España, I’m here!

Okay! So, I’m here. I have arrived in Madrid, Spain, for a semester abroad, and I am going to try this blog thing to see if I can put my experiences into words that other people might find interesting. I don’t have any photos for this first post, so bear with me in this block of text, I promise it’ll end with a lovely list. (Disclaimer, much of what I write here is an edited version of my journal musings, hopefully I don’t embarrass myself too much).

It has been one hell of a few days. I cannot possibly describe everything that has happened so far, so I won’t even try, but I’ll attempt to give an overview of thoughts and feelings and reactions to being abroad. It has been hard so far. The first major blow to my excitement and confidence was showing up to this residencia, which is essentially a dorm in the city for students attending any of the local universities, and where I am staying until my host family returns from vacation. As soon as I walked in, I knew I would not like it. On top of the weirdness of the quiet room and the fact that I don’t have a family, I am sharing a bathroom with a random guy who I have literally never seen (but have heard, he likes techno music), it is 95 degrees out with no air conditioning to be found, and I am slowly getting sicker and sicker with what I am now convinced is strep throat. Now this sounds like a lot of complaining, which it is, but really, it has not been easy to adjust so far. Being sick is really putting a damper on everything, which is sad because all I want is to be happy and excited and talkative, but my throat literally will not allow it.

There have been positives, though! Our coordinators are super helpful and nice and everyone has been speaking Spanish to us very clearly, and I can already tell I have improved a ton in my listening comprehension and speaking, especially in my confidence! The city is absolutely beautiful, and I cannot wait to explore and find my favorite spots, and luckily, I already feel fairly comfortable here. Now, I’d like to share the main things I have learned since being here, so that future me, and anyone who actually knows anything practical about Europe or Spain, can look back and laugh at my naiveté.

  1. There is no water. Anywhere. And when there is, you have to pay for it and it comes in one of those terrible plastic water bottles. I have been shamelessly filling up a bottle that I got at Starbucks in every public bathroom I can find.
  2. Air conditioning…also not a thing! Live with it! (Pro tip: sleep under your wet towel from your cold shower to stay cool at night)
  3. Food and meal times are confusing. Small breakfast, snack, lunch at 2pm, snack, dinner at 9. It’s actually kind of working for me so far? We will see how it goes when I start up a regular schedule. Also, few vegetables, TONS of tortilla Española, and the most delicious café.
  4. Stores here are also confusing, mostly because I am used to the US’s practice of sticking catch-all stores on most corners. But here, need medicine? Visit la farmacia. Need food? Go to the market, but you won’t find anything pre-prepared. Need a notebook and pen for class? Go visit the store run by the “Chino” down the street, according to the checker at the market. (Spaniards don’t really do political correctness, and call most people of Asian descent “Chinos”).
  5. Notebook paper!!!! All I wanted was your basic, multi-subject lined notebook, and I wouldn’t even be picky about college vs. wide ruled! Nope, all I could find are notebooks “lined” with tiny squares, like graph paper. I asked the woman at the store what was going on with that and she complimented my Spanish, which was nice, but could offer no explanation. Tiny boxes it is.
  6. The Madrid metro system is quite literally sent down from heaven. First off, we paid 20 euros for a month of unlimited travel, which includes all of the commuter trains and everything. Next, there are stations everywhere! So convenient. And finally, it is the most efficient, seamless experience in the world. The signs are clear and the trains are fast and come extremely often, so that I hardly ever wait more than 3 minutes to board. It has been the best gift of all for my directionally challenged self, and I could not be more grateful.

Well, that’s it so far, and tomorrow is really the start of it all with the first day of class and my host family’s return. Hoping for a good day, and as always, more to learn!

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