Week three in Madrid and all I can say is that I’m in love with this city! So much has happened since I landed in Madrid that I don’t even know were to begin.
Let me just say how glad I am to be writing this blog from my new apartment because finding a place was by far the most stressful thing I’ve had to do. I love walking out of my apartment and instantly being hit with the culture and beauty of Madrid. From the flower stands in the middle of the plaza to the bakery at the end of the alley, the narrow European streets have such a charm to them that merely walking through them makes me feel like I’m right were I belong.
Let me start with day one: after a long 14-hour flight I landed at Barajas airport on a Friday night and took a cab since I decided that getting lost on the metro didn’t sound like a very good idea. I had already booked a place through Airbnb (super convenient if you’re on a budget) with five of my friends from State, so I stayed there for my first two weeks while looking for a permanent place. I have to say that living with six people in a two bedroom house worked out better than I thought, considering I had to share a bed and blanket for two whole weeks!
I avoided the metro the first night but if you want to get anywhere in Madrid, it’s the way to go. Some of my friends from State had already been in Madrid for a couple of days so they were able to show me around the metro system. It took me about two weeks to take the metro by myself but I can now say I’m pretty much an expert! Although, to get to my school, which is outside of Madrid in a city called Getafe, I have to take a train called Cercanies — but that’s a whole other story.
The International and Erasmus Student (what they call exchange students from within Europe) Orientation took place about a week before the beginning of the semester. We took a quick tour of the school and listened to speakers from different departments; one of the speakers was from the international student organization on campus that organizes all kinds of trips for exchange students. From the start I had told myself that I was going to make the most of my time here and would try to attend as many events as possible. So right after orientation I went straight to the international office to buy tickets to their events.
I’ve met so many people from all over the world already, from Brazil to France and even Long Beach, that were all there for the same reason I was. I think meeting people is truly one of the greatest things about being abroad, you never know who you are going to meet next. There are so many events for international students from language exchange nights to tapa nights that make meeting people really easy.
If you think registering for classes at SDSU is hard, then you have never registered for classes abroad. WebPortal, thank you for everything, seriously! The system they use here doesn’t let you create a wish list and if your classes overlap, it doesn’t tell you either. Oh, and did I mention that the website crashed and it took me nearly two hours to register?! But after all the suffering I was finally able to register and my schedule turned out pretty nice considering that everyone else I know goes to class all week.
I’m taking four classes, three in English and one in Spanish. I didn’t realize how different Mexican Spanish is compared to Spanish from Spain until my first day in my Spanish class. The professor talked so fast (typical of Spaniards) and used a lot of words that I had no clue what they meant; I was able to switch from that class to a different Spanish class, in which the professor speaks much slower.
On another note, exploring Madrid and its surrounding cities has been surreal! So far in Madrid I’ve walked through Gran via where the buildings are as tall as they are historical, visited the Egyptian Temple of Debod, had churros con chocolate in Sol, went to have Spanish tapas with new friends, ran at the beautiful Parque el Retiro, passed the Puerta de Alcala, was stunned by the architecture of the Metropolis, partied until 6 a.m. at Kapital (a 7 story club), went to a Real Madrid soccer game at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium, and meet some really amazing people.
I also took a day trip with students form UC3M to Toledo and Segovia. Toledo is such a cute town with massive castles, churches, and a wall protecting the entire city. Segovia is one the most beautiful towns I’ve ever seen, it literally looked like it was taken out straight from a Disney movie. (It’s actually said that the castle in Segovia is what inspired the Disneyland castle!) When we got there, it was snowing and, because I am from San Diego, it was a huge deal for me. But the Roman aqueduct had to be the highlight of the whole trip though, a must-see.
These past three weeks have been some of the best in my life and I cannot wait to see what the next five months will bring. The possibilities are truly endless here!