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
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!!
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.
And by here, I mean April! How in the world is it already April? I know that blogs should not be the place to pour out your feelings, but when I think about only have a month left, I get very very nostalgic. I have loved this semester more than I ever dreamed possible. The life I am living here cannot be reality… I truly feel like it is one sweet dream. I have come to grips with the fact that no period in my life after this semester will ever be as independent and free and with such little responsibility. But now, I have only one month left. Honestly, I don’t think that when I get back I will say “Oh Lydia, why didn’t you savor each moment more?” Why won’t I be able to ask myself that? Because I truly feel like I am enjoying each moment to the fullest. Even if the moment is just me sitting at home studying (rare moment, it’s true) with my host mom, I love it so thoroughly that I do take the time to appreciate it.
Okay, that paragraph was dramatic. BUT IT’S TRUE. If I could, I would race back uphill in this slow slide downwards to May and do it again. It would be so nice to be like the movie “About Time” with Rachel McAdams and be able to choose days to relive. I would do it, for this semester.
April was so sweet. I am beginning to feel a lot more confident that:
I am actually retaining the Spanish that I am learning.
I am not behind in classes here.
These Aggie study abroad people are going to be my friends for a long time (s/o to you people #blessed).
I am actually an efficient traveler.
Being away from Madrid isn’t the worse thing ever, but
I never want to go home.
So, here we go.
1. I am actually retaining the Spanish that I am learning.
When my parents were here, I had to translate for them…. a lot. It was amazing for me! All of my life, my dad told my brothers and I that if we became fluent in any language, he would pay for a trip for us to visit a country that spoke that language. All of my life, I tried to have conversations in Spanish around him, but it would never go in my favor. Maybe the waiters spoke so much slang that I was hopelessly lost, I wouldn’t know a question to ask, or I was simply too shy to speak up. Regardless, he never saw that I could speak any Spanish before I came to Spain. This was my chance to actually show my parents that they paid for this trip and it was helpful for Spanish also! Throughout their 2 weeks here, I had countless conversations in Spanish in front of them and I felt so much more confident when they left that I truly was retaining some Spanish from this!
2. I am not behind in classes here.
Easily explained: I felt like I was behind in my classes, but I’m not. This might seem like a silly thing, but with so much traveling and playing this semester, I felt sure that there was no way I was doing all that needed to be done for these classes. As it turns out, Texas A&M is a school of exceptional excellence and has trained me to do a lot more work than Spanish universities do. After asking around a lot this month and reading all my syllabi again, I realized that I really was on top of my classes. Hooray for traveling without feelings of guilt as if I should be studying more! Woe to me when I return to the courseload of TAMU, though.
3. These Aggie study abroad people are going to be my friends for a long time (s/o to you people #blessed).
After a month of hanging with the Aggies here, I was unsure how sincere these friendships would be when we returned. We were all so different! However, we have all had some very deep conversations with each other at this point, and there is no turning back from here. I am thrilled that we were all able to get so close this semester so that we will be able to have friends to share our experiences with when we return. That truly was a fear of mine before coming, that I would make friends from across the world, none of whom would be in College Station with me to share in missing Madrid when we were home. The thought of running into one of these fools while walking around Wehner is the best! I know it will be so fun to share life back in College Station together. Tapas night, coming in hot for ya Cstat!
P.S. This month I also went to visit my brother’s best friend from his study abroad with REEP! His friend lives in Barcelona, it was the best! The pic below is of us with the Sagrada Familia aka fav church ever:
4. I am actually an efficient traveler.
I doubted my ability to really travel well before I came. I thought that I would probably be irresponsible and late and forgetful and all of the things that make you not a great traveler. In fact, I am a great traveler! I have learned so much this semester about how to travel well. I know how to travel with very little money and very little time. I can travel by myself or with people, and I know that it doesn’t take a lot of money to travel. There are always ways to travel for dirt-cheap, if you know how to look for them. Take the bus, buy your food from grocery stores, stay in hostels… All of these things are completely doable if you want to travel for super cheap! For all the times that I almost missed a plane or bus… I only missed one 😉
5. Being away from Madrid isn’t the worse thing ever.
This sentence is only relevant if you consider going other places in Europe. If you are talking about returning to the states, well… We’ll talk about that next 😉 About halfway through this semester, I was so sad that I had booked so many trips that brought me away from Spain. Even sometimes places in Spain that weren’t Madrid I would be a little sad about. We were traveling so much that I didn’t even have time to prepare for each trip, I would only have time to go to class and then get on another plane. This month, something changed in my heart. I began truuly enjoying the trips. I think it was when I became confident that I was actually learning Spanish that I realized I should enjoy traveling more. I was still going to learn Spanish even with the trips. This month, I went to Italy for a week for our “Semana Santa,” or “Holy Week”, or Spring Break. 😉 It was the best! We spent a few days in Florence, Naples, and finally Rome. Since I’ve been dreaming about this trip since the beginning of the semester, I am so happy that I got over my Madrid home-sickness to be able to enjoy that week to its fullest.
This picture is of my favorite Frutería here! It’s right next to my apartment, and the guy who owns it always gives me free strawberries as I pass each day through the little window!! His name is Nasir… Yesterday he gave me a heart shaped package wrapped in a grocery sack and told me I wasn’t allowed to open it until I got back to the states 😉 Wonder what it could be?? #chocolatesssss
6. I never want to go home.
Here is the thing: can my friends and family come here? Can chick fil a and american filtered coffee come here? Because then I would be set for the rest of my life. Yes, this is a formal invite to all of those things. Please make your way to Madrid ASAP.
HERE ARE SOME PICS OF ME IN ITALY FOR SPRING BREAK WOW IT WAS THE BEST:
After 12 days of traveling non-stop alone, I finally got some time in Madrid, and it was the best! The traveling was wonderful, but being alone, problem-solving alone, and always having to be on was exhausting. After the requisite 2 days post-travel of being a couch potato marathoning Brooklyn 99, I emerged revitalized and ready to enjoy Madrid again.
I started running around the parks in Madrid, going to the rose garden in Arguelles with some friends, eating copious amounts of baked goods, and enjoying my already payed for lodging and dinners again. It also meant getting back into Spanish – something I thought I had been doing well, but not being in a Spanish-speaking country makes it hard to really practice. I hadn’t seen my host-family in two weeks and it took some adjustment; I had to fight the urge to hermit in my room, and push myself to enter into conversation again, as well as adjusting to having 6 people in a house again.
The best thing about coming back to Madrid was that it felt like coming back home. I’m still surprised when I feel that, but it feels so nice. I miss Texas and I miss the familiarity of A&M, but feeling connected to Madrid and comfortable here makes me think I could live in another country for more than a semester, more than a year. I wish I had more time here, I wish I had done a year abroad or taken a gap year, but this semester has been wonderful. I’ve made friends from all over the world and from A&M – even though I’ve spoken English more than I had anticipated, I don’t regret it. Otherwise I wouldn’t have gotten as close to my friends from A&M and would’ve felt more lonely.
The highlight of April was definitely the lunch we had together. It was almost all the A&M kids and a couple of other girls. We all made something for lunch – salad, pasta, bread, dessert – everything you could want from a meal. We all ate together and talked and laughed and before we knew it, 4 hours had gone by! It was the best, it was so fun and it felt like home. It felt like Thanksgiving in Madrid.
MARCH! This month showed me more than ever how much I actually miss Madrid when I am away from it. I have been traveling so much on the weekends that now my mentality is more of: “Lydia, no more trips! Stay in Madrid or you will spend the whole semester missing it!” After saying goodbye to my friend from the states who came to visit, I had some time in this amazing city just to love it on my own. I would definitely say that though traveling is amazing, March showed me that each day in this city is my real favorite.
Also, I was able to welcome my parents to Madrid this month! It was so fun to be able to do all of the extremely touristy Spanish/Madrid things. I loved being able to translate for them (it made me feel very proficient in my spanish), tour with them, and do the fancy things around the city that we students don’t quite have the funds to supply. They even took the Aggies all out to dinner at a shwanky place. 🙂 So fun/gig em!
We started in Madrid, hitting the Royal Palace (they LOVED this!), the Prado, Retiro, a BULL FIGHT (what?!) and finishing with a dinner at my house with my host family. It was so fun to see my host family running around and being SO kind to prepare a meal for my parents. I really felt like royalty. This is spanish hospitality, baby! Not quite Texan hospitality… just a little bit different but still just as sweet. The next day, my parents and I did a wine tour of Ribera del Duero in the north! I loved it!! Later that week, we toured Granada and Sevilla and all the Costa del Sol. What a dream! If anyone reading this ever is going to be studying in Madrid or Andalucia, make sure and take a day trip through a tiny cute little town called Frigiliana on a weekend! It was amazzinggg. It has white buildings and beautiful flowers and the kindest people! We bought the best stroop waffles I’ve ever had there… fresh from the oven! Go on a warm day that doesn’t have a lot of wind, though. This city took me absolutely by surprise, I had never even heard of it! My mom told us to make the turn and WOW, it was so cute. Imagine Cordoba in the mountains!
Even writing this now, I am so excited to talk to people who know Spain about this semester when I get home. Traveling all of this with my parents was amazing, but it definitely did not satisfy the desire in my heart to know Spain on an extremely deep level. I feel like I need to live here for a year or more now, just to get a better feel for this amazing country. Spain is different from the states, too in that I feel like if I lived here for a couple years with the desire to really know it, you could definitely put a dent in it! After a semester, I am feeling like I took a deep breath of a wonderful smell, but I don’t even know what it is yet. It is SPAIN! I want to know it better, but I am realizing now more than ever that I simply do not have the time. My parents told me that they envisioned me returning in some years to tour with maybe a future husband or my best friends after college. What a dream that sounds like!
If there is anything this month taught me, it’s that a semester is not enough and I AM COMING BACK!
Here is a picture of the bullfight that I did with my parents! Honestly I had no idea that they killed bulls before we bought the tickets but it ended up being great! Pretty gross to see the bull die but we got them for my dad’s birthday and it was EPIC! I felt like it was all these old spanish couples there watching.
This is a picture of my parents and I at the Alcazar in Sevilla! 🙂
This is my dad and I on the Costa del Sol, near Malaga and Frigiliana.
I’ve become acclimated to living in Madrid for a few months now and feel like I really know the city. I’ve been able to explore so many restaurants, neighborhoods, parks, and events. I feel like I can really show people around Madrid and share my favorite places. My dad came to visit me a few weeks ago, and I loved showing him the areas that I frequented and what I’ve been up to. I don’t feel uncomfortable talking to locals in Spanish, and even if my Spanish isn’t perfect I can keep learning and putting myself out there to use it.
School has been hitting harder now so I’ve been needing to study for midterms and meet for group projects. I’ve gotten settled into my classes and the commute to and from school on the train. It’s at that point of the semester now where classes are almost over and finals are coming. I’m definitely scared of the finals, but even more scared of the semester almost being over since I’ve loved it so much. I have a little over a month left until I go back home, and there are so many things I’m going to miss about Madrid and Europe. I’m going to try to spend my last month as a tourist of Madrid again, going to places I haven’t been yet and exploring and experiencing as much as I can in the time that I have left. A whole semester seemed like it’d last forever but I realize how quickly it actually goes by.
Currently on the downhill slide of my time in Madrid, with only 5 full weeks left. I can’t believe how time has just flown by. It’s all so surreal to me looking back at the various phases all 5 of us Aggies have gone through in our time here. First we were excited, but thoroughly terrified; then a little homesick; then comfortable and set in a routine; then very anti-routine and thirsty for new discoveries in Madrid; and now I think we’re all at various levels of Madrilleño.
Since I last posted, I’ve had more time to reflect and experience other countries. I can confidently say that of all the nations I’ve visited in Europe, Spain is my favorite, and Madrid is my favorite metropolis. Time after time, I’ve been taken aback by how amazing the Spanish way of life is. Going into this exchange, I wrote off Spaniards as lazy people who ate a lot of ham and napped mid-afternoon, but it’s really so much more than that. They take the time to enjoy the important things in life that people in the States so-often pass up because we always have something else to cross off the to-do list or somewhere else to be. They value family as the most important thing, and are so passionate about cooking and even more passionate about being happy. People here are all so friendly and kind and easy-going and I feel
Showing Keaton around Retiro
a lot of that is attributed to the lifestyle that Spaniards are so keen on living.
In April, my boyfriend from A&M had the opportunity to visit during my spring break and he got to see first-hand all that I’ve observed over here, and he was truly amazed by the cultural difference. We visited a couple cities within Spain, as well as Marseille, France and Venice, Italy, and both of us wished we had spent the whole time in Spain because the people’s energy and attitude is just unparalleled. It’s taught me so much about myself and made me realize that I want to incorporate these fundamental aspects into my life back home when I return. I couldn’t be more excited to do this.
Another favorite memory of mine since I last posted happened last weekend. It was the first time that most of my friends were all in Madrid for the weekend since the beginning of the semester, so I decided to host a potluck lunch at my apartment. We sat around eating and gabbing for about 3 hours and it couldn’t have been more perfect. We all reflected on our experiences here and reminisced about just how fast its all gone by. It feels like an eternity ago that we all met up for orientation here but none of us can believe that our time here is wrapping up. Participating in this exchange has been the best decision I think I’ve ever made and even though it’s not over yet, I already wish I could do it again.
It’s hard to believe that I only have about 2 weeks left until I leave Europe. This experience has been life-changing and something that is hard to really describe to others. I never thought I would be traveling all over, meeting so many people, and gaining memories that will last forever. I had the opportunity to go to a small country right next to Spain called Andorra to go skiing. Erasmus Student Network put the trip together, making it much cheaper than if I had tried to plan it on my own. I had not skied for about 10 years before this so I was a little nervous but mostly excited. The girls I was around while there were very helpful and encouraging to me and others. I bonded with so many people there, enjoyed the beauty around me, and I got to re-teach myself how to ski, which was challenging but definitely a blast!
During my twin sister’s Spring Break, she and my parents took the opportunity to come visit me. Seeing them actually made me more home sick than before and reminded me of how much I love and miss them. This is the longest I’ve ever been without my sister since we go to A&M and live together so it was lovely getting to see her. It was exciting showing my family around Barcelona, all the touristy sites as well as the places most tourists don’t know about. We got to go to the well known places like Park Guell and Sagrada Familia, as well as getting to eat some delicious food Spain is known for! One of the evenings they were here, we had a picnic on a hill with a 360 degree view of Barcelona as the sun set. They were amazed at the beauty that Barcelona and for me to be their tour guide made it even more special. Seeing my family’s reaction to Barcelona reminded me how special it is that I’m here and able to live in this amazing city.
Another student and one of my good friends who is studying in Venice this semester came to see me and Barcelona for a weekend. Again, I was able to show off this city and what it holds! It doesn’t matter how many times I see Barcelona from on top of a hill, the view leaves me speechless every time. I’m able to point out some of the buildings and their significance to the city as well as admire looking at the Mediterranean Sea. I’m absorbing these last special moments in Barcelona before I leave.
I’m going to spend the next two weeks traveling to places like Denmark, Switzerland, Germany, and Poland. Someone who I consider to be like a sister to me lives in Denmark, so getting to see her and her family will be extremely special! I’m going to be able to see more of the world, visit a concentration camp and I’ll even be skydiving! I’m making sure to have experiences that will stick with me for a very long time before leaving to go home. Although I can’t wait to see my friends and family when I get back, I know I’m going to miss Barcelona, traveling, and the easy access to seeing new places and countries. Gracias Barcelona for everything you’ve provided for me!
I have been in Madrid for 2 months now and I feel right at home. This city has everything anyone could need and then more. During my first month here, I went to most touristy places including: Sol, which is the center of the city and one of the most important places in Spain. Retiro Park, the perfect place to relax and get away for a few hours. And Prado Museum, a legendary museum in Europe.
For the last month I have tried to enjoy the city as a Madrileño. From the simplest things like riding the metro and actually knowing where to go without using google maps, to watching a soccer game at a bar with Real Madrid Fans (even though I am a die hard FC Barcelona Fan, the biggest rival of Real Madrid).
A couple of weeks ago, Poli, one of my friends from the U.S. came to visit me for his spring break. I felt like his tour guide in my hometown. We love to try new food so we went to great restaurants in Malasaña, a neighborhood known for their great bars and food. Poli loves Real Madrid and going to one of their games was one of his biggest dreams, so even though it was really hard for me to go to a game at the Santiago Bernabeu, I went with him. The experience at the stadium is like no other (OK, maybe Kyle Field gets a little louder), we got to watch a soccer game in one of the most iconic sports venues in the world. Fans live the game like they are part of the team, you can hear a lot of cheering, criticism of players and definitely a lot of whistling towards thee referee, which is the way of booing. If you come to Madrid this is definitely an event you cannot miss!
As far as school goes, I had my first really stressful week studying for midterms. I had 3 midterms during the same week, including 2 on the same day. It felt like studying for accounting 327 and finance exams for the same day, definitely not the most fun part of the trip, but a great learning experience. Exams in Carlos III are very challenging for the classes I am taking, for multiple choice exams points can get taken off for missing a question, which is not very common at TAMU. I ended up passing all three of my midterms, two of them with good grades and the third not as well. For the upcoming weeks I will be working with different groups for final projects. All of my classes have a project at the end of the semester and involve all of what we have learned during the semester, I think this is a great way for us to review our material learned and actually apply our new resources.
As for my last trip outside of Madrid, I went to Mallorca and Barcelona last week. I met with a couple of friends, who are studying abroad in Barcelona, at the Mallorca airport. We walked around the Island for the first day and saw the most important attractions in the center of the city. The second day we decided to rent mopeds and ride them to the best beaches in the island. I had never ridden a moped before, but let’s say I am pretty good riding a bicycle, which is pretty much the same thing. During this day I saw some of the best places I have seen in Spain, beaches were beautiful and people were great. Even though many people would not think of going to this Island, I would recommend 100%.