A Semester Abroad – Madrid Edition

After a long semester with difficult studies and a few re-exams, it was finally time for the exchange semester. I have now lived and studied in Madrid for three months and soon is this, great adventure, over. Madrid was at first not an obvious choice but ultimately ended up first on the list of cities we have opportunity to choose between.

Before I moved here, at the end of the summer, I had never visited the city. A city characterized by incredible architecture, world-class restaurants, cosy, hip bars and a charming population. I live in an area called Malasaña, a unique and trendy place in the centre of the city.

The culture and everyday life of Madrid is fantastic in many ways, while it also can be testing. One of the experiences I am most pleased to have is the open and welcoming attitude. I live together with a woman and her two children. From the first day it felt relaxed and, almost, like home. Not many speak English in Madrid, something that has been one of the greatest and most thoughtful experiences – forcing oneself to speak the language and communicate in best possible way.

View of Circulo de Bellas Artes. Photo: Sofia Eklöf

During the first week I ended up at the emergency after stumbling in a hole in the middle of the street (short fact: the streets of Madrid is known to be bad and there is small holes everywhere…). I was forced to take an ambulance to the hospital and sew a few stitches. The time after hospitalization was a little bit of a struggle, I was in pain and it was also during the introduction in school. Nobody at pharmacies and at my “centro salud” (the Spanish health care centre) spoke English which required a lot of patience. I now know more about the Spanish health care system and can tell you that it is different from what we are used to!

In school I take Spanish classes twice a week, something I recommend everyone to do that has the opportunity to learn and improve a third language! It is incredibly fun and educational. In school there is focus on small classes and active attendance. Most of the teachers have experience from real life which characterizes the teaching. Another course I am taking is negotiations, a very interesting subject. The courses I was able to choose between were quite different from the course offering back home, something I took advantage of.

Dinner and drinks with friends has become a big part of the everyday life. It is less expensive to eat out and there are always new restaurants to try out. The streets are always smocked with people and socialising is a major part of the lifestyle. I usually go to “Parque del Retiro”, a great park filled with beautiful gardens and the perfect spot for exercising.

During the first months in Madrid I did a little bit of traveling. I visited the city of oranges, Valencia, and Europe’s food mecca, San Sebastián, with friends from both Europe, the US and Canada. Last weekend I visited two friends from Lund in Amsterdam, we are lucky it is this easy to travel within Europe – the Americans are traveling every weekend, nonstop.

If you have not been in Madrid, I can guarantee it is worth a weekend.

Madrid – it´s been an adventure, a great one!

Saludo, Sofia Eklöf

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