Spain | Reciprocal Exchanges Blog - Part 2

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

Hola! 

I have been in Madrid, Spain for a month now and so much has happened!!

My arrival in Madrid was very different than I expected. The flight went well; however, when I got to my room in my apartment, a shared apartment with 6 people, I saw that someone was currently living in my room! The apartment was in very poor conditions, dirty, and even though they promised a living room, there was no living room. After talking with the agency, they told me that the person who is occupying my bedroom will be there until the end of January. They relocated me in a small room in the same apartment, but it was in very poor conditions. I never got the key to my bedroom and was the only girl in the apartment, so I felt very uncomfortable spending the night there. Luckily, I had a friend in Madrid who was able to host me for the rest of January. One morning, I went to the apartment to pick up something and saw a guy sleeping in my bedroom! After this incident, I knew that I could not stay in this place. I was able to find a new place and moved-in in February. The place is much better, spacious, cleaner, and my flatmates who come from all over the world are very nice!

Because of my apartment situation, the month of January was very difficult for me. I felt like I couldn’t settle in Madrid properly and was constantly stressed over the apartment situation and if I would get my money back. Even though it was tough, it all worked out in the end and I am now able to fully enjoy life in Spain.

School has been going well! I got all the classes I wanted and only have to go there three times a week because I have both Tuesdays and Fridays off! This gives me the flexibility to travel more and explore many places. Universidad de Carlos Tercero is located in Getafe and it takes me about 50 minutes to get there with public transportation. I prefer to live in the center than near the school because so much happens in the center and there is a lot to do. 

I am taking two classes in English and two in Spanish. The ones in English are very easy, while the ones in Spanish are more challenging but doable! I am glad I chose to take some courses in Spanish because it really helps me practice my Spanish. Speaking of Spanish, I speak less frequently Spanish than I expected to. Here at UC3M, there is a bit of a division between the Spanish and international students. The Spanish students aren’t very interested in meeting internationals and the internationals stay together because they can share more things they have in common. If you want to practice your Spanish more, I would recommend you to take some classes in Spanish or live with a host family.

Lastly, during my stay here, I have had the great opportunity to travel! In Spain, I have been to Toledo, Rascafria, Granada, and Sierra Nevada. Toledo is a beautiful town near Madrid and used to be the capital of Spain! You can go for free with the metro card and it is perfect for a day trip. Rascafria is a two hour bus ride from Madrid and is perfect for a hiking day trip. Granada is in the south of Spain and you can go see the Palace of Alhambra there. Sierra Nevada is a mountain region right next to Granada, and we got to play in the snow all day long. The great thing about being in Europe is that you can travel to other countries for cheap. I went to Paris a couple days after I got to Spain to visit my family and friends. I just got back yesterday from a four day trip to Portugal. I spent the first two days in Porto. The city is beautiful and very authentic; however, a lot of the apartments are abandoned because of real estate laws they had in the past. The city is now doing better because of tourism and is reconstructing itself. One famous thing in Porto is Port wine. I had the opportunity to do a Port wine tasting tour where they take you to three different cellars and wineries to teach you the history about Port wine, how it is made, and how to taste it. I then took a bus to Lisbon and spent two days there and it is very different from Porto. The city is way bigger and industrialized; however, the houses are beautiful and colorful. I highly recommend going to the St George Castle because it has a beautiful view of Lisbon. 

For the upcoming months here, I hope to travel more, discover the Spanish culture more deeply, and meet more people. If you have any questions about studying abroad, don’t hesitate to shoot me an email at: catdetorcy@tamu.edu!

Paris, France

Paris, France

Lisbon, Portugal

Granada, Spain

Sierra Nevada, Spain

Porto, Portugal

Porto, Portugal

Porto, Portugal

Toledo, Spain

Toledo, Spain

Categories: 2020, Reciprocal Exchange, Spain

Hola! I have been living in Spain for nearly a month now, and have had the best time!

I have completed my first two weeks of class, had the opportunity to explore Jaén, and explore some neighboring cities, Granada and Cordoba, too!  My experience so far has been incredible. Jaén is a smaller city located in the south of Spain in the Andalucía region; it is known as the “Olive Oil Capital of the World.” Here, the culture is very laid back, many stores observe siesta hours in the afternoon and close for that part of the day. There is so much natural beauty all around the city as well as historical sites to see! I have loved getting to explore and discover the Cathedral of Jaén in the city center, the Castle that sits on the mountain above the city, and other unique sights of Jaén. I have been able to meet so many cool people as well! I live in a residence with Spanish students, so I’ve made many local friends as well as international friends through the International Student Events hosted by the University.

Living in a residence with people from all across southern Spain has been amazing because I have been able to learn so much from them. I get to hear about their lives and the “pueblos” (towns) they are from. I have also been able to get a great feel for the culture in Andalucía and practice my Spanish!

Through events hosted by the university for international students and through some of my classes, I have also met so many people from other countries! I have friends from Canada, Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela, Peru, Poland, Germany, Azerbaijan, Morocco, Russia, and Italy! Meeting people from literally all over the world has to be one of my favorite aspects of studying abroad so far. Everyone has been so excited to get to know one another and share stories from their home countries. Being with such a diverse group, yet finding so much that we have in common is incredible to me! I can’t wait to get to know everyone better as the semester continues.

Sometimes it still feels surreal to me that I am living in Spain and get to go to school here. I am so grateful for this opportunity and I can’t wait for the many adventures in store for my remaining time here in Jaén.

Miranda Walker ’21

Jaén Cathedral at Night

 

“Castillo” de Jaén

 

Touring the city of Córdoba with international friends!

 

Al Ambra in Granada

 

Hiking in Jaen (with view of city and part of the old castle walls)

 

Inside the Castle (Jaén)

Categories: 2020, Reciprocal Exchange, Spain

December 31st, 2019. Queue my arrival to Barcelona, Spain.

Throughout January of 2020, I have experienced the invigorating life of a short-term Spanish local. Catalonia embodies a trilingual society where people chat in Catalán, Spanish, and English – all in the same conversation. Barcelona is a city that offers a multi-faceted lifestyle. It possesses a charming city center surrounding Plaza Catalunya enlaced by the genius of architect Gaudí, a refreshing beachside with incredible seafood paella and mussels, a peaceful Montserrat Mountain enriched by its religious significance and delicious wineries, and an electrifying nightlife of comedy, jazz, and outlandish 6am closing times. Through exchange student activities and an unmatched “Welcome Week” hosted by the University of Pompeu Fabra, I gained companions from the UK, Italy, Canada, Germany, and infinitely more. Every “where are you from?” opened doors for enlightenment on cultures I truly knew nothing about. As an Economics student, classroom conversations bred my excitement for learning about international business, holding my keen attention because you never knew what perspective or strange question someone would provide.

Inspiringly, I tasted the joys of exploration through weekend visits to the Czech Republic, Italy, and Portugal. I admired the architectural diversity (Gothic, Baroque, Renaissance, etc.) of Prague, Czech Republic. I gasped in awe of the largest church in the world – St. Peter’s Basilica – in the Vatican City of Rome, Italy. I devoured francesinhas – glorious meat-cheese-and-bread concoctions – and Porto wine in Porto, Portugal. I shopped fantastically around the famous Duomo di Milano Cathedral in Milan, Italy. The rich diversity I was immersed in through hostel stays, historical tours, and bar chatter with locals and fellow travelers was overwhelmingly eye-opening. Each conversation was like liquid gold, dripping with unexpected commonalities and providing depth by unraveling our human experiences together. I realized for the first time how “American” I was, and how our cultures can influence everything from our food preferences to our friendliness. Yes, there were challenges. Missed flights, overnight airport stays, a flurry of unprecedented fines, confusion, and a lack of control everywhere you go. But my complaints paled in comparison to the reward of living a lifestyle that yielded constant discovery.

In short, I encourage you to do the things that scare you the most. In doing so, I promise that you’ll feel exhilarated, confident, and truly alive !!

Soaking in the stunning views of Barcelona, Spain from Park Güell.

Check out my YouTube channel here for more on my study abroad journey 🙂 https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCjn5JDzEro2ufbH_MEkA1Gg

Categories: 2020, Reciprocal Exchange, Spain

I hadn’t been this excited in a long time. I had been waiting for this opportunity to study abroad in Spain for nearly a year now and it had finally come. I knew that I was in for totally new experiences that would shape me for a lifetime, but I could never have prepared myself for just how different the experience was going to be. Within the first hour or two after landing in Madrid, I could already start to see the stark differences in cultural that I was in for. There was definitely an initial culture shock that I went through during the first day or so of trying to learn the city. I was so confused at why people ate dinner at 10 p.m. here and just how vastly different the daily schedule is here. Instead of going to an HEB once a week and stocking up, I am going to the grocery store once a day it seems like and just taking home what I need for the immediate future. While I have only been here a short time, I feel like I have already experienced many of the great things that Madrid has to offer. The current highlight of my trip was a tour of the Santiago Bernabeu. I would have never guessed that spending nearly 2 hours inside of a soccer stadium would have been such an amazing experience. I have started to figure out just how amazing public transportation can be and how much more accessible it makes a big city feel as I learn it better. Overall, the experience has been everything I could have hoped for and more so far, and I look forward to exploring more of Madrid, Spain, and the surrounding countries in Europe over the coming weeks and months.

Categories: 2020, Reciprocal Exchange, Spain

Hola!

As my second week studying abroad in Barca is wrapping up, I have had some time to gather thoughts on what it’s been like so far. First off, it’s been amazing to explore the city while walking with this beautiful weather. It is currently sunny and around 60 degrees, which is, in my opinion, the perfect weather! Whether it be la Sagrada Familia, the beach, or the countless amazing restaurants, I’ve been able to experience so many great things already. However, one of my favorite parts so far is meeting so many other exchange students from my school. It’s crazy to me that I have become friends with people from Australia, Finland, and even Argentina! As the semester goes on, I hope to be able to meet even more people and build new lifelong friendships.

One of my goals for the rest of my time here is to be able to visit other countries in Europe! Currently, I am dying to experience what Paris, Brussels, and Copenhagen are like. It has also been a great experience seeing how different, yet similar, studies are here at UPF. Whether it be my teachers walking and talking with me after class, specific teaching styles, or how intriguing some of the subjects are, school here has been an extremely unique experience. Although there are a lot of things I miss from the U.S., I also have been having the time of my life here and can’t wait for what’s next.

Categories: 2020, Reciprocal Exchange, Spain

As the start of a new semester draws closer and I think back both on my time abroad as well as my time since returning to the states, it is hard to find the words to describe what I have experienced these past few months. Leaving Madrid was bittersweet as I was so excited to see my family and friends back home but I was sad to leave the place that taught me so many new things about my-self as well as the incredibly diverse world we live in.

The Spanish have a unique way of life and of doing business that at first led to a bit of culture shock but that throughout the semester I came to appreciate. I think the biggest difference between Spain and the United States in terms of both business and culture is the slower pace of the Spanish. The Spanish really value being present and enjoying the moment without being in a rush to experience or do something else. What this means for business is that shop owners often feel more free to be flexible with their hours, it’s very common for places to close from the hours of two to five in the afternoon for siesta time. You won’t see this occur much in a large metropolitan city like Madrid but we definitely experienced the almost ghostly effect when we traveled to smaller towns outside of Madrid. Another example is on Sundays many businesses are closed, even in the city, because in Spain Sundays are for being with and spending time with family.

More than anything I think my time in Spain was a period of growth and learning, learning both about myself and about cultures and life styles different than my own. I gained so much insight from this one semester that will affect my perspectives and the way I view the world for the rest of my life. Getting to take business classes with students from all over the world provided so many opportunities to hear about different views from different parts of the world and living with an exchange student from Scotland meant we got to learn all about Scottish culture and share our culture with her. Even though I was studying in Spain I was able to get to learn about cultures from so many other countries as well. Not to mention I picked up some pretty practical and useful skills along the way as well, from traveling on a budget to using Google maps to navigate while on foot and public transportation systems, which for someone like me who is from a very suburban area and isn’t used to using a metro system was pretty daunting at first, but most importantly I gained a new level of adaptability. While abroad I encountered many obstacles from lost luggage to homesickness and I can now say I am much better equipped to deal with whatever challenges are thrown my way.

In conclusion, studying abroad for a semester in Madrid was a once in a lifetime experience that I will remember and cherish forever because of the wonderful people I met and all the new things I learned and experienced! For anyone wondering if a studying abroad is right for them my advice is go for it you will make memories that will last a lifetime!

Here are a few pics from my travels 🙂

Categories: 2019, Reciprocal Exchange, Spain