Enjoy this Student Feature, written by one of our UCEAP program participants in Madrid. This personal narration of a bus ride to Morocco will give you a glimpse of the moment every study abroad student has when they find fellowship in unfamiliar surroundings.
I’m currently in route to Tanger, Morocco, enduring a 12-hour bus ride from our starting point in Madrid; it’s a long journey, but it’s easier to bear with my new tribe. This tribe is not only made up of a spectrum of personalities, but an array of experiences. We each left our home campuses, where many of us constructed new homes away from home, and now must rely on each other to reestablish that same comfort overseas.
How is it possible that we can grow so comfortable with strangers we’ve just met, and yet, when we pass familiar individuals in our daily routines, we never say a word to them? For example, back in the U.S., every Monday after my 8 a.m. class, I go to a little café on my school’s “Science Hill” to purchase an Americano and biscotti. After my purchase, I inevitably run into the same girl, always in a rush and unable to open the door with her hands full of lab gear; I usually reach her just in time to open the door. It’s an established Monday morning routine, and yet, never once have I actually communicated with her, other than to offer a polite smile.
On this bus ride to a foreign land, I’m surrounded by strangers—people I met just two weeks ago—strangers-turned-friends, who depend on my presence as much as I depend on their presence to feel safe. This ride, this hour, this minute, this recognition—it’s the privilege of making friends abroad.
As I sit here writing under a blue LED light, with the waning lights of Madrid behind me, my new tribe sleeps soundly, resting up for our weekend endeavor. In this moment, I recognize the tendency of human beings to establish a sphere of comfort no matter where they go or who they meet. This night ride to Morocco is the first of many adventures that we as a tribe will experience together before we return to our familiar home campuses, to our old hometowns, or to the new homes we’ll create with the help of those we meet along the way.
~Paolo Monera, UCEAP 2016 – ACCENT Madrid