The decision of whether or not to study abroad, and the pre-departure preparations, recall a series of events that, for most of us abroad-bound students, occurred two years prior: choosing and starting Georgetown.

Every student has their set of special reasons for attending Georgetown. For some, it may be the Catholic identity, a family member’s praise of their alma mater or the proximity to Capitol Hill. Choosing one’s abroad destination has equally as many considerations. Academic fit, location and particularly attractive decisions are among the most important in my experience.

It is partially for those reasons, admittedly and especially including the third, that I am studying abroad this fall semester in Madrid at Universidad Pontificia Comillas.

The emotions that surround study abroad mirror those of starting college, though with unique details. This time, I will not be missing my high school swim team, but rather the Blue & Gray Tour Guide Society and GUSA. Instead of making plans to go and visit a high school best friend in New York City, plans are made to convene a new, study-abroad League of Nations in Paris. My experience at Georgetown, and my advice to any incoming student, proves that while you may miss those from where you have known home to be, you soon adapt and again make more lifetime friends.

While CHARMS played no role in determining my living situation abroad, any notice regarding housing has been taken just as seriously. Learning that I would be living with my host family abroad felt like my Village C West assignment, and encouraged me like before to find out all I could about the location. Though instead of worrying about whether or not I would have a private bathroom, the concern now was metro walkability and the closest tapas restaurants. I will soon see if I have lucked out twice.

News of orientation brings to mind icebreakers in Maguire Hall, discussing an acclaimed book in McDonough Arena and a whirlwind 5 days that took just as long to recover from. If orientation at Comillas is to resemble Georgetown NSO in any way, I have a feeling it may most match the third characteristic. This time, instead of running around DC to take pictures in front of the White House and monuments, lanyards proudly hanging around our necks, Madrid will be our playground and photo backdrop, hopefully with less neck candy.

From each of these points of contrast and my experiences on the Hilltop, I see how much there is to be excited for in beginning this new chapter of my Georgetown story. Grateful for my friends who will also be studying in Spain, I look forward to meeting other students in our program from Georgetown and all around the world. Of course, though, I predict the locals will make the best amigos, with all of their native insight. I am elated to be living with a host family and I hope that in integrating with them, if but for four months, we will form relationships to last years beyond. The city itself, connected by bustling and vibrant streets, filled with the warm smells of every café and restaurant along the way, I am sure will only make my experience abroad that much better. This may be a new beginning in its own right, but it certainly does remind me of two years ago and the excitement that could fill another checked bag on my way to DC for the first time.

In my two years at Georgetown, our community within the Healy Gates has continuously surprised, impressed and inspired me, and while another fall semester on campus would have been a great time, I know there is much to learn abroad. It is my belief that I will develop a more profound sense of what it means to be a Hoya by reflecting on experiences, new and old, graciously afforded to me in this opportunity and adventure in Spain; it is this course of discovery that I hope to record in this column.

3b3ea4cSeamus Guerin is a junior in the College. The above marks the first installment in The Madrid Project, an account of a Fall semester spent in the heart of Spain.

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