Another day, and another week has gone by in Spain. All I can think about is how nervous and worried I felt during my last days back at home because I thought I was going to get so homesick. Although I miss my friends and family back at home, I am absolutely in love with this country. If there were one thing I could recommend anyone, it would be to study abroad. Plan years in advance to make sure you have room in your undergraduate years to experience what I am doing. There really is nothing else that can compare.

As easily as I’ve adjusted to this wonderful country, there have been a few things I had to get used to (though I’m not complaining!):

  • Water and electricity are a luxury, especially now that Spain is facing a financial crisis. It’s made me more aware of turning off the lights as soon as I leave the room and taking shorter showers.
  •  I’ve become accustomed to greeting or saying goodbye to anyone, whether they’re people I know or have just met, with kisses on each cheek; which I don’t mind at all because it makes me feel pretty European, if you ask me.
  • I walk a lot. Again, something I can appreciate since that’s my only form of exercise while I’m here. I take the metro whenever I’m alone because I still don’t really know my way around the streets. But what ends up happening is that I step outside from one of the many metro exits, completely disoriented, and I’ll end up walking down many blocks, lost, and not really realizing that I’ve been walking in the wrong direction the entire time. By then, I’ve already reached another metro station so I just hop on one and explore some more. It’s definitely not the most efficient way to get around, but either way, I’m seeing more of the city and getting exercise at the same time! I just try to look confident…. even though I have no idea where I am. I definitely miss the grid road system. Here, the roads intersect in every which way, so it’s much more difficult. AT THE VERY LEAST, I have the metro system on lock so as long as I’m on a busy street, it doesn’t matter where I am; I can just take the subway back home. The metro = my safety net.
  • I eat less here; Spaniards aren’t really big on snacking or munching in between meals (tapas all the way). No one really eats huge portions like I do. While I do get my daily dosage of fruits and vegetables (thank you, host momma), the amount of carbs they consume here is ridiculous. I’m talking bread AND some form of potato during every meal. Whenever I go out, they always serve potato chips if we’re just ordering drinks – and sometimes olives. Or, they always serve bread if we’re eating a meal. A popular Spanish dish is tortilla, but it’s not what you use to wrap and make tacos. It’s like a hybrid of an omelet and quiche, made with eggs and… POTATO.

The French Garden

On Friday, we took a day trip to El Escorial, where the Kings of Spain used to live. It was about an hour drive north from Madrid. It was chilly (never take central heating for granted), but the landscape, views, and architecture were beautiful. I saw paintings, murals, the basilica, garden, library, and the pantheon of the kings and royal family (a chamber room containing their remains). Unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to take photos while we were inside…so I guess you’ll just have to visit Spain and see for yourself!

This past week has pretty much been a transition week. Classes have started, as the course work piles up, the nights spent going out will slowly decline. We SMU-in-Spain students have also spent a lot of time planning, scheduling, and booking trips within and outside of Spain. I won’t reveal where I plan to go until it happens, but all I can say is I’m so excited! So many “first times” are happening or going to happen this year, and January isn’t even over yet. We don’t have any trips planned for the upcoming weeks so I hope to become much better familiarized with and take advantage of Madrid… my new home. Crazy, isn’t it?