The Start of My Summer in Spain

¡Bienvenidos! If you are reading this, it might be safe to think that you are interested in studying abroad in Spain, or maybe you just enjoy reading about other students’ experiences. Either way, welcome to my blog! I am thrilled to be able to recount my experiences in Madrid in this blog, mostly because I know I’ll be talking my friends’ ears off with all the epic tales I’m about to live out.

As the title of this post suggests, I will be recounting my first couple days in Madrid and let you know everything I have experienced so far. Before I get into my life as of lately, I should probably introduce myself and give some context as to why I decided to live over 3,600 miles from Philly for a whole month.

My names is Jessica Andrade (but everyone calls me Jess) and, starting fall term, I will be a Senior here at Drexel. I am studying Psychology with the hopes of becoming a trauma therapist and I am apart of Delta Phi Epsilon and Psi Chi on campus. I was born and raised in New Jersey, and am the daughter of two Ecuadorian parents.

Me, Jessica Andrade, in the streets of Madrid 🙂

For those of you who don’t know, Ecuador is in South America, so all of my family speaks Spanish. Well… everyone but my siblings and I. You see, even though my parents and extended family all speak fluent Spanish, they decided to curse my generation by not speaking their native language in the household. Blasphemous, I know. Even though I can understand the language (since my parents would speak it to each other and other adults thinking we wouldn’t pick up on it… hah), I can’t speak Spanish well. It’s always been something that has embarrassed me, since whenever I meet another Hispanic person they think it’s outrageous that I can’t speak the language (and, well, they aren’t wrong). I chastised my parents whenever I can for not teaching us. Though, now that I am 22, everyones loooves to remind me that now I have the power to learn it myself (which, again, they aren’t wrong, but can you blame me for not feeling empowered to do so, since it should have been something I was able to speak before I even learned English?!). I will circle back to this point in a moment.

Flashback to the beginning of 2023, one day I ran into one of my sorority sisters, Emily, on campus and we ended up catching up and spilling some tea, you know, girl things. While chatting, she was so excited to tell me that she was going to study abroad in Madrid for the whole month of July. I thought that was such a great opportunity, and I was so happy for her! After she told me all about it, I started thinking about all the advantages the program had that others didn’t.

For one, I loved the idea of going away for only a month. While some students are eager to be away from campus for a term or more, I was never a fan of that prospect. I love the life I have made for myself in Philly, and I saw how my friends who studied abroad in London for fall term fell so out of touch with campus and our friend group. I did not want that happening to me.

Also, since this program is in summer, it gave me the perfect opportunity to actually enjoy my summer! As you may know with Drexel, students either have classes or co-op during summer, so there’s always an obligation to be on campus during the hottest time of the year with little time to enjoy the season as students from other colleges can. Well, this program eliminated that problem for me. Although being abroad requires me to attend classes every day, classes are out by 12pm, so I have the rest of the day to enjoy a new city (which is ample time since the sun doesn’t set here until 9:30pm!). While in Madrid I will earn 9 credits for summer term, which means I have to take a minimum of 1 online class for Drexel (so of course I stuck to the minimum), so when I return to the States at the end of July I don’t need to be on campus. I can take my one Drexel class at the beach or anywhere I want! This program has given me so much freedom, not just abroad but back at home, too!

Finally, back to my point of not being able to speak Spanish. Studying at Nebrija University is the place to be to learn the language. Located in the heart of Madrid, it is one of the top universities to take Spanish classes! This Hispanic Studies program was too good to pass up, so after speaking to my parents I told Emily that I would be tagging along on her epic summer in Spain. After I told my best friend Abby, who is also close friends with Emily from DPhiE, that we were going abroad, she decided to come with! Not only would I be living in Madrid for a month and studying the language my ancestors’ have spoken for centuries, I’d be going with some of my favorite people in the world! You can imagine how long spring term must have dragged on for me, anxiously counting down the days for my perfect July to begin.

So now that you know a little more about me and why I chose this program, I can give you the rundown on how the first 48 hours have been so far!

Orientation for the program began on July 3rd, so we needed to be in the city the day before that. The three of us were able to get a direct flight from Philadelphia International Airport to Madrid that departed the night of July 1st, so we landed in Madrid at 8am on July 2nd. I cannot tell you how much I recommend an overnight flight if you’re going to be traveling somewhere with such a drastic time difference from where you live (for context, Madrid is 6 hours ahead of Philly)! We woke up during our flights in the clouds during sunrise, which was so breathtaking and excited us to the point where we wanted to stay awake all day to explore! We took a quick 25 minute cab ride from the airport to Nebrija University since we chose to stay at one of their student dorms.

We chose the dorms for a few reasons. Our main priority was living somewhere with AC. Summer is of course always brutally hot, and I *need* to be in a room that is freezing cold to have a good night’s rest. 3 out of the 4 dorms the college has had AC’d rooms, so that was very incentivizing. While we originally wanted to live in an AirBnB or local apartments, many did not have AC, and if they did they were either the same price or more expensive than living in the dorms, without the additional perks student housing has to offer. The specific dorm we chose to live in, Chamberi, serves breakfast daily to its residents, and has 24-hour security and a gym. It is also only a 15 minute walk from our classes, so there were many perks to room with the university (though, be warned: the showers are very small. Also, allegedly, the dorms have an 11pm curfew during the school year but it is not enforced during the summer. Other than that the rooms are perfect for this program).

After unpacking, we explored the neighborhoods for food and to familiarize ourselves with our new surroundings. First impressions of the city is that it is way better than Philly (I said what I said). The historic architecture gave each building, each road, each section of Madrid such a unique personality that the modernity of back home lacked. It was also very evident that this city was much cleaner, since there was barely any litter on the ground and hardly any “city smells” that built-up trash causes on campus (so far I have only gotten a whiff of one unpleasant smell, and that was from an actual garbage bag).

So far, the food here has been amazing. There’s every food you can think of here– sushi, burgers, tacos (Tiki Taco has 1 euro tacos, how insane!), crepes, pizza, and of course traditional Hispanic dishes. Our first night in the city we met up with other Drexel students attending this program for dinner, then went to bed early to wake up for orientation.

July 3rd we were introduced to Nebrija’s campus– the small Princessa location includes a gorgeous quad area, four buildings all located right near each other, and so many amenities for students. Not only were there students attending from other colleges in the U.S., but we also met students studying abroad from China and South Korea. I’m so excited to not only be able to learn Spanish culture, but the cultures of other countries as well. The faculty also have a division called the Servicio de Actividades Culturales (Services for Cultural Activities, or SAC) that planned so many different activities for students to immerse themselves into Spanish culture. They offer both free activities, such as tours of museums and the Royal Palace of Madrid, and those with additional fees, such as dance lessons, kayaking trips, and wine tastings! We of course signed up for as many as we could, and I will be letting you know how those go!

After orientation we grabbed lunch with students from other universities and explored the many plazas this city has (the local boutiques have so many unique European fashion statements that I will be spendings too much money on). Even though it sometimes can be difficult navigating a country that speaks a foreign language, there have been many younger employees who understand English and make communicating so easy. I am hopeful that we will be able to feel right at home living in a different hemisphere for a month, and I know I will be missing this gorgeous city once this program is over.

So, first impressions: Madrid is breathtaking, and I still can’t believe I get to live here for a month! I already know I will be having a once of a lifetime experience here, and am so thankful I have this opportunity to be here and share my experiences with the world! For now, I have some more exploring to do, but I’ll check back in later with more epic tales of my Summer in Madrid. ¡Hasta luego!

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