Your School. Your Paper. Since 1936.

The Suffolk Journal

Your School. Your Paper. Since 1936.

The Suffolk Journal

Your School. Your Paper. Since 1936.

The Suffolk Journal

Suffolk student studies in Spain for second semester

Maile Peterson
Peterson captures photos of Madrid from her time abroad.

During her freshman year at the Suffolk University Madrid Campus, Maile Petersen has tackled culture shock, world travel and has found herself embracing discomfort and new adventures.

From the moment she stepped onto the small Suffolk campus in the heart of Spain, Petersen said she felt like she belonged.

“I love Suffolk Madrid. Every day I could not imagine being at a different college,” said Petersen, a Spanish major.

Petersen first found out about Suffolk in her junior year of high school and was immediately drawn in when she learned about the Madrid campus.

“Instantly, I was like, ‘I need to be there,’” she said. “That’s the place I wanted to be. I’ve always wanted to travel, but I especially wanted a place where I could practice my Spanish.” 

Petersen’s family is Mexican and many members speak Spanish, but her mother chose to teach her English growing up. However, Petersen said she fondly remembers hearing Spanish wherever she was and longed to understand.

“I was always surrounded by the language. My mom would watch TV, Saturday mornings she would put on music and I really just wanted to understand,” she said.

Petersen began learning Spanish in seventh grade and attributes her family and culture as her inspiration to continue her language education. She added that she wanted to feel more connected to her loved ones through Spanish.

“I was always so jealous. I’d hear [my mom] talking to my grandma on the phone, my grandma would talk to me, and I just always wanted to know and I wanted that part of my culture that I was missing, I wanted to be able to speak with everyone,” said Petersen. 

In Madrid, Petersen said she was forced to utilize her Spanish on a daily basis, breaking her out of her comfort zone entirely.

“I never used my Spanish [before Madrid], even in my own household I was always nervous speaking with my mom,” said Petersen. “I was so scared and ashamed of my Spanish, but when I came here I was like, ‘I have to.’”

While Suffolk Madrid has allowed Petersen to further her Spanish skills, she added that the bustling city and campus are full of opportunities for any student. Petersen said every day she is surrounded by like-minded people and finds herself engaging in new experiences she never thought she’d have after growing up in a small community.

After moving to Madrid, Petersen said she immediately noticed a change in her lifestyle and mindset.

“Breaking out of your comfort zone, that’s something I really noticed, which is a big change from high school, because you’re with new people, a different culture, different language, different everything, so you just adapt and I think it’s just beautiful,” she said.

She noted the difference in mealtimes and how many Spaniards stay up late into the night, neither of which she expected to embrace as much as she did.

After being here for a few months I can’t imagine going back, I love how a meal isn’t rushed here and I have spent hours outside just enjoying my time and taking it all in and staying up later to eat makes me feel like the day has more hours,” Petersen said.

While Petersen admitted the anxiety and culture shock of living abroad has affected her, she continues to maintain a positive outlook. Going with the flow, she said, has been the key to immersing herself in Spain.

“I definitely just try to adapt, I just fake it until I make it and it seems to have been working,” Petersen said. “That is honestly my best advice: To immerse yourself into a new country [do] not stick to routine, I am appreciating the new culture of Spain and other European countries and learning so many amazing things firsthand that I never could have imagined.”

Like many students who find themselves studying abroad in Europe, Petersen has been able to travel throughout the continent with relative ease. From the Netherlands and France to Morocco and Italy, her ambition has taken her across countries and continents.

“I love the ability to travel, [which] I was never able to have when I was growing up,” Petersen said. She added that she’s found travel to be extremely accessible to college students and was amazed at how many new places were now at her fingertips.

Petersen will be back in Boston for her sophomore year but said she has mixed feelings about returning home after spending a year in Madrid.

“It’s going to be very difficult to leave, just because every day here I learn something new, I meet someone new. [I] have the ability to see so much more than I feel like I did where I came from,” she said.

Petersen said while she has embraced the European lifestyle, she will always hold the values of her home culture with her wherever she goes.

I will never forget my roots and always carry my culture with pride but I’m definitely just taking it all in with an open heart and open mind,” said Petersen.

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About the Contributor
Shealagh Sullivan, Editor-in-Chief | she/her
Shealagh is a senior majoring in journalism with a minor in international relations from Ashby, Massachusetts. She has previously worked as a co-op for the Boston Globe on the homepage desk and as an intern for GBH News and Boston Public Radio. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, finding a new favorite coffee spot and exploring Boston. She is a huge art lover and wants nothing more than to see the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. After graduation, Shealagh hopes to be a political journalist in Washington D.C. Follow Shealagh on X @ShealaghS.

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Suffolk student studies in Spain for second semester