by Eric Kardos
Sure, I’ve been overseas. But I wouldn’t really consider my trips to Cancun and Punta Cana as submerging myself in another culture, as I spent most of my time on the beach and at the pool bars. So you could say that I didn’t quite know what I was getting myself into with my first “real” trip overseas. Our cohort went to Spain over Spring Break week as part of our Global Business course. We took a flight from Pittsburgh to Newark, and then Newark to Madrid. The latter was overnight flight in which I learned of my complete inability to sleep on planes, meaning that our first day tour of the city I was a walking zombie.
We spent the first half of the trip in Madrid and the second in Barcelona, with two day-trips to Toledo and Cadaques. There were plenty of cultural differences that were apparent between the U.S. and Spain. The language was challenging, but I was surprised to find I remembered enough from the years of Spanish I took in high school to get from one place to another and order food. Another one of the main differences was the naps people took mid-day in Spain. It didn’t make a whole lot of sense to me at first until we learned about how late people stayed out at restaurants, bars and clubs. Then, we all took full advantage of the time to recharge.
We happened to be in Madrid during the El Classico game between Real Madrid and Barcelona. However, unless you wanted to spend a few hundred on a ticket, you weren’t getting in the stadium. So we took part in the next best option; we found ourselves in a neighboring bar filed with real Madrid supporters. The place was completely on edge the entire game just waiting for Madrid to score. Barca ended up winning 1-0.
Without a doubt, my favorite part of the trip was on our last day and the few hours we spent in Cadaques, a small seaside town up close to the French border. The simplicity and scenery in Cadaques was an incredible way to close out the trip. In our short time there, a few of us sat down at the bar next to the water, enjoyed a beer and talked about how much fun the past week and a half had been. Sure, there were stressful moments trying to pull together a presentation for our clients, and days when we didn’t feel like walking on a tour. But those 45 minutes with each other, next to the water with a cold drink and not a cloud in the sky, made it all worth it.
I really enjoyed the time we spent in Spain to the point where I wish we could’ve stayed a bit longer. But reality came calling, and we had to come back to the states to finish up our MBA. The trip definitely changed my perception of traveling to new countries. Next year, a few of us are planning a trip to Tokyo for the 2020 Olympic games which will mark my second “real” overseas trip. It’ll come with its own set of challenges and new experiences, but it’ll definitely be something I won’t forget.