Spain: Roxi Reuter

Introduction (January 2022)

Roxi enjoying the beautiful weather and her first week in Madrid.

¡Hola, amigos! My name is Roxi Reuter, and I am one of the recipients of the Spring 2022 Global Gateway Fellowship. Currently, I am a third-year student at UW-Madison from Darlington, WI, double majoring in Biomedical Engineering (BME) and Spanish. I am also pursuing a certificate in International Engineering. On the UW campus, I have participated in the Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES) and the Society of Women Engineers (SWE), as well as many engineering projects through the BME design curriculum. In my free time, I enjoy being active, doing arts and crafts, traveling, and shopping (online or in-person)! Although I spend a large chunk of time studying during the day, I am always down to try new healthy recipes and explore local restaurants and stores.

I discovered the Global Gateway Fellowship on the Wisconsin Scholarship Hub (WiSH). After filling out a few questions in an initial survey, I received an email; I qualified for the Global Gateway Fellowship! There was no doubt in my mind that I had to apply. Following submission and time to process the application, I was notified via email that I had been selected as a Global Gateway Fellowship recipient. This fellowship has been life-changing; it allowed me to fulfill my dream of studying abroad and has made the process so much more enjoyable by greatly reducing the financial stress that studying in a different country may bring. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I am very grateful to be a recipient of this prestigious award! 

Although the pandemic reduced the number of study abroad programs available for the spring 2022 semester, I was fortunate enough to have had a handful of opportunities to choose from. Being a student studying Spanish, I narrowed down my program selection, first, by selecting programs that offered Spanish language immersion and homestays. The options left were all located in Spain, which was my country of preference. Next, I ensured that I met all the program requirements for those that remained and began reading information on each program on the study abroad website, including previous student experiences, academic matters, and information about each city. After lots of research, I decided to study abroad for Spanish language immersion and live with a Spanish-speaking family through the WIP Madrid program. La Universidad de Complutense and Reunidas Norteamericanas, the universities that WIP Madrid students attend, offer several classes that transfer back to UW-Madison and fulfill requisites for the Spanish major. Additionally, Madrid, the capital of Spain, is centrally located and would allow me to travel to various parts of this beautiful country more easily! 

I am looking forward to making the most out of my semester abroad! It can definitely be scary to go through numerous changes at the same time: leaving home for an entire semester, living with a new family, meeting new people, being immersed in a different culture, and speaking a different language entirely! However, it’s necessary to step out of your comfort zone in order to achieve greater things. During my time in Madrid, I’m hoping to form lifelong friendships, create priceless memories, improve my Spanish abilities (with the ultimate goal of obtaining fluency), travel around the country to become more familiar with the different parts of Spain, and learn more about the Spanish culture. 

I am very excited to be documenting my semester abroad in Madrid through the Global Gateway Fellowship! More blogs to come soon.

¡Hasta entonces! Roxi 

First Impressions (February 2022)

Hola, amigos 🙂 Welcome back to another blog! 

It is crazy to think that I have already been in Madrid, Spain, for just over a month. The time sure has flown by!

A lot has changed since my arrival – and all for the better! I started classes at la Universidad de Complutense Madrid (UCM), have become accustomed to the Spanish sleep and meal schedules, and I’ve learned to navigate my way around Madrid with the fantastic transportation system, among several other adjustments. Between forming new friendships, trying new foods, and exploring Spain and its culture, I have definitely been pushed to go out of my comfort zone. 

Spain is an extremely beautiful country; photographs simply do not do it justice. Since most of you are not here in Spain with me, I am going to take you on a journey through Madrid (and some nearby cities) appealing to the five senses: touch, hearing, smell, taste, and sight. 

Touch

A photo from “el rastro” in Madrid.

With the effects of the pandemic still lingering throughout the world, the tactile experience is probably the most difficult to narrate of the five senses due to physical distancing and health precautions. However, there are still plenty of ways to describe the sense of touch in Spain.

So far, my most memorable tactile experiences have revolved around shopping! In Madrid, there are a wide variety of stores. You can touch the smooth or bumpy surfaces of fresh produce in fruterías (stores that sell fresh fruits and vegetables), run your hands over the smooth silk or soft cotton garments sold in clothing stores in one of many Madrid malls, and much more. Thrift stores, cafeterías, and even the outdoors offer a wide range of tactile encounters: the cold and polished exterior of jewelry, the warmth filling your body as you grip a steamy mug of coffee or tea, and the feeling of soft grass sweeping against your skin as you relax in a park with friends.

 

El rastro, a flea market which happens most Sundays in Madrid, offers several clothing items, posters, backpacks, tote bags, pieces of art, and jewelry. As you navigate your way through the booths, brushing past clusters of people, and finally stopping to check out something that catches your eye, you get your fill of tactile experiences! 

Hearing

Birds filling the sky over the Madrid River.

Wow! For a city as large as Madrid, I was shocked at the minimal noise produced within its boundaries. Although there is a lot of traffic and people filling the streets and sidewalks, I would say on most days, the noise level is comparable to (or sometimes even quieter than) Madison!

Due to the beautiful weather, both people and animals are taking advantage of the outdoors. Whenever I take a stroll in the fresh air, I am met with the birds chirping, quiet conversations between groups of people, and usually live music, whether it be singing or the playing of instruments. I particularly enjoy the latter. Live music in the streets, the metro, or outside of museums is something that I haven’t experienced often in the United States. 

Here, however, you can hear the melody of soft jazz music, the strumming of a guitar, and even the sounding of a trumpet. It definitely gives a sense of tranquility in a city that can be chaotic at times due to its size.

And, of course, I am listening to lots of conversations in Spanish, including in my classes, chatting with friends, and in my homestay.

Smell

A variety of tapas shared between friends at lunch.

Usually when I am out and about, I am met with the smell of delicious food or coffee. Bakeries, ice cream parlors, and restaurants are everywhere! The smell of freshly baked bread, homemade pastries, or rich desserts is something I have enjoyed while living in Spain. And they’re tasty, too :). 

In my homestay, it is no different! There is always an aroma of food emanating from the kitchen in my host family’s apartment, whether it be breakfast, lunch, dinner, or a dessert that my host mom is baking.

Enjoying an ice cream treat in Madrid.

Taste

The coffee! The tea! The food!

Here in Spain, I have really been keeping an open mind to trying new things because I really want to immerse myself in the culture for the true Spanish experience. I don’t think I have tried something that I don’t like yet!

Although I am not much of a coffee- or tea-drinker, I was surprised to find out how much I enjoy both of these warm drinks in Madrid! It’s not hard to find coffee or tea here since they are offered in several restaurants, cafés, and even supermarkets throughout the city. Occasionally, a few friends and I will get a coffee or tea at some of our favorite local cafés and chat or study, which makes it even better. 🙂 

A storefront view of a bakery and ice cream shop.

The fruit in Spain is delicious, and there is a lot of it! Fruterías and supermarkets are scattered throughout Madrid and offer basically any fresh produce that comes to mind: juicy strawberries, sweet apples, mouth-water mangoes, crunchy vegetables; the list goes on and on! 

Additionally, my host mom, has introduced me to many new foods during my stay. Traditional foods, including tortilla de patatas, chorizo, jamón serrano, and lengua de vaca, to name a few. We also enjoy sharing mango with tajín sprinkled on top for dessert after dinner every so often.

Sight

Sight. The view. This is probably one of my favorite aspects of living abroad.

Of course, I see lots of tall buildings, pharmacies, cafés, and people on a day-to-day basis since Madrid is a large city, but there is much more to this city than that!

My homestay is located along a river in Madrid and, because we have lots of windows and a balcony, I am able to enjoy the sunrise, sunset, and all the other times in between, from inside the apartment. Or, when the weather is nice (which is very often the case) I will go enjoy the view for myself by walking with friends near the river!

On a daily basis, I see lots of forms of life: people, animals, and plants. Many times in the park along the riverside, parents and children play and dogs run freely. Sometimes at night I even see dogs wearing glow-in-the-dark accessories so that they are easily identified by their owners.

Plants are everywhere! In restaurants or cafés, residing in flower shops or as part of the landscape. 

Traveling to nearby cities and exploring has guided me to see even more beautiful parts of Spain. I have had the opportunity to make the journey to a few nearby cities and am hoping to travel more soon!

Hiking in the mountains near Cercedilla, Spain, has been one of my favorite moments so far. It was amazing to reconnect with nature and friends while getting some exercise, and to see so much beauty along the way! We got a panoramic view of the small town of Cercedilla from in the mountains, hiked through a patch of woods, and even made the trek across multiple streams.

As you can tell, I am filled with all sorts of sensory experiences as I journey my way through this semester in Spain. All I can say is that I truly have been enjoying this experience and am looking forward to the rest of my time here in Madrid! 

Stay tuned for another blog soon!  ¡Hasta luego!  Roxi

A Day in Madrid (March 2022) 

Hola, amigos! Welcome back to my third blog! 

I feel like I just finished writing about my first impressions and five senses in my surroundings. The time sure is going by fast! Before I know it, I’ll be back in the U.S., so I’m trying to take advantage of every second of my experience in Spain.

In this blog, I’m going to take you through “A day in Madrid”, although my schedule varies from week-to-week.

On a typical weekday, I wake up around 8-9AM and get ready for school. Breakfast is usually something quick, like cereal or avocado toast, and then I ensure myself that I have my apartment keys and all I need for school before heading out the door. As I exit the elevator, I usually meet the doorman in the lobby of my apartment and exchange a “buenos días” and smile while I make my way to the metro. 

There are various routes I can take to school. I always catch the metro at one of two locations, Usera or Legazpi, and from there I either take the bus or walk to the campus, depending on the weather and amount of time that I have. My commute to la Universidad Complutense de Madrid (UCM), where I attend school, is about 45 to 50 minutes one way. However, I try to take advantage of my time during the trip by doing one of various things on the metro or the bus: practicing Spanish by listening to conversations between native speakers, podcasts, the radio, or Spanish music; reading for fun or as homework for my classes; or studying for classes by using Quizlet or Google Drive applications on my phone to revisit class notes.

Once at school, I meet up with friends and usually catch-up with them before or after classes, or I’ll stop by my program office to chat or for a quick question about anything I might need.

Study snacks at Faborit Café in Madrid.

Lunch in Spain is typically later than in the United States, so following my classes (around 2 or 3 PM), I’ll grab a bite to eat with friends on campus or head to a café for lunch and go study. Once in a while, I’ll do homework in one of the various libraries on campus before grabbing lunch; however, I prefer to go to Monkee Koffee or Faborit (cafés in Madrid) when I want to be very productive! 

Homework and studying, along with traveling, occupy most of my time during the day. When I need a break, I make the journey back to my homestay, where my host family greets me, and we chat for a bit. I try to head to the gym for a good workout with friends when I can, usually in the afternoon or evening, depending on the amount of homework I have for my classes. Otherwise, if I have free time in the afternoon, I’ll meet up with friends for tapas, shopping, or simply to spend time together. 

Most nights end with a long dinner with my host parents and host brother. As I stated in my previous blog, this is usually the time when I am introduced to trying new dishes, whether it be traditional Spanish foods or something my host family simply enjoys eating. We always have postre (dessert) which typically consists of fruit, yogurt, or once in a while, ice cream. My host mom and I usually share a mango for postre, then we’ll have tea as we chat about our days or whatever else is on our minds. It’s a great opportunity to practice my Spanish skills, and I learn lots of new vocabulary during this time! 

Sometimes after dinner I’ll do a little more homework or catch up with long distance friends, but the majority of our conversations go late (since dinner starts anywhere from 9:30-10PM), which means I get ready for bed to get a good night’s rest for school the next day. 

The previous narrative is a typical, productive weekday where I have multiple classes and a sufficient amount of studying to get done. Not every single day is like this, however. 

For example, on Wednesday through Friday of each week, I typically have one class, which gives me a little more free time in my schedule. This means time with friends, exploring, or both! Additionally, as part of one of my classes, I have the opportunity to attend movies, exhibits, and check out the art in Madrid. It’s been such an amazing way to deepen my knowledge about the culture and history of Spain.

The weekdays are busy so that I can take advantage of traveling or cultural activities on the weekends! 

Many Friday nights I’ll catch up with friends from my study abroad program (WIP) or friends I’ve met while in Spain over drinks, tapas, or dinner. With or without the presence of native speakers, we always try to speak as much Spanish as possible to continue improving our abilities. I’m excited to see how much my Spanish has improved by the end of this experience!

Photos from Palma, Mallorca, in Spain.

On weekends where I’m not exploring Madrid and when I have a little more flexibility in my schedule, I try to travel. So far, I have visited Palma (in Mallorca), Toledo, Álcala de Henares, and Ávila. Many of these trips have been with friends I have gotten to know through my study abroad program. I’m looking forward to traveling more during the rest of my time here and have tentative plans to visit Barcelona and Seville, although there are many other cities that I would love to visit before I head back to Wisconsin.

As you can see, I have definitely been staying busy! Between hanging out with friends, traveling, school, cultural activities, meeting new people, and of course learning Spanish, the time has flown by! I’m excited to continue documenting my experience here in Madrid and to see how I evolve as a student while studying abroad. Thanks for taking the time to read “A day in Madrid”. I’ll catch you shortly with another blog post. Stay tuned. ¡Hasta luego!  Roxi 🙂 

 

 

Madrid Top Ten (March 2022) 

Hola, amigos!  Wow! Already back for another blog. It’s hard to believe that the month of May is approaching! The weather in Madrid recently has been beautiful – warm with a soft breeze and sunshine – so although it’s hard for me to believe my last full month in Spain is creeping upon me, it is starting to feel like summer (or at least summer in Wisconsin 🙂 ). 

Throughout my time in Madrid, Spain, I’ve become more familiar with the culture and the city in general, even reaching one of my goals of being able to navigate around the city without relying on my phone. Reflecting back on my first few weeks, I couldn’t go anywhere without Google Maps, but now I know which metro or bus to catch, am familiar with the different neighborhoods in Madrid, and have some favorite spots in the city! 

With that being said, in this blog, I’ll be describing some of the best things to do to get to know Madrid, including some of my favorite local spots.

Becoming familiar with the Madrid:

Since Madrid is such a big city, there is lots to explore and to see! The following are some of the steps I took to get to know Madrid and its culture better during my semester abroad, and what I would recommend to others wanting to explore the city. 

  • Try different foods and explore different restaurants (for students – find good study spots!)
A café in Madrid – one of Roxi’s first stops with friends at the beginning of the semester.
A recent picture from Roxi’s Spanish cooking class with her program (WIP). Pictured are tortilla de patatas and tarta de Santiago.

I have spent quite a bit of time trying new foods and going to various restaurants with friends all over Madrid, especially during my first few weeks here in January. We tried several traditional Spanish dishes and even some foods that I don’t typically eat in the United States: tapas, tortilla de patatas, paella, chocolate a la taza with churros, and much more. Although I am not the biggest fan of olives, mushrooms, tomatoes, or seafood, I have found that I like these foods more than I thought! Olives are typically served with drinks at bars and restaurants, and the rest (mushrooms, tomatoes, and seafood) are commonly used in Spanish plates, so I have consumed quite a bit of these foods within the last few months. Additionally, I was able to take a cooking class to learn how to prepare some of these Spanish dishes. Exploring restaurants also helped with practicing Spanish skills by ordering food and was a great way to ask for recommendations for what to do in Madrid, as well as learn more about traditional Spanish foods! In addition to exploring restaurants, I have frequented several cafés (including Faborit and Monkee Koffee) to study while having coffee, tea, or a light snack.

  • Visit museums and attend performances 
An inside view of some of the art in el Palacio de Cristal.

Before the semester started, I was able to visit a handful of museums with friends as we became acquainted with Madrid. Having taken a class which focuses on art in Madrid, I have explored even more museums, have watched several films, and have attended many live performances since then. It’s a great way to pick up some new vocabulary, learn about artistic movements, and become familiar with Spain’s history and culture. 

There are theaters and museums all over the city, so it’s pretty easy to find something for everyone to enjoy! Plus, many museums frequently change their exhibits, so there’s always something new to see! Although I have wandered through several museums and art exhibits, a few of my favorites include el Museo Nacional del Prado, el Museo de Reina Sofía, el Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, and el Palacio de Cristal, but I am certain that there are many other great museums that I have yet to visit!

 

 

  • Go on your own church tour

As you probably already know, Spain is a very religious country and with that being said, there are several churches and cathedrals spread throughout its territory. Recently, my host family and I took a walk around our neighborhood to take a look at the beautiful churches and their architecture. The artwork and details in each church are unique and completely breathtaking! Since we did this tour right before Semana Santa (holy week), we even got to see some floats and preparatory events for holy week processions. 

 

  • Stop by Parque del Retiro
A peacock in Parque del Retiro on a beautiful, sunny day in Madrid.

Parque del Retiro was one of my first stops when my friends and I began exploring Madrid. It is a huge park located near el Museo Nacional del Prado and includes several statues, monuments, a variety of trees, and even a pond where you can rent row boats. If you’re an animal lover, one section of the park is home to multiple ducks, cats, and peacocks! It is a great place to relax, take a stroll, and enjoy the beauty of Madrid.

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Take a walk in Parque del Oeste and the UCM Campus
A picture of part of the UCM campus.

Parque del Oeste, located in Moncloa and fairly close to the campus of la Universidad Complutense de Madrid (UCM), is another beautiful park in Madrid, but in my experience usually is less occupied than Parque del Retiro. Although it’s a great place to walk or run, it’s also a suitable place for a picnic, reading, or just relaxing and hanging out with friends.

Both the UCM campus and Parque del Oeste played big parts in the Spanish Civil War, and you can even find evidence of this war in both places, including indentations from bullet marks in the cement columns of the facultad building and forts in the park!

 

  • Explore Puerta del Sol and Plaza Mayor
A small portion of Madrid’s Plaza Mayor.

La Puerta del Sol and la Plaza Mayor are two iconic places to visit in Madrid! Located right next to each other, these sites are very easy to explore in the same day and are very popular tourist destinations. La Plaza Mayor carries lots of rich history and is known for its beautiful architecture, statues, artists, and musicians. The narrow streets leading to la Plaza Mayor house several restaurants, bakeries, ice cream shops, and local stores. La Puerta del Sol is also home to many shops and restaurants, as well as the famous “kilómetro cero”, which is the “starting point” for many important highways in Madrid. 

Both are great places to walk around, get a bite to eat, have a coffee or pastry, and to see the modern preservation of a large piece of history in Madrid!

 

 

 

  • Check out Gran Vía 

When my friends from Spain showed me around during my first month in the city, we spent a lot of time chatting and walking down Gran Vía. Gran Vía is one of the most well-known streets in Madrid. People fill the sidewalks no matter the day or the time, and it is a must-see if you come to Spain! It’s a very touristy area home to many restaurants, stores, theaters, and lots to see and do!

  • Visit nearby cities and towns

In order to get to know Madrid, it’s important to know a bit about its history and relationship with nearby cities and towns. With my program and/or friends, I have visited Toledo, Cuenca, Avila, and Alcalá de Henares, although I have plans to explore more cities in Spain in the coming month and a half!

  • For nature loves: spend a day hiking in the mountains

My first weekend trip with friends was to a small town near Madrid called Cercedilla. We spent a full day hiking in the mountains, reconnecting with nature, and had a picnic while on our hike! Cercedilla is a very cute Spanish town, and we ended our day by checking out the buildings and shops in the town, following a quick stop for tapas. This has been one of my favorite memories of my semester in Spain so far, and I highly recommend taking a day trip to hike in the mountains and see the countryside and small towns near Madrid.

A view of the mountains and countryside while on the way to the hiking trail.
The beautiful town of Cercedilla

 

Roxi on her first hiking journey in Spain
  • Explore the neighborhood you live in and take public transportation

In my opinion, although I’ve only been here for just over three months, I have found that one of the best ways to get to know Madrid and its neighborhoods is simply to take the initiative to hop on a metro or bus, get off at a stop, and venture around the city in that area! As I have come to realize, walking around, popping in and out of stores, or asking local store owners or residents for recommendations about things to do in the area have led to some of the most rewarding experiences!

That’s all for this blog! I am still in shock that it is almost May, which means my time in Spain this semester will shortly be coming to an end. Stay tuned for my last blog on reflections about my experience abroad this semester.

¡Hasta pronto! Roxi 🙂