Don’t let technology distract you from the world

By: Rachel Cain – English & International Studies

After a long journey, there is almost nothing better than curling up on the couch and watching Netflix.

That is exactly what I had in mind to do after I arrived in Madrid two months ago.

I settled down in my new apartment and prepared to enjoy several hours of “Parks and Recreation.” However, when I went to Netflix’s home page, I saw a terrible message displayed across my screen: “Sorry, Netflix is not available in your country yet.”

This disturbing lack of Netflix became a common complaint among the American and British exchange students. Although some people discovered a program that can make websites act as if a computer is located in a different country than it actually is, I’ve decided not to install the program — it’s not worth the risk of viruses, and, besides, I can survive this semester without Netflix.

For goodness’ sakes, I’m in Europe.

I’m actually grateful for not having access to Netflix. I know that one or two episodes would turn into 10 or 15, and I could spend hours in my apartment watching shows — which I could easily do in America — instead of experiencing life in Europe.

So, without Netflix, what is there to do?

The better question: What isn’t there to do?

I could easily pass the hours by simply walking through the streets of Madrid and watching the people go about their daily lives.

As one of my friends, who’s been in Madrid for two semesters, told me, “I can’t wait to go home. But every time I walk through a street in Madrid, I let out a little giggle.”

It’s just unbelievably gorgeous.

There are narrow streets with shops crowded next to each other, bakeries with delicious smells seeping through the windows, people walking their adorable tiny dogs and cobblestone streets.

A friend of mine mentioned that the architecture is probably what she’ll miss most about Europe, since there’s really no equivalent in the United States.

“Look,” she said, gesturing to the gothic spires of La Catedral (a cathedral in Barcelona, built in the sixteenth century). “Where else are you going to see that?”

Another way to take full advantage of my foreign location is to experience the local culture. For me, this involves going out, getting tapas, visiting markets and frequenting art museums.

In any study abroad experience, there are countless ways to discover more about the local way of life.

Also, go traveling. So many cities in Europe are close enough that it’s easy to take a day trip to a surrounding area. For instance, since I’m in Madrid, I can easily take the train to Segovia, Toledo or Avila and be back by night.

But, regardless of a location during study abroad, chances are the university is nearby numerous other cities.

Remember to take advantage of the new location — it may be the opportunity of a lifetime.