I didn’t really know what to expect from this class; I took it because It seemed like a cool concept. I think the fact that I didn’t come into the class with any preconceived notions was really good. In the end, it really helped me to reflect on my experience abroad.
I think this particular NYU site could add more classes. While we have several history classes, we lack choices in the arts as well as in psychology. All of my credits here count really just as electives, which ended up being fine for me, but I know could be a major deterrent for others wanting to study abroad.
When I go home I think I will pay more attention to the vast differences between the people you see every day in New York. I feel like when you are out and abut in Madrid you hear exclusively Spanish. In New York, on the other hand, you get on the subway and hear three to four different languages by the time you get where you’re going. I think it’s also interesting how easy it is for me to tune out Spanish here on the subway whereas when I’m on the subway in New York, my ears perk up at Spanish as something I may possibly be able to understand.
When I get back I will greatly appreciate being able to get food when I’m hungry. It’s one am as I sit here writing this and I’m really hungry. My plan was to order pizza once I got hungry, but alas, I started getting hungry well past midnight. Unfortunately, everything here is closed right now, which makes getting food rather difficult. I plan to take full advantage of being able to get food whenever I want—starting with a chipotle burrito the second I’m back in the states.
Also, I will never take for granted again the facility with which I can communicate whilst in America. My goodness, there have defiantly been times where I’ve just been like “why can’t you just learn to speak goddamn English” (Avenue Q)—Spain is one thing, at least I semi know Spanish, but this past weekend I was in Paris and It was really hard to get around not knowing any more French than “oh-la-la.” In Spain, I’ve been working with underprivileged kids; it’s been really rewarding and has taught me how important non-verbal communication can be.
Well let’s just say that I’m not meant to get into real estate. Studying in Spain was my first experience at choosing a real apartment to live in. I looked the excel spread sheet up and down until I knew exactly what I wanted. I decided on one of the bedrooms in a four bedroom, mostly because it had three bathrooms and a terrace. Upon arrival I was thrilled—our apartment is gorgeous. I have a room that’s like 150 square feet, my own bathroom, as well as a kitchen and living room with a terrace. That said, I wanted to shoot myself when I moved in because we didn’t have air-conditioning.
As it cooled down, this became a non-issue. We have one real problem: nice as our apartment is, we live in the middle of nowhere. We live in the southeast corner of the city—basically below any and all forms of civilization. There is nothing down here, and taking cabs gets expensive. We live only two blocks from the 6 train, but to get most places you have to change lines at least once (if not more).
Oh, another note on the metro—it closes at 1:30am and opens again at 6am. Why this happens is beyond me. The Madrilenos party till all hours of the night—many not returning until the metro re-opens the following morning. That said, I found it wholly obnoxious to want to leave a club at 5 in the morning only to realize that the metro was closed so I would have to take a cab.
My advice on living and going out: try, as hard as you possibly can, to live near the center of the city. On the housing sheet it will tell you what the nearest metro stop is to the apartments—look for Gran Via, Callo or Sol. In terms of going out, there are two main ‘discotecas’: Joy and Kapital, the cover charges get expensive so either make friends with promoters or go early, before they start charging.
Drinking here is part of the culture—that said people don’t really drink to get drunk like they do in the states. They know their limits. You don’t often see people completely drunk, and if you do, chances are they’re foreigners. I personally think it has something to do with the fact that (because of the lower drinking age here) they’ve had longer to learn. Regardless, be careful and have soso much fun!
Last weekend while traveling, I got really sick: fever, chills, fatigue—the whole nine yards. The flight back was awful; I was colder than I’d ever been, even bundled up in a hoodie. I was exhausted—barely able to walk from the terminal to the taxi stand. I fell asleep in the cab on my way to my apartment. The fatigue lasted all week. I missed Spanish class Monday, left halfway through, and didn’t go again Wednesday or Thursday. Basically I didn’t leave my room save for the occasional trip to the bathroom or kitchen—it was awful. Tuesday, facebook alerted me that 6 of my Madrid friends were attending some thanksgiving potluck. I clicked it to see more, and I found out the party was in my apartment! I’d been sleeping so much, I hadn’t really talked to my roommates. I made it out to the kitchen and asked my roommate what the plans were, and she laughed and told me she wasn’t going to invite me to a party in my own apartment! I laughed too—the high tech world is kind of ridiculous.
Even though dinner wasn’t until ten that night, friends started showing up around five to use our kitchen. Since a lot of our friends are living in homestays, we had a pre-thanksgiving cooking party. I wasn’t planning to cook anything but I got into the spirit of things and since I wasn’t contagious, I decided to run down to the store. I ended up throwing together some delicious yet easy to make oreo cream cheese truffles. I put them in the fridge to cool.
Mid way through cooking, people got impatient and started snacking on the truffles straight out of the fridge; they were a hit! Once everything was ready we moved it all to the living room and put it out buffet style. We threw together all the plates and silverware we had in the apartment and began to eat. We had everything: from the turkey and the corn to the sweet potato pie and the stuffing…I was thrilled—the mashed potatoes tasted just as good as they do every year.
Madrid is a really cool place, but I think I’m pretty much ready to go home. Therefore, I really appreciated having a fun thanksgiving in Madrid with friends, even if I couldn’t be home to celebrate thanksgiving with my family.
In section 4 of ‘On Habit” they talk about the traveling mindset—and how people seem to be more open to enjoying a new place than one they know well. While I don’t disagree, I want to add another dimension to this discussion: As I think I’ve mentioned before, I spent a good part of my childhood traveling. After a while, though, I grew tired of it preferring to spend time at home with my friends.
Although they knew where my preferences lay, my parents continued to drag my sister and me on their trips—insisting that they were family trips and, seeing as we were family, we too had to go. This extended beyond vacationing—I wouldn’t want to go to the grocery store or on a picnic in the park….If I hadn’t suggested doing it, chance are that I wasn’t about to do it…What can I say, I was an angst-y teenager.
One summer, one of my cousins came to live with us for a few months; she was older than I was, giving her instant coo potential. If she suggested we do something, I more often than not jumped at the chance. One day her sister and their friend came to visit. While they were staying with us they planned a day trip into DC and, of course, I as dying to join them.
They told me that I could come with them if, and only if, my mom gave her approval. So I begged and pleaded with my mom but she was clearly angry. As far as I could see, there was no reason why I shouldn’t be allowed to go. She was angry because, as she so clearly pointed out, if she and my father had suggested the same outing I would have point blank refused to go and, if dragged, would complain for the duration. In the end I was allowed to accompany them into the city and ended up having a great time playing grown-up on the town for the day, but my mom was obviously dismayed.
This trend continued through high school wherein I was constantly ready to go places with my friends knowing that the same sights with my parents would make for a very different experience.
The point of my story is this: while “On Habit” suggests that it is the locale that makes us open up to its potential, I also believe that who we are with plays a significant role in our openness to a given situation.
In high school it was a running joke that none of our Spanish teachers were actually of Latin decent. Coming to Spain I was expecting our professors to be Spanish and was therefore surprised to find out that my Spanish teacher, Maria, was actually from Argentina.
During orientation we found out that she was 39, which surprised us because she honestly doesn’t look much older than we do. She’s a petite brunette with a light caramel complexion and wavy hair. She’s really pretty, but not in a in-your-face gorgeous sort of way.
She approached me after class one day the first week of school. Loosely translated, she didn’t think I should be in her class and told me that I could take the placement test “if I wanted.” I answered simply and in Spanish, “no, I don’t want.” She told me she didn’t understand, at which point I proceeded to explain to her that I didn’t WANT to be placed out of her class.
I may go into the story in a later entry, but for now all that is important is that I placed out of her class, but decided, against the schools wishes, to remain in the class anyway. When faced with the predicament of which class to take, I asked Maria what she thought…despite her own personal biases she told me that she couldn’t make the decision for me.
Even though she didn’t necessarily agree with my decision to stay, she didn’t treat me any differently, which adds significantly to the amount of respect I have for her. From day one she made it quite clear that her class would be conducted solely in Spanish. It’s funny when there are things that it’d even be easier for her to explain in English…she tends to use a lot of gestures. It’s funny to watch, but also incredibly effective. Considering there are people who, day one of class, didn’t know much more than the words necessary to order a meal at the Taco Bell back home, it is amazing that she teaches in a way such that everyone understands, despite the language barrier.
She says she only knows some English, but I have a feeling she’s actually fluent. After a quick google-search, it appears that she is an NYU PhD candidate…I’m going to have to ask her about this tomorrow…let’s hope I can do so in Spanish (though apparently she’ll understand me just fine if I don’t)!
The book/ movie confessions of a shopaholic came out and I laughed. I saw it mostly because I was skeptical that it wasn’t someone writing my biography! Alas, it was not, but let’s just saw that I am a close second to Ms. Rebecca Bloomwood.
I didn’t know what paradise looked like, but I think I may have found it! When I first got to Madrid, I didn’t understand how none of the stores open on Sundays. Somehow I missed that Madrid was home to the world’s largest open air market, and I think the whole city is there! Every Sunday in what is essentially midtown, a few thousand stalls open their stalls to several thousands of people—many locals and even more foreigners, all in search of something from a new pair of shoes to a antique collectable urn. This market has it all.
People yelling in languages that I kind of understand. Fearing for the safety of my purse. Making a fool out of myself trying to haggle in a language over which I have very little command. It’s all very disconcerting, though entirely exhilarating at the same time. The only thing I have previously experience that I can liken to this adventure is going to the bazaars and trying to shop in India.
The street fairs in New York aren’t nearly comparable to the ridiculousness that is el rastro. People are screaming, things are going on all sides of you, you’re clutching onto your purse for dear life for fear of getting pick pocketed (which everyone will warn you about—several times). It is mayhem, and you don’t know where to look first. I tried to start from the northernmost point and work my way south. That worked for a while, until more stalls began to open up on side streets going every –which-way. And since Madrid isn’t, like New York, set up on a grid there was no way I could keep track of everything.
I finally gave up trying to maintain my narrow minded route and tried to just go with the flow. At the end of my four hour journey I came home with many a treasure: a shirt, three pairs of earrings, a pin, a scarf, a bookmark, and even a really cool looking purse hook. It was, without a doubt, more than I have ever accomplished before one in the afternoon!
I feel like lately I’ve really been soured on the idea of traveling. In my life I’ve always traveled at the drop of a hat, mostly because that’s how my parents were accustomed to doing so. Also, in efforts to be efficient, I often find myself running from class straight to a train or plane or vice versa. This last time though, it sort of backfired and created much more of a headache than it was worth:
Like I mentioned in an earlier post, I went home to visit for a long weekend. I had made a list of all the stuff I wanted to get and eat while I could. As I was leaving my house, I realized that I forgot to put stuffed crust pizza on my list but, at that point didn’t have time to get it; I was disappointed, but I figured I’d get over it.
I checked my bags at the airport and then proceeded through security and to the gate. About ten minutes before they were supposed to board, the man at the Iberia desk announced that the flight would be delayed. I was slightly miffed, but figured I would be fine so long as it was only a short delay. It was Monday evening America time, and this flight, if on schedule, would put me in Madrid two hours before my 12:30 class on Tuesday—just enough time to drop my bags off and get back to campus.
Well, I waited in the airport for seven hours before finally, at three am, going home instead of waiting in the ridiculous line to be put up at a hotel. The flight was rescheduled for the following day—the only information we were given was to be back at the airport by two pm the following day…I figured, at that point why bother even bringing my suitcase into the house?
Luckily my mom spent the whole morning on the phone with the airline who, after much harassing, told her that the flight was supposed to leave at 2. Upon hearing that, I grabbed a paper towel for the rest of my pizza and got in the car, barely having time to re-hug my family good-by. I rushed through the airport at hyper speed, even begging to be allowed to cut the security line.…All of that for the darn stuffed crust pizza!
When I looked through the list of suggested readings I was surprised to notice one already on the travel shelf in my parents’ library. It is for that reason that I chose to read the book “Travelers’ Tales Spain.” This book claims from the get go that it is not your typical guidebook, choosing to focus more on individual accounts than on such figures as monetary exchange rates and conversion of various forms of measurements. Let’s just say I think that is the strongest asset this book has to offer. I feel that since each story was contained to no more than ten pages, each word had been chosen with much precision, and that that succinctness made it very easy to follow.
That said, each of the stories were well crafted, giving you the details you wouldn’t know had you not seen the described scene yourself. In her introduction to the book, Editor Lucy McCauley claims that “All travelers will take home a tale of their own making, different from the place they envisioned from afar. Between these two, between the place that is read about and the place that is experienced, there is a connection, May this book serve as that bridge.” I think it definitely served that purpose. I started reading this book, not seriously, but a story here or there before I left the states. In those initial moments I was that dreamer, imagining what Spain would look like, smell like, taste like, feel like without ever having stepped on Spanish soil.
Once I got here, and started my life in Spain, I began to craft my own story—my own tale of what it meant to be Spanish, integrating all my own personal experiences. In the time since I’ve left home I have become a traveler with a personal story. But now reading through these stories, I see them at sort of a middle ground—even though I’ve been living here, I still haven’t had the experiences these authors describe. That said, having a general knowledge of Spain and its customs puts me a little higher up in terms of understanding as compared with someone who knows really nothing of the culture. There are various degrees of this acculturation; for example, I felt that when reading the stories set in Madrid, I feel the closest to the authors. The streets they describe, the sights they see are all ones that I have experienced firsthand. In that sense, I feel like I am even closer to actually being where they are—obviously physically, but moreover metaphorically!
I am, without question, the world’s pickiest eater. Also, it’s a running joke at home that I will never leave the house without something in my bag in case of a hunger emergency—which often ends up benefitting those who make fun of me. A few weeks ago, I went back to the states for my sister’s sweet sixteen. It was a whole shindig in a hotel and what not, so at the request of my parents, I flew in. My logic was if people were spending eight hours (via bus) en route to Barcelona, it would be equally possible, in terms of time anyway, to interrupt my semester abroad with a weekend home. So home I went—even though my sister thought I was a little crazy. My roommate asked me why I was taking a whole big suitcase, and I told her that it was to bring bagels back to Spain…she laughed, presumably because she thought I was kidding; that said, I couldn’t have been more serious! When I told another friend of mine I was going she only asked one question, “what are you going to eat when your there? I laughed really hard. Because I am so picky, this didn’t require much thought: I ate Mc Donald’s because, while they have it in Spain, it just isn’t the same. I had Chipotle, which I swear needs to open up international locations. I also went to Red Lobster for (my favorite) Cheddar Bay Biscuits and Cajun Chicken Fettuccini Alfredo. Other than that I asked my mom to make me chicken parmesan and meatballs among other favorite home cooked meals! I made several trips to the grocery store and target, trying to figure out what foods were inaccessible in Spain. I brought Chewey granola bars and rice crispy treats which are good to keep in my bag for when I’m at school. I also got hot chocolate which I didn’t realize, until I had it again, how much I had missed. Additionally, I got six packs of six bagels each, keeping one in the fridge and freezing the rest when I got back to Spain. Don't get me wrong, I like the occasional Spanish tortilla and the chocolate ice cream here is so much better at home, that said, I think it’s really interesting, in spite of people thinking we live in a truly globalized world, how not universal some of our food is, and how for granted we take it—who knows, maybe I’ll be craving Spanish food when I go back to the states in December!
I spent much of my childhood traveling. I was comfortable in the air before I ever thought flying could be scary. Whether I was pulled out of school for a few weeks or just whisked out of town for an impromptu long weekend, I never thought much of traveling. Upon listening to him talk of travels, I was blown away by the outlook a friend of mine shared with me on life and being able to go see different places. He told me how absolutely engrossing discovering how other people live can be—saying, without the slightest amount of pretense, that he would rather sleep on the beach and talk to locals than stay in some ritzy hotel and not truly experience real life as do the indigenous people. I found it really interesting that he was so willing to tear through the façade erected by the tourism industry to see what, as Goffman would have called it, the back-stage really looked like in these cultures. I was thoroughly impressed when, on a service trip together, I noticed him really trying to talk with some villagers even though they knew no English and he knew nothing of their language. I was honestly very surprised to realize that my lingual abilities were trumped by this boy’s genuine desire to communicate. Traveling with my parents was basically the opposite. My “travels” up to that point had only been to touristy areas, staying in touristy hotels, and doing touristy things. I’ve been on more double decker city tour busses than I care to acknowledge. Most recently, when my parents dropped me in Spain, we spent our days on organized tours, not really learning much. We ate familiar foods, frequenting American chains like Burger King. My family wanted “to see” Madrid, but I feel that they were more than willing to accept Madrid’s front-stage, without even the slightest desire to see what was behind the curtain, But the more I thought about it, the more the idea grew on me—though I hadn’t considered it before maybe I, too, could see the world the way he did—and learn a hell of a lot while I was at it. I think, in large part, that was the driving impetus behind this study abroad adventure. Living here for a whole semester I would put myself in a situation where I constantly had to communicate with the locals. My Spanish may not be the greatest, but I think I’m finding ways to communicate with the Madrilenos I come in contact with!