Touchdown in Madrid

After an overnight flight to London and another couple of hours, I found myself (a bit disoriented) worlds away in Madrid at the front gate of my homestay apartment. This is it! I’m on my own now. The door buzzed open, and I lugged my three bags into the compact elevator, and when the double doors opened again, there was my host mother, greeting me at the door with literal open arms. She swept me to my room as I took in my surroundings. Spain.

Hi, I’m Juliana, a neuroscience major at BC, and I’m studying abroad in Madrid for the semester. I’m at the Universidad Pontificia de Comillas Sociales at the Cantoblanco campus just outside the city. I take the Circanías, the suburban commuter rail, to school. It’s beautiful out there, with a view of the surrounding snow-capped mountains. It gives me a welcome fill of nature on a regular basis though I still get to take advantage of the bustling, convenient city life.

Although at the beginning, I had a lot of second thoughts about my study abroad decision, after the first week, I felt more-or-less adjusted to the home life: meals, laundry, family dynamics, etc. They have a 4-month-old chihuahua who loves to play. She brings some extra life to the home.

Also within the first few weeks, the BC in Madrid program hosted several activities including a tour of Madrid, a churros and chocolate outing (so yummy), a bike tour by the river (I was surprised by how many adults and children were rollerblading, running, walking, skateboarding, playing futbol, etc.–there was so much life and I am definitely going back).

Chocolate con churros and a stall at the Sunday flea market in Madrid: El Rastro.
Chocolate con churros and a stall at the Sunday flea market in Madrid: El Rastro.
Chocolate con churros and a stall at the Sunday flea market in Madrid: El Rastro.

Classes started about a week after our arrival. They are longer than the average BC class (typically 2 hours) but are captivating, and the professors are considerate and caring. A few classes are with international students while others are only with Spanish students, and all but one of mine are taught in Spanish. That was also an adjustment, having to learn in Spanish, but already I’m finding it easier to understand their accents. I really like their style of learning, as well: your entire grade is based on a handful of large assignments rather than many smaller ones. It allows me to organize my own studying schedule and gives me time to explore the region. Of course, there are pros and cons to the American and Spanish systems, but so far, the workload has been very manageable, and yet I still find myself learning so much both inside and outside the classroom.

My favorite classes so far are Introduction to Psychopathology (the professor is so witty and entertaining) and Latin American History. I’m not a history buff, but the professor takes the content slowly and uses primary sources to help us understand the philosophy behind the decisions that shaped Latin American history. One of my reasons for studying abroad was to experience a different university system, and so far it has been refreshing to learn and be assessed in a new way.

Of course, being abroad has had some challenges, as would happen anywhere, but being in a new place has brought so much excitement–at times I still can’t fully fathom it. The city, the history, the classes, the people: it’s lovely here, and I can’t wait for all that is to come 🙂