Hey, everyone! Welcome to my blog. For those of you looking to study abroad, I will be providing survival tips throughout (learned the hard way, haha). Also, for those of you looking to learn about Madrid, I will do my best to re-create the amazing experiences so you can live vicariously through me!
I just arrived a week ago in Madrid, and there’s already so much to talk about. After we arrived on the SMU group flight (which I suggest because someone from the program picks you up from the airport and helps you with luggage problems), we were taken to our houses to meet our host family.
My host family is made up of three generations of women (68, 42, and 8 years old), and they are all hilarious and incredibly nice. Pictured is my Senora, but we all call her Abuela (grandma, photo right).
If you’re looking to study abroad, I highly suggest living with a host family. It’s a great way fully immerse yourself in the lifestyle of a Spaniard and it forces you to speak a lot of Spanish. Even after a week it’s incredible how much my ability to express myself in Spanish has improved! I also live with two other students (one from SMU and one from University of San Diego) and we’ve made a pact to only speak Spanish. Well … at least we’ll try. Haha.
Our first day in Spain started with a trip to the beautiful city of Toledo. With its narrow labyrinth of streets and beautiful buildings, it almost seemed like we stepped back in time. This was a relaxing contrast from the bustling city of Madrid, which reminds me a lot of New York but it sleeps even less!
Here we got aquainted with our fellow students from SMU and USD. Also, some of our professors, whom we already love, gave us insight into how to get the most out of our experience here in Spain.
The orientation was very laid back (resembling the Spanish lifestyle) with a lot of time to socialize and visit the city’s quaint cafes. We also visited the giant Cathedral of Toledo, the church of San Juan de los Reyes, and Sinogoga del transito. All of which showed a combination of Christian, Arab, and Jewish cultures, which lived peacefully together in Toledo from 744-1492 A.D.
After we returned we started our classes at Fundacion Jose Ortegas y Gasset, named after a famous Spanish philosopher. The school is relatively small and convieniently located, and the faculty are all passionate and very kind. Because of the small size of our group, all of my classes have less then 10 people. Also, classes are only held Monday-Thursday, reserving Fridays for group trips, which I will tell you all about, of course.
Another great opportunity through the Fundacion is a chance to tutor Spanish children with their English. It’s a great way to improve Spanish and supplement income with the dollar as weak as it is!
This past Friday, we went to the beautiful Romanesque city of Segovia. The first place we visited was called La Granja (the ranch, photo left) and it was the summer home of Felipe V built in 1735. Yeah, older than America.
The house was packed full of gorgeous tapestries, paintings, and sculptures. The windows on the ground floor looked out into a seemingly endless fountain (photo right), one of the many wonders scattered about the massive gardens of the palace-like summer home.
In addition to the beautiful architecture, the food of Segovia is famous and very interesting. For example, we enjoyed a local delicacy known as Cochinillo (photo left) at a famous local restaurant called the Meson de Candido. Cochinillo is basically a baby pig and it is served with hoof and tail and sometimes more!
As with much of the Spanish cuisine, I felt like Bear Grylls on Man vs. Wild, picking around eyes, ears legs, and shells. However, it’s well worth the work because what’s inside is always fresh and delicious.
The final Segovian landmark that we visited was Alcazar (photo right), which comes from the Arab word for castle. This castle was seized by the Christians when they reclaimed all of Spain from the Arabs. The famous Catholic Queen Isabel stayed in the castle, and a combination of Christian and Moorish designs makes for an interesting artistic fusion.
Perhaps the strangest thing that I saw was in the chapel of the castle (photo left). Here, just to the left of the altar, was a very graphic painting of a famous killer of Moors, complete with severed heads. This gives a little insight into the religous struggle that has permeated the history of Spain.
Well that’s all I have for now! I will be keeping you updated regularly about my cultural adventures!
Dos Besitos (two kisses) y Hasta luego!