Adele – Exchange to Comillas University in Madrid, Semester 2, 2016
When I stepped off the plane at Madrid-Barajas airport last week I was nervous, excited and exhausted from the two months of travel I had just done. Equipped with the words ‘hola’ and ‘gracias’, (being my entire Spanish vocabulary), I eagerly found my way to a taxi so that I could get to my landlords office to pick up the keys to my apartment and what I quickly learnt was that Madrid is not the place to go if you only want to speak English. What felt like a game of charades as we drove through the city was my taxi drivers attempt at a guided tour. He saw language as no obstacle to showing me his pride in his beautiful city and what a beautiful city it is. Beautiful buildings, beautiful people, beautiful food but a world away from what I’m used to. My first night here was overwhelming to say the least, a foreign place, a foreign language and no one familiar to experience it with, but lucky for me I quickly made friends. Amazing people from all over the world living, working, studying and travelling in this awesome city. In a single week I have picked up so much more Spanish then I had initially anticipated. The appreciation by the local people at a foreigners attempt to speak their language is unbelievable and their encouragement and patience has me optimistic that by the end of my exchange I may be able to hold a relatively decent conversation in Spanish! What I don’t think I’ll be used to…the Spanish body clock. Aside from learning that few people speak English here, I also quickly learnt that although Spain runs according to European time zones they do not follow it like the rest of Europe. Breakfast at 9, lunch at 3, siesta at 4, dinner at 10. This is definitely taking some getting used to and not just for me. My first day of uni was a blur of new faces from everywhere you could possibly imagine and one of the universally agreed upon things was that “Spaniards eat at the weirdest times of the day”. Aside from being slightly unadjusted to our new home’s self-imposed time zone, the vibe amongst the international students was great. Everyone was so excited to actually be starting our exchange and so eager to make new friends and meet new people. Whilst coming to Spain alone seemed so daunting at first, I quickly realised that pretty much everyone else was in the same boat. In a week I have made friends that I know I will stay in contact with long after this exchange is over. I find the fact that on the first day of orientation I was sat in a room with people from literally every corner of the globe absolutely incredible and am so excited to learn all about their cultures and share a bit of mine. My two months of travel before arriving in Madrid certainly made me realise and appreciate what a beautiful country I come from and that people are just as eager to hear stories about Australia as I am about their countries. Being able to live overseas and fully immerse yourself in another culture through exchange is such a unique and amazing opportunity and I think I only fully realised that when I got here. If the last week and a half are anything to go by this next six months will be absolutely incredible.