Aliki S. - Canada, Spain - Fall 2012
Hello!! I’ve been in Spain now for about a month and I’ve learned so much in such a short time. It’s hard to believe that it’s already October! But time flies, right? Spain is such a beautiful place with beautiful people. The lifestyle here is what you could call, more relaxed. The people move at a slower pace and really enjoy their time with friends and family...it’s wonderful! It’s hard to sum up all that’s happened over the past month into one blog and I don’t know exactly where to start, so I’ll start at the beginning and see where that takes us!
Upon arriving is Spain, I made friends with a group of five or six other students who were also studying abroad this semester in various areas of Spain. We met on the plane and then parted ways once we arrived in Madrid. A couple of us still keep in touch; it’s nice to have friends in different parts of the country that you can visit and stay with. My first obstacle was finding my apartment after arriving in Madrid. I am studying through ISEP, which is the most independent, study abroad program. I was responsible for finding my own place to live and getting there (on a budget). I took two Metros and a bus to my town (at the time) of Brunete which is roughly 40 kilometers outside Madrid’s city center. I think if I hadn’t been hauling an overstuffed suitcase, duffle and backpack it would have been a relatively easier trip (pack light!), but I’ll know for next time!! My university was in the next town over, Villanueve de la Cañada and after only four days of staying in Brunete, I moved into a house in Cañada (if something isn’t working for you, change it!). I’m now within walking distance to my university as well as the grocery store, restaurants, bars, the bank, etc. I did, however, buy a bike (arguably the best purchase I’ve made thus far) which I ride all the time. My house is wonderful! Although I do live will all guys -- one Hungarian, one Chilean, one American, and two Spaniards. The landlords also live with us, but they live in the basement.
When I was accepted and placed into my university here, I also became a part of the ESN (Erasmus Student Network) chapter at my university. This is a program available to students enrolled in universities within the European Union which allows students to study easily in other countries. The program is run, at least at my university, by upperclassman or alumni who have already studied in various countries through ESN. They are proud of their program and eager to help any of us with school, jobs, places to eat, parties to go to...anything! They’ve been so great and I’ve made friends with many of the student coordinators. Being a part of this program has been, so far, the greatest experience so far in Spain. We had a 10 Day Welcome “Week” where we learned about the university and registering for classes, took trips to Salamanca and Segovia, went on guided tours of Madrid, attended parties all over the city and met the rest of the study abroad students who would be attending my university this semester. It was a GREAT way to meet new people and to also familiarize myself with the surrounding area cost effectively! I would highly recommend staying as active as possible, not only to take your mind off of home, in order to get the most out of your stay. Erasmus connected me with students from similar situations around from all over Europe. I am so glad I chose to participate in every event possible. And...it was really, really fun!
One aspect of Spain that took some getting used to was the academic system. I had my preliminary registration form with classes I thought I might like to take once I got here, but wasn’t sure how to go about registering. Classes technically started September 10th, but I didn't have to register for classes until September 21th -- two weeks later. Within those two weeks, I had the opportunity to go to various classes and see which I might be interested in taking. However, many classes didn’t start until September 24th, so there wasn’t an option to do that. I’m just now, FINALLY, settling into my academic schedule. I’m taking:
- Civilization and History of Spain
- Geography and Politics of the World
- Theory and Practice of Translation
- Spanish for Foreigners
- Translation from Spanish to English
- Translation from English to Spanish
Seven classes may seem like a lot, but the courses here aren’t like the ones back home. Some meet for only an hour a week, while others are three hours a week. It isn’t anything too crazy, but just make sure you’re in contact with the right people (coordinators, registration, etc).
If you’re coming to Europe to study, don’t worry about getting around. The public transportation is great! We have a pretty efficient bus system in my town, and Madrid’s Metro system is easy, cheap and efficient!! If you’re using public transportation frequently, I would recommend getting a monthly transportation pass which allows you to travel an unlimited amount for a set rate each month.
One aspect that took some getting used to was the siesta. Every day between (depending on where you are) 2:00 and 5:00PM, everything shuts down. Banks do not reopen, but everything else usually does and stays open until 8:00 or 9:00PM. It’s great when you’re exhausted and need a nap! But sometimes can get a little frustrating when you’re in need of groceries. OH! And don’t expect anything to be open on Sundays except restaurants. I’ve had many Spaniards tell me that Sundays are reserved for drinking coffee, soaking up the sun, and spending time with family and friends. I think it’s absolutely wonderful! This practice is just one of MANY that I’ll be bringing back home with me come February.
If you have any questions, concerns or you just want to chitchat about the study abroad experience, I’d be more than happy to help! Feel free to email me – ask Alice for my e-mail address – or leave comments and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can. You’re all in for an AMAZING experience!! I’m excited for you :)