My Madrid Diary: First Month Abroad

Loyola offers so many different study abroad programs, so I decided to take this opportunity and escape the Chicago winter for a semester. Here are five things I have learned during my first month while living in Madrid.

History 

Taking Spanish history and art classes before traveling to Madrid has made me appreciate living here even more than I thought I would. It’s amazing to see, first-hand, some of the most influential cities in not only Spanish history, but in Europe as a whole. Actively learning about the country’s history has made it easier to understand Spanish culture, as well. The people here have a very unique set of customs and lifestyle habits that I’ve never experienced elsewhere in Europe.

Highlight: Seeing El Greco’s masterpiece, “The Burial of the Count of Orgaz” in Toledo, Spain.

Immersion 

Speaking of culture, Spain’s is absolutely amazing. The food, music, nightlife, relationships, and the lifestyle have made my entire time here feel like a vacation. Everything is so relaxed and romanticized, which makes it impossible to be stressed or unhappy. Leaving old and structured habits behind, I’ve been living like the locals, which makes me appreciate the lifestyle even more. My friends and I have been going to dance and music classes, art exhibits, and live shows regularly, and they have all been an amazing way to see and experience Spanish culture and tradition.

Highlight: Watching a live Flamenco dance show in the beautiful Retiro park at sunset.

Language

I live in a residencia, which houses a variety of university students. Some are American study abroad kids, but the majority are from Spain. Conversing with them has helped me improve my Spanish (and not to mention, learn all the bad words). Everyone says the best way to learn a language is to immerse yourself in the country–and they are absolutely right. I’ve learned more Spanish here than I have in six years of studying the language in a classroom.

Highlight: Attending a language exchange with hundreds of diverse people from all around the world, where my friends and I spoke in a British accent while meeting new people.

Exploration

Of course, the first thing you should do when you’re in a new city is explore it! After visiting all of the main attractions and tourist spots, I’ve focused my attention on the areas of the city that are less busy. I’ve found many unique little shops, parks, and cafes in more remote locations. And since the weather is an absolute dream here, you can out exploring all day and never get worn out.

Highlight: Reading in cozy cafes while drinking cafe con leche and eating the most delicious cakes ever.

Communication 

So far, everything about living in Madrid has been truly amazing. Every day here has felt like a holiday, and I couldn’t be happier. That said, I’ve definitely been calling my family and friends more frequently. Talking to them often has made it much easier to be so far from them. I am greatly enjoying my time in Madrid, and I can't wait to see how the rest of my semester pans out. Even so, I’m still very eager to see everyone when I get home in the summer.

Despite being in Madrid for only a short time, I have learned and grown so much as a person. To any person wanting to study abroad, definitely take the leap and go!! The experience will only heighten your time in college, and it’s an opportunity that you can never get again. I’ve loved every minute of being in Spain, and I think any other person who has gone abroad can agree that studying abroad is one of the best decisions you can make.