5 Moments I’ll Remember Most About Spain

Student Blogger Kerianne Baylor from Marist College is studying abroad in Spain with Academic Programs International (API). In this post she shares with us the 5 experiences she’ll remember most about her time on the Iberian Peninsula.  Read her charming tales, and then make your own memories by applying for a $2,500 scholarship to study abroad with API!

Plaza de España in Sevilla

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Pamplona, Segovia and San Sebastian: Weekends Done Right

Photo: jimcintosh

Submitted by Kristen Schlotman, Global Ambassador in Madrid, Spain.

Jumping in Segovia.

I can’t believe I only have one more week in Madrid! This experience has been such a whirlwind. Never in my life have I done so much in less than a month. One of the best parts of studying abroad is traveling on weekends. The first weekend all of us in USAC were in Spain for the Running of the Bulls. Without a second’s hesitation we bought tickets and headed to Pamplona. Most of the other students in the program also bought tickets. We knew right away this was going to be a great weekend to bond and to get to know each other.

Pamplona was probably one of the crazier weekends of my life. The bus departed from Madrid at 2 PM on Saturday and by 8 PM, we were ready to experience one of the biggest celebrations in Spain. Dressed in the traditional red and white, we walked around the city taking everything in. By 1 AM, we were bar hopping, drinking calimocho (red wine and Coca Cola), and meeting people from all over the world. Sleeping was not an option. The city was too vibrant and exhilarating to sit it out. At 6 AM we lined up to watch the running. This was somewhat anticlimactic, but the night itself was one of a kind.

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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!

 

Want to read insider reviews from fellow study abroad students? Click here to find your perfect study abroad program!

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!

Want to read insider reviews from fellow study abroad students? Click here to find your perfect study abroad program!

Excursions Around Madrid!

Madrid

Francesca relaxing in Madrid!

 

Submitted by Francesca Limjuco, Summer Global Ambassador in Madrid, Spain

Want to read insider reviews from fellow study abroad students? Click here to find your perfect study abroad program!

 

Last weekend, I caught glimpses of the old and new Spain. Here is an account of my cultural and gastronomic discoveries around Madrid over the last few days:

Friday:

Museo de America – My Colonial History of Latin America class had a field trip in this museum which sits on top of a hill overlooking Madrid. I’d have to say that their most interesting exhibit is the Escenas de Mestizaje. These paintings depicting Spaniards and natives in interracial relationships and their consequent offsprings were painted in South America during the Conquest were popular souvenirs for Spaniards to bring back home. In all honesty, I was slightly offended although amused by them and I told my professor that it reminded me of a bad episode of The Family Guy. It just goes to show that racial jokes have come a long way and will probably never get old so there’s no point in being offended. The only thing curable is ignorance.

Saturday:

Toledo – A day trip to Spain’s former capital is a must to see intercultural influences between the Muslims, Jews, and Christians. The synagogue will make you feel as if you were in a mosque Morocco and the Cathedral which brought together all of Europe’s best artists during the Renaissance will leave the beholder awestruck.

Teatro Joy Eslava – Although exhausted from an entire day of sightseeing, I could not stay at home on a Saturday night! With two friends from Texas, Jennifer and Alicia, we partied until the Metro opened in one of Madrid’s oldest theaters turned night club. We were well taken care of by two muy locas Madrileñas, Jennifer and Olga who is Alicia’s intercambio. I realized that college kids everywhere aren’t that different. We all like American TV shows and we love to dance to European house music.

Sunday:

Palacio Real – I spent the afternoon exploring the Royal Palace. My highlights were the chapel and the Royal Armory with suits dating back from the Crusades.

Madrid

 

 

 

 

 

Monday:

Although not exactly the weekend anymore, every day seems like Friday in Madrid because there’s always something going on. After class, I wanted a relaxing place to write so I went to Chueca to find a café. Mercado San Antón – There’s an actual market on the first floor where you can pick out raw food, have it cooked however you want it, and served on their beautiful roof top terrace. They also have an international selection of already prepared food on the second floor. I recommend ordering tapa portions from various stalls so you can try a little bit of everything as the prices are reasonable and according to weight. Diurno – My favorite café in Madrid is actually a DVD rental shop. Not only is the coffee great, you get a friendly intellectual vibe. Chueca is Madrid’s gay district but is popular in general with all young locals so people at the next table readily welcome conversation.