I’ve gotten to the point where I’m so comfortable being here and so accustomed to my classes that the weeks are going by so fast. Monday comes and in the blink of an eye its Friday already and time to get ready for tapas and shows. I’ve gotten into a comfortable grove and somehow feel like I’ve been living here for years. Though I’m glad everything has been smooth sailing for the past couple of weeks, I don’t like that I’ve been getting into a routine because I’m not here for routine and normalcy! I want to keep the spontaneity and excitement alive and experience as many things as possible. It’s a balancing act between continuing to be a “tourist” and becoming an actual local. Most locals, my cousin for example, is never out sightseeing and tends to stick to a common group of friends, the same bars and clubs, the same roads, etc. etc. Little by little I’m finding that I too am losing a bit of my momentum and becoming slightly complacent. I’ll think one day, for example, I should go to the Prado or the Reina Sofia, because I still haven’t gone… ah, well I’m here for a year I have time. Or, I should go visit Toledo, it’s only a 30 minute train ride… ah, well I’m here for a year, I have time. I see that the international students that are only here for a semester are taking advantage of their time much better than I am. But sometimes the overwhelming amount of events and activities going on in Madrid can be, well… overwhelming!
I did do something last night though, that was both something every tourist should do and something that locals do as well: I went to see a futbol game!
It was so amazing! I love watching futbol (Sorry I refuse to call it soccer), but even for those who don’t it is definitely an experience worth having. I went with a group of friends for only 12 euro each to see Real Madrid (0ne of the best teams in the world!) versus Real Murcia. Real Madrid won 5-1, of course 😉 With players like Christiano Renaldo and Iker Casillas how could they possibly lose?
I sat in between my Spanish friend Luis and an older Spanish man, both of who were constantly shouting and chanting in cohesion with the thousands of Real Madrid fans in the stadium. It was such a rush to be in the midst of such a passionate atmosphere. Futbol is such an essential part of the Spanish culture.
My one regret of the night is that I brought my camera without my memory card, so I couldn’t take the close up shots of Renaldo and Casillas I had planned. I did however manage to take some pictures on my cellphone:
More excitement in Madrid: The MTV Awards were hosted here this past Sunday so there were free outdoor concerts all weekend long! I went on Sunday night after eating with my family and caught Linkin Park at Puerta de Alcala. Katy Perry played before them, but unfortunately I missed her.
Here’s a video I took of Linkin Park playing In the End: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CqKYUiKxpSM
Getting back to Getafe on the metro was an adventure with all those people!
The weekend before that was Halloween weekend, and much to my surprise, Spain actually celebrates Halloween! It has started to get popular here within the last ten years or so. On the Friday before, I saw a bunch of little kids all dressed up like witches and vampires and monsters on their way to school. I ended up spending Halloween night with my two cousins whom I never in a million years would have guessed I would be celebrating Halloween with. We went to a bar named “Any Trouble” near where they live. I went as a 1920s Charleston girl vampire, and my cousins went as a fallen angel and a crashed pilot (ironically he is studying now to be a pilot).
Anyway, here are some random pictures I took while walking around the city:
These were taken on Calle de las Huertas. This street has a lot of nice bars and place to get tapas. It was pretty dead when I went because it was a Monday around 8pm, but I saw a Vegetarian Buffet and a Karoeke bar and Jazz Bar I think I’m going to go back to see. Calle de las Huertas was really nice too because phrases from famous Spanish authors were printed on the actual street.
This week and next week is the Jazz Festival in Madrid and I am very very excited!!!!
Unfortunately, last night when I was at the futbal game I missed Christian Scott and Kenny Garrett playing at Teatro Fernán Gómez, but I did get a ticket to see Esperanza Spalding on Wednesday of next week. I can’t wait!!!
1) Spanish Food
Last weekend my cousin took me out to get the best churros in town. I don’t remember the name of the cafe, but it was on Calle Alcala and there was a line of people waiting to get in. That’s how you know it’s good! I was most, definitely, not disappointed. We had one order of churros, which are basically fried dough sticks, and one porra which is a larger version of a churro, and we each had a cup of melted chocolate to dip the churros in. DELICIOUS!
Another favorite: Tapas! It’s very typical for Spaniards to go out around 10pm and go tapa bar hopping. You go from bar to bar, order a beer, and you will get a small plate of food, usually jam or olives, or you can order something from the tapa menu like morzilla (blood sausage), tortilla española (a potato omelette kind of), boquerones en vinagre (tiny little fish that look like anchovies that are soaked in vinegar, and much much more…
The other night, my roommate and I went to Sol which is the very center of Madrid and had tapas at the Museo de Jamon (Ham Museum). Spanish people LOVE their ham! Here’s some chorizo:
And short video of the inside of el Museo de Jamon: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TNvYQTdrENo
I’ve been trying to eat really weird foods too because Spain has some pretty interesting food and I like trying new things. The other day I topped my “weirdest food I’ve ever eaten” list with pig ears. That’s right. They tasted pretty good but the texture was pretty disgusting. I wish I would have taken a picture but I forgot my camera! My goal is to eat as much weird food as I can find, so I’ll get a picture next time!
2) The Night Life
After going out on the weekends to several places, I think I have finally found my favorite hang out. If you are tired of the usual club music, this is the place to go! The Blues Bar: La Coquette. It is right near Sol, two blocks down from one of the most popular clubs in Madrid, Joy. All the international students in Madrid flock to Joy every weekend. After going one night, I was pretty much sick of it. I am much more into blues, jazz, and rock, than club music.
Here is the Plaza de Sol, where every one usually meets by the Tio Pepe sign at night to go out.
And here is a video I took of the blue band that played at La Coquette when I went this past Thursday. They were amazing!
This is me enjoying the music.
Apparently there is a huge blues and jazz scene in Madrid which I plan to take full advantage of. This Thursday I’m going back to La Coquette to see another blues band, and sometime this week I plan on going to a famous jazz bar called Cafe Central.
I’ll definitely have to find some flamenco bars too! I think flamenco is the jazz of Spain, at least in terms of difficulty and skill involved and the passion of the artists.
3) Blue skies
I’ve been warned that Spain isn’t always sunny as people seem to assume and that it isn’t always warm. It has started to get a little colder, but midday when the sun is brightest it is still very warm and even at nights sometimes it still feels like summer.
When I was a little kid I swore that the sky in Spain is bluer than the sky anywhere else. Now that I’m back, I still swear upon it. These are some pictures I took on the walk to school. The sky is so blue!
I’m not sure exactly what national holiday it is, but I do know the most important thing: 4 day weekend! Coincidentally, in the US right now it’s Columbus Day weekend. I’m not sure if that’s also what we’re celebrating here, but it would make sense since King Ferdinand and Queen Isabel of Spain paid for Columbus’ voyage…
A lot of international students on campus decided to take advantage of the four day weekend to travel around Europe. I was thinking about going to Paris because the flights out of Madrid are super cheap (around 40 euro round trip), but I figured I would stay and see more of Madrid. The only problem has been that this weekend has been pretty dreary. It’s been cold and rainy since Saturday morning 🙁 so I haven’t really ventured out much. I did however take the opportunity to visit some family. I spent Saturday with my one cousin Naomi. She took me to a really nice Japanese restaurant near Grand Via. The sushi and different dishes were presented on colorful little dishes that looked like UFOs and delivered to our table on a conveyor belt. It was really cool to see and the food was delicious! Afterwards I went to her apartment and we watched a scary movie. Yesterday I saw my other cousin, Carolina, and had lunch at her house with my grandpa, aunt, and uncle. Later we went to a nice restaurant nearby to have some tea and coffee.
Today I was planning on going to central Madrid again to either go shopping or go to a museum but the museums are all closed on Mondays and it was sooo cold today I didn’t want to leave the house. I really need to go clothes shopping because most of the things I brought with me are meant for warmer weather.
I realize I haven’t written for about two weeks so I’m going to do a quick recap….
On September 29th there was a general strike all over Spain and in various parts of Europe. The strike was most felt in Spain in Barcelona (where police cars were put on fire) and Madrid. I didn’t get to see much of the action, except for on TV, because most of the metros and trains were down so I couldn’t go to the city center to see the protest, and I had class… From what I heard the protesters were also active in Getafe. They were ambushing stores that decided to stay open during the strike and putting stickers on their windows and spray painting walls. I wish I could have taken pictures but maybe it would have been a little dangerous.
I did take pictures of the posters that were put up all over Madrid.
So what were Spaniards striking against?
Well, most of you know that Spain is in a major economic crisis right now. They are in a similar state Greece is in although the cause of the crisis in each country is somewhat different. The strike was primarily against the austerity measures the government has implemented in order to get the country out of the recession. These measures include freezing pensions and increasing the retirement age to 62.
I can’t say I can completely relate to most Spaniards because workers in the United States retire at age 65 (or did it increase?), and we usually get only 2 weeks of vacation (most Spaniards get 4 weeks), our unemployment benefits are worse compared to here in terms of length and dollar amount, and we still don’t have universal healthcare, although we’ve made some progress… so I don’t know what Spaniards are really complaining about, but I really haven’t been in their shoes long enough to understand. Being an economics major, I see it logical to cut some of the social welfare costs if a country is facing incredible debt.
On the weekend of Oct 2-3 I went with a group of international students to Salamanca! The trip was organized by a club called ESN which is a group for Erasmus (European exchange) students, but they let non European exchange students join as well. Although the trip was pretty short, I had a really good time! We arrived Saturday at 1pm, check into our hostel rooms ( I was in a room with 9 other people!), and then we had lunch in town. At 4pm we met in Plaza Mayor and had a 2 hour tour around the old part of the city. Then that night we had a fiesta in Plaza Mayor which included visiting 3 different clubs. It was a blast! I met so many new people from France, Germany, Croatia, the Netherlands, and even some people from the US that I hadn’t met yet. It’s funny how I’m making friends with other international students and not really any Spaniards. I guess it’s easier to make friends with people who are in the same boat, but my goal is still to make a couple of really good Spanish friends because I need to start speaking in Spanish! All the international students speak English, so it’s way too easy for me.
Here are some of the best pictures from Salamanca (oldest university town in Spain) :
The week after my trip to Salamanca was pretty rough. I had two tests, one in Econometrics, the other in Game Theory, and a really hard problem set due for Markets and Environment, which involved differential calculus (something I have never done!). I think I did well on the two quizzes from last week but I’m worried about future tests because the math requirements here are pretty intense! Here is an example of one of the problems I have to figure out for my test in two weeks, and I have NO IDEA what it even says even though I go to class every day.
Just some advice to those of you thinking about studying economics here: Make sure you have a strong foundation in calculus, including differential calculus (which in New Paltz is after Calc 1 2 and 3), and some upper level statistics.
Wish me luck,
I wish I had time to write a blog entry more than once a week because so much happens in one week that it’s hard to recap everything….
Last Sunday I visited the Retiro park in Madrid for the second time, but this time I took some pictures! It is a humongous park, comparable to Central Park in New York City. I left Getafe around 5pm and arrived at the Atocha train station close to 6, then waisted some time walking around lost as usual, but I ended up running into this huge outdoor book sale. Most of the books were in Spanish, but I also found A Farewell to Arms by Hemingway so I was surprised.
When I finally reached the Retiro I walked around this man-made lake where people were rowing boats. Around the lake there were a lot of street performers. I took some video of this one band covering a Bob Marley song. They were pretty good. I also spotted Minnie Mouse and Barney walking around. It was pretty funny.
I ended up finding a place to sit underneath a tree and I did some homework and wrote a letter back to the U.S. For only 78 euro cents you can send a letter to the US and it takes less than a week! It’s great.
On Monday I started my first week of classes without Spanish, and for the most part my week went pretty well. I start most of my classes at 9 or 10:45 in the morning and get out either by 12:15 or 2 and then have the rest of the day to nap, or be productive….
On Monday I got a pet fish, Norton! He’s adorable. He’s a telescope eyed goldfish and has these HUGE eyes and tiny little body. Although he has such big eyes, their positioning makes it hard for him to see straight ahead of him so I have to direct him with my finger in order for him to find his food. He’s really dumb but very cute.
On Tuesday, I started my documentary film class and I LOVE IT!!!! It is so much work but it’s a lot of fun. For this one week I had to watch 3 full length documentaries just to catch up on the past two weeks, and I had to write a paper on what we had learned the weeks I had missed, and I still have to analyze a short documentary for this coming Tuesday.
On top of all the individual work, I am working with my group to produce our own documentary. Our topic is the aftermath of dictatorship in Spain; how Franco has affected people’s lives and how Spaniards deal with such a negative past. The crazy thing is that when we all went to meet in Sol (central Madrid) to discuss our project, we landed right in the middle of an anti Franco protest. Members from la Asociacion para la Recuperacion de la Memoria Historica (directly translated: Association for the recuperation of historical memory) were there with posters of family members that had been killed during Franco’s reign and we’re protesting against the reopening of the monument to Franco at Valle de los Caidos (Valley of the Fallen), where Franco is buried. We met a lot of great people that were very eager to be interviewed for the documentary. We even met Emilio Silva, the author of the book “Las fosas de Franco” (The mass graves of Franco) which I’m reading right now. Everything seems to be fitting right into place with this documentary project and I’m really excited!
As for my economics classes, I’m more worried. They all seemed reasonable until Friday when my econometrics professor went over the first problem set and I was completely lost! And of course I was the only person lost in the class because they had all learned all these formulas in their previous classes. Even though I’ve taken econometrics before in New Paltz I had no idea what was going on so I’m pretty disillusioned right now. I have a quiz on Friday and I’m probably going to have to stay in my room studying all week in order to pass. Not fun.
What was fun was Friday night. Me and the girls from New Paltz along with an Italian girl and a girl from Denmark that we both met at UC3M went to our first Spanish concert, with Spanish music. Believe me its actually rare to go out at night in Madrid and hear Spanish music. It’s insane how many times a day I hear Lady Gaga. My neighbor sings “Alejandro” every day, and unfortunately for me the walls are paper thin. Spain needs to start embracing Spanish music more because the band we saw on Friday, El Sombrero del Abuelo, was really good! They were a mix of flamenco with funk and rock. I might go see them again in a month when they return to Madrid. In the meantime, Getafe is having a music festival this weekend so Madeline and I might go for a day and check out the Spanish artists.
Today I went to Madrid’s famous Rastro, this huge outdoor flee market, but I really wasn’t too impressed. I was expecting more antiques and hand made items but most of the stands all offered the same kinds of clothing, bracelets, etc. There were some interesting stands. For example, one was selling these strange gas mask/ military mask things… and there were a couple of stands that had some authentic Spanish comics… most of which were adult comics lol. Other than that I didn’t see anything out of the ordinary or anything that caught my eye. The highlight of my trip there was the food, of course 🙂 All the little restaurants around there were serving “tostas” which are open-faced sandwiches on baggette bread. They are delicious!
Anyway, here are some pictures of el Retiro, el Rastro, some pictures of a night in Sol, some of the protest in Sol. I tried to upload video of some street performers and the protest in Sol but unfortunately the files were too big.
I don’t know if I’m experiencing culture shock, or just impatience, or stress, or all of the above. I never would have imagined that I could feel culture shock in a place that essentially is a part of my own culture. Maybe, I’ve just been spoiled by the relative ease of access to most things in the U.S.
Getting use to the way things run in this university is definitely challenging. Forget about the unlimited printing at New Paltz, and welcome to waiting in line for an hour at the print shop on campus and paying 5 euro cents per page, then being late to class…
Or waiting in line several hours a day at the bank on campus to open an account, just to find out they lost all of your paperwork, and you have to wait another hour…
Maybe, hopefully, I’ve just been having a bit of bad luck and these are all isolated incidents.
In fact, I was really surprised today when I went to the post office (correos) and I was in and out in 5 minutes! This definitely takes longer in the States. Of course, I have a horrible sense of direction and got lost going back to campus, so I was late regardless lol.
Today was the last day of our 14 day intensive Spanish immersion course and our big final is tomorrow night. I thought this class was going to be a breeze since Spanish was my first language, but having never taken an actual Spanish class, I was completely lost with most of the grammar. Unfortunately for me, 50% of the exam is grammar 🙁 but I’ll be studying all night tonight and hoping for the best! As much as I complained about having 3 or 4 hours of Spanish class a day, I actually wish it would have lasted longer than 2 weeks… Maybe I could have absorbed more information in a longer time frame.
Now that Spanish class is almost done, it’s time to focus on my regular classes! I’m taking two classes that I like A LOT: Markets and Environment, and Game Theory. Both are really interesting and thought provoking. Econometric Techniques is a little more…. technical. And at 9 in the morning, twice a week, it could be considered torture, but the professor is a really nice guy. I saw him during his office hours this week, because I missed class for a mandatory orientation, and he was very helpful. We’ve already started working on a time series project in class using GDP and interest rate data from a country of our choice. He suggested I do the U.S. because I’m the only American in the class. Cheap shot. I’m sure Spain was already taken anyway….
I also signed up for a class in the Journalism major, “Theory and Analysis of the Documentary Film.” I’m SOOOO excited to take it even though it has nothing to do with economics. I’ve secretly always wanted to be a documentary filmmaker so this class will give me the chance to make my own documentary. I’m thinking about tying economics into it in some way… With Spain being in a recession right now, like most of the rest of the world, there’s a lot of opportunity to “document” something.
Speaking of documenting, I admit I haven’t been the best “tourist” in terms of seeing all that Madrid has to offer. These past two weeks have been really hectic, trying to get settled into an apartment, and having Spanish classes at night. We did manage to go out to this cultural event in Madrid called “Noche en Blanco”. It’s an annual event in which all the museums are open as well as restaurants, clubs, exhibitions, stores… you name it. Problem was, there was too much to do and we couldn’t decide! We ended up dancing in Grand Via where a dj was set up outside. It was a lot of fun and there were A LOT of people! I’ll have to borrow some of Madeline’s pictures.
For now I have some pictures of the apartment Madeline and I are living in in Getafe, for those of you who are interested in seeing what a Spanish apartment typically looks like… As you can see, it’s very typical that people dry their clothes on the line outside on the balcony. Most apartments don’t have dryers… But hanging clothes outside works really fast, at least right now that it’s still hot!
I also added some pictures of Getafe, the supermarket, and my lunch the other day (Yummmm gazpacho!)
AND added a really cute picture of a dog I saw waiting at the window for his owners to come home… random, but adorable!
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 :-/
I’ve only been in Madrid for 5 days and it already seems like at least a month has gone by! I’ve been running around trying to get everything sorted out and settled before my official classes start on Tuesday, September 7th, and already there have been so many road blocks and new experiences and exciting people. I will try to condense everything so as not to bore you with pages and pages.
I want to start by describing the week before I left for Madrid and the first day I arrived just because I think the preparation before the storm is an important part of the study abroad process.
I’m not your traditional study abroad student. Most people chose to go to places that they’ve never lived in before. I chose to go back to my first home. I was born in Madrid and lived there with my parents and family until I was 6 and I’ve been living in Poughkeepsie ever since and visiting Madrid once every couple of years or so. To me this is an experiment. Since I was very young I always wondered who I would have become had I stayed in Madrid my whole life and now I have this amazing opportunity to live in Madrid for a year. Though I am fluent in Spanish and have family as a sort of safety net in Madrid, leaving the comfort of New York was no easy task. For the entire week before I left I was a complete nervous wreck, and the day of my flight I was so nervous I felt physically sick and couldn’t eat or sleep. It was a complete shock to me that I was so afraid of going back to a place that I have loved for years.
But going back to Madrid this time was completely different than it was when I was a kid. This time I was leaving my best friends, my boyfriend, my family, my town, my college, my bands, my life. And this time I would be in Madrid for a whole year which for the most part would be dedicated to studying economics at la Universidad Carlos III. It isn’t going to be a complete vacation!
When I landed in Madrid I was reintroduced to my old home as an adult. My first thoughts…. am I going to be able to find an apartment? How expensive will it be? How hard are the economics classes going to be in this university which is ranked on of the best for economics in Europe? I’m going to have to get a European phone! How am I going to get a bank account? etc, etc, etc….
So far I’ve succeeded in only one task…. getting a cell phone. But I’m well on my way to get everything else settled.
Since this exchange program between New Paltz and UC3M (Universidad Carlos III de Madrid) is completely new, there are no precedents. Thankfully, there are 3 other economics majors from New Paltz who are on the adventure with me and we’ve been helping each other out at every step.
Currently, I am sharing a hostel room with Jules while she, Madeline, and I look for an apartment. The fact that this hostel is absolutely beautiful and has the best shower I’ve ever been in (for only 21 euros a night per person) hasn’t been giving us to much incentive to hurry the apartment searching process. Although, it has been uncomfortable not having a fridge and not really being able to buy groceries. (The hostel name is Carlos III for those of you interested in visiting Getafe)
Since the university is in Getafe, a small city/town 20 minutes south of central Madrid we haven’t exactly decided whether we’d like to live in Getafe near the school or in central Madrid near el Parque Retiro, and all the famous museums, and night clubs. We’ve talked to some of the European exchange students in the ERASMUS program and most of them have opted to live in central Madrid. We’ll be seeing 3 apartments tomorrow: 1 in Getafe, and 2 in Madrid so hopefully we like at least one of those. There is a train that runs from Atocha in central Madrid to Getafe that takes about 25 minutes. By the way, if you’re wondering why we didn’t decide to live on campus… it costs almost $900 a month, while living in an apartment will give us a lot more space for less than half the price!
So although our economics classes don’t start until Tuesday, we started our Spanish language immersion program yesterday. It’s 4 hours a day of Spanish class for 2 weeks!!! It’s a bit intense but I really like my class and my teachers. I’m in the intermediate 2 class with all German speaking students. It’s pretty interesting hearing Spanish in a German accent. We have two teachers for the class and both of them are AWESOME! They only speak Spanish but they are really funny and very animated and passionate.
That’s probably the biggest difference I’ve noticed in Spaniards so far. They are all very animated when they speak and they all have similar intonations and hand movements. Some “Madrileños” can seem rude and harsh when you ask them for help, but a lot of the people I’ve met are really accommodating and will help you a lot. We met this guy Antonio at a rental agency in Getafe who was very charismatic and clearly was THE guy to know in town. As he was showing us around town people in the street would say hi to him and stop to talk. He was quite the charmer and very helpful. We also met a character in Plaza Mayor where we stopped one night for paella. He was our waiter and he called himself “Magic Luigi” and apparently teaches salsa classes in Madrid and has a record coming out. I’m not sure how much of it we believed, but he was funny nonetheless…
And then there’s the man who works at the front desk of the hostel who plays Spanish guitar and sings during his night shift! I brought my guitar so I’m thinking of joining him one night before we move out.
Anyway, I’m going to end my first blog on that note, and leave you with some pictures of the beautiful campus of UC3M. No offense to New Paltz, but it is definitely an upgrade :p
I’ll talk more about Spanish food and the culture that I observe on my next blog!