At the Aqueduct de Segovia
When I first began thinking about going on exchange, and where I could possibly go, my initial options were limited to English speaking countries with warm weather, which pretty much only left me with the USA. English is my only fluent language so the thought of living somewhere where I wouldn’t be able to communicate with the people I meet on a daily basis was frightening. Yet, despite these fears, here I am in Madrid where I have been living and studying since January. I ended up choosing Spain so that I could learn a new language, one of the most commonly used in the world, and because of it’s location within Europe so that I can take some time off from study every now and then to explore this country and it’s neighbours.
Before coming to Spain I had ideas about what the culture might be like, all fiestas and siestas. Now that I’m here I can say that my assumptions were pretty accurate. The Spanish people work hard, but they also play hard. It’s normal here for shops to close at around 2:30pm for a relaxed lunch. They will then open up again at 5pm and close for the day at 9pm, just in time for dinner. Yep, 9pm is the normal time for dinner in Spain. This is probably one of the biggest cultural differences that I’ve noticed, so adjusting to the lifestyle here has been pretty easy. I don’t know what I’ll do when I come back to Australia and can’t have my afternoon siesta anymore!
I’ve been taking advantage of Madrid’s central location within Spain to see some of the surrounding cities on short day or weekend trips. So far I’ve been to Barcelona, Toledo, Seville, Cádiz and Segovia and seen some amazing sights. Seville was my favourite, as it’s a beautiful, historic little city by a river. Segovia was also amazing with the Aqueduct still standing from Roman times and the Alcázar which was Disney’s inspiration for the Cinderella’s castle. I’ve also explored Madrid as much as I can. One of the highlights here so far was going to a Real Madrid soccer game. It wasn’t even an important match but the atmosphere was incredible.
Real Madrid vs. Espanyol
Aqueduct de Segovia
So far the main difficulty I’ve faced was getting here in January to the middle of winter. Like I said before, I didn’t want to live in a cold country and Madrid on a cold day could get to below 0°C! To make it worse, everyone at home was making me jealous with their pictures at the beach, enjoying the warm summer sun. It was also very weird not spending Australia Day in the pool with the barbecue going but luckily I was able to seek out some Aussie Day celebrations over here. I spent that weekend up in Barcelona where the sun shone for us at a mildly warm 18 degrees. Various Irish pubs had stocked up on the Fosters and held Australia Day themed events, with Vegemite, fairy bread, burgers with beetroot and the best meat pie Spain could offer.
Besides all the fun and travelling, I did come here to study! I’m doing International Relations at the Universidad Pontificia de Comillas. As my Spanish level is only intermediate, I made the obvious decision to take classes in English. I’ll leave at the end of the semester with a Diploma in International Relations from a Spanish Perspective, which is a course offered to international students by Comillas. It involves taking subjects on Spanish history, European history and my personal favourite, Spanish Art in the Museums of Madrid. This course in particular has allowed for me to visit some renowned art galleries such as the Museo Del Prado and see some incredible works of art, particularly by Spanish artists such as Velázquez, Goya and Picasso.
Overall I am really enjoying my study abroad experience so far and I’m excited to see what the rest of the semester will bring.