I have been studying abroad in Madrid, Spain for the past 2 weeks and everything has been one great whirlwind of an adventure. I had been abroad before in a Spanish-speaking country, so coming to Spain was not as big of an adjustment for me. Before arriving in Spain, I wanted to set some goals for myself, such as try to use Spanish as much as I can, meet new international people, and just enjoy every minute I have here.
Ever since I landed in Madrid, I have been involved in a flurry of activities, trips, and adventures. I live in a 14-student apartment in the center of Madrid, and commute to school every day by train. My roommates come from other countries, such as the UK and France. At Universidad de Carlos III, which is where I study, there is an international student program that allows students to meet other international students and get to know Madrid better. I have met students from all over Europe, and we’ve been able to do so many fun events throughout Madrid, such as a tour of the old part of Madrid, karaoke, going to a Flamenco show, having a tapas night, and exploring the night life of Madrid. I feel like I already have seen so much of Madrid just in 2 weeks.
Madrid itself is such a beautiful, fascinating city, and all I can describe it as is the New York of Spain. There are beautiful sights such as the Royal Palace, Retiro Park, Prado Museum, Temple of Debod, and all its great plazas. The streets are always filled with life and noise, and there is always something to do. The food is unbelievable here, and we most of the time get tapas before meals, which are like small Spanish appetizers or snacks. Overall, my time here so far has been incredible and I’m excited to see what lies in store for the rest of the semester.
Barcelona is special. Ever since I stepped foot in Barcelona, I knew that amazing memories were going to be made. So far I have had so much fun and met amazing people. I find myself falling in love with the city more and more as the days pass by. It definitely does not bother me to walk to class everyday. I live in the city center in a section in Barcelona called Gracia. It is a section full of life during the day and night. About two weeks ago I attended a FC Barcelona football game. It was such an amazing experience and definitely a dream come true.
On the other side, school has been a bit confusing. It is definitely not like Texas A&M University at UPF. They are not as organized and signing up for classes was a bit more difficult. At UPF we have seminars, therefore, we had to plan accordingly because they overlapped with classes. Thankfully, I am now three weeks in my classes. I have had an immense amount of fun and learned many things as well.
One of my favorite parts so far is meeting people from all over the world. I am shy, therefore, starting conversations at first it was uncomfortable. It took a huge amount of courage from me to just say hello. I am happy with my progress. This studying abroad experience has really brought the best in me.
Barcelona never stops surprising me. I been visiting all the touristic and local places, and there is still a huge amount of things to do left. I can truly imagine myself living here. Before coming, I knew that I was going to like this amazing city, but I never expected for me to fall in love with it so quickly. I am beyond excited to see what the remaining of this trimester holds!
It has been a month since I arrived in Madrid and the experience could not be better. Whether is the food, people, architecture, culture or all of the above, Madrid has been extremely welcoming.
I am currently attending Universidad Carlos III located in Getafe, which is a small town about 30 minutes by train from the center of Madrid. Every year, the university hosts around 1000 international students from all over the world. Most of these students prefer to live in Madrid and commute to Getafe because they find more things to do in Madrid, which I completely agree with. Professors at the university are very helpful and most will work with international students to accommodate assignment dates if notified in advanced.
It is also worth mentioning that there are various interesting places around Madrid that make great one-day excursions such as Toledo and Aranjuez. I plan to travel around Spain and really immerse myself in its culture, and I’m excited to see what the next few months have in store for me.
Where do I even start! This month has been filled with its ups and downs. Having to cope with the fact that there is less than a month left in my study abroad experience is just crazy! It is really hard to explain how I feel about leaving. It really is bitter sweet!
Skyping with the Best
I am looking forward to having a cell phone again!! Only being able to contact people while on Wi-Fi has been pure torture. Most of all, I am looking forward to being able to talk with friends and family whenever I want and not just when Skype has decent Internet connection. Another thing that I miss most about being in the States is driving, specifically in Texas! Nothing compares to driving through Texas with nothing but the Big Open Sky from Keller down to College Station.
Along with all of the things I miss from Texas while in Spain, there are a lot of things that I will miss about Spain while back in Texas. Surely what I will miss most about Spain will be all of the friendships. Over the past semester I have grown closer to a great group of friends and I cannot wait until the day we are all able to reunite in Retiro Park.
Enjoying cafe con leche in my favorite museum!
I will miss life living in a big city! Living in Madrid has been great because there is always something to do. Whether it’s going to free museums on the weekends, fireworks (or pillow fights) in Retiro Park, hanging out at rooftops with friends, or shopping on Fuencarral. There is always something to do!
Rooftops of Madrid
Lastly, I will miss being able to take spontaneous trips traveling through Europe! I will never forget the day I walked into our bedroom and Jenny asked, “Do you want to go to Portugal?”
Only four finals, four papers, and three more presentations separate me from being done with school!
Where has the time gone! I am wayyyy past the halfway mark in my study abroad experience and this is not okay. I keep telling myself to just enjoy the time that I have left and that I will be ready to return home once it becomes time to go back to the States. In the back of my mind I know that I will not really be ready to leave the city that has captured my heart. I fear how little time I have left but I smile at all of the wonderful memories that I have made and will continue to make!
Here are a few of my favorite memories so far:
Meeting so many new people through the Erasmus Student Network! There are so many friendly faces I have met through various events put on for ESN members. I now have friends from all over the world!
Picnicking in Retiro Park
Picnicking in Retiro Park. Now that the weather is getting nicer we thought it would be great to soak up some sun on Wednesdays when and most of us don’t have class and are still in town. We make it a potluck picnic, spread out a blanket, and spend practically the entire day in the park with great company!
Traveling all over Spain. I have been able to travel to the historical city of Toledo with ESN by bus, Sevilla and Cadiz in the south of Spain with Jenny and two of our Italian friends from ESN by car, Barcelona with Jenny by flight to visit another Aggie, Abbye Blakeslee (Whoop!!), Tarragona and Sitges with Jenny, Abbye, and a friendly Peruvian family where we enjoyed a traditional Catalonian meal, and lastly, Alicante where I spent spring break relaxing on the beach. All together, that is 7 cities with over 4 different methods of transportation!! That just goes to show how easy is to get out of Madrid and see the rest of Spain.
My Travel Buddy!
Zumba!!! I know, I know… this technically isn’t unique to either Spain or Madrid but let me explain. A close friend of mine, Anna, invited me to zumba and it is just about the coolest thing ever! We have our special studio we go to and even became good friends with the zumba instructor, Grace. We even had a couple of zumba sessions in Retiro Park – it was a great time filled with dancing and plenty of laughing!
Becoming a local and finally knowing my way around the city! People stop me on the street to ask for directions, that’s right, ME! This chica is no longer perdida! Hallelujah!!
With over a month left in my study abroad I know that plenty more memories are to be made.
Finals have started and sadly, they´re a lot harder than I was anticipating. I have my final two tests next week. While I´m excited to be done with school and start my summer vacation, I´m also dreading the end of finals because that also means that I will be leaving to come back to Texas. I´m in a little bit of denial that I am leaving Barcelona in 9 days. I feel as though I am about to leave another home.
Universitat Pompeu Fabra
Things I´m Going To Miss
The culture– I´m going to miss the way everyone in Barcelona greets each other, with one kiss on each cheek. I´m going to miss the way people invite you into their homes so warmly, and have hearts oozing with generosity. I´m going to miss being around the Spanish and Catalan language. I´m going to miss the random protests. The protests were always friendly, but I found them amusing. At one point during this month I wasn´t able to go to class because all the students decided to ¨protest¨and not go. I was not complaining about that.
The food– I am looking forward to having Mexican and junk food again, but I am going to miss tapas, paella, sangria, and churros and chocolate.
The scenery– I love going on random strolls and finding myself gazing at random buildings. The architecture here is breathtaking, I´m going to miss seeing Gaudi´s work everywhere. I will also miss the beach. The beach quickly became my favorite place to go, and I am going to miss constantly making up excuses to spend hours there. Even the most boring alleyways had interesting stories to tell, and I am going to miss constantly being surrounded by the mixture of modern and antiquated buildings throughout this city.
The activities– It is impossible to be bored in Barcelona, and I am going to miss constantly finding new things to do. I was able to climb the mountain with the breathtaking view, Montserrat, this month. Hopefully I´m able to hike up the other mountain, Tibidabo, at some point before I leave. There are many museums to go inside of, many cute little markets to walk around in, and many events constantly taking place. This month I also went to carnival, which is the equivalent to Mardi Gras. That was a night I will never forget.
Tapas and Sangria, Churros and Chocolate, Beach
Bubbles, Gaudi´s Casa Batllo, Montserrat
Carnival, Parc de la Ciutadella
Things I´m Not Going to Miss
The general feeling of unsafety– I can´t express how excited I am to be back in Texas where I don´t have to assume that every person around me is waiting for a chance to rob me.
My apartment– While the apartment I stayed in during my time here is considered quite nice and roomy compared to others found in Europe, I can´t wait to be back in Texas where I have a dishwasher, a dryer, air conditioning, and more storage space.
The expenses– I´m ready to go to a restaurant back home where water is free. Here, water more often than not costs more than alcohol. I can´t wait to no longer be thirsty while eating my meal because I´m worried about conserving my water.
Street Performers– I know this is a random one to put, but people dressing up as statues freaks me out personally. My roommate thought they were funny so I think I might be alone in this distaste.
Overall, I cannot put into words how much this experience has meant to me. I discovered a lot about the world, but perhaps most importantly, I learned a lot about myself. I´m capable of being independent and I can´t wait until the day comes when I can greet this sense of independence again. So, rather than say adios to Europe, I intend on saying hasta luego. I may never get the opportunity to spend 3 months in Europe again, but I will return one of these days. I look forward for that day to come.
Approaching the halfway mark in my study abroad experience means things are starting to really pick up! So in other words, this post is going to concentrate on the “studying” part of studying abroad. In my pervious post I held off on talking about school at Universidad Carlos III de Madrid a.k.a. Carlos Tercero a.k.a. UC3M because everything was still all so new to me. Now that I have been enrolled at UC3M for a few weeks, I feel like I have a better understanding of how things are done here vs. how things are done in the States based on my experience at UC3M so far.
An Aggie in Spain
My classes consist of two electives Art History II and Contemporary History of Spain and two business courses Marketing Management and Marketing Research.
Building at UC3M
With that said, here are a few things that have stood out:
Navigating Aula Global (the online website, or Howdy Portal equivalent) can be tricky. Signing up for classes on your own and just a few days before classes start on a completely new website was beyond frustrating. Luckily, I got all the classes I wanted, so I must have been doing something right!
Grades consist of few a projects, presentations, and exams. This was not really that new to me but I still would say that this is a bit different than how things are done at A&M. For example, in Art History II our final grade consists of a presentation, a paper, and the final – all of which was completed in the second half of the semester. In Contemporary History of Spain, our final grade consists of two 5-page papers and one 25-page group paper.
Grades are put in basically… whenever! This was completely new to me!! At A&M I was used to turning in an assignment or completing an exam and having my grade available within days, and sometimes even hours! We are midway through the semester and I have yet to have a single grade uploaded in at least two of my courses. This completely baffles me! How can students go through an entire semester and just barely be figuring out their grades towards the end of the semester!
Many teachers just read off their PowerPoint slides in lectures. Two out of four of my teachers have fallen into this trap and many of my friends have said the same about their teachers. In my opinion, paraphrasing PowerPoint slides would make lectures more interesting and engaging but when a teacher just stands at the back of the class and reads off of their PowerPoint print out then lectures start to blur together.
Working in a group projects is a must. All of my courses have a least one major presentation or paper completed in a group. Staying on top of group projects while trying to accommodate for everyone’s busy traveling schedule is really difficult to do. I will say that the neat thing about group projects is that you get to get close to your classmates easier when forced to work in a group. I have met some of the coolest people through working in my group projects!
Train Station in Getafe
Lastly, if you are planning on studying at UC3M try to not live in Getafe. This is strictly my opinion, but let me explain why I think you should stay away form living on campus (or near campus). Getafe is a beautiful small time city but there is not much to do there compared to living in the city center of Madrid. If you live in the city center then I think you feel more inclined to do fun sightseeing, eating, or exploring in Madrid.
My second month here in Barcelona has been all about adjustment. My daily tasks have been pretty similar to a typical semester at A&M as school has picked up- I go to class everyday, do my homework in the evenings, I’ve even been able to keep up with The Bachelor still! But on the weekends there’s always something new to do. My roommate and I are always discovering some new activity to partake in at Barcelona, and our to-do list is still lengthy, despite having conquered items continuously over the span of two months.
Above are photos of Sagrada Familia- the main attraction of Barcelona. It´s the cathedral designed by Gaudi that has been under construction for 130 years. It is due to be complete in 12 years.
Above is a picture of our Erasmus group on our last day in Madrid.
I haven´t been able to travel around Europe due to financial reasons, however, the program my roommate and I are involved in offers very affordable trips for some weekends. We went on a trip with our program at the beginning of the month to the country´s capital, Madrid. That was a ton of fun and we were able to bond with a lot of the other international students during that weekend. Also, it was nice being surrounded by the Spanish language in Madrid instead of Catalan. I was surprised at how much easier it was to understand people, and I was able to notice how much my Spanish has improved. In Spain, there’s a sense of rivalry between Madrid and Barcelona. A typical question asked is “Do you like Barcelona or Madrid better?” I loved Madrid, the environment was so different from Barcelona. However, it’s crazy how after just a short amount of time in Spain, I’ve developed partiality to Barcelona. Upon our return on Sunday, it felt like we were coming home.
Above is a picture of the Catalonia flag that protests for their independence from the rest of Spain. This flag can be found all over Barcelona which is the most influential city within the Catalonia region of Spain. It was refreshing to see this flag again upon our return! I love Catalonia!
Something that has shocked me during my time here has been the constant realization of how much influence the United States has on the rest of the world. Our new international friends have asked us a lot of questions about our life back in America. I felt weird answering so many questions when from my perspective- my peers come from much more interesting environments.
Something I’ve come to appreciate about my life in Barcelona is the ability to always be surrounded by beauty in nature. One day, I wanted to relax and simply read a book. My roommate and I walked to the beach and read alongside the shore. One day, I felt like being more active so my roommate and I went to Montserrat which is a mountain near Barcelona that is a short train ride away. After our navigation skills went terribly wrong, we ended up not on the mountain but on a trail alongside it. Even though we ended up not where we had planned, we were still immersed in beauty incomparable to any in College Station.
Something I’ve valued during this trip is the company of others. I am so thankful for Erasmus (our student network) for helping me meet friends during this journey. Another “trip” we’ve taken during this month was to Manresa, which is kind of like a suburb right outside of Barcelona. It was interesting to see a non-city part of Spain, but the trip was cold, the guided tour was long, and we were hungry. We ditched the tour to go eat, and the restaurant had terrible service. We were in the restaurant for three hours, but during that time we were able to learn about eachother’s cultures from our home countries and simply laugh about how weird the day trip had been. It ended up being a trip with a ton of mishaps, but thanks to the company of the other international students, it also ended up being a trip with a ton of fond memories. My roommate is from A&M as well, and it’s been nice being able to talk to somebody that misses the exact same things I do, and understands the hardships that come with coming here.
My dad came to visit me this past Friday. I didn’t think I missed home, but whenever he came I realized I missed my family more than I thought. I miss junk food, and not having to worry about getting robbed everywhere I go. I should probably mention my phone was stolen AGAIN while I was in the library at my school.
I still appreciate and value this experience, I know this experience is something I am going to reflect on for the rest of my life. I don’t want to take for granted a single moment during my last month in this amazing city. But this experience has also shown me a new sense of appreciation for College Station, for Texas, and for America in general. I miss feeling safe and cared for everywhere I go. I miss living a faster paced lifestyle antithetical to that of a typical Barcelona native. I miss stores being open on Sunday. But I also know I’m going to miss Barcelona, and I’m not ready to leave just yet.
It has officially been over a month since I have made Madrid my new home. I feel like I just got here because this city has so much to offer! I am loving my time in Madrid!! My study abroad journey has been a nonstop adventure from the beginning and I will try to put into words what has made this an experience of a lifetime!
Although my first hour in Madrid did not go entirely smoothly, my host family was waiting eagerly to welcome my roommate, who is also from A&M, Jenny and me into their home. My host mom gave us a quick tour of our new home and gave us some time to get settled before we had dinner and went on a walking tour of Madrid. I would highly recommend staying with a host family for several reasons. First of all, they are like a walking/talking encyclopedia on your new city and they LOVE to share their recommendations! Anytime I need advice on something small like choosing a good place to get lunch with friends, to bigger decisions like which cell phone provider is the best choice, or simply needing help with directions my host family is always there to help! Secondly, they cook authentic, home made meals that you sometimes cannot even find in restaurants. On top of that, they then can actually teach you how to make those traditional meals to take home and show your friends and family! Lastly, I could not think of a better way to end you day than by sitting down to have dinner with your family in your home away from home.
My wonderful host family!
Another thing that I will rave about is the public transportation! Every month I reload my transportation card and I never leave home without it. My card allows me to have unlimited travel (within a certain zone) by bus, metro, or train. It is perfect for commuting to school 45 minutes away or for those days you just want to get out and explore the city! Side note: having a transportation card is a luxury and really makes me feel like a local, but it is still possible to get lost! My first month in Madrid feels like it was filled with more questions than answers. Questions like, “Is this our [metro] stop?” “Where is ____?” “What street are we looking for?” and my personal favorite, “Do you know how to get there?” Constantly having to ask these questions in our first couple of weeks in Madrid gave Jenny and me the idea for a name of our hypothetical television series documenting our time in Europe called, Las Chicas Perdidas.
Overall, my first month in Spain is in the books and I can honestly say that Madrid is starting to feel more and more like home everyday!
The end of my first month in Barcelona is coming to an end. That´s crazy!! I actually feel like I live here now. I am going to try to the best of my ability to condense some adventures of the days that have stuck out to me- there´s a lot so this might turn into a novel.
To give a little background information, I am a junior at A&M. This study abroad trip is my first true time out of the country.
The first moment that was monumental on this trip was my first moment in Barcelona, my arrival. Upon my arrival, I was terrified. My landlord said he was going to send a shuttle to the airport to pick me up, but I was scared I wouldn´t be able to find my apartment from where the shuttle would drop me off. To make matters worse, my roommate wasn´t able to arrive until a week after me so I was completely alone. Luckily, I accidentally arrived on a huge Spanish holiday.
January 6th is a day called the “Day of Epiphany.” It´s very similar to Christmas except children receive gifts from the three wise kings on this day. From how eeringly quiet the airport was when I landed, it didn´t take long before I had an epiphany of my own and realized I did not arrive on an ordinary day.
I say my arriving on a holiday was lucky though because my landlord was unable to book a shuttle. That meant he had to come to the airport to pick me up. It was such a relief seeing a sign with my name on it. My landlord´s name is Albert. He´s the best! He took me straight to the apartment and told me all about the “to-dos” of Barcelona. It was so nice not having to worry about finding anything on my own. He also told me I could ask him if I needed anything at all because he knew I was there all by myself. That was extremely comforting. After he left, I knew I needed to find my university, but I was too scared to leave my apartment.
I checked my email, and I had an email from a “language partner” I signed up for through the school. My language partner´s name is Lluis. In his email he asked when I would want to meet up. I really needed to find where the school was because I had orientation the following day, so I asked if he could meet that night. He didn´t realize I had only arrived to Barcelona that day, and immediately came over to help me find the school. I´m still in shock he did that! To reiterate, it was a huge Spanish holiday. He lives 30 minutes away, so that was very nice of him to take time out of his family time to help me. He showed me where Universitat Pompeu Fabra is; the walk is beautiful! Below is a picture of the walk to the school. Our meeting was short because he needed to get back to his family. The rest of the day I was exhausted, so I went to bed early.
After my first day, I had quite a few unfortunate events happen. But, I don´t really want to go into the details because that would just be super negative. So, I´m going to list them out instead.
– Registration. Never again will I complain about registration at another school. I´m still actually not positive what my schedule is, and this is the fourth week of class.
– It took me two days of being by myself in Barcelona before I was violently throwing up. The nerves caught up to me. I felt awful!
– I was robbed of my phone, and credit card. 🙁
I still don´t have a phone. And it got stolen with .02 seconds of me setting my purse down… while my body was still touching it! Not all Spaniards abide by the Aggie code of conduct. It has genuinely stunk not having a phone. I lost all my pictures etc. But, good news is my new phone should be coming in the mail anytime now! And Albert (my landlord) felt so bad for me that he gave me one of his old phones AND he got my roommate and I a washer. Did I mention he´s the best?!
– The ticket system at the metro system ate my money. Not really a big deal, but this happened within the same week I lost my credit card, phone, and was sick. At that point I just wanted to go home.
BUT I´m glad I didn´t!! I have met amazing people and have had many awesome adventures that have overshadowed that one terrible week.
When my roommate arrived the adventures began!
– We took a bike tour which I HIGHLY recommend to everyone!! We learned a lot about the history and main tourist sites of Barcelona. And side note- our tour guide thought it was hilarious we were from “College Station.” She was crying she was laughing so hard. Also, a huge political movement in Catalònia is the want to be independent from the rest of Spain. Another guy on the bike tour from Washington said, “Hey, that´s kind of like the secessionist movement in Texas!” …………. *no comment*
– SO MUCH GOOD FOOD. At every restaurant, there are tapas. The best ones are potatos bravas. Tapas are small dishes similar to appetizers. Basically, you order a variety of different entres and split them amongst the table.
– The Sagrada Familia is AWESOME. Antoni Gaudi has some amazing architecture around the city; it´s funny because a lot of the Barcelona natives think he´s overrated. We saw another work of his at Casa Batllo, which is a house inspired by a dragon.
– I love Sagrada Familia, but I think my favorite cathedral is still the Catedral de Santa Eulalia. This cathedral is dedicated to the life of Eulalia, she was a 13 year old girl who died a martyr. If you get the chance, google the story. She´s my hero.
– Park Guell has incredible sights. This was mine and my roommate´s favorite place so far. There are so many trails you can go down, and the house Antoni Gaudi lived in is here. He lived by meek measures which is inspiring. There are so many admirable people that inspired the city of Barcelona. It has truly inspired me!
– Montjuiic has incredible sights. It was the perfect spot for a picnic. 🙂
– Last semester, I met a group of REEP students that came to A&M from Spain. We met up with one of them one night, Tomas. It was so nice to see a familiar face in Barcelona! He is still obsessed with A&M which was hilarious. He sang the Aggie fight song in his Spanish accent.
– On the subject of friends, having a language partner has really come in handy! Lluis showed us an awesome spot to get gelato. He´s also informed us of some weird cultural differences between here and the United States. One that stuck out to me is that here they consider Obama extremely conservative. I thought that was funny!
Can´t wait to see what the next two months hold!
There are many other sights we have seen, and there are many sights still to see! There is plenty on my to-do list, I can´t wait to see what these next two months have in store!