Today (Feb 1st, had some complications originally uploading this) officially marks my two-week milestone of living in Madrid, Spain. It hasn’t been a seamless transition, but I am quickly learning how to adapt to the change of culture. Upon arrival in Madrid on January 16, I decided it was most cost effective to take the Metro (subway) from the airport to my flat rather than a taxi. I had printed a small map with my address and the surrounding area to ensure I wouldn’t get lost and was ready to go. I only had one checked bag, a travel backpack, and a laptop bag, but I could’ve never anticipated the dense feeling I experienced when my eyes first saw the city after exiting the metro tunnel.

Coming out from underground, it was like I had just walked into another world. It was noon in Madrid and there was hustle and bustle everywhere, with car horns, chatter and street sounds alike; I felt as if I had just stepped into an antiquated New York City with all Spanish people. Once I came out of my momentary trance, I realized I had to climb two flights of stairs with my luggage after a 9-hour red-eye flight in a land I didn’t know at all and then walk another 1.5km to eventually reach the flat—the first of many independent experiences I would have in the next 5 months here. This semester, I took a risk and booked with a family via AirBnb for 5 months; they seemed nice and the location is great. They do not speak English, so there have been a few moments of confusion and such, but I have already learned so much from them.

I had 4 days to spend alone before our orientation day at my new school, La Universidad de Carlos III de Madrid, much of which was spent wandering around Madrid and taking copious naps. While it was a bit lonely at times, I found peace in the serenity of being alone and going to see places around the city with the sole purpose of taking photos. Templo de Debod quickly became my favorite sunset spot after waiting for an hour to see the amazing change of colors as the sun disappeared. That moment I felt like I was in a painting.

The day before classes began, myself and some other Aggies in addition to a few Erasmus students ventured out to Toledo for a daytrip. Toledo is a hidden gem just south of Madrid and is loaded with abundant medieval history. It was a totally different world than Madrid, with a much slower pace and even more historic architecture, a welcome change. I felt like I was in a page in one of my Spanish textbooks! We did lots of walking around the city and explored many of the renowned sites the city has to offer. My favorite was a calm spot just by the river that we deviated from our itinerary to get to. We spotted a bridge in the distance that somewhat resembled a medieval Austin 360 overlook and decided to hike to get down there. It was incredible. On the far side of the bridge there was a stone wall that lined the perimeter of the city, which we decided to sit and soak it all in. The view was remarkable and the afternoon sun was angled just right to warm our faces, a feeling that we had been absent of since moving to Madrid, and an overwhelming feeling of peace and content came over me.

That moment in Toledo made me realize why people that visit Spain love it so much. There are a huge variety of cultures you can experience in such a small distance. The large cities are loaded with people and a cosmopolitan vibe, while the smaller towns are full of history and character. The food is great everywhere, and the Spanish language is its own type of music. I’m slowly but surely falling in love with this country, with many more adventures to come!