You know you’ve gotten to Madrid when the streets are filled with happy doggos on their walks, large groups of jovenes (young people) serenading the parks with Maluma on their speakers, and everyone’s pet name is tio (directly translates to uncle, but it’s the equivalent of mate). It’s not just the doggos that make the streets so incredible. The architecture is insane, the parks are huge, and even the roundabouts are beautiful. No wonder authentic Madrileños chill and people watching on street benches at any time of the day.
The pace here is definitely more relaxed compared to Sydney. It actually took me some time to adjust and stop weaving between dawdling old ladies and happy couples. But we are on Spanish time now, which means its time to slow down. However, make no mistake, this doesn’t mean you get less done in the day because the days go on forever here. The sun sets around 9 PM right now and that’s considered dinner time. I find the streets are still alive till 2 AM and most clubs don’t close till 6 AM. Which is handy because that’s when the train stations open up again too. When you’re getting back from that salsa night at 6 in the morning, don’t forget that they drive on the left here and walk on the right so just look both ways.
Coming early August was awesome timing because they have end of season sales that they call “rebajas” and Veranos de la Villa which are events Madrid hosts to showcase their culture in the summer. A lot of these events are gratis (aka you’re favourite Spanish word which means free). It’s a great way to get to know the city and find out what Madrid is made of. Showing up in early August also made renting a place easier. You want to avoid looking for accommodation late August, early September because that’s when every other student is looking for a place to live too. Also remember, you don’t really want to be spending too much time at your place because this city was made for exploring and Europe was made for travelling so maybe you can cross ensuite spa off the list of apartment must haves.
At school I suggest you join the student exchange club. UC3M has ESN (which isn’t just for Erasmus students). Even if you aren’t a club person, I suggest showing up to these things if you want to make some exchange amigos. On that note, you’ll most likely be meeting more exchange students than Spaniards. Even my friends who speak fluent Spanish know mostly other exchange students. However, the Spanish students tend to take English courses so you’ll definitely be able to meet the locals during class. Europeans in general only really use Facebook for family members so get WhatsApp and/or Instagram. Communication probably won’t be a problem because English is used as the middle ground between exchange students. It would be awesome if you know Spanish but honestly you don’t need it. A quick impromptu game of charades never hurt anyone and if they can see you’re trying, the cashier will happily let you buy your croqetas con jamon.
Overall, Madrid is an awesome choice. Initially it was easy to avoid human interaction at all costs because “no” has the same meaning in both Spanish and English; which makes it super easy to say. But, turning down opportunities because they require effort and might involve being awkward is a bad habit abroad. I think the best thing I’ve learned to do is say “si” whenever it’s an option. So, I hope when you go abroad the exchange rate is in your favour (fat chance), you take on new experiences, and remember to bring your speaker so you can serenade the parks with a bit of Australian culture. I suggest you start working on the playlist tonight.
Bachelor of IT
Universidad Carlos III de Madrid
For more information about the UTS Global Exchange program please visit: www.global-exchange.uts.edu.au