I spent my junior year in Madrid as part of Wesleyan University’s study abroad program. I was a young man in Europe, establishing a life in a new continent, loving the beautiful language and culture and sensuality of Spain. My experience was overwhelmingly positive but I often felt alone in Madrid, lost perhaps in a bustling metropolis in a foreign land, but each day I discovered new things about myself and my confidence grew steadily.
Change was in the European air: Spain was progressing at breakneck speed a mere decade after Franco’s despotic fascism loosed its death grip on democracy, the culture and economy a whirlwind. The Maastricht Treaty was in the works, promising full European Union economic integration. The Iron Curtain was crumbling, mass migrations were straining every border. There was war in Iraq, US fighter jets landing at Torrejón Air Base and tanks on the streets of Madrid. In the spring I suffered the most extreme personal tragedy I had known. I was on the move constantly, visiting every corner of the Iberian Peninsula and much of the Continent. I was restless, emotionally and intellectually hungry, and my identity was changing too; in Madrid I found enormous courage to finally accept my sexuality. I came home from Spain stronger, grown.
I have returned to Spain countless times since that first year. While it continues to change, Madrid always feels like home.