Letters from Abroad Maximo Provecho
March 11, 2017
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I awoke on the first day to a breathtaking view of the Mediterranean from the terrace of my flat — a view I had missed the night before, as a few airline delays had pushed back my time of arrival from 5 p.m. to past midnight. I had missed the welcome dinner with all of the students, host families and program directors — something I’d normally be disappointed about — but this time I didn’t mind. As I saw it, figuring out what to do with a 7 hour layover in Paris was the first part of my adventure — an adventure where I promised myself that I’d stray away from the predictability of my daily routines, relax and let myself get lost in the experience.
Later that day we gathered in a classroom in El Centro Internacional de España where our program director would review some key points for the experience. He introduced our slogan for the semester: “Maximo provecho”. Direct translation: maximum advantage. But for the 16 of us on the program who have integrated the mantra into our respective experiences, it carries a little more significance. We remind ourselves of it at 8 o’clock on a Saturday morning, when we don’t want to stray from the comforts of our beds, but there’s an opportunity to explore a farm situated in the spectacular mountains of Andalusia. We reminded ourselves when we entered the daunting classrooms of La Universidad de Málaga for the first time — classes of hundreds of Spanish kids we’d never crossed paths with and a professor with a Málaga accent so heavy you could’ve sworn he was speaking Catalan (we’re not in Althouse anymore, we said as we entered). We remind ourselves when the shop owner offers to speak to us in English- and we’d tell her “podemos hablar en español” and when we’re hungry and craving a burger and fries, but we head for the Tapas bar instead. In order to get the most out of the opportunity and immerse ourselves in the Spanish culture, we constantly remember maximo provecho, a phrase that stands for pushing ourselves out of our comfort zones, keeping an open mind and seizing the moment.
It’s currently a Monday afternoon and I’ve just returned from Prague with five kids from my program. It was an amazing experience. The sprawling Renaissance and gothic style architecture that pervade the main center, the towering Baroque castles that dot the city skyline and the winding river that divides the main town gives the city a fairy-tale like feel. It’s one of the most dramatically beautiful places I’ve ever visited. When we exited the plane though upon our return, we were reminded of what we had missed over the past few days. Feeling the warm Andalusian air, overhearing bits and pieces of Spanish conversation again and smelling the sharp scent of the nearby ocean made us feel at home again. We’d gotten up at 4 a.m. to catch an early flight that morning. Overtired and hungry, we could have caved that afternoon. We could have resorted back to the comfort of our host families, cued up Netflix and burned a few hours in bed. But we didn’t. We headed straight for our favorite cafe — La Peña Malagueta, where we fought through our sleep deprivation with the assistance of a Café con Leche, extra fuerte. Two months had gone by in Málaga, with three more to go. Three more months of new experiences and adventures. Two months ago I would have gone home after that flight. But how many more afternoons did I have to enjoy the sunshine of La Costa del Sol? An opportunity presented itself. It was a small one, but an opportunity nonetheless. It was time to seize the moment, and remember maximum provecho.