I have been in Madrid for a little over three weeks by now. I still haven’t quite adjusted to the heat yet and the fast pace of life but I am finding a sense of rhythm and routine. One of my favorite things thus far is the architecture of the city. It seems like around every corner there is a new and interesting building to stop and admire. Even down a simple alley way, you can find a colorful pink building with Juliet balconies lined with flowers. In the busier parts of the city the grand and ornate buildings of the Plaza Mayor or the Palacio Real are easy to encounter.
I take classes at a local university that is located just outside the city and easily accessible by the Metro. Tucked into a quite area of Madrid is Universidad Rey Juan Carlos. I attend classes there most of the week unless I am having class in one of the various museums in the center of the city. I am taking two classes while I am here, a class about European art and another about travel writing. Since it is the summer and many students are away on vacations it seems the only students on campus are the ones in my program. There aren’t many activities or clubs since it is summer holidays but on the flip side, the spare time allows me to explore the city more.
My experience with the locals is at times brief, I spend much of my time with the locals on the Metro (the underground subway of Madrid), ordering at restaurants and conversing with my host mom. But overall despite the busyness that there is in Madrid, the locals are kind and willing to help, despite the lack of Spanish vocabulary in some instances which can make conversing difficult at times but worth it since it can be used as a learning opportunity to learn new words.
My university in the U.S. had prepared me for what was to come: culture shock. I thought I wasn’t going to have a problem with culture shock because I knew the language and I felt like I had studied the culture and history my entire student career. But was I wrong. In my mind Madrid wasn’t a big city and it was going to be one of the small Spanish towns that you see on postcards. I had an idealize version of the city and when I first arrived I was struck with the sheer size and multitude. I should have expected it to be as large as it is because it is the capital of Spain. Upon arrival I quickly realized that I would have to use the Metro system to get about everywhere in the city. The web of lines, trains and stops was intimidating at first but once I understood how it worked, it became much easier to navigate my way to the various parts of the city.
In hindsight, I wish had researched more about the city and how it functioned. Much of my research has been on the job training as I have been going about my days here in Madrid. I feel that more research of the city would have lessened the shock I received when I first arrived. But on the other hand, having to figure things out on the ground has helped me grow as a person and as a traveler.