Amy Rader, Madrid, Spain

So this week has definitely been a crazy one.  I take my finals this morning.  My Finals.  How is that even possible?  I just got here.  It has been a whirlwind and its not slowing down yet. 

This past weekend I visited the beautiful city of Segovia, home of the famous Roman Aqueducts and the castle that inspired Walt Disney’s Cinderella Castle.  It was absolutely gorgeous.  Every single excursion I have taken with my program has been phenomenal.  I was also able to visit the Senate, which is pretty cool,  and revisit El Rastro,  the outside market, where I did quite a bit of shopping and a ton of spending.  I took a lot of time this week to see some of my favorite places in Madrid and to find a few more new places.  I went to places that were known to have the best croquetas, mojitos,  tapas, sangria, and more.  I wanted to get as much authentic Spanish cuisine before I go.

The Aqueduct

Segovia Cathedral

Alcazar, Castle of Segovia

View from the top of the Alcazar

Library at the Senate

This week was also the farewell dinner for my program.  Which just makes me want to cry thinking about it.  But we went to a little restaurant and we were served all the famous Spanish dishes.  It was awesome, and the food kept coming.  The absolute best part of the evening was the Flamenco Show that occurred between the main course and dessert! It was probably one of the most incredible things I have ever seen in my life.  Jaw droppingly beautiful. 

This guy blew me out of the water, he stole the whole show, absolutely incredible

So I have a grand total of 4 more days in Spain.  And only 2 of them will be in Madrid.  I am taking a trip with some friends to Barcelona for the last weekend.  I am really excited about it but I am sad to leave Madrid.  I feel as though I have come to know the city, where things are, how the people  are, how to avoid tourists, where to go for great food, get deals at clubs, and somewhat present myself as a local.  Madrid is definitely a city I want to visit again in my lifetime.   It is a beautiful thriving city that is a mix of history and culture, and modern day technology and exciting night life.  I will definitely miss the feeling of safety everywhere I go.  I live pretty close to Philadelphia, PA and Camden, NJ which are basically know for the opposite of safety.  I hold my bag in Madrid to prevent pickpocketers, but I never feel in danger.  It’s relaxing.  I will also miss my host mom, preparing me dinner every day.  My own mom doesn’t even do that for me anymore.   It is great to leave all day and come back to a nice hot, healthy Spanish meal. 

During my month here,  I have learned a few things, and a few tips about studying abroad.  Here are some of my intensive month study abroad tips.

1.  Chose a program that has excursions in the price.  Yes, they are definitely a little more expensive but once I arrived and realized all the things that were included in my price, I got a fantastic deal, and I didn’t have to worry about paying any extra while already here.  And I didn’t have to plan the trips, which is awesome.  (My program- API Study Abroad, highly recommended)

2.  Take the time to see YOUR city.  You are only here a month.  Go out and see what your city can offer you before you spend every moment trying to plan trips to other places.

3.  Do the touristy things.  Go to the famous museums, and the Palaces, and all the historical stuff.  You’ll regret it if you skip it.

4.  Don’t be afraid to say no.  Say no to going out, or skipping one restaurant isn’t a huge deal.  If you don’t take the time to rest your body, then you will probably get sick and miss a lot more.

5.  Don’t be afraid to put city exploring before school.  Yes, school is important, but your teachers know you are here from another country and they want you to see everything their country has to offer. 

6.  Speak to locals without fear.  This is probably the hardest one for me.  Yes, they are going to know you are American.   And that’s okay.  At least you’re trying.  If you talk to them with confidence, even if you mess up, they’ll probably know what you’re saying and it is way better practice than in the classroom. 

7.  Don’t expect to go home fluent.  Everyone asks if I am fluent now.  I wish.  I’ve only been here a month.  It is absolutely true that my language skills have improved so much since I got here, way more than any intensive month in the states.  But a month is not enough time to become fluent in any language.  No matter how much you know before arriving.

8.  Know that you are capable to do this.  It is hard. Really hard.  Leaving family and friends and maybe a boyfriend/girlfriend, but it is absolutely worth it.  People always tell you that it will be an amazing experience, but they often leave out how hard it is.  Everything is new, you have new classes and teachers and friends and a new city and language and you are expected to take it all in flawlessly. No.  It is a growing experience and will help shape who you are as a person.  This is an experience that I will never be able to replace.

I am sad to leave, but I don’t have the deepening sadness that other have because I know I will be back in 6 weeks.  I will be starting my semester abroad in Paris. 


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  • Karen Evans  On July 25, 2014 at 11:20 am

    Amy- I love your “Study Abroad Tips”. They are wonderful, and I can’t wait to share your tips and sage wisdom with other students who hope to study abroad! Thank you so much for your keen insights, and all of your pictures!
    Karen Evans

  • Sherri Rader  On July 25, 2014 at 2:20 pm

    I am so excitedly thrilled that you got this experience. I can’t wait to hear even more when you get home. OH and maybe I will even cook you a healthy American Meal!! I’m crazy about you and can’t wait to hug you!! I love you more!! ~Sher Mom

  • albrightelcdc  On July 29, 2014 at 2:13 pm

    Wow, what a great experience! Lucky you, you get to go back in a few weeks to France.

  • Arcana Albright  On September 25, 2014 at 12:52 am

    #7 and #8 are soooo true. The others, too, but you got at the heart of the matter on those ones. Bonne continuation à Paris! Ecris-moi si tu as des questions – j’y ai habité plusieurs fois.

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