt a sense of accomplishment at
having emerged from my cocoon.#
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