Hello! It’s been a little over two weeks since my last post, and so much has happened! My trip to Spain has been filled with many adventures and plenty of learning experiences. Madrid has been wonderful, but I am so happy that I have been able to travel during the weekends and see different cities in Spain. So far, I have traveled to Toledo, Mallorca, and Valencia. All three have been beautiful in their own way, but I truly fell in love with Mallorca.
Mallorca is an island off the coast of Spain and it is probably one of the prettiest places I have ever visited. I didn’t know much about Mallorca when we planned the trip, only that there was a beach and I knew I wanted to be on it. A few people from the ISA program joined me and as soon as our flight landed, we discovered that Mallorca offered way more than just pretty beaches. As we walked around the beautiful island, we found out that Mallorca is a European melting pot- we were greeted in French, German, and Spanish everywhere we went. It was so interesting to see the blend of different cultures throughout the island. One of my favorite parts (besides the beach, of course) was walking through the different neighborhoods and hearing all the different languages. We stayed in the German neighborhood and it felt like were in Munich rather than a Spanish island. We also spent time in the Spanish neighborhood where we toured the Cathedral of Mallorca and the historic center. Overall, the trip was amazing and filled with lots of exploring, great food, and an interesting cultural experience.
My time in Spain has allowed me to practice my Spanish daily and I have been able to broaden my vocabulary and pick up on some common expressions. Over the course of a few weeks there have been some bumps in the road, specifically when talking to locals. It has been challenging going out to eat in Spain due to the language barrier. Things operate a little differently here and it is not common to order food to-go. When I went out for dinner one night, I asked for a to-go box and the waiter looked at me like I was crazy. I found out after a very confusing conversation that I was asking for a “caja” which means box, but in Spain, they only use “caja” to refer to the big brown boxes used to deliver packages. Thankfully the waiter was nice and he told me the correct word to use when asking for a to-go box and I haven’t had any more problems.
Besides this mishap, communicating with locals and with my professors has been going well. One of the most interesting things has been talking with locals about the US. With Donald Trump in power, I was uncertain about what perceptions the Europeans would have of American students. I’ve always heard about Europeans thinking Americans were snobby and rude, so I thought this new presidency would fuel this negative idea about Americans. It has been very rewarding to represent my country in a positive way and to show people that not all Americans share the same views, just like anywhere else in the world. It has been interesting to hear the Spanish perspective of all the events happening and it has been nice to have open-minded conversations. These conversations have made me secure in my identity and have reinforced the importance of keeping an open mind.
This trip has made me realize a lot about myself and it has taught me how to be a savvy traveler. After a few days, I found a small group of ISA students who have become my abroad friends- we go out to eat, explore the city and go on weekend trips together. In this group, I have become the leader and decision maker because I like to have a plan in place. My best advice to anyone studying abroad is to have a plan! You don’t need to have a set agenda for every single day, but it is a good idea to look up local restaurants and different sights you want to see. That way you can have an idea of all the things you would like to accomplish and you can organize a way to make it happen. Planning in advance has allowed me to better schedule my visit and to have better control over my budget. I knew I didn’t want to fall into a routine, so I created a schedule with different events and sights to check out. Every day, I have pushed myself to explore a new part of the city and I am so glad I did this because I’ve gotten to see so much. Having a plan has helped me get the most out of my time in Madrid, so I strongly recommend doing some research and putting together some sort of plan.
For me, the biggest challenge of this trip was figuring out how to navigate the city, specifically public transportation. I overcame this challenge by doing tons of research, looking at maps, asking locals questions, and downloading a transportation app. Within a week, I was able to figure my way around, and now, after three weeks, I’m a pro (kind of). My advice to anyone trying to figure out how to get around a new city would be to plan ahead!! Get a map, download helpful apps, don’t be afraid to ask for directions, and if all else fails, try to find some free Wi-Fi because Google Maps is a life-saver. Planning has been so crucial on this trip and has allowed me to enjoy my time in Madrid!
Not only have my planning skills improved, but I have learned a lot of interesting things in my classes. My favorite class is my Art in Spain class because it is so fun; I love looking at and analyzing art, so it has been very interesting to study the famous Spanish painters. Because of this class, I now understand a lot more about art and the different art periods. When I visited the museums in Madrid during my free time, I was actually able to understand the meanings behind certain colors and layouts and I could determine what period an artwork belonged to just by looking at the painting. It has been a very interesting course and I am so happy that I am better equipped to analyze art. My first stop when I get back to Pittsburgh will be the Carnegie Museum!
With just one week left of my program, I am looking forward to visiting the last few sights in Madrid that I haven’t gotten to yet. I’m excited to make the most out of this week and I’m especially excited to attend the World Pride festivities taking place in Madrid! Adios for now!