It all makes sense now. All those travel blogs going on and on about the importance of traveling and leaving your comfort zone were right. As cheesy as it sounds: being abroad and leaving everything you know really does push you to grow and discover!
Reflection moment aside, I cannot believe I have been here for two months already! Weeks go by so fast while trying to do well in school and trying to travel as much as possible. Last time you heard from me, besides my photo blog post, I was getting used to life here and meeting new people and going to new places. But now I feel like a true local! Life here has been anything but boring, from finding new cute cafés to a monument/park/museum I didn’t know existed, Madrid has so much to offer.
School here is not as demanding as SDSU but it still requires a good amount of work. The way classes are structured is completely different from the way things are run at state. All classes consist of a theoretical portion(large class) and a practical portion (small class) and most of our grade will come down to our Final. While most normal college students have had a couple tests by now, I haven’t had a single one! I don’t know whether I should be happy or scared. Don’t get me wrong, I love not having to study for midterms, but I’m just worried about so much of my grade being determined based on the final exam.
We also have weekly assignments, for example I have to turn in a weekly essay for two of my classes and I have a lot of in class presentations. Something that has really stood out to me about the Spanish educational system is the amount of group work there is. Literally every single one of my classes has at least two group projects per semester and most of the time we only have one week to prepare our presentation. I am so used to having maybe one group project per semester and at least a month to prepare for it. I don’t mean to make school here sound horrible though—unless you absolutely hate group projects, it really isn’t bad!
On to the more exciting part of studying abroad—traveling! So far my travels have taken me to Cadiz, Barcelona, and Navacerrada.
Before coming to Europe I had only seen and heard about Carnival in the movies but I had no clue that it was still a thing. The meaning behind Carnival is mostly religious but has turned into a mix of Halloween and Mardi Gras. In February Carnival is celebrated all over Europe and I was able to be part of one the biggest celebrations in all of Spain! After an eight-hour bus ride to the south of Spain I was finally near the ocean once again after over of month of separation. Cadiz is in a region in Spain called Andalucía near Africa and has one of the best-known carnivals in Spain. Being in the center of the city, surrounded with both locals and foreigners all dressed in costumes, singing and dancing was truly a unique experience!
Another eight-hour ride and I was back in Madrid but it wasn’t long until I was back on a bus and on my way to Barcelona. Every year all the Erasmus/international students in Spain take a trip to Barcelona for the Erasmus national event. All I can say is that Barcelona was absolutely beautiful. From the amazing Gaudí architecture to the beach, Barcelona was better than I had ever imagined. There was a moment, as a sat near the top of Park Güel overlooking the whole city with the sound of a guitar playing in the background, that I realized how lucky I was to be there and understood that wanderlust was a true feeling. I will definitely go back to Barcelona in the summer!
From the beach to the snow, the week following the Barcelona trip I took a quick day trip with some friends to Navacerrada. It is only about an hour away from Madrid but couldn’t be any more different. The small village was covered in snow so we rented snow boots and sleds and spent the day there.
One of the toughest challenges so far has been finding a balance between traveling and getting to know the city that I live in. Schoolwork during the week and traveling during the weekends has really made it hard to get to know Madrid. I’ve made it a point to really try and see more of Madrid, not from a tourist viewpoint but from that of local.
The weather has been getting nicer here (finally no need for leggings under my jeans and double sweaters) and I’ve noticed way more people in the streets lately. I was even able to go out without wearing a sweater for the first time since I’ve been here. I’m definitely looking forward to some heat here and my spring break trip to Italy!