Three Weeks until Madrid

It’s so hard to believe that three weeks from now I will be in Madrid, Spain. I still have no idea what that means, which is a little unnerving since I am someone who plans everything in his life with great attention to detail.

Before I get too into my thoughts about the trip, I think it would be a good idea to introduce myself to my (many) followers who are (hopefully) following this blog. As you have certainly figured out by clicking your way here, my name is Asad and I am a Political Science and Spanish major at the University of Wisconsin. During my time in Spain, I have many academic goals, but my two main ones are to finish up my Spanish major (2 courses) and to advance in Political Science coursework.

My main academic and personal interests have always been in Latin American culture, but I am someone who enjoys keeping an open-mind when it comes to experiencing global cultures, so Spain was basically my main option when it came to studying abroad for my junior year. Some of you may ask, “Why Madrid?” After all, it’s loud, it’s full of people, and it is by no means as glamorous as some of the other cities to which I could have gone. My answer to that question is vivaciousness. I like to keep moving, and in a bustling city like Madrid, I feel as if I will always have something to occupy my time. If not, since the city is located in the heart of Spain, I’m a quick train ride from many other cities in the country. Nevertheless, I expect to have a good time in Madrid.

Anyway, as I said earlier, three weeks from now, I’ll be in Madrid, and I have no idea what to expect. I have never been to Europe before although I have always wanted to go, but I have only heard good things about the area, especially about Spain. Despite these positive remarks, I still have a couple of unanswered questions as of now:

1. Where will I live when I’m there? The way the program works is that students live in the university dorms for the first month while looking for other housing arrangements, either in apartments or home-stays. My apprehension is about where exactly I will stay. If I live in an apartment, will it be with U.S. students, Spaniards, or other Europeans? Will I forego an apartment and live with a señora in her home? If I do live with a señora, does that mean that I won’t be able to interact with the other students in the program? I would really appreciate any insight into this matter!
2. What classes will I take? The program has been really good about providing us with a list of classes that are available to students, but I’m still not certain about what classes I should take. This is more of a personal problem of intellectual curiosity than anything else, but it still poses a problem for me in terms of the structured lifestyle that I am used to in the U.S. I’m sure this is a lifestyle that I’ll be forced to leave behind while in Madrid, but as of now, I can’t imagine living any other way.
3. Will I have time to work? Can I work? One of the best ways to master a foreign language is to throw yourself into an environment where you are forced to use it at all times. From what I have read online, this usually means getting an “under the table” job as a waiter, bartender, or any other sort of positions that runs on tips. Other students have recommended teaching English as a viable job. Either way, finding work while there won’t be a bad idea since the euro is stronger than the dollar. I need to stop my pockets from bleeding as best I can!

On the surface, these problems look minuscule, but as I dive into a new country and a new culture, they seem gargantuan. To help me cope with my pre-departure anxiety, I have decided to accentuate the positive:

1. My visa is ready to go! All it took was two trips to Chicago to the Spanish Consulate and $100, and I was all set. On each trip there with my sister, we treated ourselves to some fine Chicago cuisine (we both highly recommend The Signature Room at 95th and Morton’s Steakhouse, by the way).
2. I’m not too worried about using my language skills abroad. Obviously, every Spanish-speaking country has its own pitch, intonation, and vocabulary, but with a little bit of time, I should be able to catch up.
3. I’ve always wanted to go to Europe, and now I’ll be living there for a year! Well, nine months. Either way, that’s both a long time and not enough time, so I hope to make the most of my experience.

As I wrap up my initial entry, I encourage all of my readers (are there any?) to comment as often as you would like with questions, concerns, complaints, ideas, thoughts, or whatever else you had in mind about what you would like to see written here. If you have any suggestions about sites to see while I’m in Spain, let me know as well! I want to make this as interactive as possible, and I encourage your full participation.

¡Hasta pronto!