Olivia traveled to Madrid, Spain for the Spring 2018 semester.
IF NOTHING ELSE, DON’T FORGET TO PACK…
A warm coat. Even though Spain is warmer than Illinois, it can still get pretty cold especially in January and February, and there were definitely some people that were not prepared for the weather. Also a compact bath towel and your own lock to use at hostels. It saves money because you won’t have to rent one everywhere you go.
ON SECOND THOUGHT, LEAVE AT HOME…
Tshirts or other really casual clothes. Fashion is important in Europe, so unless you are working out, you will never wear that stuff.
WHERE TO LIVE…
Malasana is a great neighborhood right by the university I was at, Comillas. There are a lot of great neighborhoods in Madrid and a great metro system, but you will definitely want to live where all the students in your program are living, which will be close to the school you go to.
BEST PLACE TO EAT?
El Tigre. It was free tapas with the drinks so it was a fun place to have a snack. Not the greatest tapas, but a fun atmosphere and great price.
FAVORITE CULTURAL ACTIVITY
Going to local festivals, fairs, and parades. Especially Las Fallas in Valencia.
BEST CULTURAL HIDEOUT?
There was this really cool piano bar in Madrid that I loved. Everything was in Spanish and we stuck out like a sore thumb, so keep that in mind!
FAVORITE PLACE TO STUDY?
I always studied in my room because it was convenient.
MUST-TRY LOCAL DISH?
Paella. It is amazing.
BEST PHOTO OP?
La Pedriza. It’s a national park with great hiking and beautiful scenery.
We almost missed our train in Milan. We made it by 30 seconds, and it was one of the most stressful moments of my life.
The many clothes I bought during the Rebajas season, which is in January and June. There were great and fashionable pieces for great prices.
MOST INTERESTING CLASS?
Spanish Culture. It was interesting just to learn more about the history of Spain and how and why the culture portrayed to the rest of the world is so much different from the actual culture of Spain.
BEST PART OF THE PROGRAM?
The freedom to travel so easily. I traveled almost every weekend, and it’s amazing how many places I was able to see. There was also always someone that would be willing to go to whatever place was next on my list.
MOST MEMORABLE TRIP?
Italy. We saw a lot of different sites, and we had a lot of adventures and misadventures that really made the trip really memorable. Florence was one of my favorite cities that I visited.
BEST LOCAL EVENT/HOLIDAY?
Three Kings Day. There are a lot of parades and fun traditions. It’s the first week of January so be careful about jet lag if you want to celebrate.
FAVORITE LOCAL WORD/SLANG?
They call people from Madrid Gatos, and the story behind it is really interesting.
IF I COULD DO IT OVER AGAIN…
I would travel even more, and I wouldn’t have taken one of my classes that I struggled with. I also wish I got to know my roommates better.