¡Hola a todos! I’m ready to start blogging and sharing my study abroad experiences with you. ¡Vamos!
Why did I decide to study in Spain, specifically Madrid? I wanted to improve my language skills (by the end of the semester this entire blog will be in Spanish, just you wait) while being able to visit the rest of Europe easily. After my first week here though, I realized just getting around Madrid wouldn’t be as easy as I thought. That’s just one of the differences that struck me during my first week here.
1. Finding your way. In any new city, you’re going to get lost and end up not knowing where you are. However, one of the quirky things about Madrid (and other European cities as well) is the lack of signs on street corners to tell you where you are. You often have to walk down the street for a while before you see that little plaque telling you what street you’re on. Getting lost in a city you don’t know is intimidating, but sometimes it’s a blessing in disguise (how else would I have found the Egyptian temple near my apartment?)
2. Getting around. Madrid is big. Like REALLY big. Three-million-people-and counting big. Since you’re not going to have a car here, you have to find other ways to get around: you can take a taxi (which can be expensive); you can walk (you’ll be in great shape in no time navigating the steep streets); and finally, you can take the Metro. Economically, the Metro is the best way to get anywhere; it costs about 35 € ($46) for an month-long unlimited pass.
3. Where you live. That big house in the ‘burbs? Forget about it! In a city bustling with three million madrileños (over six million including the metro area), space is extremely hard to come by. Most people live in apartments, which you can find on any street anywhere in Madrid. Spaniards are also very concerned with energy usage; I’ve tried to keep my showers as short as I can and to turn the lights off whenever I leave a room.
4. What you eat. One of the most interesting things about Spain’s cuisine is tapas, a small serving of Spanish food. This can range from un bocadillo de jamón ibérico (a sandwich with Iberian ham) to a slice of tortilla (it’s kind of like a Spanish omelette). Tapas usually cost around 1-2 €, which is kind of nice if you’re on a budget or don’t feel like sitting down for a big meal. Not every place does tapas the same way, so you’ll have to get out there and find your favorite!
5. When you eat. Breakfast may be the most important meal of the day in the U.S., but in Spain it’s all about lunch. This is the biggest meal of the day, where you sit down and chat with your host family, and it’s usually served around 2 or 3 p.m. There’s the first course, second course, and then finally postre (dessert). It’s definitely tempting to go back to your room after lunch and take a nap; if you’re not careful, you’ll find yourself waking up at 5 or 6 p.m. (something that has totally not happened to me, by the way). Also, eating in class or on the go? That’s only an American thing.
That’s all for now. ¡Hasta luego!