Lesson Plan #2: Adjusting to Madrid

October 7, 2016

in Europe, Fall 2016, Shaniya Stengl, Spain

Subject: Studying Abroad

Topic / Lesson #2: Adjusting to Madrid

Time Frame: First month

Lesson Taught By: Shaniya Stengl

Bienvenidos a España!

I’ve been in Spain for a little over a month by this point, and I am loving every minute of it! This first month has flown by, and it’s hard to believe I’m already ¼ of the way done with my time here. However, now I’m finally feeling adjusted to everything here and I’m already able to reflect on where I was a month ago, which was lost 99% of the time.

The first week I was here was definitely the busiest, but also filled with so many new things for me! I got to explore the city some, start meeting a ton of new people, and even experience one of Madrid’s crazy nights at a 7 floor club! (Yes, it was as cool as it sounds!)

My first visit to Retiro Park with one of my friends here!

My first visit to Retiro Park with one of my friends here!

In addition to doing this, I have started classes, but that hasn’t stopped my travelling heart. I’ve gone out of Madrid 3 times in my first month to Alicante (Spain), Segovia (Spain), and Aranjuez (Spain), as well as planned many trips out of the country including London, Paris, Florence, and Rome! My experience here is just beginning, but I already can tell how much this experience will open my eyes to all that there is outside of the United States.

Materials:

Pamphlets from the directors with all the information we will ever need
-Maps of the city!
-Metro card <3 (LIFELINE)
-Schedule for first couple weeks

School Supplies
-Notebooks
-Pens (Pencils are a huge no-no in classes!)

New phone plan
-SIM card
-Internet!
-GOOGLE MAPS

Apartment
-Good location
-Spanish roommates

POSITIVE ATTITUDE with a sense of humor- adjusting is filled with mistakes, but you have to learn to laugh them all off because they are inevitable in foreign countries

Spotfiy or Tidal (have to make a new playlist of all these new Spanish songs)

Lesson Plans:

  1. I arrived in Madrid one day before our program began which allowed me to explore the central area of the city called Sol. That first day I met up with a couple people and we stayed together in a hostel called Living Cats.
Here’s a picture of the interior courtyard where a lot of the residents would spend time during the day.

Here’s a picture of the interior courtyard where a lot of the residents would spend time during the day.

The first day I was pretty exhausted from the plane ride over, but also anxious to start my new journey. One of my friends and I explored the city for a couple hours and then made it back to the hostel for a free dinner! The next morning, we made our way to the dorms that we would stay in for the first two weeks while searching for “pisos” (apartments) and completing orientations.

  1. My first week in Madrid was filled with so many appointments! Between the orientations that we had to go to for our program, to the showings of possible apartments we would live in, it felt like we were constantly moving! Don’t worry though; we also made sure to experience all the aspects of Madrid!
    1. Apartment Searching: I found an apartment in my first week, and it happened to be the third one I looked at! (SUPER LUCKY ME!) Before looking at apartments I had to come up with some sort of idea of what I was looking for, but I had to also be realistic to what I was likely to find here.
      1. A “normal” Spanish piso for students is generally a lot different than we would expect. Most students only rent out a room from a dueño (landlord) and share the common spaces with others rather than renting out a full apartment to themselves. Also, kitchens are very small here, and the washing machines are in the kitchen. (WAIT, what? Still not used to this…)
      2. Knowing all of this, and taking into account that gastos (utilities) are very expensive here, I tried finding a place where I would be able to save as much money as possible on gastos, but still love where I’m living, and living with others who speak Spanish.
      3. Now I’m living in a very student populated area, little stores all around us, close to the university, and I have a cute little balcony. However, my kitchen is smaller than I would have liked, and cooking in there with others gets a little rough sometimes. Also, the washer is still in the kitchen which makes everything feel even smaller, and there is minimal natural light in the hallways (pitch black unless someone’s door is open with a window.)
View from my personal balcony!

View from my personal balcony!

  1. I have 7 other roommates, which may seem a little crazy (I know I thought it was when I first saw it!) but it’s actually really nice to have all of the cultures to experience. I have 2 girls from Turkey, 1 Spanish guy who is actually from Colombia, 1 Korean girl, 1 Italian guy, 1 Spanish guy from the south of Spain (he always thinks it’s cold while I’m practically sweating!), and 1 American girl who goes to UW and is in the program with me.
From L-R: Dana (American), Gianmarco (Italian), Rafa (Spanish/Colombian), and I hanging out at this place that looks like a batcave!

From L-R: Dana (American), Gianmarco (Italian), Rafa (Spanish/Colombian), and I hanging out at this place that looks like a batcave!

  1. The second week was even more fun than the first, I tried some new foods, I went on my first trip, I went to my first discoteca (nightclub) and I was able to explore more of the city!
    1. The nightlife in Madrid is definitely a different scene than I have ever experienced. (Okay, I’ve never really experienced the Wisconsin nightlife, but it’s still different from what I’ve heard!) For example, here they have something called botellón which is kind of a party in the streets where people bring their own alcohol and meet up in the streets before they go to a club. In Wisconsin, you aren’t allowed to drink on the streets (it doesn’t stop anyone on game days, but you’re not supposed to).
      1. Also, no Spaniards go to the discotecas until about 2:30-3 which is normally when a night would end back home. The first night that I went to a club, I ended up dancing with my friends until 6 am! HOW CRAZY, RIGHT?
    2. My first trip in Spain was to a city called Alicante which is on the eastern coast, and a little south of Madrid. I went there for only a weekend and went with 7 other people.
      1. We took a 5-hour bus ride to Alicante (I know, it’s a long trip, but it was so cheap), so the first night we were all kind of exhausted and really just wanted to hang out in our sweet AirBnB. We ended up getting some snacks at this little Tiki Bar Shack really close to the beach, and once we finished we headed to the beach. I GOT TO SEE THE SEA FOR THE FIRST TIME, AND IT ONLY TOOK ME 20 YEARS!
      2. The second day that we were there we went for to see el Castillo, and then visited the beach for a couple hours. Later that night, I even tried my first paella! (Paella is a very Spanish meal with rice, and usually seafood.)
Here’s a picture of before we ate our paella, normally the paella is split between 3 or 4 people.

Here’s a picture of before we ate our paella, normally the paella is split between 3 or 4 people.

  1. In the third week I started classes, and it was a nice change of pace to get back into the swing of school life. The classes here are different in that the class isn’t really discussion based, but instead more so the exams and papers that you have. (Nerve-wracking!)
    1. That weekend our program also had a group day-trip to Segovia, a city 45 minutes northwest of Madrid, and WOW! What a beautiful city! We started our tour in this central area under the arcs, and worked our way through the town to an absolutely breath-taking church, and our last visit was to the castle where we climbed to the top and view everything!
This is the outside of the Catedral de Segovia, and the inside was even more gorgeous. In the tourist book that I bought there, I saw a photo of it at night, and I wish I could have seen that!

This is the outside of the Catedral de Segovia, and the inside was even more gorgeous. In the tourist book that I bought there, I saw a photo of it at night, and I wish I could have seen that!

  1. Recently, I have been trying to make the most of my time in Madrid. I feel like too much time has passed without me seeing a grand majority of the city! There is so much to do and see here, and I don’t think I will ever have time to see everything. (But I for sure will try!!!)
    1. The area that I live in is very close to a large park called Parque del Oeste where a ton of activities are always going on! In addition to these activities, on one side of the park there is el Templo de Debod which is actually an Egyptian building. It is one of the prettiest places I have visited around sunset time, and by the picture, you can see why! On the other side of the temple, the park continues and you can see over a huge part of Madrid and for miles. Parque del Oeste is definitely one of my places to be.
    2. I also tried to find a café where I could do my homework or get good tapas or even get a good Café con leche (don’t get me started on how different the coffee is here!)
I didn't know Madrid could be this gorgeous; this is Templo de Debod at sunset.

I didn’t know Madrid could be this gorgeous; this is Templo de Debod at sunset.

Difficulties with Lesson Plan #2:

  • Still can’t find time to do all the things that I want to do while I’m here
  • Classes are starting to pick up, which means I have homework every night
  • Meeting Spaniards who don’t immediately speak English to me
  • Spending time trying to not think about my family so I don’t miss them too much
  • Adjusting to all the differences that I’ve experienced here
  • DRINKING SUPER STRONG COFFEE ALL THE TIME
Emily H. October 13, 2016 at 8:35 am

Make a touristy “bucket” list that you want to accomplish while you’re in Madrid and/or Spain in general and do something at least once a week to check off those things. Then you’ll know that you’ve done all of the touristy things you set out to do!

Enjoy Madrid! But also see if you can visit Granada and Sevilla sometime, too! 😉

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