Spain | Reciprocal Exchanges Blog

As I’m writing this, it marks exactly two weeks since I have been living in Madrid. To say that the past few weeks have been a whirlwind would be an understatement. From the 9 hour flight to encountering countless hurdles trying to get my metro card, I have definitely learned a lot that I would love to share.

The first thing that I noticed when I got here was how beautiful the architecture was. The buildings themselves make you feel like you’re in a movie. I filled up my camera roll within two days (and I have no shame). Just waking up to the view from my apartment felt like a dream. Walking 20,000 steps a day around the city and eating nothing but tapas & coffee for the first week honestly just felt like a vacation. The reality of being here for 5 months didn’t hit until the initial adrenaline wore off.

Now I’m going to go ahead and share some essential things that I wish I knew before moving here:

  1. Make a metro card appointment BEFORE you arrive in Madrid. I had to go to a train station in the middle of nowhere just to get this card.
  2. Don’t even think about eating dinner until 9 pm. Everything here is a lot more laid back and meal timings are all shifted a few hours behind American times so just be prepared for that.
  3. Be willing to put yourself out there even if the situation is unfamiliar. Being a study abroad student is all about growing and learning to adapt to a new environment. If you stick around only what you’re comfortable with, then you won’t see the growth that you’re hoping for.

I’ve only been here for a few weeks and I can’t even express how excited I am for the rest of the semester. Traveling, meeting new people, and learning about business from an international perspective is truly a dream come true. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I intend to make the most of every moment. Stay tuned for my reflection at the end of this (hopefully) incredible journey. 🙂

Categories: 2022, Reciprocal Exchange, Spain

I have been in Spain for over 2 weeks and I have loved every second since I got here! I feel like for me it has not been too hard to get adjusted here because I speak fluent Spanish, however, Spaniards do speak a bit faster and use a lot of words I typically don’t. I’ll start back from the first day of arriving, me and 2 other girls from TAMU flew in together and made our way to our flat (apartment) via a taxi from the airport. When we got to our flat our landlord met us here to give us our keys and introduce us to our roommates. One thing I highly recommend is looking on Erasmus Facebook groups to find housing: it’s significantly cheaper than a dorm and you can find a great location! Thankfully I got in contact with this landlord early on in the fall semester and got rooms for myself and the 2 other girls. We are so lucky to have found this place because it’s in the perfect location in Madrid! Sol has so much to offer from food, shopping, and lots of nightlife activities. As far as adjusting to living here it was a bit challenging for me because the jet lag was real!! And with Madrid being a night city, it’s a bit hard to get some sleep at night lol, but I would not trade sleep for the location of this flat–it’s so worth it!!

I guess I’ll move along to some tips that I have gathered while being here! First and foremost literally nothing here is spicy… which has been a real struggle for me because I’m Mexican and I need spice in my life lol, so if you can, pack your favorite hot sauce. Another thing is that things here are not as sweet/artificial as they are back home which can be a little odd to get used to since we are so used to having all the sweets back home. One other tip I would like to mention is to get your metro card appointment before getting here!!!!!!! Seriously, if you’re reading this I hope you at least take one thing away from it and that is to set your appointment before arriving in Madrid. My friends and I tried to make appointments to get our metro card (which is crucial to getting around here) and the earliest appointment in the location we are staying was like 2 weeks away so we made our earliest appointment in a town that was 1 hour away from Madrid, which was quite the adventure. One other thing I suggest is to pack lightly which I wish I would have done because you will do a lot of shopping here, everything is so much cheaper than back in the US. I hope this helps anyone who is interested in coming to Madrid; of course, I am biased because it’s the place I decided to study abroad at but it seriously is such a beautiful city with so much to offer. There are so many international students here and lots to do!

The amazing view from my apartment!

Categories: 2022, Reciprocal Exchange, Spain

When I got to the city of Madrid, I didn’t know what to expect. Truly. I had never been abroad before partaking on this exchange, but now, twelve days into this program, I have covered quite a bit of foreign ground. Here are my initial impressions and advice for anyone looking to make that trip overseas:

After a total of 18 hours traveling to the capital of Spain, I arrived at the airport only to encounter my first of many international hiccups. While passport control was a somewhat seamless process, the officer who took my documents forgot to stamp them, which led me to getting a jump start on practicing my Spanish speaking skills. It took three officers to resolve the issue, but that wasn’t the end of my airport troubles. Let me preface this by saying: when going on an exchange, depending on your mobile provider will determine whether or not you need an international SIM card. My personal plan did not allow me to use any data without one, and while the airports sell them, their store was closed for the first hour I was there. Eventually, the store opened and I was able to buy a working SIM and get a taxi to my flat in the center of town.

Once getting to the flat, I was finally able to settle in and start navigating the ins and outs of living abroad. Some of the differences I have noticed so far: contactless pay is a thing–it’s so common that taking out your card to pay feels wrong (*note on the credit card: if you are planning to be abroad, get a VISA or Mastercard, those will be the most universally accepted, as I learned); if you attempt to speak Spanish even if it’s at a beginner’s level, they won’t switch to English and rather continue with their language, which is ideal for anyone seeking to learn; Spanish time is real–they truly have a schedule unlike any other where lunch is around 5pm and dinner doesn’t start until 9pm; with that, the city holds its title of having the best nightlife, where the streets are crowded and full of energy every single night.

There are many more things I have learned and yet to learn on this trip, especially when it comes to the inner workings of the Spanish school system. While classes don’t start until tomorrow, it is evident that they approach education in a different way. From looking at the syllabi and talking to my international roommates, I have found that lectures aren’t the main teaching style and rather it’s practicals and presentations that drive home the lessons. I’m interested to see how this semester goes and how I will be able to adapt and adjust!

Overall, this past week has been an incredible and insightful experience, despite the few hiccups I’ve run into. And to think this is only the beginning of my five-month-long adventure!

Categories: 2022, Reciprocal Exchange, Spain

Today on the 21 is my second week in Barcelona. I wanted to use this post to talk about the arrival process and adjustment! I honestly didn’t hear too much about how this process would work but so far it has been great! If you decide to study abroad, know that adjusting can be hard, but it gets easier every single day! We got to the airport in Austin on January 6, landed in Atlanta, then Paris, then Barcelona! The Barcelona airport had a bus that took us right to Placa Catalunya which is where we live so that was a very easy process! I know it can be a tough thing figuring out how to get somewhere after the airport. We then arrived at our apartment, right now in our program we have 2 people (Avni and I), we are sharing a one-bedroom apartment that also has a sofa bed so we make it work! Definitely keep in mind that most apartments are much smaller than I would say we are used to in the US. You’ll learn how to make your space work! The food here has been great, cheaper than in the US, mostly everyone you’ll need to talk to speaks English so don’t let the language barrier scare you! Though you should definitely try to learn Spanish if you come. School here is much different than TAMU, they have the same classes on Monday and Tuesday and then Thursday and Friday. There is only 1 exam per class and they don’t do much homework here. Each class also has a seminar that varies every week so just make sure to keep up with your schedule! The professors here are also super passionate about what they’re talking about. The locals don’t really take notes, you’ll hear them say that they rather just pay attention to understand better which I thought was so interesting as we are so used to taking pages and pages of notes. I would definitely say to pack light, clothes here are much cheaper than in the US so I bet you’ll want to go shopping! But make sure to bring what you need, especially in the Spring semester where it is pretty cold. Many things are different due to COVID, we thought orientation was in person so we came the first day, it was actually online but for some reason, we didn’t know! COVID definitely makes it tough to sometimes know what’s going on, but just like anything, always ask questions. Adjusting takes time but it’s completely worth it. Love Barcelona!

Categories: 2022, Reciprocal Exchange, Spain

After spending a whole semester abroad, I have learned quite a few things about Spanish culture. Interacting with them was an interesting experience. Spanish people like to talk about anything. Nothing is a simple conversation. The bureaucracy of the country is slow but if you get on top of it, they do work efficiently. I would definitely like to come back to visit. I have made some life-long friendships here, and I am hoping that they come to visit me. I wouldn’t change anything about the experience I had.

Categories: 2021, Reciprocal Exchange, Spain

I have officially completed one month in Spain! I arrived a few weeks early than my companions, Kira and Manu, to spend some time with family who live outside of the city. Not only am I happy I was able to see them, but spending ten days with them helped me immerse myself a little bit easier into the Spanish way of life. Things are definitely a lot slower around here, which has been the biggest adjustment, by far. As someone who is notoriously early and always on-the-go, I’ve had a bit of a hard time getting used to doing things at a leisurely pace.

We did just finish our first week of school. I think I am really going to like my classes and I love that my classes are intimate and small. I think my largest class has 35 people. Which is incredibly different than many of the large lectures we have at A&M. My schedule is incredibly flexible though, which gives me a lot of time to explore the city and surrounding areas. I keep having to remind myself that I live here now, and, therefore, don’t have to see everything all at once. Take things slow… maybe I am adjusting to the Spanish way of living better than I think. 😉

Below I’ll add some photos from my first few weeks. Good food. Great experiences. The BEST company.

Categories: 2021, Reciprocal Exchange, Spain

On my first few days in Madrid, the first thing that shocked me the most is how much I walked. According to my watch, I took over 90,000 steps the past week. Also, coming from the state where everything is big, everything here seems small. From food portions to the size of cars and the size of the roads.  Something else that I noticed was that the Spanish people seem to have a very different take on life. People are out on the streets walking around, sitting down to have a drink, and not worrying about the next day. It feels like they take a minute to just relax and appreciate what they have around them. Lastly, I would say that another cultural difference between the United States and Spain is that the public transportation system works almost without flaw. I don’t think that I have gotten in a car more than twice. I can go anywhere using the train, subway, and bus. I can’t wait to see what the next few months have in store for me.

Categories: 2021, Reciprocal Exchange, Spain

Looking back to this past semester living in Madrid, I have mixed feelings about it all. It has without a doubt been the best experience I have lived. I moved to Madrid knowing it would give me so many things to take with me, but I did not think through how hard it would be for me to say goodbye.

There is something extremely special about Madrid- something that makes your time living there only a positive one. I still do not know if it is the people, the food, or the overall culture, but it is for sure something that made me exceedingly happy to say the least. The beginning of my semester included things like “toque de queda” which made it complicated to do things like travel, but as the semester continued things started opening up more giving us a chance to travel. The first opportunity I had was to go skiing with some friends which was definitely something I was dying to do when moving to Europe. I love skiing and the fact that I could have that experience abroad was a memorable one. Along with this trip came my other 2 favorites, which were Gran Canaria and Rome, where I was able to visit with some friends and do things like go to sand dunes, natural pool waters, visit the Colosseum and the Vatican, and so on.

Although I was able to travel during this crazy pandemic study abroad year, I had already fallen in love with Madrid and the people there that it made it hard to even want to leave for only a weekend. This is something that shocked me since I am a person who loves to travel and will do so as much as possible, but the fact that Madrid had that power to make me so happy and never want to leave was definitely a good feeling. I made lifelong friends, visited new places, learned so many new things about different cultures, and most importantly grew as a person.

Leaving Madrid was definitely an emotional rollercoaster for so many reasons, yet all good. But at the same time, although I was sad to leave a part of me knows that this is not the end of my story with Madrid, and I hope this is the case because living in Madrid was the most amazing opportunity and I am so grateful to have experienced it.

I hope whoever has a chance to study abroad I say get out of your comfort zone and do it because I promise you it will be worth it!

Categories: 2021, Reciprocal Exchange, Spain

Howdy!

I recently returned to College Station after finishing my semester in Madrid. Business in Spain tends to be conducted differently than here in the US. However, there are a few similarities. I found that businesses in Spain have different expectations for employees. Employees that I met are typically given more paid time off and the concept of allotted sick days does not exist. Here, employees are used to logging all time off under a specific category or reason. There is definitely something to be said about the phrase “working to live, not living to work” and how it positively affects the quality of life in Spain. Experiencing this was a cultural shift compared to the American dream mentality of prioritizing work and financial security above all else. Businesses that would typically be regarded as customer service based in Madrid revolve much less around the customer than I was accustomed to in the United States. Instead of the mentality of the “customer is always right” or an employee being on the customer’s time, customers must ask for what they need and are usually subject to the employee’s schedule. Customer service in Spain though it is not bad, just different. At my host university, I took a course called International Business Management; I learned a great deal about how regions from all over the world differ in how they conduct business. Things like power distance, masculinity/femininity, and individualism vs. collectivism greatly impact how business is conducted and how consumers make purchasing decisions. It was cool to see examples of this when I compared my knowledge of how business in the US works vs. how it works in Spain.

My experience abroad was an incredible one full of new experiences, new relationships, and personal growth. I am incredibly grateful to have had the opportunity to meet so many amazing people! I rode in a hot air balloon, traveled to the Grand Canary Islands, and spent a ton of time exploring the city I quickly grew to love. Living in Madrid helped me to realize my love for travelling and my desire to eventually become an Aggie expatriate.

Enjoying the view from my apartment!

Beautiful view from the rooftop at Plaza Cibeles!

Lavapiés neighborhood!

Categories: 2021, Reciprocal Exchange, Spain

Hola!

My name is Fernanda Vidales and I am currently studying in Madrid, Spain for this spring semester 2021.  Since the beginning, studying abroad was always something I planned to do because I loved the idea of living in Europe at some point in my life, specifically Spain. Although things changed because it is in the middle of a pandemic, I was still as excited for such an amazing opportunity. I was lucky enough to arrive to Madrid during one of the most historic times, which was when it received the most snow in recorded history so I was able to walk around the city filled with piles of snow for my first few days. It will soon be 2 months since my arrival, yet it has felt like home since day 1.

I started school only a few weeks ago, which is located on the outsides of Madrid in Universidad de Carlos III de Getafe, but I live in the city center. One of the most amazing things about this city is how easy and fast public transportation is. Living in the heart of Madrid has been the best choice because everything is walking distance and I never feel the need to stay in my apartment since I have the chance to distract myself and go for strolls around the city. Because of Covid, there is currently a “toque de queda,” which is currently from 11pm- 6am and it means no one can be out on the streets during those hours and everything is closed–except pharmacies for emergencies.

Even with the toque de queda I have been able to enjoy a somewhat type of normality living in this city because restaurants, movie theaters, bars, etc. are still opened just with a shorter schedule and a smaller capacity. One of my favorite things about Madrid is how every restaurant has a terrace and there are plenty of rooftops in the city so it is very relaxing to spend so much time outdoors. I also really enjoy trying different local restaurants because authentic Spanish food is delicious. Due to the toque de queda, traveling has been complicated but I hope everything gets better soon and I am able to travel around Europe and have some more freedom before I leave. Everyone in Madrid and on campus have been extremely kind and helpful, it makes me look forward to all the amazing friendships I will continue making this semester. Although I just started school, time has been flying by and I know for sure this will be a once in a lifetime experience…one that I wish would never end.

Puerta De Alcalá

El Retiro

Categories: 2021, Reciprocal Exchange, Spain