Superbowl 40. I was lucky enough to watch it in the company of a crowd of American students who, like myself, were too homesick to care that a mozzarella stick and potato skin platter cost $30. Lured to a flashy new sports bar by the prospect of American food and American commercials – and my American roommate who had fallen into a second-rate promoting gig – I was ready for a little Madden, some Clydesdales and Mick Jagger.

Turns out “shown in English” means “shown in real English from England.” So there were no geckos or exaggerated play-by-plays for me. It didn’t matter that they kept the halftime show – I was too busy having one of the most random experiences of my life.

I was standing at the end of our table, when I saw a familiar face walk past. Our eyes locked and we kind of stared at each other with open mouths before shouting “Oh my Gods” and hugging like crazy.

Two Rochester kids abroad, living in two different countries, just happened to be at the same sports bar in Madrid, Spain. Turns out she was visiting an old friend who’s studying in Madrid with a different program.

It is a small world, and at UR it can seem even smaller when you could randomly run into someone at lunch, class and the gym all in one afternoon. When it happens twice in a few days, you may think people are following you, but really they’re just living their lives in the same – small – space that you are.

Being abroad has expanded my world and, at the same time, made it smaller. While Madrid isn’t exactly a hotspot for cheap $10 European airfares, I’ve been able to book vacations to Amsterdam and Mallorca fairly easily. Sure I could spend the next three months in a different hostel every weekend, but I’ve found there’s a lot to get excited about in Madrid – and clutching all my belongings and trying to sleep in a room with a dozen strangers can be a little nerve wracking.

Last weekend I tested my Spanish knowledge when I played tour guide for my mom and sister. The itinerary was harsh – hours spent walking past various architecture, touring miles of museum exhibits and a day trip to the southern city of Cordoba.

The weekend was my best thus far. I’d been abroad for a month and already settled into the weekend routine of eating at our favorite restaurants and going to our favorite bars. I hate looking like a tourist, but with my family visiting, I was forced to walk around with my nose in a guidebook. I loved every minute of it.

Staring straight ahead while walking isn’t just a selfish attempt to look more European, it’s a protective measure against screaming, “Hi, I’m an American – rob me!” With eyes as big as a kid in a candy shop, I found a great shoe store and a tapas bar I plan to return to.

A few of my roommates haven’t attempted to adjust to the Spanish schedule and way of life. They eat their lunch at noon and hang out in the living room watching the Olympics coverage on the only English speaking channel. Studying abroad instantly expands your options, but you still have to take them. Rather than get annoyed that the city closes down for a few hours every afternoon, I see midday as an opportunity to enjoy a large meal with friends and take a nap.

The most important thing I’ve learned in my time here is to be a tourist in my own city, a practice I can carry into my life beyond studying abroad. You can do it too!

Stop to smell the flowers every once in a while. Walk down a new street, get lost and reorient yourself. Enjoy being a tourist in your home city.

Let’s be honest – Rochester doesn’t have anything on a city with a population of 3 million partiers, but there’s uncovered ground wherever you are. Sure, it’s a lot easier to find fun when there’s a bar showing the Real Madrid soccer game right below your window, but Rochester has its perks. Good Thai food is one – finding good ethnic food in Spain is like playing Russian roulette with a full barrel. You don’t have to make the best of where you are – chances are it’s already there. You just have to find it.

Borchardt can be reached at jborchardt@campustimes.org.



Notes by Nadia: The myth of summer vacation

Summer vacation is no longer a vacation.

Time unfortunately still a circle

Ever since the invention of the wheel, humanity’s been blessed with one terrible curse: the realization that all things are, in fact, cyclical.

Hippo Campus’ D-Day show was to “Ride or Die” for

Hippo Campus’ performance was a well-needed break from the craze of finals, and just as memorable as their name would suggest.