I have known since day one of my college career that I wanted to study abroad in Spain. As a Spanish minor, I quickly realized that fully immersing myself into the language and culture of a Spanish-speaking nation would be an incredible learning experience for me. Traveling has always been a dream of mine and I made sure to take advantage of the opportunities available through the University of Alabama by signing up for a month-long culture and language course in the beautiful Madrid, Spain. Never having left the country before, this was a big step for me. However, shortly after arriving I knew I had made one of the best decisions of my life. There were minor setbacks such as adjusting to the 7 hour time change and getting used to a completely different food palette (a lot of jamón and patatas), but all of the setbacks I experienced helped me to grow and understand traveling in a more realistic way.
Madrid is a beautiful city full of incredible history and culture, being the capital of Spain, and on any given day I can walk by famous landmarks such as El Palacio Real or the arena where Real Madrid hosts their fútbol games. However, Madrid is versatile and is home to many modern and hip urban areas as well. My favorites are the bustling Plaza Mayor and Puerta del Sol, which remind me of a cleaner and more romantic Time’s Square. We are staying in dorms at the University of Nebrija which are located just minutes from the city’s center, but still feel safe and quiet. We are surrounded by coffee shops each with their own spread of delicious pastries and I visit many of them in between classes in order to work on homework or read a book. It is very interesting to constantly be surrounded by Spanish speakers making it easy to learn first-hand the ways in which they communicate. It has been shocking to see how many cultural differences there are, for example there are no tips here (which makes dining much more affordable), and they eat their meals at much later times (3:00 P.M. for lunch 8:00 P.M. for dinner). The people here are very friendly, and almost all of the Spanish people can understand and fluently speak English which has been incredibly helpful with adjusting. Within the first two weeks I have made incredible friends, seen world-famous art by Picasso and Dalí, visited spectacular cathedrals on our weekend excursion to Toledo, touched a Roman aqueduct that is thousands of years old in Segovia, and immensely improved my understanding of Spanish language and culture.
The photo I have attached is my roommate Celeste (right) and I visiting El Parque Oeste one day after class. Parque Oeste is only 5 minutes walking distance from our dorms and is one of many parks tucked away within the city. I love that Madrid is full of parks and greenery even though it is a large city.