Spanish major May Zhu ’20, from Beijing, China, spent the fall semester learning Spanish art history and Latin American literature, meeting new people and exploring the city of Madrid.
“As a foreign language major, it is very important to immerse oneself in the linguistic and cultural environment one is majoring in. I'd only been to the borders of Mexico during my Migration and Borderlands 360 as a freshman. I wanted that opportunity of immersion for myself, and the Hamilton College in Madrid program was an ideal choice,” says May.
May took the majority of her classes at Centro de Estudios Hispánicos. She also spent her time studying Latin American literature at the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, and took trips to various places in the city and made new friends. She lived with a welcoming and caring host family, and even got her first tattoo. In addition to exploring Madrid, she also went to Paris, Copenhagen, Granada, and Sevilla.
“Madrid was a liberating experience for me. Not only did I get to study Latin American literature in a public university, I got to take a break and just simply live my life in a city I’d never been to. Life wasn’t always about the academics like it is here. I got a chance to explore other possibilities.”
For May, living in Madrid broadened her sense of culture and identity. "The more people explore, the better they are at adapting to different lifestyles," says May. She cherishes her experience for providing her with that flexibility. At the same time, it got her thinking about her perception of her own identity and how that will hardly change no matter where she is.
“The time was one of reflection for me. I realized how much of a bubble Bryn Mawr is. In Madrid, I would sometimes get heckled. It was a different, and sometimes difficult experience. It gave me a sense of reality that people are not always aware of cultural and racial diversity, and that there are genuinely very nice people out there, too. More than anything, my time in Madrid has made me want to go back, and perhaps work there in the future.”