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Overcoming political fears in Spain

Emely Navarro, International Staff Writer

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I’m finally in Spain, my home for the next five months. Right now I feel excited, but if you asked me four days ago, I would have said I felt petrified.

Two weeks before my trip I was excited and nervous to start this new experience in my life, but as it came closer, things changed.

As I said goodbye to friends and family the week I was leaving, multiple people told me they were afraid for me to leave the country because of “America’s situation.”

They told me to have caution because the world might not react to America the way they used to because of some new policies President Donald Trump signed, like the travel ban, which has now been blocked.

Some also told me stories they heard or read online about people getting mugged and how I needed to carry around a pocketknife to be safe.

People’s precautions and advice about my trip gave me anxiety and caused a couple of nightmares leading up to my trip.

They made it seem like because of our President’s foreign-policy decision I would have a target on my back and being robbed was inevitable.

Even though I knew everyone was telling me these things because they wanted me to be safe, it lead to paranoia.

Coming into Europe, I was worried about how people would receive me because of the apprehensions my friends gave me, but they couldn’t have been more wrong.   

I think in a way that ruined the first part of the trip for me. I was so worried and paranoid something bad would happen that I didn’t take any time to realize that I was in Europe.

The first two days were hard to adjust to. I flew from Los Angeles to London, then from London to Madrid. I spent my first night at an Airbnb and got lost trying to find the apartment, which was mortifying.

The taxi dropped me off at the wrong building so I had to walk around the streets of Madrid at 8 p.m. with no GPS. I was so scared and convinced I wasn’t going to find the apartment, I literally thought, “Well this is it. I might have to sleep on the floor.”

Luckily, I found two women who looked friendly and they guided me to the Airbnb after being lost for more than 20 minutes.

The next day I took a train to Zaragoza — the city I am living in.

After settling in I walked around to familiarize myself with the area. I got lost on my way back to my apartment from the market and later at 7 a.m. the next day.

I think it’s safe to say my sense of direction might not be the best but I think getting lost so many times taught me to not always take everyone’s advice to heart.

People back home convinced me that if I walked home alone at night I would get mugged and if I told someone I was American they would hate me.

This was not the case at all.

Now that I am in Spain and have met people from all over Europe I am noticing the fears people had about me being ill-received because I was American were incorrect.

Most people I have met couldn’t care less that I am American. To them I am another study abroad student.

I have heard few comments about Trump and people have asked me questions about our electoral college and my perspective on our president, but none of the comments over politics have been condescending or mean.

What I have learned from these conversations is that the European people I have met have their opinions about our political system, but most of them want to learn about it, rather than judge me for the person my country elected president or the decisions he has made during his presidency.

After going out, getting lost and meeting people, I learned bad things can happen but there’s more of a likelihood they won’t happen if I have a positive outlook on the experience.

The more paranoid I can get, the more likely it is that I will attract negativity.

Needless to say after the realization that I do not need to be paranoid 24/7, my experience changed.

Instead of leaving my room afraid I would get mugged I was more open-minded to getting lost, because then I could explore a new part of the city.

And what I’ve learned from exploring is that man, am I in love with Spain so far.

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