Mia sat waiting impatiently for the route 29 bus on Príncipe de Vergara. She took her Blackberry out of her bag and checked it for the fifth time since she woke up thirty minutes ago. 8:45am.
Damn bus always takes forever, she thought. She proceeded to check the phone for any messages. Nothing. Why would there be something new? Defeated, she browsed through her Twitter newsfeed. She read a few headlines from The New York Times, CNN, and Business Insider before quickly getting bored and tossing the phone back in her bag.
She looked up and noticed some familiar faces surrounding her. A couple of gossiping teenagers, dressed in their private school uniforms. A Latina nanny taking care of young twin girls who wore round pink glasses. Teresa, she had overheard one of them was called, just like her sister. God, she missed her.
Somehow her morning routine felt so familiar, but it had only been a few months since Mia had decided to move from New York City to Madrid in order to pursue a master’s degree in International Management. She had enrolled in Madrid Business School, or MBS, as people usually called it.
Everyone had thought it was a careless and rash decision how she had dropped everything so quickly, but at the time she just desperately needed to leave her past behind her and get a fresh start. Why was it so reckless to pursue higher education anyway? Of course, going back to school had been her way of justifying the move, but she was beginning to think she wasn’t so sure anymore.
Moving to a foreign country yet again was proving to be more difficult than she thought. Besides the obvious culture shock, memories of her past still haunted her and the accelerated year program she had enrolled in was so demanding she barely had any time for herself or a real social life. Not that it was necessarily a problem since it kept her mind occupied, at least most of the time. After all, she wanted to prove to herself, her friends, and family back home that she had made the right decision. Lost in her thoughts, the red bus suddenly appeared and she was all too happy to push reality aside.
She arrived to school barely in time before the professor closed the door to class. Phew. They had a policy where you weren’t allowed in class after the door closed, which made her feel like she was in high school all over again. It was nothing like her typical auditorium sized classes at New York University where no one would even notice or care if you didn’t show up to class. As long as you passed the final exam, you were okay.
She cut through her row taking her usual seat, quickly stopping to greet the girls sitting next to her: Melissa from Venezuela and Victoria from Almería, the south of Spain. They had become her closest acquaintances and she had to admit they had always been really nice to her. She wouldn’t necessarily call them her friends though, especially since she had built a wall around others and mostly kept to herself.
Mia took a moment to look around the classroom. She sat in the second to last row, so she had a pretty good view of her surroundings. At that point in the term, she had already memorized everybody’s first and last name, as students were required to place name cards in front of them so that professors would be able to call on them. It had truly surprised her how international her classroom had been. Mia had gone to an American high school in Mexico City and living in New York always exposed her to an international crowd, but this was an entirely different playing field.
At MBS there were literally people from all over: not only Europe, but also North and Latin America, Asia, Australia, and Africa. The mix of different cultures and languages in a 50-person classroom sometimes made her feel like she was in the United Nations, and they each were a delegate representing their countries. It always made for interesting class discussions, to say the least.
The day’s lecture went as usual without a hitch. Mia hurried down to the computer lab as customary, the perfect way of avoiding socializing with others in between class breaks. She logged into a computer and really having nothing better to do, she decided to check her Facebook account and see what her friends back home were up to. As usual, most posts were not that interesting, but browsing through the newsfeed somehow made her feel closer to the world she had left behind.
After spending the rest of the day in her study group, Mia went home later that night to an empty apartment. She quickly changed into her workout gear and grabbed her iPod before heading down to the ground floor of her apartment building. It had a small gym, if it could even be called that. It was more of a tiny room with a lone bicycle and a few weights in the corner. But it was sufficient for Mia. At the end of the day, a treadmill is a treadmill. Working out kept her physically active and it was a great way to blow off some steam after a busy day at school.
She grabbed a quick dinner afterwards, which consisted of heating up a prepared meal. She wasn’t one to cook much and she barely even had the time to do so. As such, the frozen foods section from Carrefour had been her salvation.
As she set her dinner down at the dining table, she turned on her laptop and watched last night’s episode of The Daily Show online. Thank God for Comedy Central! It was the only of her favorite TV shows she could watch online as the other networks blocked their access outside of the United States.
Jon Stewart was really something else. She loved the show because it not only made her laugh, but at the same time allowed her to keep up with the crazy world of politics more readily. Besides, watching Gossip Girls dubbed in Spanish on a local station was not her idea of a good time.
When the episode finished, she checked her class schedule and reached for the corresponding course packets from a bookshelf. She had to read three different case studies for the next day: Swatch, Southwest Airlines, and Microsoft. She was beginning to feel like a financial analyst after reading up on so many companies.
She spent the next two hours going over the cases, as she jotted down notes and highlighted important passages. She was grateful she was a fast reader, otherwise it would have taken her at least twice as long to go through them. She often wondered how most of her classmates who weren’t native English speakers could handle all the heavy reading. She could barely keep up herself.
Mia decided to call it a night and she headed over to her bed feeling completely exhausted. Yet, she felt a sense of contentment that she had precisely followed the nightly routine she had set up for herself months earlier. Something about the routine kept her sane.
It was similar to when a professional tennis player prepares to serve for a point during a match. He always goes through the same motions in the same exact order. Reaching for a towel to dry off the sweat, tugging a strand of hair behind his ear, bouncing the ball repeatedly on the court. Or in the case of Rafael Nadal, picking at his shorts continuously.
The routine somehow gives each point a sense of stability no matter the score. It forces the body to undergo the same physical reaction whether it’s 40-0 or 0-40, and thus the emotion behind each point is contained easier.
Despite her thoughts on keeping routine, as she fell asleep Mia couldn’t help wonder if in reality she should be going out to a restaurant or bar, and hanging out with other people. Maybe she had it all wrong, but for now her perfect routine seemed to work and accomplished what she needed to get done.