My Erasmus experience: A week in Madrid 

I am writing this as I stroll along a street in Calle Gatzambide, newly brought notebooks in my backpack and a day of University behind me. I’m about to board a tube at Arguelles to meet a friend in Embajadores, getting by with my Metro travel card. This all sounds pretty underwhelming, but these everyday, nonsensical activities become more impressive as you learn that I’m carrying them out in a new country. I only moved to the bustling, lively city of Madrid just over a week ago, but already it feels like my new home.

A home where my most used phrase is “yo hablo ingles” and my most answered question is “where are you from?”, admittedly.

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Moving country is pretty huge, but I surprised myself massively when I realised that moving has become almost second nature to me, and I’m miles away from the person that took that exchange to Germany in the second year of high school, despite probably knowing more German then than the Spanish I know now.

Besides, a cervaza and potatos bravas upon arrival at the airport softened the blow.

With people around me my new flat became my third place of rest, (accompanying my original home and University living) and my feelings of homesickness were overshadowed by my initial awe of the beautiful buildings which tower over every street in this city.

 

On my first day here I explored Sol and Gran Via, the main centres of Madrid. We meandered past the Royal Palace, a place so gorgeous I came over all emotional. I spent the majority of my first day taking photos, unable to resist capturing the grand architecture forever.

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With this first day also came my first dabbling with seafood, beyond the very safe and very British cod or haddock. I sampled some lobster paella, oysters and squid. Hence feelings of being utterly Spanish and being presently surprised that lobster is damn good.

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Monday rolled around and with it came University. A couple of things to note about Spanish culture is the classrooms are often smaller, much more interactive and similar to English high school. Especially with large classes however, the students can act a bit more immature than I’m used to at English university.

Learning here feels a lot more like actual learning, and its initially quite a shock to the system to not become part of a faceless mass in a lecture hall.

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We also explored a bit more of our local area, which is a great area within itself and besides, the frequent tubes make travelling a mile easier than Sheffield buses, which tend to come two in a row every 20 minutes.

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However, the semi-stressful organisation, registration and a timetable with impossible clashes weren’t the highlight of the week. No, I believe the mundane and oh-great-I’m-now-broke act of going to pay rent and sign our accommodation contract led to the best moment of the week. I mean, it’s not every day you stumble across the Zoolander 2 premier. This was pure proof that communication doesn’t solely come from speech, as despite a concrete language barrier of what the speaker was saying, we assumed a certain blue steel and co would be making an appearance. Can I just say seeing such idolised and hilarious actors and actresses only three days into Erasmus really sold Madrid for me.

If buildings like this hadn’t already.

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On Thursday came our first real day of socialising outside of the apartment, at an event called “meet and speak”. And if only there was an award for the most self-explanatory title, they would win it hands down. I met people literally from all across the world, and the most interesting part of it was seeing how much they enjoyed the British accent, how excited Americans get about England and how widespread the English language is. Also, it was pretty interesting to see an Americans reaction to Donald Trump.

Funnily enough, despite travelling across the sea, you will find people who live an easy train ride away from you back in England. It’s as if we gravitate towards one another because we can sense the joint incompetence of the Spanish language.

As someone who loves peaceful places and nature in general, probably because I grew up in West Bromwich which is void of any greenery, my personal favourite part of the week was my visits to the parks. Acting like a roller-coaster that only goes up it began with a trip to my nearby park where I found the ultimate spot for reading and wanted nothing more thank to bask in the Vitamin D filled rays of sunshine.

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How wrong could I be that that was the most perfect relaxation spot. On Saturday, with the help of a fellow University of Sheffield pal, I discovered the magical wonderland that is Retiro Park. Sure, the park itself, which is quite possibly the size of West Bromwich, by the way, is nice enough to convince me to go for a run in the Spring, but the tangible Alice in Wonderland vibes of the hidden treasure that is the Palacio Cristal, rocky waterfall and expansive lake filled with pedalos and a stunning building really blew me away.

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It was enough to make me never want to leave, especially when I got to appreciate it whilst sat on the steps sipping on Amstel with friends.

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Just look at this sunset.

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I was very curious about the night-life in Madrid before arriving, and after a weekend of clubbing I can safely say the Spanish know to drink. We only visited the group of bars/clubs which are literally opposite our apartment, but even these small places were open until 6am, filled with an insatiable energy and very welcome drink offers.

This weekend saw the arrival of Cadiz carnival, so I was granted the chance to put eyeliner on my male friend.

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The cherry, or in this case, cheese, on this cake was definitely that pizza baguettes are only one Euro. Perfect for drunk eating, bad for anyone that who is trying to diet.

And finally, last night I went along to yet another Citylife Madrid event (one of the best ways to meet new people) on Sunday night, which was a  harmonious marriage of roller blading and burgers. Safe to say even this had a typical Spanish party atmosphere and I managed to stay on my feet the entire time, which was an achievement in itself.

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I know I have so much more to discover in Madrid and I’m thankful I have so much time in which to do so, but already I’m so addicted to the life of this place; on every corner sits a musician, streets are always filled with people and at night-time the desire to get turnt is hanging in the air.

I mean, this was in the middle of a ham shop.

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The final things I have taken from this week is that the food is delicious, Zara is worryingly cheap and having your own balcony is sweet.

 

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