The only way I can explain how arriving in my exchange city felt like, is to mention that overused movie scene. Sorry!
New York. The camera panning the skyline to zoom in and rest on some young guy or gal. In a yellow cab. Crossing the Brooklyn Bridge. Complete awe on their face.
That was me, arriving in Madrid, after 29 hours of transit, not looking nearly as perfect as the people in the movies. And dying for a comfy bed. Some food. And with no urge to push through the jetlag. But that disbelief at what was before them, that was me. And I would have to say, every day since that I have spent in Madrid, has reflected that moment somewhat.
This city is like no other. And especially unlike Sydney. It doesn’t even feel like you are in the capital of a country. The paths are cobblestone, the houses have so much character. The culture screams at you from every aspect of life here. The streets, the buildings, the people, the music, the food, but most importantly the lifestyle. I immediately fell in love with the Spanish lifestyle. The streets are most alive at night. And during the day, it never feels like anyone is in a real rush to be anywhere. Everyone is down for a chat, and I’ve been in multiple scenarios chatting to a local and just nodding, saying ‘vale’ or ‘bueno’ every now or then.
It sounds picturesque and idealistic. And true, maybe it is a little. It is easy to forget you are on the other side of the world, away from all your family and friends. But I promised myself I would start my exchange with an open mind, and I think I delivered. The amount of times I walk out of my apartment and forget that I need to switch to Spanish speaking mode is unbelievable. I’ve been here for several weeks, and by no means am I fluent. I can order myself some ‘pan con tomate, aceite y jamon’ and ‘una cerveza’ (all the important things), but I challenge myself to speak, even when those around speak English. It’s all part of the experience and my Spanish is already improving.
Starting at a new uni was actually more nerve-racking for me than being in a new city. And having to choose groups for assessments, well my worst nightmare. But all the local students have so far been so accommodating, and the other exchange students are in the exact same boat– not to mention all the exchange activities for Orientation. Hot tip: I don’t know about anywhere else, but at my uni, being Australian is almost a shoe-in with the local and exchange students – we are so exotic, being all the way down near the South Pole!
I have been away from home for 7 weeks now, and (sorry Mum and Dad), don’t miss it one bit. I’ve spent 5 weeks travelling (or rather eating my way) through Europe, and already done a couple of trips around Spain – to Sevilla, Segovia and Murcia. Each place is as incredible as the last. So far it’s been the best of my uni experiences and sure, there’s a long way to go, but I don’t think I’ll want to go home. Do not get me wrong, I’ve had days where things have gone wrong (mostly travelling), or I’ve felt a little like a fish out of water. But so far, I’ve managed to land on two steady feet in an insanely beautiful location. And who’s to say I wouldn’t be having those days back home in Sydney?
I was nervous about living in a non-English speaking country, but my gut was screaming ‘Spain’ and hell, listening to my instinct was the best thing I’ve ever done. For the food and cheap booze alone, this is where I’m meant to be.
Plus, google translate is always at my fingertips.
Bachelor of Management (Events), Bachelor of Creative Intelligence and Innovation
IE Universidad, Madrid Campus