Spanish, Siestas and Sangria: Life in Madrid

The gorgeous view from Palacio de Cibeles

Submitted by Kristen Schlotman, Global Ambassador in Madrid, Spain

 

I have been studying in Madrid for just over a week so far, and it has been absolutely amazing. Our first day was orientation. The program advisors showed us how to get to the Universidad Rey Juan Carlos campus, the ins and outs of Madrid as well as the USAC program. Then we took Spanish language placement exams. I was surprised when I tested into Intermediate Spanish I. I was nervous at first since I hadn’t taken Spanish since my junior year of high school, but it’s not so bad. A lot of the vocabulary and grammar came back very quickly and I definitely feel that I am in the right class level.

One of the best parts about the classes is the size. There are only five of us in my

Spanish keyboard

Intermediate Spanish class, and just two in my Spanish Conversation class. This is really helpful for learning the language. It almost feels as if we have private tutors. My class schedule is really nice as well. I take the metro to campus for class at 9 AM and am done by 12:30 PM every day, just in time to get lunch. The last few days I have been adventuring on the metro to random parts of the city. I will just pick a spot on the map and go. I usually walk around for a bit and then find some café or cerveceria for lunch. It’s fun to sip on sangria on the patio and watch people walk by.

Following lunch, people in the program have been getting together to see the different cultural highlights of the program. Yesterday, we went to Retiro Park and then to the Prado Museum, one of the three major art museums in Madrid. Today we went to another, lesser-known art museum called the Caixaforum. After that we went to a building named the Palacio de Cibeles (pictured above). The building itself isn’t that special, but the top floor has a great view of the city.

View from my homestay at dusk

Depending on what time my roommate and I get back to the homestay, I try to take a late siesta before dinner at 9:30 PM. Dinners with our host parents have allowed me to experience some of the best food of my life. Tortilla Espanola and gazpacho soup are now two of my new favorite dishes.

Madrid is known as a city that never sleeps and I completely agree with that statement. Bars and discotecas don’t become busy until 1 or 2 AM and the night normally ends at 4 AM or later. Last week, most of our program went to Kapital, the famous seven-story nightclub. It was a crazy night and we didn’t get back home until 5 AM. Tonight, I am meeting friends at a wine bar that used to be one of Ernest Hemmingway’s favorite haunts. In the near future, we are leaving to go on a day trip to Segovia, so hopefully I won’t be out too late, but you never know in a city like Madrid!

 

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Ireland: There’s City Life and Then Country Life

Galway

 

Submitted by Global Ambassador, Brendan, Galway, Ireland

The phrase “as different as night and day” is clichéd and I don’t like using it, but it’s hard to find another phrase to describe the difference between the city and the countryside here in Ireland. On Sunday, I spent the day exploring the city of Galway. I visited the markets, watched the street performers and grabbed food at food stands along the docks.

I got to take in the whole city feel where you walk around, and there is vibrant energy everywhere around you.

On Monday we went up into the highlands of Connemara, and an hour-long drive made me feel like I was transported a world away. People were replaced by sheep as the dominant population. The sound of music from performers and chatter from passerbys on the street was replaced by the sound of silence. As I hiked up the mountain with a group and looked at the landscape surrounding me, which was hard to make out through all the rain, I felt almost like I was going to knock on heaven’s door.

Galway, Ireland

The wind and the rain might have made many miserable, but not me at that moment. True, the bus ride back felt a lot longer in soaked jeans and I felt like I had a lake in each of my shoes, but sitting up there on that mountaintop, looking around, it was hard not to have a feeling of utter joy. There’s no other way to describe it as I looked back on where I came from, and looked down beneath me to see the sheep grazing on the grass and rocks I had just traversed over.

It was the image of the Emerald Isle that’s seared into one’s mind before visiting. The image of vibrant green landscape extending out as far as the eye can see. But that’s not the only image of Ireland that I found to be true over the last few days.

The Irish do certainly know how to celebrate. That much was evident this past weekend as the Volvo Ocean Race finished up. I have never seen a city center as crowded as I did then, and it was all ages out celebrating. The young and the old. It seemed as if the collective city of Ireland was out, enjoying the festivities throughout the entire day.

Oh, and one last image that is also totally true is that the Irish love to talk and tell stories. Wait in line for the toilets and you’ll hear a story. Order a pint at the pub and you’ll hear a story. Walk into a small store and you’re bound to hear at least three, more if there are no other customers at the time.

There is something different about Ireland, and if I had to pick a word to describe it, it would be “openness.” The openness to talk to strangers, the openness of celebrations in the streets and the openness of the rolling green hills of the countryside.

Oh Ireland, I am starting to like you!

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Happy Bastille Day!

Bastille Day
photo credit:
side78

Tomorrow, the 14th of July marks the annual celebration for all French and Francophile enthusiasts, Bastille Day! Bastille Day is what English speaking countries refer to the day as, yet in France it’s better know as La Fête Nationale (The National Celebration) or  Le quatorze juillet (the fourteenth of July)

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Granada, Spain: The Best of Both Worlds

 

Submitted by Cheska Limjuco, Global Ambassador in Madrid, Spain

On my last weekend in Spain, three friends and I traveled to Granada to see the famous Alhambra fortress. The bus ride on Friday night was longer than the flight from New York to London, and, after finally checking into the hostel at 2 a.m., we went to find kebabs and drinks. The Andalusians are the embodiment of true southern hospitality. Taking pity on our tired and hungry selves, the man at the kebab shop gave us free Falafels while we waited and the bar across the road gave us welcome chupitos on the house.

The next morning, we set out for La Alhambra. Words or pictures cannot describe the beauty of the ancient royal palace of the Islamic kingdom. I’m happy that we not only got to see the entire fortress, but also had the leisure to just sit down and take in the gardens and amazing view of Granada. It made me think of how, like every capital, Madrid is too fast paced and, although she is my ideal and favorite city, once in a while we all need a slow paced retreat to reflect a little bit upon our lives.

After exploring the Alhambra, we retreated to the Albayzin to shisha and drink Moroccan tea. The vibe in Granada made us feel as if we were in Saudi Arabia at times, but it was more Sex and the City 2 rather than Scheherazade and 1001 Nights. After feeling extremely full and heavy after couscous, shisha, and tea, we returned to our hostel to partake in our favorite Spanish tradition – la siesta. I highly recommend Oasis Hostel as it is right in the heart of the Albayzin surrounded by souks and numerous tea shops. You can also hear traditional Muslim prayers during sundown and sunrise.

At around 8:45, with new friends from the hostel, we switched to Spanish mode and watched the Spain vs. France futbol game at a tapas bar. I’m not a huge fan of futbol, but where else in the world can you pay 2 euros for a beer and a huge and delicious plate of food? This was when I decided that I would move to Granada! However, that was only a passing fancy. I cannot deny myself the rapid city life and it felt great to be back in Madrid the next day after a relaxing weekend with girlfriends. I felt ready and recharged for my last week of school.

I grew up in both Davao and Mindanao in the Philippines, where we have a majority Muslim population, as well as Manila, which has a very strong Spanish influence. The south of Spain offers the best of both worlds for me, so you definitely know where to find me if the world ends in 2012! I have been fortunate enough to visit the south of France and Italy. I find Cannes too luxurious for a starving student like myself, and although Naples has the same southern hospitality, Andalucia is more of an escape to an exotic destination.

 

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Tanzania – Not a Safari Vacation

Africa

Lina and I with our host family! Paulo (far right) works at SFS, and it’s so much fun to get to see him every day now and ask him about his family

Submitted by Maggie Rodney, Global Ambassador in Tanzania, Africa

Jambo everyone! Just as a forewarning, this post may be a little long, but bear with me, I think that this is an extremely important message for anyone considering almost any study abroad program!

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Madrid Adventure Begins…

 

Madrid, Spain

Submitted by Kristen Schlotman, Global Ambassador in Madrid, Spain

Eleven years ago, my sister studied abroad at Oxford. Ever since then I knew I had to study abroad. Going into college, it was number one on my list. Probably due to the fact that my sister studied in England, I always wanted to study there too. It wasn’t until this past year, when all my friends were coming back from their own experiences abroad, did I decide to study in Madrid, Spain. I researched several different programs and ended up with USAC, University Studies Abroad Consortium. A friend of mine did the same program last summer and highly recommended it. Not to mention, it is one of the cheapest programs out there.  USAC has several programs in Spain, but I chose Madrid because I love big cities and knew it would be a great place to practice my Spanish-speaking skills.

USAC Madrid offers two different housing options: apartments with other study abroad students or homestays with Spanish families. I picked homestay. I want to practice Spanish as much as possible and experience authentic Spanish culture. I want to drink café con leche every day and have paella for dinner. I can’t wait to talk to my host mother in Spanish and learn what you can’t learn in a classroom.

I knew I was going to study abroad no matter what, but luckily enough one of my best friends from my home university, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in California, decided to do USAC Madrid as well. Hannah and I even managed to get assigned the same host mother. In addition to studying in Madrid, we planned a two-week adventure across Europe before the program started. In that short amount of time we went to Barcelona, Florence, Pisa, Cinque Terre, Venice, Rome, Athens, and Santorini. I don’t know if I would recommend trying for such a jam-packed schedule, but I would definitely suggest traveling to other cities and even countries while you are abroad.

I was told that a gift would be a nice gesture to present to our host mother. Unfortunately, Hannah and I were already in Europe when I got this suggestion. During our travels, I kept an eye out for a nice gift for our host mother. Finally in Santorini, we found a beautiful, blue, silk scarf. I knew this was a perfect souvenir from Greece and a great gift for our host mother.

The program is starting today. Hannah and I have already met a few others and will meet everyone tonight at a group dinner. I can’t believe I’ve been waiting over a decade for this to start. Wish me luck!

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South of Italy Field Study!

Sorrento, Italy

Overlooking the town of Sorrento!

Submitted by Allyce Morino, Global Ambassador in Viterbo, Italy

Ciao! I have just returned from my five-day tour of Southern Italy! It was such a whirlwind trip; I feel like I haven’t had a moment to slow down! Though the trip was enjoyable, there were some hiccups along the way. In each city, I learned something that is crucial to the study abroad experience.

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A Chicagoan Lands in Ireland. What one Global Ambassador Thinks.

Dublin By Night

photo credit:
SebastianDooris

Submitted by Global Ambassador, Brendan Bond, in Galway Ireland

The name’s Bond, Brendan Bond… now that I’ve got that joke out of the way, let me introduce myself a bit. I’m a 21-year-old rising senior at Loyola University Chicago, home of the Ramblers. I’ve lived in the Chicago area my whole life and while I’ve been fortunate enough to travel all over the United States, I have never gone overseas.

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The Abroad101 Guide to Summer Events

fireworks

photo credit:
SJ Photography

Independence Day is upon us and the summer season is in full swing! Whether you’re studying abroad or at home, it’s definitely time to celebrate with food, friends, family and fireworks (the four essential ‘F’s of course).

But wait! What’s a college student to do after the biggest summer holiday ends?

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