This week has been absolutely exhausting! I took a 3 hour nap today and it wasn’t enough. We started regular classes this week on top of the 3 hour Spanish classes in the evening, and finding an apartment, and getting a bank account. I just keep telling myself that it wouldn’t be worth it if it wasn’t difficult, and as long as I believe that I tend to keep myself going…
Tuesday was my first day of regular classes. I had “Game Theory” around 10:45 am and it was pretty awkward. Classes in the new “Bolonia” Program in Europe are split into Lectures and Discussions, so the class I had on Tuesday was a discussion class with a man that hardly spoke a word of English so he just wrote everything he wanted to say on the board. Strangely enough, most of the students in the class were Spanish even though the class is taught in English, and they understood less than I could.
On Wednesday I had 3 classes back to back from 9am to 2pm and it was pretty rough because I’ve also been taking Spanish classes from 4-7 every day this week. Econometric Techniques is taught by a really nice professor who seems to care a lot about the success of his students. We have to do a time series report using GDP and interest rate data from a country of our choice. The paper only has to be 3 pages, which seems pretty easy. I’m also taking a really interesting class called “Markets and Environment,” which as the title implies talks about the effects of economic activity on the environment and vice versa. The only class I really HATED was Public Economics. The teacher was absolutely HORRIBLE!!! The best way I can describe him is John Nash (played by Russel Crowe) in the movie A Beautiful Mind. He just wrote all these illegible formulas for an hour in class without describing what he was doing. He was going so fast that no one understood what he was writing or saying. His y’s looked like 7′s…. it was just completely Greek to me. He said we needed to know calculus to take his class, and I have taken up to Calc 3 and I didn’t understand a thing. The best part was when he randomly chose my name from the roster and told me I had to prove some mathematical theorem the next class…. I don’t necessarily like quitting when things get rough, but I’m positive if I stayed in that class I would fail unless I stayed in my room all day and studied and, in which case I’d never get to go out and see Madrid.
The other girls from New Paltz and I have final met up with the coordinators of the exchange program between us and UC3M. We had a private meeting with Yuliya and, I think his name is… Juan Carlos… and we expressed how lost we’ve been with choosing the right classes and being completely unprepared for the really high math standards . Thankfully they’re really flexible and they’re going to let us change our classes.
So, the good news of this week is that I finally have an apartment and a bank account!!! Of course, neither task was easy, but at least everything is settled with my living situation. After calling at least 30 landlords, and seeing maybe 6 apartments in the city center of Madrid, and Getafe, I decided to live in Getafe with Madeline (one of the girls on the program from New Paltz). We had seen a really beautiful apartment in Madrid for only 300 euros each (for me, Jules, and Madeline) but the landlord was out of his mind and wanted us to pay 4,500 euros as a deposit! So we had to pass. Madeline and I found a really nice place right next to the school with 3 rooms, a living room, tv, bathroom, kitchen, and a balcony. The best part is that it’s 5 minutes walking to the school. I would have liked to live in Madrid but it would have been a 45 minute commute, door to door, and it really would not have worked out for me with 9 am classes. Jules really wanted to live in Madrid so she decided to rent a room there. The pro of living in Madrid is that the Erasmus students (European exchange students) organize “fiestas” almost every night! But, I’m a little more interested in getting to class on time and doing well. There’s always time on the weekends to check out the night life in Madrid. Getafe also has a lot of places to eat, drink, and dance at night on the weekends…. don’t underestimate Getafe!
Our first official night at the apartment was last night so we invited all the New Paltz girls over and made dinner for everyone. There’s a grocery right next door called Eroski, and we bought a lot of food for only 22 euros!!! It was amazing!!! We bought 2 loafs of bread, Brie cheese, crackers, prosciutto ham (jamon serano), olives, eggplant, mozzarella cheese, 3 cans of this really popular bean soup (fabada), 2 bottles of wine, chocolate, and more. You can definitely save a lot of money here if you buy food at the grocery instead of eating out every night, and now that we have an apartment we can!
One of the biggest things I’ve had to get use to is the fact that nothing really ever works out right away. For example, in order to change US dollars into euros I couldn’t just go to any bank unless I had a bank account there. So, I went to open a bank account at Santandar at the school which caters specifically to students, waited in line for 30 minutes, and then I was told to come back 3 days later. I went back 4 days later, waited 30 minutes to find out that they had lost my application and I had to do it again, but this time my account wouldn’t be ready for a week! I explained that it was urgent because I needed to exchange money in order to be able to pay the deposit on my apartment and they finally gave in, but it was really a hassle.
The school itself doesn’t really seem to have everything together for international students. Even though classes officially started Monday, our orientation (for American students) wasn’t until Friday morning, and they told us we would get our student IDs and ID numbers but of course they weren’t ready. I need my student ID number to access Aula 2 (similar to Blackboard) in order to do problem sets and print out homework for class! Then in order to change classes, you need to have your student ID in order to make an appointment online with the international office. It feels a bit like we’re second class citizens at this school. We’re always a step behind in everything, and I’m starting to lose my patience. I like to be prepared for class, and it makes it difficult when I can’t even use the school computers to print my assignments out because I don’t have a student ID or password.
Negativity aside, I’m really looking forward to tomorrow night… There’s this big series of events going on in Madrid to celebrate the full moon. It’s called “White Night” and several museums will be open all night for free as well as stores, and restaurants. There will also be a bunch of free concerts, which I’m really excited about!!!
I’ll make sure to post pictures of White Night, as well as pictures of the new apartment soon! I’m currently using a free internet service which has really bad connection, so I’m not able to post pictures until I get my own internet :-/