Over the past 3 weeks, I have explored my home city of Madrid, Spain. Most study abroad students travel on the weekends, and I will soon be one of them; however, I made sure to reserve my first month to explore my host city and surrounding cities, traveling only close to Madrid. This has not only allowed me to get acquainted with Madrid and the country of Spain, but I have been able to reap many benefits of knowing my city, and surrounding areas, so well.
Madrid is the capital of Spain, and home to many landmarks and important museums. The Royal Palace and Retiro park are close to my apartment, and exploring these has been both fun and interesting. We watched the changing of the guards at the Royal Palace and explored the surrounding garden. As well, we picnicked in Retiro park and saw the lake where people rent row boats. It was fun, and a cultural experience to eat traditional pan y queso in the park like madrilenas.
As well, we have visited the Reina Sofia museum and El Prado museum. The Reina Sofia is home to the original Gernica painting by Picasso, and many other works. Our guide in the museum was very knowledgable about Gernica, and how the painting shows both the city of Gernica that was bombed by Spanish former dictator Franco’s friend, Hitler, as well as the emotional affects of civil war inside homes. Sons and fathers were against each other – cousins fighting cousins. This abstract painting shows these emotions, and thus, is the reason it is replicated in a United Nations speakers hall. We saw other famous paintings by Picasso as well as Dali. It is awe-inspiring to see these original works that have been replicated and referenced, spotted both inside the classroom and in my personal life. El Prado is another art museum that is home to the classical works of Greco, Velazquez and Goya. These showed how important the Catholic church was in the commissioning of paintings, and art styles through the years. These artists are pure talent, and their styles are each different. I am lucky enough to be taking 2 art classes while I am studying in Spain: Fundamentals of Spanish Art, and Modern Art and Architecture. Each class references one of the two museums, so visiting these during my first two weeks was necessary.
My Mexican roommates have helped me assimilate into the culture, though it is very different than their own. We are coming from two different backgrounds, but their Spanish skills, and latin and catholic-heavy backgrounds are interesting to both compare and contrast to Spain. It is also interesting to compare our cultures, how our family dynamics and school systems work as well as the economy and politics across the border. It is eye opening, and thus, furthering my cultural awareness. “Studying” abroad is only a fraction of the learning that will go on for the next 3 months; I will be learning from other international students, my city and the experiences I will have while I travel.