This past Wednesday through Friday was orientation and our group trip to Toledo. Due to jetlag and my late night arrival to Madrid, I woke up at 3:30 a.m. Wednesday “morning” and couldn’t fall back asleep. Needless to say, I didn’t have to worry about being late to meet everyone at 9 a.m. My host mom (whom I adore…it’s official) walked me to the foundation, where I’ll be going to every day for class, and HALLELUJAH I am only a five-minute walk away from school. It’s like the program knew I was directionally challenged and housed me in the most perfect location for me.
There, I met the rest of the SMU-in-Spain students, and we all said our goodbyes to our host families. We also met our SMU-in-Spain coordinators and were given a lot of information regarding our host families, courses we were enrolled in this semester, and other details about transportation, ID cards, cell phones, etc. We toured the foundation, and by noon, we boarded a charter bus and were on our way to Toledo.
Stephanie and other SMU students in Toledo
We spent most of the day following a tour guide and also exploring the city ourselves. The city is so special because it has been able to preserve much of its culture and history. Since King Felipe II moved the capital of Spain to Madrid, Toledo, which was once the center of religion and culture, was pretty much abandoned. The very narrow streets and uneven cobblestone roads remain, and you definitely feel like you’re in a completely different era – well, except for the occasional chain store like McDonald’s and Zara.
On Thursday, we had an hourlong class over the history of Toledo, followed by a guided visit of several landmarks – aka cue more breathtaking architecture. Note: Toledo was once the center of religion, where Muslims, Christians, and Jews could peacefully live together, which explains the mixture of different architectural styles.
Although we did a lot of sightseeing, I’m glad the program gave us plenty of time to explore the city at night (and take naps during the day). Friday morning, we took one short trip to the top of Toledo to get a panoramic view of the city before saying goodbye.
BUT THAT’S NOT ALL.
After arriving back from Madrid, we took a short trip to the center of Madrid and also learned how to navigate the metro system. It’s actually not that difficult to use, but we’ll see. I expect to get lost a couple of times, but I hope to eventually get the hang of it.
Anyway, I better learn my way using the metro because there are so many things to do and see. Here are just a few on my list:
-Cirque du Soleil | March 1-31.
-Real-Madrid vs. Barcelona fútbol game | March 3rd.
-Lion King on Broadway | now-until May 5.
-Easter Break | April 22-29.
-El Rastro (flea market) | every Sunday.
-Mercados (imagine a very elaborate Central Market with any type of food you can imagine.)
-Shopping districts in Gran Via, Sol, y Chueca.
I feel like I have to pinch myself because I still can’t believe I’m here. I love the siestas (naptime), nightlife, food and tapas, and people. The Spaniards are a little behind on music (Gangnam Style is huge here…), but that’s a sacrifice I’m willing to face, haha. I also can’t believe I start classes on Monday- talk about a reality check.
I really shouldn’t complain though because I only have two classes each Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. It hasn’t even been a week, and my only worry is that I won’t have enough time to see all of Madrid since the program includes a lot of weekends spent traveling to different provinces in Spain. Have I mentioned how lucky I am to be here?