Que tal amigos?
Week one of classes are finally over and I’m proud to say I don’t get lost walking to school anymore! The trek uphill is a mere 15 minutes from home. My apartment is right across the street from Madrid’s opera house, which looks beautiful at night. The palaces and churches are some of the most amazing buildings I have ever seen and I get to walk past them every day. But as much as I would love to spend the daylight exploring every quaint street and hidden gem, I am here to study. I have classes at Universidad Nebrija. It feels a lot like Drexel in the sense that both are situated within the bustling city. On the first day, we found our way to campus at 8:30 in the morning. We were handed a 100-question test booklet, in Spanish, to determine our class level for the following four weeks. The next day, we were called up one by one to get a schedule and activity list. My schedule consists of two classes, a Spanish language class and culture class. From Monday to Thursday I start at 1:10pm and end at 5:30pm. Fridays start at 8:30am and finish off by 11:30am. The morning section (on Mondays through Thursdays) is for levels B1 through C2, which are intermediate-advanced and advanced classes. The beginner classes take place in the afternoon, which I enjoy because it gives me a chance to do a little sightseeing in the morning. And not having to wake up at 8:00am is pretty nice, too.
After getting my program, I slipped into my assigned classroom, where I knew no one. But after a few icebreakers, in Spanish of course, I was well acquainted with my peers. My class consists of only 14 students between the ages of 18 and 27 who come from all over the world. We do a lot of partner activities involving conversations about where we are from and what we like to do so we get to know each other pretty quickly. I really enjoy learning Spanish here because I learn something in class then go out into Madrid and actually get to use it in conversation.
Through the University, we are given activities and excursions to sign up for. There are museum visits, palace tours, dance classes, and trips to neighboring cities. Some of these events are free while others cost 20 euros to attend. I’ve decided to take advantage of all of these opportunities to see as much as I can. I’ll be attending two dance classes within the next 3 weeks and visiting two museums.
The last thing I want to touch upon is housing. I chose not to do a homestay for a few reasons. I traveled here with 3 friends so we decided to get an apartment together. We felt it would be in our best interest to figure the city out together and be there for each other. As much as I would love to come home to authentic Spanish meals, I feel a little uncomfortable with the idea. Many of my friends have stayed with host families and have loved it! There are always pros and cons but you really have to know what you can handle. For me, there was a lot changing in a short period of time so I was more comfortable with being surrounded by people I already knew. I’m also very independent so having to tell someone where I’m going and when I’ll be back is a bit of a challenge. I see all the pros to living with a family but it made more sense to rent an apartment. It was pretty difficult finding a place that was habitable, close to school, and listed at a fair price but after weeks of searching, we were lucky to find housing in a great location. There is even a grocery store next door to our building. How convenient! I wouldn’t discourage anyone from choosing a homestay because I’ve heard the experience is beyond incredible. But, should you not want the homestay option, you could find housing independently, which does present more challenges.
I don’t think I’ve said this enough but I really love Madrid. From the beautiful people to a gazillion gelato shops sprinkled around the city like Starbucks, I think I’ve fallen in love. There is so much to do here and so much history to learn about. Madrid is not a place to just hang out indoors. The weather is gorgeous 98% of the time and there is always some architecture phenomenon to check out. From sports to art, this marvelous city has got it all!
Until next week, Adios!
P.S. Vale is something the Spanish say at the end of their sentences for assurance just as some people in the states would end a sentence by saying “right?” or “you know?”.