AMadrid1.jpeg My first week in Spain so far has been exciting, eventful, and insightful. Although I was a little sad to be saying goodbye to my family and boyfriend, I was soon elated with anticipation of my adventures to come.

I departed from D/FW International Airport for Washington D.C., where I would have a layover before my flight to Madrid. (In photo: Ready to leave at D/FW)

At the airport I met up with the various other students who are on the program with me, and we soon became fast friends as we ecstatically talked of our hopes and expectations.

Madrid2.jpg After a long flight with little sleep, we arrived in Madrid and took a bus to the Fundacion Jose Ortega y Gasset, the school at which we will be studying this semester (photo right).

At the school my roommates (Allison and Amy) and I met up with our host mother, Maria, and we took a taxi to our apartment a little ways away.

AMadrid3.jpg We settled down in the apartment and attempted to overcome our jet lag, and by the next day we were ready for our trip to Toledo for orientation (photo left: relaxing in our apartment).

After a class on the Spanish language, we ate dinner and later went out to experience Toledo’s nightlife.

Madrid5.jpg We were all excited to visit Circulo de Arte, an old cathedral converted into a bar/discoteca. Although the locals stayed in their houses that night since it was a Monday, we were able to enjoy each other’s company and toast to a new life in Spain. (Photo right: A view of Toledo.)

The next day we woke up early and had another class on the three different cultures in Madrid. During the Middle Ages and before the unification of Spain under los Reyes Catolicos, the people of three different religions – Christianity, Islam, and Judaism – lived in tolerance in the Iberian Peninsula. This coexistence manifested itself through the architecture of the city, as displayed by the religious places we visited – the Synagogue of El Transito, the church of San Juan de Los Reyes, and the Gothic Cathedral of Toledo.

Madrid6.jpg We also got to visit “El Entierro del Conde Orgaz,” a very famous painting by El Greco, an artist who lived and painted in Toledo. After another entertaining night out, we returned to our rooms to sleep, and the next morning we returned to Madrid (photo left: our group in Toledo).

Back at the school we had a class on living with our host families, and then we had the rest of the afternoon free. Since we were a little worn out from our time in Toledo, my roommates and I decided to take it easy and spend the night with our host mom in our apartment. She cooked us a delicious meal consisting of vegetable soup, spinach salad with oranges and onions, a hamburger to remind us of home, and a slice of orange cake with a cup of hot chocolate to top it all off.

The next day we awoke early and arrived at the Fundacion to embark on a walking tour of Royal Madrid. We visited the Palacio Real and then walked over to Plaza Mayor and La Puerta del Sol, the two biggest shopping centers of Madrid. After shopping around for a bit, we returned back to our house for dinner – paella, a salad of apples and carrots, and chicken. Later that night the group went out and explored around the metro station Alonso Martinez.

Madrid7.jpg On Friday we again woke up early and went on an excursion to La Granja and Segovia. Since these two towns are located in the mountains, we got to experience a beautiful drive through the Sierra de Guadarrama range. In La Granja we visited the palace of San Ildefonso, which was modeled after the palace of Versailles. We got to explore its various rooms and the gardens, and afterwards we departed for the town of Segovia. (photo right: In front of the Palacio Real)

Madrid8.jpg We first visited the ancient Roman aqueduct, which is only held together by gravity and is over 2 thousand years old. (Photo left: Aqueduct in Segovia)

We then went to get some lunch, and I had Sopa Castellana, a traditional soup in this part of Spain that consisted of a fried egg, ham, and bread. After some shopping, we went to the Alcazar de Segovia, the palace/fortress where Queen Isabella of Spain was crowned.

We later returned to Madrid, and after a dinner of lasagna and empanadas de atun, the group went out to the nightclub Kapital, where we danced the night away.