Get it? From Normal, Illinois to Spain? Or from normal to insane? Hahahaha I’m so punny. But anyway…
I made it! Estoy aquí! I am in Spain and in one piece, even though the jet lag almost killed me. Here’s what’s been happening the past week in my first post from España:
Before I left for Spain, I had been in contact with some girls from the program that were on the same flight as me, so luckily I had someone to meet up with at the airport. While that was nice, it was death to have to say goodbye to my parents and Yashas. I think I cried enough tears to fill an ocean because it was so difficult. But once I was on the flight, everything was okay. Well, except for the fact that all I wanted to do was sleep and for the life of me could not! Oh well.
The girls at the airport, plus Lush seeing me off!
Our orientation was at a hotel in the neighborhood in Madrid called Atocha. We all got to the hotel (after waiting in the airport for about 6 hours after landing) and checked in. We then got our schedules for the week and were also able to buy Spanish SIM cards for our phones. Dinner was at the hotel that first night with our small groups, and it was pretty good, but the entire first day I was asking myself, “What have I gotten myself into??” I was exhausted and just very overwhelmed with everything. But don’t worry, it got better!
Most of the days of orientation consisted of presentations in the mornings (about apartment hunting, health and safety, banking, teaching, etc.) and we generally had a little free time in the evenings to explore and hang out before dinner. We went to the coolest places for dinner! One night we went to a Flamenco show and ate tapas, and it was SO guay (cool)! The music was very fun to listen to, and the dancers were so passionate. It was great! Another night we went to this restaurant where they have fresh cider, and it was delish. The last night of orientation, we went to this area called Matadero, which used to be this area where there was a slaughterhouse way back in the day. Now it’s a gorgeous plaza (the architecture is dope) and we ate dinner at a restaurant there. Pinchos for dinner, aka tapas with little skewers through them. They were muy deliciosos!! Plus unlimited wine, so you can’t go wrong with that!
They always pour the cider from up high because it gets more oxygen that way
Matadero with my new friends
A lot of my free time was spent exploring with friends in Madrid! There are so many cool barrios (neighborhoods) in the city. Sol was the equivalent of Times Square, La Latina was very cute and busy, and Retiro Park is freakin’ beautiful and I’m obsessed. We walked around a ton the past few days and I loved every second of it. People around all the time, beautiful buildings–what more could you ask for? I also can now confidently use the Metro alone. The first few days I refused to step foot out of the hotel without someone with me because I get lost so easily, but it’s pretty easy to get used to and I was pretty proud of myself to be honest!
My group leader said Retiro Park is where you will fall in love with a Spaniard, but I think I just fell in love with Retiro Park.
This street is gorgeous
My Host Family:
I’m not just saying this because I know my host mom will read it (:p) but they are AMAZING! My host mom, Sandra, speaks English pretty well and is my translator when her daughters, Marta and Laura, speak quickly. My host dad, Carlos, speaks a little English but is careful to speak Spanish very slowwwwly when talking to me. The girls are adorable and very silly, and overall I feel very welcome here. My room is so beautiful (I have the penthouse–the entire top floor is my room, woohoo!), as is the rest of the house. The town where I’m living is called Villanueva de la Cañada and is a smaller and quieter town outside of Madrid. I am within walking distance of my school, and a bus ride into Madrid is only 30 minutes or so when there is no traffic. I am so thankful for my new family, even though I’ve cried a couple times due to homesickness. But hey, they took me to the horse races yesterday, so that was pretty cool!!
At the racetrack! Marta was at a birthday party.
The view from my room
Things I’ve Learned
- The meal times are not at the same time as in the US. Lunch and dinner are much later here, which is something I had to get used to.
- It’s very common to drink a glass of wine or beer at lunch. Let’s just say my body wasn’t prepared for that… hah.
- The equivalent of Friday the 13 in Spain is Tuesday the 13, and I can vouch for the fact that that is true, unfortunately. On Tuesday the 13, my credit card got declined when I tried to buy a metro pass, and my phone plan got cancelled. It was a stressful day, but everything worked out in the end!
- My Spanish is terrible. After almost 10 years studying it, you would think I would be better! Almost everyone in orientation spoke really well and had studied abroad long term (many in Spain), so I felt really behind. But day by day, I’m learning more words and getting a chance to practice.
I’m looking forward to the rest of my time here, and I think I’m really going to enjoy it!! More to come later!