Madrid: My First City in Europe

¡Qué viva Madrid, España! Hi everyone, my name is Angie Natalia Sandoval Casas and I am from Bogotá, Colombia. I am a rising junior majoring in Accounting at the College of Business Administration. This summer term, I decided to be part of IIP Madrid (International Internship Program) since I will be able to gain work experience in an international setting, and learn about my roots and the history of Spain by living in this beautiful and historical city. This is my first time in Europe so I am very happy that Madrid is opening the doors to Spain and other cities in Europe, its history, culture, food and traditions.


I decided to come to Madrid since Spanish is my native language. I want to compare my dialect of Spanish with the one from Madrid, for example, the accent, and learn new vocabulary by speaking to people of all ages. For example, I have experienced humorous situations while learning new words, like in here cellphone is “móvil” and in Latin America is “cellular,” or car is “coche” and in Latin America is “carro.” Also, they speak more loudly, enthusiastically and use a lot the pronoun “vosotros” and the word “vale” which means “ok.” My family and friends have told me that I am going to have a Spanish accent when I get back home so let’s see if they are right. I am ready to keep learning the meaning of their cultural terms!

As part of my program, I am living with a Spanish host family. They are a married couple named María and Juan, and they have two kids ages 9 and 10. The girl’s name is Lola and the boy’s name is Mateo. They have been so nice to me and accepted me as part of their family. They are happy that I know Spanish because they can talk to me faster and tell me more things about their families and personal lives. This past Saturday, I went to have lunch at the house of the parents of Juan and they invite me to their table like I was part of their family. Having lunch with them reminded me of my childhood because the kids were playing with their cousins, everyone was talking and laughing at the same time, and all were enjoying their grandmother’s cooking, a delicious traditional Spanish paella. On Sunday, I went to “la casa de campo”, a house outside the city, and met María’s family and had the same experience. It was amazing to spend some time in family after being a few days in Madrid because it made me realize that even though I am in a new country, I am not alone and there is good people that care about me.


Of course, it has been a little bit challenging to be part of their family since this is my first time leaving my home. I have been living with them for a week so I know that with more time I will get used to their lifestyle. Thanks to them, I have learned important facts about family life of Madrid. The first thing is the time for eating because it is later than the US and even Colombia. Lunch is around 3 pm and Dinner at 10 pm! However, they have snacks between the main meals. It took me a couple of days to adjust my body and mind to this hours. Also, the first day at dinner when I finished eating, I was going to stand up and leave but my host family kept talking about their day, and I realized that dinner is a time that you should share with your family, which I think is wonderful and I want to do the same back home. My host family have all the time friends and family at their house, or instead they go out a lot because they told me that it is common to meet your friends outside the houses and usually at restaurants, parks and plazas. About cultural food from Madrid, my host mom made the other day a tomato soup called “gazpacho”, but it is cold because it is only made during summer time to help them refresh themselves from the hot weather. I recommend you try this unique flavor that you can only find in the beautiful city of Madrid!

The center of Madrid and its surroundings is a place that you must visit in its entirety. I was amazed when I walked the first time across the different streets without a GPS and didn’t get lost since the main Plazas and Monuments help you get back to the place where you started. I saw not only locals, but people from different parts of the world since Madrid is a place that welcomes everyone! While walking around to admire the antique and magnificent architecture, I ate at different restaurants and cafeterias typical Spanish food, tapas, and wine. Even better, at a lower price than I expected!


I am working in a company called Be Madrid which is a community of exchange and international students. Its mission is to provide assistance to foreign students and help them have the most out of their experience in Madrid. I am so lucky that the office is in the center of Madrid because I can see what locals and tourists do in this place. For example, tourists are always taking pictures, wearing summer clothes and walking slowly, while locals are wearing business clothes, talking in their phones and walking faster.

Another important thing that I want you to learn from Madrid is the public transportation system. It is so easy to use! I admit that I was worried before coming here because I thought that it was going to be confusing to take a bus or the metro. To my surprise, the metro system is easier than the one from Pittsburgh. You just need to enter a station, look for the color of the line that you need to take, find the name of the station in the signs and you are ready to go. Even better, if you are 26 years old or below, you can take the bus, metro, or other transportation system for only 20 per month, unlimited!


Fun fact! Something very important that I learned from a tour of the city that I had with my group during orientation is that the famous statue of “El oso y el madroño” in English “the bear and the strawberry tree,” which is in Puerta de Sol in Madrid, is a female bear! Oh, and if you want to meet your friends in the crowed center of Madrid, you can tell them: “see you at the bear” and you will have the perfect meeting point in Madrid!

See you next week! ¡Hasta pronto a todos!