Based on Things I’ve Learned/Observed/Reaffirmed in Spain
On the subject of friends:
- You never know where you will make a friend and how quickly he or she might bring out the best in you.
- You may not see a friend often or for long, and she may not know it, but she will be the person that lifts your spirit on any given day.
- You will have moments of friendship with someone or just a few hours and that will be it. And that’s okay. The time spent together is still a something that’s yours to keep.
- You may not consider yourself a cat person, but just wait until you have two cute ones waiting for you at the door in the afternoon, wanting to play and just hang out near you.
- Sometimes a three-way friendship also involves switching between three languages.
- People’s smiles. They can become embedded in your mind, something about them you never forget.
- A hug. It can work wonders. ...continue reading "An Almost Post-Study Abroad Manifesto to Myself"
There’s a precious little bookstore/café in Madrid called “La Fugitiva,” or the fugitive. It’s up the street from the famous Reina Sofia museum on Calle Santa Ysabel (yes, Isabel with a “y”). The wooden floors squeak as you walk in. The door needs an extra push to close completely. Antique wooden toys decorate the store windows along with a collection of works on philosophy and a seasonal selection of Christmas books. The little tables and chairs around the shop don’t match and no customer gets the same coffee mug. The guys who work there are friendly and seem to be able to offer recommendations to even the most obscure reading questions. The walls are filled with posters for art shows coming and past, lectures, and offers of dance and language classes. There are some corners where little flakes of paint fall in your lap if your chair happens to scratch the wall. If you come into chat with a friend, it’s quiet and easy to sip coffee and share a muffin in peace. If you’re there to study, there are enough people searching through books, working or chatting so that it’s not too silent, but people keep voices low so that it’s conducive to writing borderline major papers. This quiet and lovely little shop I discovered a month ago upon recommendation of my host mom is my favorite place to study outside my home and I only have eight days left to enjoy it. The woes of the sun setting on my semester here in Madrid. ...continue reading "Finding Refuge in La Fugitiva"
Thanksgiving in my family has never involved turkey, as we are vegetarians, but like for most people in the US, it’s a time for us to meet with loved ones and enjoy a couple of days off from school and work. I knew Thanksgiving was not going to be a major affair here in Madrid, and I fully expected to go along my Thursday as per usual – class and the rest of the day to explore the city. However, Thanksgiving this fall and the days leading up to and following it ended up being extraordinary and reminded me of just how much I have to be thankful for. ...continue reading "Thanksgiving in Madrid"
Most people will tell you academics tend to be secondary when studying abroad; secondary to traveling, to learning the language by practicing, to meeting people from the region you are staying, and to generally being immersed outside the classroom. This is all definitely true. I’ve learned more about Spanish customs from sitting down for meals with my host family and friends than from classes. ...continue reading "On academics and professors"
One of Spanish customs I have had to adjust to but appreciate the most is eating, rather the manner of eating. We often take it for granted at home, but sitting down to share a meal with family or friends daily is an important part of the day I in my experience in Madrid these past couple of months. In the United States when everybody is home, we do eat dinner together and enjoy sharing our days but often in the rush of work, plans at night with friends, or exhaustion we quickly wrap up and head in our own directions. ...continue reading "Sit, down, relax…and eat"
I woke up early on November 7th, Wednesday morning, and immediately refreshed the web page of The New York Times that I had up on my laptop screen to find who would be the next president of my country. And then, because I am in Spain, I checked elpais.com, one of the country’s major newspapers. The headlines were basically the same at 7 am. In one of the hallways of La Autónoma, we GW Madrid students talked excitedly about the outcome before class. Who stayed up until 4 am? How was the U.S. embassy election-watch party? Who made it to the Democrats Abroad party? How did the students hoping to see Romney win feel? ...continue reading "“Who’s going to be our President?” and other concerns in Spain…"
Studying for midterms in Madrid has been more difficult than I anticipated. It’s not because the classes I am taking are unusually demanding; in fact it’s quite to the contrary. I’ve been able to keep up with the papers I’ve had to write in Spanish. Despite accommodating professors and a variety in structure of the assessments, my mind wanders and concentrating my energy on studies in one of my new favorite cities is difficult. ...continue reading "Easier said than done…Midterms"
On a recent Saturday afternoon, after a few hours of both procrastinating and studying, I decided to enjoy the beautiful day and get a breath of fresh air. Luckily for me, El Retiro, what I think of Madrid’s version of Central Park, is less than a ten-minute walk from my host family’s home and is the perfect place for a stroll. Every Wednesday, in order to get to my art class in the Prado I have to walk from the east end of Retiro to the west, and for some reason because of this 15 minute walk I thought I knew much of Retiro. Oh, how I was wrong. This Saturday, as I headed in a direction away from my normal route, I came upon the Palacio Cristal and the most delightful pond that sits close to the steps of the massive glass structure. At first I stood staring at the fountain in the center of the pond, where a couple of families of ducks and swans swam. When I finally pulled myself away from the water, I decided to step inside the gorgeous glass, “crystal,” structure behind me. ...continue reading "Palacio Cristal – Loud and Clear"
I’ve been asked more than once since I’ve been in Madrid how the “situation” is. Am I seeing the protests? Is it safe? The answers to both these questions is yes, but the economic crisis in Spain is deeper than that, and it is not necessarily visible unless you choose to be aware and conscious of it. As students here for a semester, there are a few ways we’ve witnessed the effects of the government’s austerity measures and the public’s response.
We’ve passed by or seen protests more than once. They can be on a smaller scale, like the medical personnel marching in front of the hospital across my home. They can be huge and we later learn about arrests, choosing to avoid the zones in fear of mingling with the police. I attended a protest a few weeks ago and observed some interesting things. For Spaniards, to protest and use one’s right to assemble can be a family activity. I met and saw everyone from college students to grandmothers and their grandchildren in a demonstration. While many of the marches tend to be horizontal, or without a fixed agenda and definitive leadership, some of the people I talked to felt the Spanish government was cutting the most basic functions, like education and support for the unemployed. They felt abandoned and wondered why their tax dollars were not going back to them. The protests were also much louder than any I’ve an experienced in the United States.
...continue reading "Witnessing Challenging Times"
Perched on one of the many mountains and hills surrounding Barcelona, stands as a testament to the beauty that can be found when you mix nature and creative brilliance, specifically that of Antoni Gaudí. There are interesting shapes and curves at every corner and mosaic sculptures that make up seating. Parque Güell is a work of art to walk through and experience. As I peered out to a nearly perfect view of Spain’s second largest city last weekend, I realized I had come to Barcelona with an image tainted by stories of tourists and foreigners on spring break. In fact, I loved the Gaudi architecture, expansive museums, and the sunny beaches. And it was in the library in the Fundació Joan Miró, where I remembered learning about Miró in high school and found myself making connections between my class and the work of the artists of Cataluña.
...continue reading "Madrid: From the Inside and Out"