Spain | Reciprocal Exchanges Blog - Part 3

I can’t believe my study abroad semester is over! Studying abroad and living in Madrid, Spain, for four months was an incredible opportunity. I loved every minute of it and already miss it. I’ve found after being back in America that I miss taking the Metro and walking everywhere. I’ve missed walking through the streets and being surrounded by tall buildings. While in Madrid, I missed driving and singing in my car. However, after driving around, I would take the walking and public transport lifestyle in a heartbeat. I was able to immerse myself in the Spanish culture, take on the lifestyle, and meet so many people from different part of Europe this past fall. While in Europe, I traveled to twelve different cities. This opportunity to try new foods, experience the cultures, and expand my knowledge of Europe was incredible and something I will never forget. This past semester gave me the travel bug, and I’m already anticipating my next Europe trip.

One thing I noticed and learned to love was the slow-paced lifestyles of locals lived. This lifestyle carried over to businesses. For instance, waiters at restaurants would come to your table, take your order, deliver it, and leave. The restaurant staff never rushed you or left the check on the table like they do in America. My friends and I could sit in a restaurant for three or four hours and never feel like the waiter wanted us to leave. Another different way restaurants conduct business differently is a meal is never split the check unless you ask, and when you do ask, the waiter has you tell him what you owe rather than calculating it himself. Another part of business that is so important in many European countries is the ability to speak multiple languages. In Madrid, most workers were able to speak Spanish and English very well and switched between languages with each new customer. As I traveled to other European countries, I was astounded that some people were able to speak three languages. Knowing multiple languages is an important factor given that each country is Europe has different cultures and languages.

My life in Madrid was so different than my life back in Texas. Each has its pros and cons. I will never forget this incredible opportunity. These last four months have been some of the best of my life. While I was able to learn about the Spanish culture, I was able to learn more about myself along the way. Madrid will always hold a special place in my heart, and I can’t wait to go back!

Categories: 2019, Reciprocal Exchange, Spain

My name is Madison Feldman, and I’m studying in Madrid this semester! It has been a little under a month since I moved to Madrid for the semester. When I first got to airport in Dallas, I was a bundle of nerves because studying abroad and living halfway around the world was no longer just an idea; it was about to become my reality.

 

After a nine-hour plane ride, I was surprised by how easy it was to get through customs and grab my bags from baggage claim. After finding my bags, I needed to wait for an hour for an arranged driver to pick me up. I felt quite calm given how smoothly things had gone so far. After the hour of waiting, I started walking around looking for a driver holding up a sign with my name on it. After 30 minutes of walking around, I called my student housing apartment who had set up my ride. After talking to them for 30 minutes, they were able to find a new driver who could come and pick me up. Finally, after waiting an hour and half at the airport I was in a car on the way to my apartment. The driver dropped me off and trekked a few blocks with my suitcases on the sidewalks of Chamberi, a quiet neighborhood of Madrid. After a long morning, I was finally at the place I would call home for the next four months. Despite the mishap with the driver, things had gone pretty smoothly.

 

After getting adjusted to the time change, I started exploring Madrid and getting a feel for the city. I had heard from others that Madrid is like the New York City of Spain. This saying is incredibly accurate. One of the first things that makes the city feel like NYC is the Metro. The metro is just one big subway system. There are countless lines that could take you all over Madrid. I’ve found that this form of transportation is the fastest, easiest, and cheapest way to get around Madrid, especially if you get the student metro card. With the Metro card, you only pay 20 euros per month for unlimited rides on the Metro, buses, and trains. This is most valuable when classes start since UC3M is technically outside of Madrid. Madrid has so many different areas that can fit anyone’s needs. There’s Sol which is the center of Madrid. From Sol, you could walk to just about anywhere, and it’s a central place to meet up with friends. If you love shopping or need a wardrobe change, Gran Via is the street to go. It has tons of shops lining the street where you can find just about anything you’re looking for. This area is most like Times Square with the flashing lights and advertisements. If you take the Metro past Sol, you can go to El Retiro. This is a huge park in the city with a little lake in the middle where you can rent paddle boats. This park is free and so expansive it would take multiple trips to see all of it. If you’re looking for a nice place to relax Retiro is the place to go. My roommates and I had a picnic there in our first week and then went to the Prado Museum afterwards. I’ve found that many of the museums in Madrid are free from 6 to 8 pm, so this makes it easy to visit places without breaking the bank. Even though I’ve been here for a month, I feel like there is so much more to see in Madrid, and I’m looking forward to getting to the know the city better.

 

After a week in Madrid, classes started at UC3M. The first big thing I had to do for the university was register for classes. Registration took place on an online portal like at A&M. You are given a registration time and can pick from the classes with spots available. My main priority was getting the classes I needed that would transfer to A&M along with trying to get a schedule with no Friday classes. Compared to my roommates, I had a very late registration time and was not able to get into my first-choice classes with the best times. I was able to sign up for the finance and supply chain class I needed, however, the times of my classes were late into the evening and I had a Friday class. While this wasn’t the end of the world, I was the only one with Friday classes, which would’ve made traveling on weekends a little harder.

 

On the first day of class, my roommates and I had to take the Metro to Sol and then a train to the university. This commute seemed pretty easy, however, we found ourselves going the wrong way. I was sort of freaking out because I had intended on going to the supply chain class I originally wanted so I could speak to the professor to see if she would allow me to be in her class. My roommate and I got to the class 5 minutes late, but she wasn’t there. While we were waiting on the professor, I went onto the class registration portal and saw that there was a spot open in the supply chain class and was able to nab the spot. Because I could get into that class, I checked on the rest of my classes and was able to get into all of the classes I originally wanted. I was pleasantly surprised with the amount of movement occurring in all of the classes. With that being said, I found that this was similar to A&M regarding the adding and dropping of classes; like A&M, your schedule is not set in stone until after the add/drop period closes.

 

I really like UC3M as a whole. The Getafe campus is beautiful and looks like it’s right out of a movie. There are many signs that show the building layout making it easier to find classes as well. Many of the classes are very laid-back compared to A&M and the workload isn’t nearly as much. With the way my schedule is laid out, I have plenty of time to do work after classes and still explore Madrid on the weekdays.

 

After only a month in Madrid, I feel like time is flying by and wish it would slow down. I’ve made myself a promise that I explore at least one new area of Madrid each week. I’m excited to see what the rest of this semester has in store and see where this fall takes me.

Ciao for now!

The Royal Palace of Madrid

Categories: 2019, Reciprocal Exchange, Spain

Well it has been about three weeks since arriving here in Madrid, and I have already learned and experienced so much in that short time. It took quite a bit of adjustment at the beginning to get used to the different lifestyle here in Spain. For example, I figured that I would easily be able to acclimate to the laid back, relaxed Spanish lifestyle, however, it was easier said than done when I was trying to locate my lost luggage and make sure I would be able to register for classes and the Spanish approach to communication is very different from America in that they take their time to respond. Yet at the same time it is very refreshing to live in a place where there isn’t much sense of rush or urgency because it allows you to really be present in the moment and enjoy time with friends, which is something I especially value while studying abroad because we have such a limited amount of time here.

As for Madrid, it’s very cool because it is so diverse. Each neighborhood and area of the city is different and has its own character.  Chamberi is a quieter more urban feel but take the metro to somewhere like Sol or Gran Via and then you’re surrounded by old timey architecture and restaurants and shops galore! Speaking of the metro, it’s great because it keeps the city very connected and is very easy to navigate, however, sometimes it’s disorienting because after taking the metro you just pop out of the ground somewhere and so I am never able to get my general geographic bearings in relation to the rest of the city. It’s fun to just walk around though also because you could turn a corner and feel like you’re in a completely different city because the architecture is different or the quiet cobblestone street you were walking on has turned in to a bustling city center. I wasn’t expecting Madrid to feel so modern but it is a really cool mix between contemporary city life and old town Europe.

My favorite part of Madrid by far though, definitely has to be the fashion! The young people are so stylish and make it look so casual and effortless all the time. I love how they wear sneakers with everything from boyfriend jeans and an over sized sweater to a beautiful long sundress and that everything is platform: sandals, converse, even Birkenstocks! Both trends are such fun ways to spice up an outfit but still be comfortable. Not only are their clothing choices effortlessly chic but their hair and makeup are as well, the style here is all very natural looking. Most young women here wear their very long hair down and in its natural style and pair it with very simple demure makeup if any.

After a week and a half of spending our days exploring Madrid and adjusting to the Spanish lifestyle school finally started. At UC3M international exchange students don’t register for their classes until they get there so two days before classes officially started we used an online registration system to sign up for our classes and the nice part is Non Eu exchange students can sign up for pretty much any course regardless of major or year, the tricky part was making your schedule because the classes are not blocked like A&M where they have Monday-Wednesday-Friday classes and Tuesday-Thursday classes, here one class might be Monday-Tuesday and another Tuesday-Friday. However, after a week of trying out different courses and adding and dropping I finally figured out a schedule that I liked. Another thing we had to figure out in regards to school was our commute. My roommates and I live in the center of Madrid and UC3M is located in Getafe which is technically a city on the outskirts of Madrid so it takes a 15 minute metro ride and a 30 minute train to get to the campus and the first time we tried to get there we took the train the wrong direction and had to call an uber in order to make it to our class on time. Now I have come to enjoy my morning and afternoon commutes as I often spend it listening to music or reading a book. I also really like the UC3M campus in Getafe! For our orientation we had to go the UC3M Leganes campus and though it was nice it was tiny and the Getafe campus is not large by any means especially compared to A&M but it is very pretty with red roofed buildings and numerous courtyards covered by trees where there are always students hanging out passing the time between classes.

In closing, Madrid has been full of surprises and I can’t wait to see what else this city and this country have in store for us we continue to explore and experience its rich culture throughout the rest of the semester.

 

 

The Royal Palace of Madrid

Categories: 2019, Reciprocal Exchange, Spain

What a last 7th months it has been. From taking 6 classes abroad to traveling all around Europe, I have had the experience of a lifetime. Having the opportunity to experience a vastly different culture and meeting friends from all over the globe has truly changed my perception of the world. I now know people from all corners of the globe and will have valuable business and personal contacts if I ever end up doing something abroad.

In this final post I would like to highlight some of the main differences I experienced while abroad and how I feel about them.

First, I would like to begin with the differences in consumerism I noticed between the US and Spain. In the US, I noticed that convenience is stressed heavily in the commercial world. We have a 24/7 Walmart within a 10 minute drive of pretty much anywhere, fast food open all hours of the night, and stores, like Costco and Sam’s Club, where you can buy everything from medicine to furniture at a wholesale/bulk rate. It can be said that we consume at a higher rate than any other country and with the most convenience. In Spain it is not like this, especially in Barcelona. There are no stores that are open 24/7 like Walmart or McDonalds so if you need something late at night you have to wait until the morning unless you want to pay the extremely overpriced late night supermercats a 200% premium. Being a night owl, this was very detrimental to my bank account as I often found myself paying the premium at the late night supermercats after forgetting to buy groceries before 9PM and coming home late from class or working out.  I never fully adjusted to not having the convenience of Walmart at my fingertips so I am extremely happy to be back in that aspect.

Second, there is a huge problem with unemployment in Spain. The unemployment level for people 20-25 is over 20% which is so hard to comprehend. 1/5th of people looking for a job my age cannot find one. Many people in Spain, including a lot of my friends, live at home with their parents during school, sometimes even commuting 30-60 minutes by train everyday. This is drastically different than in the states where many people go away for school and live alone and have no problem with finding a part time or full time job in their college town. The life people life there is one that is a lot more conscience of spending and consumption which was super fascinating to experience.

Third, the free movement of labor and people in  the EU is astonishing. The amount of people working or studying in Barcelona who are not Catalans is really high. This is a huge contrast to the US where you don’t meet many people from other countries working here. It is fun to see the many different cultures interacting and blending right before your eyes and I’m sure it is even cooler from a business aspect.

Lastly, the economics of the travel industry, especially the Airline Industry, is super interesting as it is extremely competitive. It is ridiculously cheap to fly pretty much everywhere in Europe. I never paid more than $120 round trip for any of my travels. One time I even paid just $40 round trip for my flight from Barcelona to Milan. The most well known and cheapest of the budget airlines is Ryanair. This airline sometimes profits as low as $100 on each of their flights because of how competitive the market is. This is a huge contrast to the US where it is almost impossible to fly round trip, even just inside Texas, for these prices.

Overall, my time in Barcelona was one of the most exciting and beneficial times of my life. I grew as a person being away from what was known to me and living in a completely different culture. The amount of cultural differences was a lot higher than what I expected but in a great way.  I would strongly recommend this exchange to anyone and would do it again in a heartbeat! (If my bank account would let me) The experiences and people I met while in Barcelona are some of the best I have ever had, and I can’t wait to go back and visit soon!

Categories: 2019, Reciprocal Exchange, Spain

Howdy!

I have just wrapped up my semester exchange in Madrid at the Universidad Carlos III de Madrid and it was an incredible experience that I wouldn’t trade for anything. In my six months abroad my perspective has changed, and I have gained a better insight in cultural differences that I would never have learned without spending time living abroad.

Having arrived in Madrid two weeks before school had started I had some time to get situated with the city and the different style of life. The first thing I highly recommend to those studying abroad in Madrid is to purchase a metro-transportation card that is 20 euros a month and is a necessity to get around the city and also if you are staying in the city center it is a must if you have to go to school, due to the school being a 25 minute train ride from the main station atocha. Life in Madrid is very different from life in college station. For starters you walk everywhere and the streets are always very crowded with tourists and locals. I had stayed in the heart of madrid, sol, which was very convenient because I was close to many events in the city center. I highly recommend to live in the city center because I knew people who were staying in Getafe, where the campus is and they had wished they were staying in the city center due to the nuisance of having to take the train to get into the city.

I also recommend for anyone coming to do research into housing for living in the city center before coming because Mays does not deal directly with housing companies and therefore you have to deal with housing yourself. I definitely recommend to talk with others in the group and look at different options in the city center. School in Madrid was completely different than what I was accustomed to at TAMU. For starters each class was separated into two sessions- one lecture, and one practical. Each of these classes were about one hour and a half and we only had to meet once which was convenient. Also my classes didn’t really have much daily work so I found myself with not that much homework besides revising my lecture notes. How the classes work at my university is that you have one or two big assignments that are worth 40% of your grade than you have one huge test that is worth normally 60-70% of your grade. The catch with the final test is that you have to pass the final test or you will not pass the course. In other words you have to make a 5 out of 10 to pass the class.  And for example, you could have a 4 with previous assignments before the final test and receive a 2 out of 6 on the final test which would put your overall score at a 6-10 in the class, which you would think you passed. Their system does not work like this, so that if a test is out of 6 you have to receive a 3 otherwise you fail the class. In the school they allow retakes but they are two-three weeks after finals so i would advise to plan to pass the first time around. Also for those interested in  learning or improving their Spanish I would highly recommend avoiding taking the core classes in Spanish if your level of Spanish is not near perfect due to the fact that the courses are university leveled and are not tailored to those learning Spanish. The University offers Spanish courses for those interested in learning the language that would be far better of an option. The business courses I was taking abroad were very insightful because their are a lot of international students at the school so their lectures are tailored for more international topics which was very interesting and made for me to be always interested in the lectures.

I also choose my classes for Monday- Wednesday so I found myself with a lot of times on the week/weekends to travel around Europe. Which travelling around Europe is very easy with their cheap air fare prices and the efficient train system they have. One word of advice for those coming is to be extremely careful with your personal belongings. The city is very safe but the one con is that there is a lot of pick pocketing, especially among foreigners. Me and two other people in my program and other friends all had the misfortune of having our phones stolen. The insurance provided helped a lot with insuring $500 of stolen goods. But the whole process was a hassle having gone to the police station and buying  a new phone so I would highly recommend to those coming to be very careful with their belongings especially in public places like the metro, train, and bars and clubs.

Couple pointers is that there are two great groups that host a number of events and trips in Madrid which is a great way to meet people, which are citylifeMadrid and smartinsiders. City life Madrid also had a event Thursday called Meet and Speak where I had gone several times and meet some really cool people from all over the world and it is basically an event for those interested in learning a new language and gives you chance to practice speaking a new language and meeting new people. These trips the companies have are all planned and are a great way to meet other people and explore different parts of Spain.

Also some things about cultural business differences in Spain is that in Spain restaurants and local businesses are closed for a few hours between lunch and dinner. This is primarily due to the siesta culture that is in Spain and this break also allows business owners a chance to spend with their family and friends. People in Spain are very social and this is evident with them having long lunch breaks for work,3  hours and during this time they go home to spend time with family or go have a drink and some tapas with some friends. Also in Spain dinner is normally had at 9-10 which is due to the time zone and the culture of having a long lunch break so this is something to keep in mind when arriving in Spain. Studies in Spain are always taught in a global perspective with them being aware of the importance of international trade and with them being in the EU they have numerous business partners to boost their economies. Also during my time in Madrid I also found work teaching English to little kids was an amazing experience and was a great way to make some extra money. This was an opportunity anyone studying abroad should take and their is a high demand for English teachers due to the world being so globalized now a days and English is the global language.

 

For anyone finding them self in Madrid or studying abroad in Europe don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions. My email is csalazar22@tamu.edu. Overall my Erasmus experience in Madrid was a once in a lifetime experience, where I got to broaden my perspective and also had a chance to visit many cool places around Europe, meet new people from all over the world, and take classes in a foreign university. I highly recommend for anyone in Mays to study abroad for a semester because the experience will surely change your life.

 

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Categories: 2019, Reciprocal Exchange, Spain

Que tal todos!

Here is a little insight to my life here in Barcelona, Spain as a exchange student! It has been an amazing time so far to say the least, I have met many new friends and have already seen quite a bit of Catalonia and the local culture here. Upon moving into my apartment, I was really nervous. Fresh off of 20+ hours of traveling, my house wasn’t what I was expecting, but its location 5 minutes from my university trumps any complaints I have. Getting acclimated to the city was tough, the first week I could not sleep longer than 3 hours and would often be awake until 3-4 am restless in bed. After awhile, I was able to get over my jet lag and actually get to start enjoying the city. Here at UPF, there is an organization that hosts a welcome orientation along with 2 weeks of welcome events for exchange students. Through this organization, I have seen so much of the city and have met many amazing friends from all over the world. From these people I’ve met, there is a group of about 20 that I have become very close with. We’ve traveled around the state of Catalonia and have seen two other cities, Girona and Tarragona, in addition to everything we’ve done around Barcelona. With all the fun and good things has also come with the downsides of living here. As most people have heard, pick-pocketing and mugging are rampant here in Spain, especially Barcelona. I have 4 friends who have been pick-pocketed and/or mugged by people here in the city. Just the other night, a friend and I were walking home and a group of guys attempted to pickpocket us. Luckily we were able to get away without get losing any belongings or getting hurt. It is a huge difference living in a city where you have to be conscious of your surroundings all the time. It is a weird experience that really makes you appreciate living in  safe places like in College Station and Dallas. School here is also very different. I go to class Monday-Tuesday, 9-2, and Wednesday-Friday for only 1 hour. We also do not have exams throughout the semester but rather one final cumulative exam at the end. This is a lot different than how it is back home, and is taking some getting used to. Overall, school is great, the food is amazing, the friends are for a lifetime, and the sights are well worth being seen. I look forward to posting another post around the end of this month with the next things I have done! Until then, here are some amazing photos that will definitely cause you to want to come visit!

 

Until next time,

Cam

Categories: 2019, Reciprocal Exchange, Spain

Madrid is unlike any other city! Before arriving, I was a little anxious about my study abroad because the furthest I have been outside the United States was to Mexico to visit family and to Canada. That being said, I have never ventured very far from home. My doubts and fears were put to rest because my host family welcomed me with open arms and helped me become situated. In my week and a half being In Madrid, I have learned that people here are very friendly. The city itself is very safe and walking around at night one feels extremely safe. The only thing one has to worry about here is pick pocketing, especially in the metro. The public transportation in Madrid and in Spain in general is incredible so if you decide to come to UC3M for your exchange purchase a madrid monthly public transportation pass, which will allow you to utilize all the forms of public transportation in Madrid and surrounding areas around for only 20 euros for month. Living in Sol, or the city center is the best option because with public transportation (trian/metro) to get to my university only takes 15/20 minutes. My time in the city center is incredible because I get the opportunity to be close to everything and spend my time abroad here the beautiful cities of Madrid.

The country and culture of Spain is amazing but it is very different than the United States. For starters, people here are more laid back, hence their need to take sietas here in the middle of the day! I found this out firsthand in my time here when a group of friends and I went out to eat and the restaurant was closed due to “siesta”. Also, from Madrid many major cities and tourist spots are close so traveling is super easy. To make traveling super easier and stress free, I would recommend using the sites smartinsiders, citylifemadrid, and bemadrid. I have already gone on a trip with smartinsiders and it was amazing because everything was planned and I had the chance to meet other international students! The trip itself was to Salamanca &  Avila which is super close to Madrid so we made a day trip out of it! The total cost of the trip was 25 euros, which wasn’t bad considering everything was included. In my time here, I have also gotten the chance to meet other international students after the Orientation day because the University Carlos Tercero de Madrid offers a buddy program that is amazing. The program pairs you up with a student from the university and other international students. In my group we were about 10 and it was great getting to know other people from different parts of the world. I would highly recommend doing the buddy system for those interested in coming to UC3M.

As far as the university goes! I had a bit of an issue when registering for classes but I was able to resolve my issues with ease. The registration system for UC3M is a little different than the United States then that when you choose a class to your cart (add class) it technically isn’t yours because you have to confirm the classes for your spot to be secured. Basically I had planned to take 3 classes in Spanish and one very important class (international business management) in English but unfortunately that class filled very quickly! After this happened. I noticed that this class still had one spot in Spanish so I managed to reserve my seat in that class. All in all, the school is very easy to get used to! Classes are not to far away from each other and here sometimes you finish your class in one day for the week, because your two class sections are on same day. Here one class section will be more of lecture and the other you will have to do more group work and do more practical work. The university also has cafeterias that are delicious and offer a large array of food options, which I would highly recommend going between classes or if you have a break. I have not received books yet but according to my friends at the University one can easily check out books at the library or order the books at store on campus or one campus if need be. Attendance is mostly mandatory for some class sections and some professors are more strict than others. The school here is different than the States because looking at the syllabus they don’t have many tests and quizzes but they do have continuous assignments and a final that is usually worth 50% or more for final letter grade. The school offers Spanish courses outside the main classes offered for  anyone interested in picking up the language.

 

 

Categories: 2019, Reciprocal Exchange, Spain

My last month in Madrid was as bittersweet as can be…

The month of May asked me to study a lot more than I was accustomed to from this semester but was still amazing. The first half of the month we still played since finals weren’t for a few more weeks. The Aggie girls took an unbelievable weekend trip around Greece on a sailboat. We rented a boat out of athens for 4 days and 3 nights and bought grocery store food to save money on expenses on the boat. We saw the most beautiful islands and even got in some natural springs! However, as per usual: I was so ready to be back in Madrid. My love for this incredible city has only deepened more and more as the semester has gone on. I love coming home here, and I have accumulated an extremely long list of recommendations for others and things I wanted to repeat just onnneee more time before I left. Since I needed to study a lot the second half of the month, I got in the amazing habit of waking up early to study, eating lunch at the usual 2 PM with a  gourmet 10 euro “Menu del Día” (3 course phenomenal spanish meal), back for more study, and then finishing off with a drink with all of the aggies. What a rhythm! As simple as it sounds, it was amazing because it was all in Spain. The last weekend before I left, I went to Barcelona to visit my friend there one last time. I brought my friend Abigiail from Purdue that we aggies had all gotten pretty close to, and we just flew in for the usual weekend excursion. My best day of study abroad happened the Saturday before I left:

-woke up in Pierre Pescador (north of Barcelona) at our friends lakehouse

-bought drinks and salads and hummus to fill a cooler

-took everything onto Marc (our friend from Barcelona)’s boat

-set off for a stunning bay where we anchored

-spent the entire day anchored here swimming, napping, singing to Abigail’s ukelele

THIS IS WHAT DREAMS ARE MADE OF

Every moment of that last month, my heart was torn between absolutely LOVING my current stage of life and HATING that life was about the ask me to leave it. This semester was the dream. People keep asking me that inevitable question: “how was Spain?” My answer holds true to the same: “It was so good in fact that I could absolutely convince myself that it never happened; it was too good to be true; I must have been dreaming for a week straight… But luckily I took photos and journaled and blogged so that I KNOW it reallly actually happened.” As I have been home the past few weeks processing it and missing it and listening to nothing but Reggaetón music, it hits me more and more how sweet this semester truly was. Adios españa… Nunca voy a olvidarte.

^Our little yacht for Greece girls trip!

^My favorite group of people forever! Love these spanish aggies so much

 

^dreaming of these view in Greece!

Our group of friends at our one really fancy night out in Madrid! From left to right: Lydia (me), Kelsey, Mikel, Mita, Alexis, and Abigail

Categories: 2017, Reciprocal Exchange, Spain

I’m getting to the last few days in Madrid, and it’s unbelievable how quickly these past few months have been. I honestly thought this great semester couldn’t come to an end and go by as quickly as it did. 4 months sounds like a long time, but it flies by before you know it. I’ve been in the middle of finals, and some have required a lot more work than I’d thought. A lot of the classes have the final as the majority of the overall grade, so finals really matter and could make or break your grade. In one of my classes taught in Spanish, the final was 100% of the entire grade for the class, so I had to study intensively, especially since the final would be in Spanish. I’m reminded that I’m actually abroad for school and classes!!

Since it’s also my final few days, I’ve been trying to relearn Madrid and be a tourist in the city again. Discovering new restaurants, going to museums, and even joining a tour or two have been some of the things I’ve been enjoying this last week. I’m even going to see the Lion King musical, completely in Spanish. It’s also been a little sad since other students and friends are starting to already go back home. I’m trying not to count the days left, but to make the days count and appreciate every last minute I have left (other than my finals). I don’t think I’m ready to leave yet and still haven’t experienced much homesickness. I’ve met so many great people from different parts of the world, tried new foods, gone on new adventures, and adopted a new culture. Madrid, te amo!!

 

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Categories: 2017, Reciprocal Exchange, Spain

With this semester wrapping up so quickly (5 days?!?!?!?), I’m simultaneously wishing for more time in Madrid, and that I was already home.

I feel sacrilegious saying that I’m ready to go home – like small children would gasp and ladies faint if they heard me say it – but I am! I’m ready to see my family, my wonderful friends; I’m ready to pet my dog! I think I’d want to stay longer if I didn’t have another adventure on the horizon that was tempting my daydreams away from the one I’m living now. With this summer so full of promise and fun, it’s hard to keep myself here, especially for these last few days when I’m finally forced to study for finals when all I want to do is frolic through the Madrileño life. Realizing that I get restless after 4 months in an adventure is worrying for me though: can I have a new adventure every couple of months? What happens if I get a boring office job where I only get two weeks of vacation PER YEAR??? How do people live like that? Is that normal, and this adventure-hoping I do the oddity? If it is, I’m going to fight normalcy as hard as I can.

Odd as it sounds, going home also feels like an adventure. The prospect of a normal, run of the mill doctor’s appointment is fascinating to me; and driving! Talk about thrilling! Going to the grocery store, sitting on my own couch with my own dog, watching my own tv with a jar of peanut butter and some bacon (the real stuff, none of the jamon we have in Spain) is so exciting it’s almost unfathomable. The normalcy of life are both the things I look forward to most (in bacon’s case), and my worst nightmare (life in the cube farm). Really, my life has reversed itself – Spain, once completely exotic and foreign, is now normal, while my life in Texas is the intriguing one. I’ve carved out this little existence in Madrid, favorite cafes, regular routes to friends’ places, easy conversation with my host family, that the prospect (actually, the reality) of going back to Texas feels completely new.

As soon as I get excited about my new bacon-filled quest, I’m depressed about leaving Madrid. That life that I’ve built was hard won, I made it exactly how I like it, it’s an amazing little spot to be in, and to give all that up sounds horrible. Even if I come back later in life, it won’t be the same, it won’t be as wonderful as it is right now, because it will be different. Still, this has been a great part of my life, and every time I have the urge to stay here forever, I have to remind myself that this wonderful lifestyle would have to change: I’d need some source of income, I’d need to study more, get my own apartment, I’d have to live in the real world (which is such a sad reality of life). It’s worth it to go home and preserve this adventure exactly as the perfect time it was, while moving onto the next one.

This semester, while bacon-free, has been amazing, but I’m still ready to leave. I’m ready to pack up my whole 50 pound (or less) presence and move it on back to Texas, only to unpack, repack, and move another 50 pound part of my life across the country. I’ve learned a lot and done so much these past four months, and hopefully it’s just a crazy, wonderful start to the next part of my life.

Good news is, that next part of my life includes regular access to bacon, which, let’s be honest, is all the adventure you need.

Categories: 2017, Reciprocal Exchange, Spain