“Does living truly as a Madrileño mean constant adventure or taking joy in the more 'ordinary’ parts of city-life like picking up a loaf of bread or visiting the doctor’s office?”
This question drummed in the mind of Lowell alum Sam Kwait-Spitzer ’13 as he balanced life as a tourist and a resident of Madrid, Spain. In an immersion program through Carleton College, Sam learned unexpected lessons that will last long after his return home.
Sam arrived in Madrid with the simple goal of becoming fluent enough in Spanish to authentically engage in a community. Sam met the challenge he set for himself, and in just a few short weeks began to realize “how language changes how you live your life… and experience the world.”
In his life as a student abroad, Sam was immersed in classes such as art history, urban studies, sociology, and political science, and he took full advantage of Madrid’s rich history and cultural offerings. Two or three times a week, Sam visited the Museo del Prado learning about master artists such as El Greco, Velazquez, and Goya. His urban studies class challenged him to become a regular at a local restaurant and develop everyday relationships.
On the heels of a summer internship with Congressman Jamie Raskin (MD-08) and Spain’s general election in April, Sam’s timing couldn’t have been any better for someone wanting to enter politics after graduation. Dinner with his host family offered Sam meaningful opportunities for political discourse. “It’s interesting to see how a democracy grapples with a dictator in its recent past,” Sam said about the stories he heard of citizens who served or were political prisoners under Francisco Franco, Spain’s dictator from 1939-1975. Between the rise of the far-right Vox party and Catalonian politicians receiving sentences for tampering in the 2017 Catalonian Referendum, Sam had a unique opportunity to take in diverse viewpoints that, as he said, “cut [to] the core of Spanish democracy.”
While he was abroad, Sam did a FaceTime session with Lowell’s 8th grade Spanish class. He fielded the students’ questions about Spanish culture, economics, and adjusting to a new city. Sam’s graduating class was the first cohort to go to Costa Rica, so he was also able to give advice to this 8th grade about their trip in May 2020. His tip: “Go outside of your comfort zone.” The students, especially his brother, Eli Kwait-Spitzer ’20, were excited to hear from Sam, who “will definitely travel again.” Most of the class left class with Sam’s travel bug, eager to learn more about other cultures.