Exploring Madrid

Sometimes I forget how beautiful my new home is. I always want to travel elsewhere, such as around Spain or throughout Europe. However, I want to go back and know that I explored my city as well. Madrid is the capital of Spain. Many tourist come here on vacation. There are so many shops and bars, foods to eat, places to see.I will suggest a few things to do:
Before I came to Spain, my mom bought me a Madrid travel guide. So far it has been very useful!
Madrid’s top tourist attractions include: Plaza Mayor, Parque del Retiro, Palacio Real, and many museums, such as Reina Sofía, the Museo del Prado and the Museo Arqueológico Nacional

Plaza Mayor: Much happened here in the past including bullfights and executions

Plaza Mayor: Much happened here in the past including bullfights and executions

Parque del Retiro: a beautiful park in Madrid which used to be the playground for the Royal Family

Parque del Retiro: a beautiful park in Madrid which used to be the playground for the Royal Family

Royal Palace

Royal Palace

Flamenco Show: A must see!

Traditional Spanish Dancers

Traditional Spanish Dancers

Shops in Spain in Puerta del Sol
At the Puerta del Sol Metro you can find many shops, bars, and restaurants along the main streets.
El Corte Ingles- a huge department store that I have found all around Spain.
A few popular of the other popular clothing stores in Spain include Mango, Zara, Springfield and Primark- just last weekend a new and huge Primark opened up in Gran Via!

El Rastro

An open air flea market

An open air flea market

Open every Sunday located along Plaza de Cascorro and Ribera de Curtidores, between Calle Embajadores and the Ronda de Toledo.

Night Life
There is a huge nightlife in Madrid, whether it be to go out clubbing or simply just drinking and eating tapas with some friends. A few clubs to check out include Moondance, Joy and Kapital.
Kapital is a seven story dance club. Each floor plays a different style of music. It reminded me of Webster Hall in New York City, only a lot larger.
1353591583-1

Some typical Spanish tapas that I have tried:

This was a little different. Pork skewers with jelly, peanut butter and pine nuts.

This was a little different. Pork skewers with jelly, peanut butter and pine nuts.

Spanish Olives with Vino Blanco

Spanish Olives with Vino Blanco

Tortilla Española--similar to a fritatta

Tortilla Española–similar to a fritatta

Cinema
Would you like to see a movie in Madrid? Well, you have two options. You could see the original movie or the movie dubbed in Spanish.The other day I saw Regresión (Regression), with Emma Watson, dubbed in Spanish. It was really interesting to see an american movie dubbed in Spanish. Also it only cost 7 euros per ticket. What is cool is that it won’t be out in cinemas in America until February 2016.

There are still so many things I plan to do. I would really like to go to Las Bellas Artes, which is a rooftop bar where you can see a good view of the city and see the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium where Real Madrid plays. I would like to come back home to New York and feel like I really saw everything that Madrid has to offer.

Adíos 🙂

Time flies: it’s already been a month

Today marks one month since I have arrived in Spain. So many adjustments. I have finally adjusted my meal times and have semi-gotten used to the food here. Usually at home I eat breakfast early. The residence hall at my school offers breakfast from 7:30-10:30, pretty usual. For breakfast they serve, toast with jam and butter, cafe con leche, yogurt, fruit, pastries, juice, and cereals. Chocolate milk and hot chocolate also seem to be breakfast staples. Usually I do eat cereal and sometimes coffee, but I’m missing my morning omelette with bacon and sausage :/. Lunch is served from 1:15 to 4:00. And lunch here is the largest meal of the day. You have your first plate and then your second plate of food, served with bread, a salad, and 2 postres (desserts). And dinner is the biggest difference for me. You can eat dinner between 8:30 and 10:30. Again you are given two plates, with salad and two desserts, but the meals are typically smaller. So far I have had some familiar meals such as hamburgers, pasta with meat sauce, burritos,spring rolls, calamari and french fries. However, a lot of the food has been different as well. For lunch sometimes I will eat white rice with red tomato sauce and two fried eggs or croquetas. I really like the croquetas, a lot of tapas bars serve them as well. Croquetas are fried and can have cheese and ham inside.

Croquetas

Croquetas

Another unusual dish I have eaten has been fried eggplant stuffed with chopped meat and cheese.
Berenjenas rellenas de carne picada

Berenjenas rellenas de carne picada

The residence hall has been an adjustment as well. I love my dorm. It has a bathroom, a balcony, and a miniature kitchen. I share the spacious room with my “compañera” or roommate. Many international students live in the dorms and we were all placed on the same floor, which is great. A few of them are actually from CUNY Baruch! That’s so close to New Paltz. We always get together for lunch and dinner in the cafeteria. The Spanish students are friendly a well. I’m surprised how many of them know English. All of the foreign students I have met know English, and some even a third language. I’m so jealous.
My roommate and I have done our laundry twice here already. Both times we have lost money. The machines require coins and when they are broken there is no sign or alert. You find out after you put your money into the machine. It is a fifty-fifty chance–it either works or it doesn’t. I will get used to this, and one of my friends here told me that I can get my money back, which is good. It is definitely different to doing laundry at home and back at the dorms at New Paltz.
The one thing I have to work on now is finding the time to budget between traveling and schoolwork. I think this will be one of my biggest challenges.
Hasta Pronto!

Me and my new roommate

Me and my new roommate

One week in and loving it

So far I have been in Spain for one and a half weeks and all I can say is that I am so happy I chose this place as my study abroad destination. At first I was concerned about the language barrier; however, it hasn’t stopped me. I have been taking a 40 hour Spanish Intensive Class for the past week, and still have two weeks left. The class is very helpful and very different compared to how Spanish is taught at New Paltz. The whole class is taught in Spanish, no English is allowed. My Spanish classes in New Paltz were never like this. Thus, I am learning more 🙂 Classes technically do not start until September 7th, so the residence hall has been pretty empty. Only a few international students are here. This week more students should be arriving, especially for the welcome event for all of the international students this Wednesday.
So far the food has been quite different. Dinner is from 8:30 to 10:30 at night. Very, very, very different from back home. So far I have also noticed that everything– rent, food, drinks, clothes– are cheaper here. For example, shots and beer are only 1 euro each.
The past few days I have been adjusting to the environment around me. It is so hot! Around 90 or so degrees. However, I have noticed that it gets colder during the night until the early morning. So far I have navigated the train and the metro in Madrid. It takes 20 mins by train to reach the metro station Sol, in the center of Madrid from my dorm. It is super easy, and the train is very affordable around 3.70 euros roundtrip. I’ve been to Parque el Retiro. A beautiful and massive park. The picture above I took their the other day. So far it seems like Spain has a lot of parks, museums and plazas. People were rowboating in the pond, hopefully I will have a chance to do it. It was so hot that day I treated myself to a little ice cream. I had a Sandía, which is a flavored ice pop that is shaped like a slice of watermelon. It was tasty 🙂
11986017_10205839212558583_808229454_o
11920439_10205819180097784_638332257_n Parque Castilla La Mancha- Getafe. A park right near my residence.

Picture of a flower I took in El Retiro 11908115_10205839212718587_106192800_n

I am excited to start my second week in Madrid. I have a lot coming up, welcome days, class registration, and I need to catch up on some sleep.

Hasta luego!

Voy a Madrid

As I write this I am sitting in my room surrounded by clutter. My clothes are in piles on the floor and my suitcase is open and half filled with clothes. I leave for Spain in three days! The anticipation is killing me, but at the same time I am extremely nervous. I hate flying. I have never flown transatlantic before. My flight is approximately seven hours. I depart during the night and arrive in Madrid early the next morning. At least I can sleep on the plane. I still have to pack and go to the store to pick up a few more things that I will need for my trip.
This Sunday I will be flying into Madrid and will be arriving at my new home, Universidad Carlos III de Madrid. I am super excited! I cannot wait to see the city, experience the culture, try some new food, and speak a little Spanish.
Most of the international students do not arrive until the second of September. However, I am going two weeks earlier to take a 40 hour Spanish Intensive Course. After that I will be taking business classes in English along with another Spanish language class. At this point, all I know is that I will be arriving in Spain Monday morning. From there on, it becomes an adventure. I still need to figure out a way to get from the airport to the school. Thankfully, earlier this summer I signed up for a “buddy” at the school. My buddy will be a student from the school who will be able to assist me with getting adjusted to the school and help me with any questions that I have. So far she has been really helpful with suggesting ways to get from the airport to my school. I cannot wait to meet her and practice speaking Spanish with her.
I have no clue what to expect in the upcoming weeks. It will all be new to me. I almost feel as if I am a college freshmen again–going to a new school for the very first time… The difference is that this time it will be in a different country with a different language. The language barrier is one thing that makes me nervous, but I am willing to try to learn the language.
I am excited, nervous, and eager to start my next semester abroad!

Home Away From Home: Spanish Style

Well, hello again!

Would you like the good news first or the bad news?

Oh, you can’t answer that so I’ll tell you the bad first so as to end on a good note (but nothing in Spain is actually ever really bad).

Well, I missed my initial flight at JFK from New York to Madrid. The traffic was terrible, even in the middle of a Wednesday afternoon in June. I went to the wrong airline (don’t ever book with student universe, it was a nightmare) and when I ran over to the correct airline, they said I could only board the plane if I left my bags behind. That was an insane thing to say but there were other Spaniards there who were in the same predicament. Needless to say, after trying as much as they could, I wasn’t able to board. The most they could offer was the next flight which was to be 24 hours from that time. I had to pay a hefty price to switch and they offered me a “distressed rate” for hotel accommodations. The distressed rate was super high still. I had no choice but to waste away quite a bit of money due to being a few minutes late. Please, learn from my mistake. I left at least 4 hours prior to my flight and still was not on time.

Next, I will tell you that I’m not usually a sick kind of girl but on my flight the next day, all the way to Madrid, I threw up the tasty chicken dinner the airline provided. The gentleman next to me, a kind and friendly Spanish man, offered me his vomit bag, and then a couple more were given to me by the flight attendant. I was unbelievably thrilled to get to Madrid.

The airport was a maze but I was amazed! I got my first passport stamp and bought some olive oil flavored chips they had in the airport (I would learn later that olive oil is a huge thing in Spain!). I was starting to feel better although the jet lag was no joke. This is the first place in which I observed the colorful style they have over herein Spain. Every metal beam in the airport has color and often times has a matching colored floor to go with it.

The airport was also strange to navigate. The flight # to Oviedo was clearly posted up on the screen but it referred to three different gates that it’d be leaving from. When I asked someone for help, I was told that I was too early and that the screen will tell me where to go when it gets closer to the time of departure. Fine. I had about 2 hours and 45 minutes until my flight would leave. After an hour: still there were 3 gates for my flight. 2 hours later: still no change. It wasn’t until a half hour before the flight that I finally knew where to go! How different was this culture already! In New York, I was at the airport an hour prior to my flight and I was too late. In Madrid I was there 45 minutes prior and I was too early! Everything seemed backwards but after all I had been through, I was simply thrilled to be speaking Spanish and to be learning about the country already.

In Oviedo my amazement only grew. Once I gathered my luggage and got onto the bus, honestly, I knocked out. When I opened my eyes, the streets of this lovely city were before me. It was so clean and beautiful I had to record it (see video of my first glance [got an error message, I’ll try to add it next time! Sorry!]).

My host Dad picked me up at the bus station with a huge grin. I told him about my flight and he told me not to worry because he lives right up the street and I will be able to rest in no time. No lie, the apartment really was right up the street but during that short walk he stopped me, pointed up into the sky and said, “Wait Tessa, look up! …..I want to introduce you to the Spanish sun!” As I strained my tired eyes and looked up, I felt the bright sun beaming on my face. What a strange thing to say right? The sun is the sun, how is it any different in Spain? Well I’ll tell you. In Spain, from about 6am to 10pm that sun is UP!!!! Whenever I skype my family at home, even though there is a 6 hour difference, it probably seems like it is always mid-day here because it’s always light outside my windows! But with siestas (naps around 2:30/3pm) each day and dinner between 9-10:30pm I am loving this Spanish sun!!!

Can I just say how much I love my host family!!!!? So this is more of the good news now. My host Dad is the best cook ever and super friendly (reminds me of dad back home). He has made me all kinds of fantastic dishes and always explains to me how he makes it and what ingredients are commonly used in Spain. I’ve had things like carrot soup (you eat it cold!), tortillas de papa (a thick potato and egg combination), paella (rice, chicken, vegetables, beans—picture below–they don’t give me seafood because I don’t like it), fabada asturiana (peppers, HUGE beans-fabas, onions, garlic, carrots, chicken, chorizos, + more), arroz ala cubano (Cuban rice, although not actually a Cuban thing—picture below—rice, fried egg, tomato sauce, salt and parsley) and so much more! They eat everything with a piece of French bread. When the bread is stale and hasn’t all been consumed they simply grind it up and use it for coating chicken or meats or for things like croquetas (flour, chicken, ham, milk, eggs, salt mixed together and then once coated, fried in olive oil). My host dad makes this amazing sauce with olive oil, parsley, salt and lemon and he puts it over many many dishes: salads, homemade thinly sliced chicken nuggets, tomato slices; it’s simply delightful! I could go on forever about the food that I am so privileged to have, but I suppose it’d bore you after a while (unless you’re a foodie).

My host mother is a gem! She shows me the shops and styles of Spain and explains the late night lifestyles (old and young people stay out till midnight) as well as the festivals all over the country. She takes care of me and makes sure I get everything done. When I wasn’t feeling well the other day she brought me lunch in bed. She gave me hot relaxation tea when I couldn’t sleep. She whips me into shape and doesn’t hold back when it’s time to tell me about myself. But it’s all about love. She always makes sure I am okay. The Spanish call the period of time during and after a meal—“sobremesa”. It is the time spent together to talk. It is customary to do this so that any problems that are in your life are solved. The Spanish do not waste time with anger or sadness, they want problems resolved quickly. Such is what we do every day together.

My host brother is a typical brother and always happy. He knows a bit of English so sometimes he is able to jump in and help me understand things. He is a college student too and I’ve learned through his late night partying that most youth in Spain stay out (on the weekends) till 8am and don’t sleep from Saturday night till Sunday night so that they can be ready for Monday (no use in wasting Sunday sleeping!). He gets loud, like my brothers at home, when we talk about politics but always helps me when I need a hand.

My two Spanish parents call me hija (daughter) and treat me like their own. They crack jokes all day, cheer me up when I’m down, tell me all about the culture here, and invite me to spend time with them always. I feel really lucky to be here with them.

Thus far, even though I miss my family at home ever so much, I am wishing this adventure in Oviedo never has to end!

By el jefe de cocina, my host Dad

By el jefe de cocina, my host Dad

By el jefe de cocina, my Host Dad

By el jefe de cocina, my Host Dad

Real Life Cheetah Girl

New Paltz takes on Barcelona

New Paltz takes on Barcelona!

Hola!  From one adventure to the next.  This past weekend I embarked on a journey to Barcelona with fellow New Paltz student, Kara.  The truth is we didn’t really have expectations for the trip, it was kind of spur of the moment planning.  I never really thought about visiting Spain before, I think mostly because I’ve always associated Spanish speaking countries with my older sister.  But I never thought about it for myself, till now that is.  I know someone living in Spain right now, although I wasn’t sure where.  I just assumed she lived in Barcelona, so without hesitating I texted Kara, and the rest was history.

The view from the plane

The view from the plane

This was my first study abroad, out of country trip which required an airplane.  I met Kara at the airport, and the truth is I was impressed that I made it there on time, in one piece.  The independence one obtains while studying abroad is simply mind-blowing.  Even growing up in New York City, everyday I still push my own boundaries of independence living abroad.  I am always proud of myself even if I just accomplish simple tasks.

I truly consider Kara and I to be blessed to have made it to Barcelona.  We waited in the airport, and every five minutes I would check the departure board for our gate.  However, every time I would check the board it would say, “check back in five minutes.”  This was very disheartening, Kara was pretty sure we were not going to be leaving Milan.  I really tried to stay positive, as hard as it may have been.  I figured it wasn’t over till the fat lady sang!  Eventually a man sitting next to us informed us that our flight had been delayed.  He showed us on our computer, something that had not even appeared on the departure board.  Kara and I knew about the ground crew going on strike that day, but I really didn’t know the extent to which it affected people.  The man told us that almost every flight from Malpensa airport was canceled.  So when Kara and I eventually boarded our flight, I was beyond grateful.  I felt so fortunate, and lucky to be Barcelona bound.

YUM!

YUM!

When Kara and I landed, we headed straight to our airbnb.  We weren’t going to let any time get wasted, so we met up with fellow New Paltz abroad student, Hannah.  Hannah is studying in London, and just happened to be Barcelona bound when we were as well.  New Paltz ate quite a delicious meal.  I was especially happy because I got guacamole, something I almost never can find in Milan.  Avocado is one of the number one foods I miss while abroad, my mom and I eat entire avocados as a snack.  So anytime I find anything avocado related, I pounce.  It is so funny how difficult I find it to eat dinner on Italian time, most places don’t open till 7:30ish.  But Spanish dinner begins at like 10.  We finished dinner our first night after midnight!  Man was it worth it for that delicious food!

Huevos Rancheros y cafe con leche

Huevos Rancheros y cafe con leche

The next day we met up again with Hannah for some brunch.  I am a big brunch girl.  I miss Main Street Bistro pretty much everyday, whether I am in Italy, New York City, or anywhere else in between.  Milan isn’t really a popular brunch place.  The breakfast foods I am accustomed to aren’t big in Milan.  One thing I love to eat, and never eat in Milan is eggs.  It is so simple, but pretty much all the time I crave a bowl of scrambled eggs.  So I was definitely on board to get some brunch.  I had the hues rancheros, as well as the cafe con leche.  Milan has amazing coffee, but it is pretty much all espresso.  So I was also excited for some yummy Spanish coffee!  Again, another successful meal!

New Paltz Starbucks selfie

New Paltz Starbucks selfie

Kara and I were also beyond excited with all of the American places we stumbled upon in Barcelona.  Getting off the bus to see Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, and Subway excited us probably more then anything.  It’s the little things you know?  Don’t get me wrong, Milan has AMAZING food, but shockingly enough the only American establishments we have are McDonalds & Burger King, two fast food places I do not eat.  To see these familiar places really made Barcelona feel like home.

NPsocial:  Hannah, Kara, and Tamara embracing Barcelona one peace sign at a time

NPsocial: Hannah, Kara, and Tamara embracing Barcelona one peace sign at a time

Viva España!

Viva España!

After brunch Kara, Hannah, and I went on a free walking tour of Barcelona, which I thoroughly enjoyed.  In fact comparatively, I liked it even more than the free walking tour I took in Rome.  We also lucked out with the weather!  Another Tamara travel tip is to ALWAYS pack an umbrella.  Weather is so unpredictable.  I so far have not had the best luck, experiencing rain in Milan, Rome, Lugano, and now Barcelona.  The rain hasn’t stopped me, but it is always an unavoidable inconvenience.  Of course, I did not bring an umbrella to Spain, because I looked at the weather before I left and thought I would be safe.  But alas I was not.  Our airbnb host was so incredibly welcoming, he told me to help himself to any of his umbrellas.  We did luck out though to not have rain during our walking tour, or for most of our time in Barcelona.

Traditional Catalan tomato bread tappa

Traditional Catalan tomato bread tappa

After the walking tour, we were very hungry, so we took to the tapas bar near the airbnb Kara & I were staying at.  The tapas were unreal.  Out of all the incredible things I ate in Barcelona, I must say the tapas were probably my all time favorite.  Sure, they weren’t cheap.  But it was so worth.  It was the best way to sample everything.  We made sure to have the traditional Catalan tappa of tomato bread.  But all of the tappas I ordered were yummy in my tummy.

Horta Maze

Horta Maze

Staying the extra day really made the difference.  Our last day in Barcelona, Sunday, Kara and I made sure to not slow down, so we took to the metro and embarked on some parks.  I have a friend studying in Copenhagen who visited Barcelona recently, and she recommended a maze for me to check out.  Let me tell you, this place was aMAZEing (pun intended).  It was so beautiful, we made sure to take lots of pictures.

Started from the bottom, now we're here

Started from the bottom, now we’re here

After the maze, Kara wanted to find the balcony the Cheetah Girls 2 shot at.  I being down for anything, was up for the trip.  We walked more than I probably have walked in my life, my legs hurt to say the least.  But, the view overlooking Barcelona was breathtaking.  Plus we did eventually find the balcony, because we were determined beyond belief!

Cheetah Girls 2 balcony; Park Güell

Cheetah Girls 2 balcony; Park Güell

Seafood Paella

Seafood Paella

The rest of the day was spent buying some beautiful souvenirs for our loved ones, petting an adorable black cat, and sampling some more local cuisine.  We felt we couldn’t leave Spain without having Paella, and churros.  So we crossed both of those noms off our list later that evening.  Like I said, when Kara and I are determined, we do not take no for an answer.  Our minds were set on churros and paella and we would be damned if we hadn’t eaten our fill!

Churros & chocolate sauce

Churros & chocolate sauce

Las Ramblas

La Rambla after the soccer game

After our meal we walked down La Rambla for one last time, and found ourselves amidst a celebration for the soccer game from earlier that day.  Personally, this reasoning really was why las ramblas was one of my favorite places.  Las Ramblas may be very touristy, but it was also just so action packed, I looked forward to every trip we had to it.

11080966_10153221513713921_3756484902857979934_n

Barcelona truly took our breath away.  It is so incredibly alive, and the energy is so contagious.  For a place that neither of us were really dying to do, we probably would have killed to stay!  I am so, so glad we made it to Barcelona, despite everything.  There is no place like it, and no way to describe it.  But we both said this was the first place we could actually see ourselves moving.  I don’t know if it was the American establishments, the fact everyone spoke English, the AMAZING food, the accessibility of everything (we almost never took the metro), or just the friendly people we met, but Barcelona really did steal both of our hearts.  Don’t worry mom & dad I’m not planning on moving anytime soon, but it was truly one of the greatest trips of my life.  I love Milan so much, but I would have not minded if our flight had been delayed a few days 😉

Spooning with a sculpture in Montbau

Spooning with a sculpture in Montbau

Kara and I slept two hours, since Barcelona never sleeps.  We returned to Milan, and went straight to our dramaturgy class.  Sure, we were exhausted, but nothing would ever seem more worth it.

11011050_10153221467313921_1534730891750716530_n

Till next time, thanks for reading! Adios <3

Tamara

11065303_10153221511508921_2508426859924204741_n

 

Throwback Thursday: Madrid Edition

I’m finally settled back in New Paltz and being that it’s “Throwback Thursday” , it seems like the perfect time to wrap up my blog with some reminiscing.

As I had correctly predicted, this homesickness I would feel in regards to Madrid wouldn’t kick in until now that I’m settled back in New Paltz. Allow me to vent a little bit:

I feel this emptiness within me. Almost everyone around me speaks solely in English, I have no choice but to get back into the routine of juggling work, the Oracle, clubs, and classes. I miss walking around Getafe, I miss my roommate and the friends I made, I miss  spontaneous traveling, I miss everything around me feeling so new and fresh, I miss the food, I miss my siestas!  I feel it every time I get asked, “How was studying abroad?” I feel it when I look at the photographs I took.  I feel it when I speak to friends on Facebook/Skype.

But it’s time to move forward. It’s been great running into familiar faces around campus, seeing their eyes light up, and hearing some variation of “You’re back!” As much as I miss UC3M and Madrid, I understand it’s time to get back into the swing of things here in my other home: New Paltz! I’ve already spent a couple late nights working on assignments at the library and the honor’s center ( last night I braved my first Oracle production night back on board!)

There’s no way to truly do justice in describing the magnitude of my semester abroad within the few minutes of chit chat in passing with people so I’m absolutely happy I got to blog about it all. Madrid–and Spain in its entirety–was so enchanting.

Hanging out in Alex's flat, enjoying the view of La Alhambra, walking around Parque  Güell, drinking tea in Granada and celebrating at an outdoor Mexican festival. I had a blast with my best Ausie friends!

Hanging out in Alex’s flat, enjoying the view of La Alhambra, walking around Parque Güell, drinking tea in Granada and celebrating at an outdoor Mexican festival. I had a blast with my best Aussie friends!

 

Flamenco shows, street bands, gardens, soccer stadiums, churches, tea houses; Some of the greatest moments of my trip :-)

Flamenco shows, street bands, gardens, soccer stadiums, churches, tea houses; Some of the greatest moments of my trip 🙂

A peak at the UC3M Fernando de los Rios residence hall, which quickly felt like home ♥

A peak at the UC3M Fernando de los Rios residence hall, which quickly felt like home ♥

A simple sample of the Getafe sights I could never get tired of.

A simple sample of the Getafe sights I could never get tired of.

 

There wasn't a single place that I went that was not touched by beautiful art , regardless of fame or style.

There wasn’t a single place that I went that was not touched by beautiful art , regardless of fame or style.

All I can say is that my time at UC3M and in Madrid was so remarkable that I plan to visit again within the next year or so. My collages are only a small portion of the many photos I took. It’s safe to say that I accomplished the goals I had initially hoped to work up toward: learning more about the Spanish culture and perfecting my fluency. I also learned so much about myself and other people, which is a whole other reward in itself. I can’t thank my family, my professors, advisors, and the Center for International Programs enough for supporting me and catapulting me into what is now this amazing story that I’ll be able to tell for years and years and years to come.

 

Up In the Air

I’m incredibly lucky and blessed to say that everywhere that I’ve traveled within the last year has brought to amazing places, whether familiar or completely new. On December 25th, only a few days after I returned to New York City, I was told I didn’t have much under the Christmas tree…because I received a plane ticket to the Dominican Republic! “Can’t you stay in New York for more than five minutes?” said one of my friends when he heard of my new trip. This lovely trip down to my second homeland has been nothing but relaxing (70-degree sunny weather, hello!).

A sweet treat in one of my favorite places.

A sweet treat in one of my favorite places.

Having gone from one Spanish-speaking country to another has been immensely helpful in reaching my goal of perfecting my fluency. I often find myself caught between each country’s respective vernaculars, but even still I feel a whole lot bolder when I speak; My family and friends here like to pull my leg about pronouncing words with the Spanish lisp (which I don’t but I now know when to switch from zeta to “theta” haha!).

In my last week in Madrid, I met with the other New Paltz girls who attended UC3M and we bonded over some cheap, yummy tapas.  I already miss some of the traditional Spanish food, but the girls and I agreed we would try our hand at some tortillas, huevos rotos, and patatas bravas once we get back to New Paltz.

Truth be told, I still have my laptop set to Madrid-time, partially because it makes talking to friends over there easier and partially because I’m sort of in denial that I need to settle back at home.  In the short time I was at home in N.Y., I really missed taking my siesta—it’s more than just a nap in the middle of the day, it’s a fresh start to the rest of the day you have ahead of you. I also missed the sense of community and “mom and pop” shops—the sense of “mi casa es su casa” that all-too-busy New Yorkers seem to have forgotten. In Spain, hanging out in groups and in public spaces is encouraged as opposed to the very individualistic N.Y./U.S.A.  

I would be lying if I said that studying abroad wasn’t stressful at some points, but I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything, everything was so so so worth it. A few people expected me to be really sad upon returning and admittedly, I wasn’t. In the last year, I’ve traveled enough to say that it’s okay to miss people and miss places, but the best direction to move is forward. As much as I miss Spain, my mind is already set on having a successful semester back in New Paltz and saving up money to go back to Europe!  I made amazing friends that I miss a lot, so it’s time for me to work hard to make some new memories. Could it be that I’m in a daze because I haven’t really settled back at home? Maybe or maybe not…so I’ll check back with you all in a few days 🙂

The Final Countdown

My truest apologies for not posting in a while, I’ve face a brutal past two weeks of final exams, final projects, and saying my good-byes to my Spanish friends dispersing back to their homes around Spain. If there’s one thing I would definitely have my future study abroad goers know is that academics abroad are as easy as you choose to make them. Thus, my finals period was serious crunch time. The semester turned out to be more challenging than I expected due to the rigor and high standard the professors expect, but I found that even the Spaniards found their courses less than easy. Around the end, I visited my professors during their office hours and they were helpful–but it definitely took effort on my part to reach out to them when I needed advice on assignments. All of that aside, my semester has been able to wrap up really, really beautifully.

On December 13th, the two  UC3M Getafe residence halls hosted the Fiesta de Navidad. Most importantly to mention, all the residents who chose to attend the fiesta fancied up in suites and dresses. The evening started with a gala in one of the auditoriums where we watched a band play a set of holiday songs and then watched videos that were entered as part of a residence-wide competition. I figured this is what famous people at the Oscars felt like 😀  After the gala, we all headed back to our respective residence halls where a full dinner banquet awaited us. The in-residence cafeterias were converted into fancy dining halls, with wine, ham and cheese as the appetizer, yummy pasta as the starter, steak as the main course, and traditional Spanish treats and cake for desert—all served to us by waiters. The dinner was such a lovely experience. Lastly, the night was just beginning as coach buses awaited outside to take us to a  beautiful, private tent party. Being dolled up and dancing the night away with these awesome people was nothing short of amazing.

A shot from above the cafeteria: can you find me in the sea of people?

A shot from above the cafeteria: can you find me in the sea of people?

 

All dressed up for a night to remember with friends for a lifetime!

All dressed up for a night to remember with friends for a lifetime!

The already beautiful fountain located right outside is lit up and decorated (the lights change color too.) The already beautiful fountain located right outside is lit up and decorated (the lights change color too.)

At the beginning of the semester, I was nervous about living in Fernando de los Rios (UC3M’s main residence hall) because many of my study abroad counterparts had chosen to live in flats in central Madrid. Sure the proximity to city life is nice, but I got to live with and interact with a lot more Spaniards (as opposed to solely socializing with other internationals), enjoy Spanish culture (what beats homemade Spanish food cooked by your friends?) and I was less than five minutes from class. After all the cool , fun and friendly people that I met in the residence hall, I have absolutely no regrets living here.

On the evening before my roommate left, we went out to Sol to take a stroll and enjoy the beauty that is Madrid in Christmas decor. She’s now back on her warm Spanish island of  Tenerife.

Drinking a nice, hot cup of coffee on Callao with Gran Via in site!

Drinking a nice, hot cup of coffee on Callao with Gran Via in site!

Plaza Mayor turns into a mystical place during la temporada navideña. There was even a carousel, of course we had to get on it!

Plaza Mayor turns into a mystical place during la temporada navideña. There was even a carousel, of course we had to get on it!

Yesterday, I spent a really lovely day in Madrid with my friend Juan, who’s already on his way back to his home in Andalusia. I had a list of places I wanted to see before I leave tomorrow; we got to all the sites and had time for some extra spots! So I had heard rumors of it, but yesterday I finally got to see the mini-habitat in the Atocha train station! It’s as if Grand Central Station were to have beautiful, large trees planted right in the middle of the famous terminal.

The amount of turtles in this area was unbelievable! Look at these cute ones :-)

The amount of turtles in this area was unbelievable! Look at these cute ones 🙂

We then strolled on over to El Retiro, Madrid’s Central-Park-esque park located right by Golden Art Triangle in Atocha.

A beautiful, open space owned by the  Reina Sofia  museum, it's free to walk around & take a look.

El Palacio de Cristal,a beautiful, open space located in El Retiro, it’s free to walk around & take a look.

Then a walk over to Plaza España.

Posing with a statue of the famous Spanish character of the same title, Don Quijote de la Mancha, and Sancho Panza.

Posing with a statue of the famous Spanish character from the novel of the same title, Don Quijote de la Mancha, and Sancho Panza.

Then a further walk over to Parque del Oeste.

Templo de Debod, an Egyptian gift to Spain for assisting in the salvation of the Nubian Temples.

Templo de Debod, an Egyptian gift to Spain for assisting in the salvation of the Nubian Temples.

And finally, we landed back in Plaza Mayor and Sol.

Plaza Mayor's beautiful hanging lights.

Plaza Mayor’s beautiful hanging lights.

You can't miss this huge Christmas tree located right in the middle of Sol. You're even allowed to walk through it!

You can’t miss this huge Christmas tree located right in the middle of Sol. You’re even allowed to walk through it!

I had an amazing second-to-last day here in Madrid. I’m going to ridiculously miss living in Madrid. If anyone has ever said that studying abroad is overrated,  he or she is wrong. In no way was this just a vacation from New Paltz or home; sure it felt surreal, but I feel like my life continued here and new flowers have blossomed in my life. I want to come back. I know Spain has even more to see and even though I didn’t eurotrip to other countries, I’m so thankful for the places and people I did get to encounter. I’ve grown here and it’s been a beautiful time. ♥

 

 

 

Ferrero & Friends

The day of…

¡Feliz día de acción de gracias! Happy Thanksgiving everyone! This is my very first Thanksgiving not spent with my family–is this that growing up thing Peter Pan feared so much? Thanksgiving in Madrid is definitely no Thanksgiving in New York, but I’m not complaining either (we had our first dust of snow of the season this morning!). When I woke up this morning I yelled, “It’s Thanksgiving!” but quickly felt an emptiness. Spanish stores and food markets have skipped right past to Christmas decorations and treats, so to pay homage I made myself a savory turkey wrap for lunch :p I also put up a little holiday decoration once the leaves started to fall!

Gobble gobble!

Gobble gobble!

When I returned to my room after a quick run to the supermarket, I found a really sweet surprise: a Ferrero Rocher gold, bow-topped box and a Kinder Sorpresa** sat neatly on my desk! My roommate, who was studying at her desk, had bought me the sweets as a Thanksgiving treat, knowing that I missed celebrating at home. Even though it was such a small, simple gift, I felt so happy. She also knew how much I wanted to try a Kinder Sorpresa before I left Spain. I gave my roommate a huge hug as she told me how she wanted to make the a little more special for me.

My roommate gave me a fancy box filled with Ferrero Rocher. I also got to eat my very first Kinder Sorpresa...yum!!

My roommate gave me a fancy box filled with Ferrero Rocher. I also got to eat my very first Kinder Sorpresa…yum!!

 

Although I know of a few international students gathering for potlucks tonight, Thanksgiving generally isn’t celebrated here in Spain…for a rather obvious reason (it’s a celebration of pilgrims’ emigration from Britain to the United States.) The Spanish articles that I’ve read about the holiday are primarily about Black Friday, the ways Americans celebrate the holiday., and President Obama sparing a turkey named “Popcorn.”

I wanted to watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade online but I couldn't find one working link...but I did watch some of the NBC news leading up to it.

I wanted to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade online but I couldn’t find one working link…but I did watch some of the NBC news leading up to it.

The night of…

I went out to Sol with a few close friends [Thanksgiving night] and noticed that a few bars were offering special Thanksgiving menus (pumpkin cream, turkey, cranberry sauce, etc.) I didn’t go to any of these said bars, but I had a really nice night with three of my closest friends here. I felt really happy–even though I wasn’t celebrating the holiday with my family in New York, I was celebrating my time here in Madrid with these friends who’ve made this place a new home. Earlier in the day I was able to Skype with my mother, who showed me her lovely dinner table arrangement, and I got to see my cute dogs as well.

Being away from home this semester has led me to feel thankful not only on Thanksgiving day, but the entirety of my semester abroad. When you’re away from the comforts of home and are pressed to do much more than you’re used to on your own, you learn how to appreciate those things you had so easy. I’m thankful for having such a loving family and caring friends, thankful for coming from a country that is relatively very open to change, thankful for being able to receive a quality education, thankful for being able to spend almost five months in a completely different country…and my list can go on and on.

As I said, Thanksgiving in Spain is no Thanksgiving in the United States, but I had a wonderful day reflecting on the marvelous things I’ve been blessed to give, receive, share and experience.

 

**Kinder Sorpresa, otherwise known as  Kinder Surprise chocolate eggs, is illegal in the United States due to safety reasons; each Kinder Sorpresa has a toy inside, but the chocolate itself is really delicious.