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By msotomayor12

It’s hard to believe that I am writing this post during my packing break. With each article of clothing I am putting away, I become more and more aware that my study abroad experience is reaching its end. While I am more than excited to be going back to the U.S., I am leaving with a heavy heart filled with too many good memories.

When I first came to Madrid, I told everyone that I was on my way to “get my heart back” after leaving it there when I first visited in 2010. Of all the cities I ever visited before then, Madrid felt like home immediately. I felt as if I had lived there in a past life. Since I did not have enough time to uncover the city back then, I knew I had to come back. I’m so grateful I did.

Madrid is the liveliest city I have ever visited in Europe. There are constantly people laughing and talking on the streets, even at 6 am. It is a vibrant place where the people are kind hearted and willing to have a conversation with you regardless of where you’re from. Even though generational differences are obvious, at the end of the day, Spaniards, specifically Madrileños, are so diverse they try to understand your position in life and try to guide you if you let them.

Not to mention that Spain itself is fascinating. Every city I went to was completely different than the other because the Arab, Muslim, Spanish, Jewish, and Italian cultures all influenced each region differently throughout history. Yet the Spanish culture links them all, with their delicious jamon or the ceramic tiles lining old palaces. In other words, traveling within Spain is like visiting a new country, which is an amazing learning experience that I am so fortunate to have indulged in.

Studying abroad is one of the best decisions anyone can make because you develop a new perspective of the world. I believe that I can criticize and also praise the things some governments do right or wrong, which I hope will make me a more proactive citizen.

It also makes the world much smaller. It amazes me that in the time it takes me to travel from Tampa, FL to New York City, I am exposed to a completely distinct culture where people are speaking their own language. This was my favorite part about travelling because you realize that people are completely different based on their culture, but at the end of the day we’re all humans who interact in a similar manner.

Yet every time I travelled, I was so happy that Madrid was my home base. I was easily able to transition to their way of life, which made me more open to new opportunities. Since Madrid has no much to offer, I still feel as if I need to do to more to know it fully. I guess this means I must come back in the (hopefully near) future.

And now I must close my study abroad experience as I zip up my suitcases, each carrying trinkets, memoirs, and ticket stubs that simply represent the plethora of memories I’ve made.

¡Hasta pronto Madrid! Te tendré en mí corazón siempre.

By msotomayor12

I knew that the final week in Madrid would be bittersweet. However, there has yet to be a moment in my life where the end of a chapter is in plain sight. Not only will leaving this grand city mark the beginning of my last summer as a student, but also my final year in college.

Looking back on my study abroad experience, I have really seen myself grow in the classroom. Studying in a different country gives you a natural impulse to explain and compare your knowledge about U.S. affairs with professors who are trying to relay similar information about their country. In this way, I have become a more active participant in class because everyone is interested in understanding new points of view.

Learning, and most importantly, respecting the political and social views of Spanish citizens has increased my desire to know more about other societies and why they act like they do. Studying in Europe gives one to the opportunity to discover various cultures, which are all neighboring each other. It’s amazing to see how one morning you are surrounded by people speaking French and after a short two hours plane ride, you have to remind yourself to speak Spanish with the locals.

It has also been an enlightening experience seeing U.S. politics develop from a different point of view, whether it’s from a Spanish narrative on a newscast or opinions shared at the dinner table. My exposure to all this has made me more confident in explaining my opinions, something that was a little shaky before.

It is in these last stages of studying abroad that I find myself reflecting…and preparing for finals. Surprisingly, I feel the same pressure to do well just as if I were at GW. Even though I have a rough week ahead of me, I know that my grades on these exams will not matter in the long run. The little nuggets of wisdom, learning by experiencing, and the pursuit to immerse myself in various cultures has taught me the most about the world and also, myself.

By msotomayor12

As a well-known pesto, stuffed pasta, and ice cream enthusiast it made complete sense to spend my spring break travelling through Italy. Visiting the boot of Europe was number one on my bucket list and I spent my eleven-day vacation taking full advantage of savoring every bit of its culture. Even though my range of Italian vocabulary consisted of “Ciao” and “Prego” (plus the name of every type of spaghetti and sauce) I managed to order my entrees correctly and find my way back to my hostel, which is quite the achievement in any foreign country. Traveling through seven cities takes a lot of planning and stamina, so I’ll present to you my “must-dos” and “biggest regrets” so you can enjoy your future trip.


Must-Do: Instead of this being a must-do, the only thing you can really do in Pisa is take a touristy picture of yourself sustaining the famous Leaning Tower. The city is incredibly small and quiet outside of the tourist square so spending an hour walking around is suggested.

Biggest regret: Not climbing to the top. The Tower has recently opened its doors again to the public after years of restoration and tourists say that the view is definitely worth the 294-step climb.

Bonus Fun Fact: The Tower is not as tall as I imagined it to be.



Must-Do: Ride in a gondola, Vaporetto (public transportation boat), or water taxi.

In other words, the best way to see Venice is from the water. To be honest, I felt like I was on a Disney boat ride half of the time because the city is so unreal. People actually live navigating through the waters to get to their homes, the market, or restaurants. It’s really an escape from normalacy.

Biggest regret: Stay in a hotel. Since Venice is so tiny, hostel options are extremely limited and they are not pleasant to stay in.


Must-Do: Simply visit it.

This vibrant city literally lights up your walk. Each house is painted in a bright color ranging from pink and yellow. Citizens cannot change their house’s color unless it falls under the city approved color scheme. Back in the day, citizens started doing this so that fishermen knew which was their house when they returned at nighttime. The city is so tiny that it only takes 45 minutes to walk through. However, I suggest buying some hand-made lace and drinking orange spritz, which are all unique to the island.

Biggest regret: Not buying a beautiful handmade lace scarf. One can find them throughout Italy, but they’re much more expensive.


Must-Do: Visit David, Il Duomo, and seek out family-run restaurants.

I do not think that anyone can really understand why Michelangelo’s Statue of David is so famous until you see it. Standing at 17 feet tall, the statue is so incredibly lifelike that at one point, I thought I saw his chest rising up and down as if he were breathing. One can easily spend 30 minutes marveling at its physique.

Il Duomo, also known as The Cathedral of Santa de Maria del Fiore, is Florence’s oldest and largest cathedral. It is definitely hard to miss since its famous Dome grazes over the skyline and its architecture paints the building in red, green, and white images. Going into the cathedral is free and worthwhile since you can visit the remains of the original church dating back to 408 A.D. I also recommend climbing to the top of the Dome (depending on the temperature, see below) because the landscape is beautiful.

Lastly, I ate the best meals in Florence because my roommate and I found several family establishments. The food was exquisite! The mixture of flavors was so fresh and savory I would return to Florence just to eat more pesto sauce, tortellini, and crostini.

Biggest regret: Not visiting the Uffizi museum, which hoards Italian Renaissance masterpieces. Also, standing two hours in any line with vicious winds is not worth getting a cold.

Bonus Fun Fact: The best night to go out in the city isn’t on the weekend, but on Monday.

Rome/ Roma

Must-Do: Visit Ancient Rome and eat gelato from Frigidarium.

If you go to Rome and somehow do not run into The Ancient City, I’m not exactly sure where you’re walking around. Ruins are everywhere and you can touch all the old (we’re talking 8 B.C. old), which is incredible. Definitely must visit the Coliseum because…it’s the Coliseum, no questions asked.

The most delicious gelato I had during my trip was at Frigidarium. We casually ran into the best family-run gelato shop in all of Rome while walking near Piazza Navona. I suggest the house flavor of the same name; it’s a light caramel, chocolate swirl, and cookie crumble scoop of delight.

Biggest regret: Unfortunately my trip to Rome did not play out like the Lizzie McGuire movie. I did not become an international superstar upon stepping into the Coliseum and missed the opportunity to ride a Vespa after meeting an Italian singer at the Trevi Fountain. Le sigh.

Vatican City 

Must-Do: Pay for a private tour guide to take you around the city and avoid a 2-4 hour wait in line.

Whether you’re a Catholic or not, Vatican City is worth a visit. The museums on the Basilica grounds are filled with Egyptian, Renaissance, and private art collections of former popes. Not to mention that you can visit Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel, which is a once and a lifetime experience.

Biggest Regret: All the restaurants in the city are ridiculously expensive since they are all tourist traps. Simply walk over the bridge to Rome and be amazed when prices suddenly decrease by ten or more euros.


Must-Do: Grab a map or buy a tour book that explains each structure in the city.

Pompeii made my 6th grade history nerd run wild. After learning about it then, I made it my goal to visit it because I was obsessed with their culture and unfortunate demise. The visit solidified my understanding of how people lived starting from the 2nd century B.C. Surprisingly, it is not drastically different from how we do today. One can visit the remains of several gyms, baths, amphitheaters, bakeries, and markets. Mosaics and frescos still adorn some homes, while the plaster casts of residents are on display in their permanent resting state.

Biggest Regret: Not grabbing a map before entering, which left us having to eavesdrop on tours to realize the purpose of some ancient ruins.

By msotomayor12

As a junior, I have come to realize that early morning classes never get easier. The first internal debate of my day consists of having to chose between sleeping a few extra minutes or eating a balanced breakfast (including a lot of coffee). Starting off the day on the wrong foot makes the simplest obstacles suddenly multiply and everything turns into a pleasant surprise.

This is how I started my Thursday morning last week when the explosions went off. La Universidad Autónoma de Madrid was in its third—and most aggressive day—of protests against an increase in tuition and government cuts. The mission of the protest to make politicians aware that “public education means a guaranteed free education.” However, parliament has steadily increased taxes to make up for the Spanish economic recession between 2008 and 2012. In recent months, parliament announced it would cut 70% of government funding to universities, reduce scholarships (including to those who already have them), and another tax increase.

Between March 25-27, student protesters blocked entrances to the school parking lots by lighting garbage bins on fire and throwing small firecrackers. It was the first time I had ever heard explosions used to prove a point. Even though the protests never impacted me directly, I felt a sense of appreciation and uneasiness at the same time. It was incredible that the students were so passionate about preserving their education system. However, their attempts to gain attention were ineffective since media outlets focused on the violence rather than the actual mission.

This is not the first protest I’ve witnessed either. Spanish citizens are actively raising their voice against the government, whether it is a call to action to send aid to Venezuela or reform their health care system. When the conflict is historically rooted, the protests become increasingly larger and violent. Several Spaniards marched from their respective regions to Madrid on March 22 to join tens of thousands of people in an anti-austerity demonstration. Rioters and police clashed on the main city street, El Paseo del Prado, which resulted in six injuries and 12 arrests.

Protests are more prevalent in Spain that I thought they would be. Now that the weather is getting warmer, the number of protests, whether violent or peaceful, is increasing. I do not feel afraid since the protests are very contained and the violence is not even close to what we see in Middle Eastern countries. Rather, I feel privileged to see them unfold because it not only gives me a different perspective about Spain, but also on the role of what it means to be a citizen passionately fighting for one’s rights.

By msotomayor12

My proudest feat thus far is my ability to survive in another country. Whenever I stop and think about it, I can’t believe that I can communicate with locals and never even second-guessing myself. Not to mention that I am completely comfortable walking around the city because I can now visualize it in my head. These are the little things I am thankful for. I’ve proven to myself that I can have a life elsewhere.

Yet, time and time again I’ve realized that I miss the most random things from the US and I still cannot live without them. How long would you last without the following things?


5. Living near friends: the ability to walk down a flight of stairs or a couple blocks from your dorm building to hang out with friends

Ah college life, how I miss thee. Now that I am far removed from the GW bubble, I realize how fortunate I am to have all my best friends in one place. Yes, it is quite the distraction, but the ability to live near my friends makes life so much fun. It’s definitely something I will appreciate much more upon my return.


4. 24-hour news channels: the ability to tune in to a news channel at any point of the day to get informed

It was around midnight Central European Time when I got an NBC News text alert about the Fort Hood shooting. As an aspiring reporter, I immediately started checking CNN, NBC, New York Times, Washington Post, you name it, to find more information. When I couldn’t find anything I started looking for news channels to watch because that’s what any news enthusiast does. I absolutely miss the ability to watch the news when I’m eating, doing homework, or for my own pleasure. I’m constantly glued to it.

However, I do appreciate Spanish news channels. It goes beyond local and national stories of the day to focus on conflicts around the world that I was never aware of until I heard a 30 second recap of it. I appreciate news as a learning tool so much.


3. A healthy diet: eating an array of foods in moderation that benefit one’s health

To be fair, I prefer foods from other countries than the US because I forget how delicious fresh and unprocessed food tastes. While the Spanish do have an array of healthy food options and a balanced diet, the overall thinking towards some types of food is a little skewed. Different people have told me that eating lettuce is much healthier than spinach, eating cartilage and fat from meat regularly isn’t bad for you, and that mayonnaise is the key to happiness, which is just not true. It’s awkward vocalizing my opinion about these particularities, especially in front of my house mom, but what can I say; I’m stuck in my American ways.


2. Breakfast: a meal eaten to jumpstart your day and metabolism that consists of eggs, cereal, pancakes, waffles, bacon, yogurt, and/or fruit.

In Spain, as in many Latin American and Western European countries, people start their morning with coffee and toast. That’s it. Since I’m usually on the go, even in the US, I absolutely don’t mind a light breakfast during the week. However, I miss my traditional American breakfast during the weekends, especially brunch.


 1. CVS: a convenient store that houses a pharmacy and every other living supply that is crucial to survival, all in ONE place.

Of all the things the US has to offer, I never thought I would miss CVS the most. The word “convenient” takes on a whole new meaning when you’ve been separated from it for too long. In Western Europe there are pharmacies everywhere, but they only sell medicine and nothing else. If you want to buy shampoo, a nail file, or a new pair of headphones one needs to visit two different stores (that may be blocks away from each other) to find them. The other day it took me four metro stops to discover una botica, a tiny shop, that sold an array of living supplies. Even though I’m so grateful that it exists, the trek was quite inconvenient.

However, not having these things does not mean that I regret studying abroad. To be honest, I could live without these privileges. It just takes more than 5 months living abroad to adjust to these changes.

By msotomayor12

Now that the weeks I have left in Europe are in the single digits, I have made it a priority to visit as many cities on my bucket list. This weekend I took a two-day trip to Lisbon, a city that has fascinated me through pictures and by word of mouth. It has been a while since I visited a city that I did not know anything about its culture and history. With only a one-hour flight standing between me and Portugal’s capital, I knew I had to go explore.

Like every city, Lisbon has its charm, but it looks very different from any other European city I have visited. The rows of townhouses and buildings are in need of a fresh coat of paint to bring back its once lively yellow, blue, and even pink facades. To make up for the lackluster, some buildings are adorned with tiles from the base to the roof, which gave me quite the inspiration for my future home. Looking at the city from the top of the Santa Justa Lift or Saint George’s Castle provides a beautiful skyline with the clump red rooftops barely outlining the plazas and city streets.

Without leaving Lisbon, it takes you places. Their cobbled streets are split by cable car tracks. The cable cars—which must be from the 1950s—are rickety, old, and simulate a roller coaster depending on whose driving it. They are a time traveling tool that drops you off in front of a medieval castle or a 500-year-old monastery. The best part is seeing it cross near the 25 de Abril Bridge, which is the twin sister of the Golden Gate. The sight echoes San Francisco.

However, a trip to Portugal is not complete without visiting Sintra. The hilltop city is speckled with castles, palaces, and ruins that once belonged to the Romans, Muslims, and Portuguese royal family. Sintra is known for its fairytale qualities. As someone who grew up an hour away from Disney World, I felt like I was back in the Magic Kingdom at the Pena Palace. Built in the 1840s, the castle’s blue tiled, burgundy, and yellow walls housed the Portuguese royal family until the 1920s. The domes, Arabic arches, medieval lookouts, and pointy pinnacles make the castle look like as if could only be found in a five year olds’ imagination.

The second must-see is the Portuguese royal family’s summerhouse, the Regalerira Estate. Although the buildings are less fictitious than the Pena, the gardens must have inspired every fantasy ever written. Several pathways to the top of the garden are lined with mythological symbols and extravagant fountains. However, looking beyond “what you see” is what makes the gardens spectacular. Several ponds are connected to grottos, which are accessed by long, winding, and dark secret passageways. The only way to cross one pond and waterfall is by stepping-stones. The main attraction is finding the secret spiral staircase that symbolizes death leading to the entrance of Heaven or Heaven to earth, depending on which way to climb it. Seriously, the only thing missing from these gardens are fairies.

Lisbon was the perfect getaway because it really took me somewhere else. The sights were different, the language was easy to understand, and their cheese pastries are to die for. Visiting a city without any knowledge of what to expect makes everything shine a little brighter.

By msotomayor12

I wrote this article in Terminal 3 of Charles de Gaulle with a feeling of nostalgia and relief to be leaving Paris. It’s the first time I've felt this way leaving the City of Lights and I think I know why. For starters my high-school level French is almost non-existent, making it more difficult than ever to communicate with the already reserved Parisians. While awkward conversations build thicker skin, knowing that you can’t express your sentiments makes me quite hesitant, which isn’t my personality at all.

Another first was traveling alone with my brother. Man, does that make any situation fun and lively. Even though he is 17, I still act like the protective older sister; a feeling I’ve come to realize will never cease. For this reason, I was constantly on alert looking out for him more than I was for myself. I naturally went along with what he wanted to do since he always finds cool places to visit. At this point it’s in my instinct to do so. Thankfully his interests didn’t take us to the touristy parts of the city, which made me see Paris in a different light.

And although we walked around a majority of the city meeting up with friends along the way, I felt as if something was missing. I think the best way to explain this is by sharing artist David Douard’s way of understanding the world. His exposition in the Palais de Tokyo, Mo’Swallow, shows random pieces of everyday tools and resources (water, plaster, cages, lights, etc.) and mixes them together to produce “art” (I put this in quotes because many people would think his art looks more like garbage pieced together). The whole point of the exhibition was to prove that everyone’s understanding of the sculptures would be completely unique because we all live in our own “pseudo-environments.” While languages connect people, each individual can interpret the meaning of a word differently based on the experiences they associate with it. By communicate our interpretations of things we, in turn, define the use of it until it is accepted by all. In other words, things could have a different purpose if we defined it another way.

Philosophical right?

This could explain why I feel so different about Paris this time around. To clarify, the way I see Paris is how I see New York. They are two cities that are aesthetically beautiful because the buildings are almost exactly the same. That creates a perfect order, but the people in it make it quite chaotic. The people define it, which takes away from the beauty and calm that is constantly present if you look away from the streets. I think this is why I’m nostalgic and intrigued by both cities—there’s something more to it, but I haven’t found it yet. That is why I prefer to leave and stay nostalgic about Paris because if I were to stay, my romanticized vision and intrigue of the city would definitely disappear.

By msotomayor12

There are a few cultural art forms that are exclusively unique to Spanish culture. The first that could come to mind are the bullfights, in which a torero and a bull literally fight to the death. If hair-raising death matches aren’t your thing, seeing a Zarzuela at a local theatre can easily soothe your nerves. However, if you want to really indulge in the culture and be transported into performance heaven, it is imperative to see a flamenco show.

After dancing every style imaginable for sixteen years, it is impossible to not feel nostalgic about my favorite past time. My blood naturally pulses to the beat of a good tune, whether it is a hip-hop, classical, or modern song. So when I heard that the GW Madrid program offered a Flamenco class, I had to sign up.

For over a month I have been taking classes at Casa Patas, one of Spain’s most prized dancing schools. Every Monday and Wednesday I strap on my black Mary Jane heels and stomp away to the rhythm of different flamenco palos, or styles.

The beauty of flamenco is that it incorporates my three favorite dancing styles: ballet, tap, and salsa. I know it sounds impossible for these completely different styles to blend, but they fuse together perfectly. The ballet is seen in the core and arms of the flamenco’s body. Her upper body barely moves, while her feet are stomping away in similar tap steps. A little bit of salsa is present in the dancer’s hip sways, but even those moves are all in control.

Flamenco is not just the dancer performing, it also includes a guitarist, cantor, and several others who hold the beat by clapping their palmas, palms, together. A performance does not even have to include a dancer at all. What defines flamenco are the range of styles within the genre. Depending on the rhythm, the cantor can sing songs of sorrow or happiness and the dancer exudes that emotion.

For that reason, flamenco takes your breath away when you watch it. It’s a fusion of different artistic elements coming together to present an amazing cultural experience. If you ever find yourself in Spain, find the nearest tablon (flamenco stage), order some wine, and sit back and indulge in a unique visual and auditory experience.

By msotomayor12

It is obvious that each country has charming qualities that make it unique, but finding the real treasures within each leaves one completely enamored. Andalucía, Spain’s southern region, is full of gems that illuminate Spain’s history. Each city is aesthetically beautiful thanks to the mix of small city streets and the fusion of Christian and Islamic architecture. In other words, these are the best cities to rack up likes on Instagram. They’re also the cities I absolutely recommend one visits before they die. Here’s a glimpse of Córdoba, Sevilla, and Granada.


Even though its the smallest city in the Andalucía region, Córdoba is the home of the largest Mosque-Cathedral in Spain. Centuries ago, Muslims originally built the religious monument that consisted of an outdoor patio and a breath taking mosque that still stands. When one enters it, they see a “forest” of red arches and columns that seem to be never ending. Several prayer rooms are ornately decorated in traditional Islamic plaster, which are detailed with faded colors and intricate designs.

However, if one walks to the center of the building they enter a completely different world. When Charles V saw the mezquita, he felt that the only way to signify that Catholicism was the official religion was to build a chapel in the middle of it. White walls decorated with gold Renaissance details build the skeleton of the chapel. A large wooden choir and a three-story altarpiece are the touches that complete the wondrous site.

The town itself is filled with charming, quiet streets. Restaurants are located on either side and serve typical Andaluz food, including salmorejo and bull’s tail. After grabbing some lunch, one cannot leave Córdoba without seeing the Roman remnants, like the archway and wall witin the ancient city.


After an afternoon in Córdoba, we headed south to my favorite city in the world, Sevilla. I say this because the city is filled with everything I love. The city is built like the most beautiful laberinto (labyrinth) that you dream of getting lost in.

Everything about Sevilla is romantic. The extremely narrow streets are lined with tall apartment buildings, each decorated with rustic balconies and tiles. One can peer into the apartment’s patios, or open terraces in the center of the building. They are filled with flowers, fountains, and more Spanish tiles. With every twist and turn, tourists seem to find a dead end, but really there’s an almost invisible street leading you elsewhere. The streets are so narrow in this city to create some ventilation from the extremely warm weather, which is something this Florida girl does not mind.

All the rustic streets lead to the heart of the city, where one finds La Giralda and the Cathedral. La Giralda stands tall as the last remnant of the ancient mesquite, which was demolished to build the Cathedral. I absolutely recommend going to a nearby rooftop to enjoy food and drinks with an a breath-taking view. Better yet, climbing the 32 ramps to the top of the tower gives one a panoramic view of the city.

If you’re just as obsessed with tiles and Islamic architecture as I am, I recommend visiting El Alcazar. The expansive palace has rooms after rooms filled with incredible tile patterns. And if that isn’t you’re thing, stepping out into the gardens is worth it. There are waterfalls, patios, and mazes that leave you awestruck.

Another must see is Plaza España, located next to the King and Queen's former private park. This Sevillan landmark was built for the Ibero-American Exposition of 1929. Each city in Spain is represented with a tiled bench and a picture that most represents it. One can walk around the plaza and over its many bridges or take a boat ride through its slender stream. It's a beautiful location for a perfect date.

Remember how I said I left my heart in Madrid years ago? Well I’ve been so careless that I think I lost it again in Seville. It is so hard to describe just how beautiful the city is. It’s one of those places that makes you forget about any worry and instead, welcomes you to appreciate every minute of pure relaxation. Even though this was my third visit to Sevilla, it keeps on blowing me away with its charm. I guess another trip there is necessary!


Lastly, we took a day trip to Granada.  In Spanish, Granada translates to pomegranate. When Isabel and Ferdinand took over the last non-Catholic city in Spain, they named it Granada to represent that it is one of the many “seeds” within the unified Catholic country.

The Muslim empire is still standing in Granada at La Alhambra, which translates to “red walls.” Before Isabel and Ferdinand conquered the last Muslim empire in 1492, La Alhambra used to be the Sultan’s palace. The miniature city houses a military base, remnants of civilian houses, the Sultan’s palace and summer house, as well as Charles V's architecturally perfect palace (circle within a square layout). The most impressive location is the palace. It is a time vortex that made me wish I were the Sultan’s wife so that I could experience the wondrous place.

The second stop in Granada was visiting the tombs of Los Reyes Catolicos. It is in this church where Isabel and Ferdinand, their daughter, Queen Juana la loca and her husband, Philip el hermoso.

Although I did not spend enough time to appreciate everything Granada had to offer, I loved its atmosphere. Near the Gran Via, or Main Street, everything looked so modern. However, if you take a turn past the Cathedral, everything suddenly feels like you’re in Morocco. Tiny thrift and souvenir shops sell Middle Eastern clothes, tapestries, and trinkets.

If it isn’t obvious enough from my experiences, Andalucía is the best place to visit in Spain.

By msotomayor12

In honor of midterms looming over my weekend plans, I’ve decided to dedicate this post to my university experience thus far. Get ready to be schooled.

The GW Madrid program is housed at La Universidad Aútonoma de Madrid, a public university that is located on the outskirts of the city. For any GW student, the atmosphere is the polar opposite of Foggy Bottom. The school used to be run by the military, which is another way of insinuating that it’s not the prettiest campus I’ve ever seen.

Yet what it lacks aesthetically, it gains in its academics. From what I have experience in the Spanish education system, there is a huge value placed in the relationship between professors and their students. For the first time in a long time, I’ve felt that professors truly care about getting to know their students so they can note their strengths and weaknesses.

The attention is incredible. I’ve caught myself not even realizing that I’m participating in class discussion because in this atmosphere it comes so naturally. As a result, my professors have gotten to know me besides just reading my papers and exams.

I find this extremely important because it not only makes me more confident about my work, but as a student. I do not feel like I just need to get through a class because professors really try to work with me to develop my understanding. I feel stimulated to keep learning. Also, they really value not bombarding students with 30 pages of reading a night. They would rather students focus intently on several assignments and have enough time to study in their other classes.  I feel stimulated to keep learning.

Getting to know professors is also fascinating. I’ve found myself discussing politics and breaking down House of Cards with my literature professor on our train ride back home. My political science professor took us to visit the Spanish Congress, but the best treat was discussing the importance of political research over coffee and churros. These discussions out of the classroom are exactly the moments where I believe a professor can assess a student’s passion and ability, which are hard to determine from a black and white exam.

Even though its a refreshing experience, I still have to study for midterms, which is still a pain no matter what country a student is in.