I’ve been really lucky to have made friends from all over the world here in Madrid. IE Business school brings together people from all over the world. I have made friends from France, Holland, Australia, Germany, Brussels, Jordan and of course Spain. Something I enjoy discussing with them is their perceptions of America/Americans.
Generally, things are stereotypical- they think of Americans as fat, think that all we eat is McDonalds and Burger King, and of course that we have crazy politicians. Additionally, they believe we fry everything, have an extremely expensive college system and are highly dedicated to our jobs. The stereotypes they portray are in generally somewhat accurate by my accounts but definitely don’t encompass all Americans.
Amazingly it is already week 6 here in Madrid. I really cannot believe how quickly the first month of study abroad came and went. I think in part it is because of all the traveling we tend to do right when we arrive. As for myself, within these six weeks I have already traveled to Segovia, Toledo and Granada within Madrid, and London and Switzerland (with a hint of France) outside the country. Here are a few highlight pictures from along the way!
I had heard the hype about Semana Santa. I was warned. But no warning can completely compare you for Sevilla’s Semana Santa.
My parents came to visit me for my Spring Break last week, which in Spain is always the week before Easter. For a society that surprised me in their lack of religious intensity, the strong Catholic stereotype of southern Spain endures through their Semana Santa rituals. Say goodbye to the colorful egg hunts, the chocolate bunnies, and the marshmellow peeps. Say hello to extravagant processions with lifelike depictions of sufferening christs, exhausted groups of procession bearers who must balance and move these floats on their backs, and an endless line of men and woman dressed in traditional garb resembling what Americans think of as KKK outfits.
Who: After much back and forth about what kind of housing I should choose, I can now say that I made the right decision in doing a homestay. I live in a modest sized apartment in the Nervion neighborhood with a 68 year old madre and her 39 year old daughter and 30 year old son-in-law (here, it is normal for children to live with their parents for a long time). My biggest trepidation in choosing a homestay was the fear of losing my independence, but that has not been the case at all. I am free to come and go as much as I want, and to my surprise, it is completely normal for kids my age to come back at 4am or 6am from the discotecas… I often feel more judged for coming back early on a weekend night than for staying out that late! I eat all of my meals with the family, and since I speak English with most of my friends in the program, this is a great chance to practice Spanish and learn more about each other’s cultures. Though frustrating at times because my madre speaks so quickly, I like that she doesn’t know any English because it forces me to use my language skills more. The son-in-law often tries to practice his English at the dinner table with me, but my madre yells at him that I won’t learn Spanish that way.
I’m sitting in a Starbucks overlooking Gran Via (literally – Great Way) – a wide and beautiful street, one of Madrid’s main shopping areas, but also a showcase of grand 20th century architecture. So far, Gran Via is my favorite place in this city. Not because of its shops, but because of its grandeur and elegance.
It’s been a month since I came to Madrid, and my perception of this country and my attitude have changed a great deal since my last blog entry. In short: I love it.