Spain | Semester Exchanges Blog - Part 2

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

My initial impression of Universidad Carlos III de Madrid was how comfortable it is. It is a smaller campus than Texas A&M but it is so beautiful. I love hearing different languages (Spanish, Italian, French, English) as I’m walking to class. The people have been extremely welcoming and the professors are incredibly knowledgeable about what they teach. As soon as I arrived, I was made aware of the resources I had available to me. It has been so interesting to see the differences in the formatting of classes here vs. TAMU; many of my classes so far have been based much more on group work.

My initial impressions of Madrid and Spain were of how alive it is. There are always musicians and singers in places of high traffic such as Puerta del Sol and Gran Vía. People always stop to listen! There are so many differences, including the later eating schedule and how people go about their weekdays and weekends. I’ve already met people from so many different countries and it is incredible to live in a place with diverse culture everywhere you go. It is so easy to get lost walking around while just enjoying the view. I absolutely love it here and am so thankful for this experience to study in Spain.

 

Palacio Real de Madrid

This was my first time seeing an actual palace in person! The architecture here and how elaborate it is never ceases to amaze me. It seems like everywhere I look, the building facades are unique and ornate. It is something truly so different from Texas and the United States in general. I have loved my time so far getting to know the city and exploring all of the amazing things it has to offer.

 

Sunset over Madrid!

 

Huevos Rotos – my favorite!

The food here is absolutely incredible! I have tried so many new things, some of my favorites including huevos rotos, croquetas, tortilla española, and pan con tomate.

 

At Templo de Debod

Categories: 2021, Reciprocal Exchange, Spain

So far, my study abroad experience in Madrid, Spain has exceeded all of my expectations. I came here knowing very little about the Spanish culture, and as soon as I stepped off my flight I realized I was in a different world. Madrid has been a place of non-stop excitement and adventure. I came here wanting to fully immerse myself in both the Spanish language and culture, and I have done just that.

By living in the heart of Madrid I have never been hit with a moment of boredom. I constantly find myself doing something different. Whether it be going to a different local restaurant for sangria and tapas or simply strolling the streets to see new things, my time has been a non-stop thrill. When compared to the United States, Spain is much more relaxed in all aspects. The Spanish people take life one day at a time. I found myself in awe when my walk to the metro at 8 am for class was through empty streets. While streets are empty and stores are still closed at nine in the morning, you will find them vibrant and full of people at ten at night any day of the week. This quickly made me realize how different the Spanish culture truly is. My most enjoyable time has been spent with new made friends, enjoying the great Spanish cuisine and drinks that Madrid has to offer. I have also had the great chance to travel a bit in my first couple of weeks in Europe. Traveling was something I really looked forward to, as I may never have another opportunity to travel like this again. As I have no class on Friday, a weekend trip to somewhere in Europe is easy. I have already visited Copenhagen (Denmark), Stuttgart (Germany), Barcelona (Spain), and Salamanca (Spain). As long as the coronavirus does not prohibit my travel, I plan on visiting several more places in Europe.

The beautiful sights and sounds of Madrid and Europe as a whole have made my time here worthwhile. From meeting people from all over the globe to seeing sights I would have never imagined seeing, studying abroad has already become one of the best experiences of my life.

 

Real Madrid v.s. Manchester City

Real Madrid vs Manchester City

Copenhagen, Denmark

Copenhagen, Denmark

Salamanca, Spain

Salamanca, Spain

Stuttgart, Germany

Stuttgart, Germany

Categories: 2020, Reciprocal Exchange, Spain

So far Madrid has exceeded my expectations. Everything has been absolutely perfect and to say I am enjoying my experience so far would be an understatement. My goal for my study abroad was to have a healthy balance between traveling around the country and continent with other international students while also meeting many locals and integrating myself into the Spanish country as much as possible.

My host family: The first thing I did to achieve this balance was choosing to live with a host family. For me, this was the best decision I could have made on my exchange. My host parents are extremely helpful and kind and go out of their way to make sure I am comfortable living with them and fully enjoying my experience. My favorite part about living with them though is that they don’t speak English, so I am forced to speak Spanish with them. This has improved my Spanish skills quite a bit this first month and they will only continue to improve. I also have a host sister that speaks Spanish to me and has shown me around the city quite a bit. She has introduced me to some of her friends and some very local markets and hidden gems in the city. Because my family and I get along so well, I’ve recently started deciding to stay home rather than going out for some tapas with international students because I often now prefer having a home cooked meal with my family, practicing my Spanish, and spending time with them.

Traveling: Like I said, I’ve been trying to have sort of a balance between traveling on the weekend and staying in the city to experience more of what Madrid offers. What helps my situation is that I have traveled quite extensively around Europe in the past before, so I am not urging to leave Spain as much as other students are. So far in the past 4 weekends I have been here, I have been out two full weekends traveling, one weekend to Paris with some friends from A&M that were traveling around Europe and I decided to meet up with, and to Barcelona with some other international students I have met from my school. I have done a couple day trips too, but only to surrounding little cities near Madrid. My goal is to see more of Spain rather than more of Europe while I’m here and I believe even if I am still leaving Madrid for a couple days, as long as I am staying within the country and surrounding area I am still experiencing the Spanish culture.

School: School has been great. My schedule is honestly ideal. I have a full day of classes Monday and Wednesday and class on Thursday from 11:00am – 2:00 pm. Which means I don’t have classes on Tuesday and Friday. I actually really enjoy going to school because class isn’t too rigorous to where it’s distracting me from enjoying myself on my exchange and also because I use the opportunity to meet many more new people. I have met some great Spanish people in my classes, and I have recently started hanging out more and more with them which is what I enjoy. My goal is to hang out with them more and more as time goes on because I believe having a good group of local friends will help you learn the language and integrate yourself in the culture quicker than any other way. I love my friends–Spanish and international, and I couldn’t be happier with where my exchange is at this moment.

I am still very grateful and blessed to be here in Spain. I often pause and try to remind myself how lucky I am for this experience I have been given. This first month has been amazing, but I am still trying to improve these areas of my study abroad to have an even better upcoming months ahead.

 

Toledo, Spain

 

Paris, France

 

Granada, Spain

 

Barcelona, Spain

Categories: 2020, Reciprocal Exchange, Spain