Student shares experiences in Madrid

IUS Horizon

Jimmy Polivka, Spanish senior, shared his experiences studying abroad in Madrid.

Polivka spent 11 months in Madrid studying at Universidad Complutense de Madrid. Polivka said he had to decide between two different programs.

“One program was in Peru, and the other was in Spain,” Polivka said. “I chose Spain because my family is Spanish.”

Polivka left for Madrid in August 2009 and returned this past July.

He said his time was filled with many experiences, such as when Spain won the world cup.

“The final game was just a nationalistic celebration,” Polivka said. “The nation of Spain was just floored. After living there for a year, Madrid kind of became my city, too, so it made it all the more powerful.”

Because Polivka spent almost a year in Madrid, he said he noticed many differences.

“After I’d been in Madrid for six to seven months, the city became different for me in some ways,” Polivka said. “I noticed a certain introspection that happened for me after the first semester.”

Polivka said there were a few hard times, too.

“It taught me a lot about myself and how I dealt with certain variables,” he said. “Even when I was feeling completely drained, it still felt like I was in touch with what I

really wanted to do. The bad times helped me to find new energy.”

Angela Salas, director of the Honors Program and associate professor of English, was one of Polivka’s supporters.

“I’m really proud of Jimmy and all of our students who travel abroad,” Salas said. “It requires a lot of courage and practical thinking. It shows a lot of maturity and foresight to make it work.”

Salas said she also had a few  tips for other students who are thinking of studying abroad.

“It’s sensible to learn about the area where you’re going,” Salas said. “You need to assimilate with the culture. Give the local customs a try. Put your identity on hold a bit and truly experience life.”

Polivka also had a lot to say about the people of Madrid.

“Madrid has a whole lot of charm that comes out in time,” Polivka said. “The beauty of Madrid is in its people. It’s a very accepting type of culture. It began to feel like I shouldn’t be studying anywhere but there.”

Polivka said Madrid eventually grew to become his second home, but the university offered a different perspective.

“I was basically a Spanish university student,” Polivka said. “I was expected to go to class, do homework and perform just like a typical Spanish student. For me, I needed to take the opportunity to take courses in linguistics, and I loved it. I also took some philosophy classes, which were interesting.”

However, Polivka said the education is more specialized compared to American universities.

“The level of difficulty is not necessarily more difficult over there,” he said. “It’s just more in-depth. Expectations that were put on me were less strenuous actually, but the material was more ambitious than what I’m used to.”

Before leaving the United States, Polivka said he had certain goals in mind.

“I was trying to keep my expectations open,” Polivka said. “They tell you to have an idea or some objectives before you leave. My biggest goal was to become more fluent in Spanish because language is all about a sense of communication and connecting with people.”

Polivka said he now has a sense of self-awareness and newfound level of comfort.

“The people felt like my people,” Polivka said. “I knew how to be part of the city after a year. It became my hometown. This past year is something that’s always going to be with me, and a part of me is still in Madrid.”