I’ve been saving writing my next blog for a legitimate rainy day. I finally got it earlier this week (this is the second time it’s rained in the past two months) but my laptop decided it would have problem with its memory and try to wake up half of Europe with the beeping (if anyone knows anything about stubborn computers that don’t respond to compliments, help is needed!). So instead, I write this one in the faculty library at my school where the weather has the Spanish locals wearing parkas and the internationals wearing long sleeves. As a side note, it is very difficult typing with a Spanish keyboard because the symbols are all in the wrong places so editing this took much longer than it usually does.
Where to begin!
So much has happened since my last post and I really want to share the ups, the downs, and everything in between. It’s probably easiest to divide it into three categories; school, travel, and other. This will probably be a long (and hopefully entertaining) read so take a moment to go to the bathroom, get a snack, kick your feet up with some super cool fuzzy socks and let’s begin! (Note: I’m already grinning about all the exciting stuff I’m going to share with you.)
My first week of school, I didn’t have a clue what was going on; profs talk really fast, students talk even faster. After my first class, I was ready to cry because I figured that is how it was going to feel all year. Luckily, I was wrong. Now I can understand most of what goes on in class but still struggle during class discussions. Even luckier, I found the greatest group of school friends an international student could ever ask for. It’s super comforting having people close to you that understand what you’re going through and can be there for you when your entire family gathers for Thanksgiving back home but you’re halfway across the world with no family and no turkey.
My mom will get a kick out of this next part. The Spanish concept of school is so different from schools in Canada (and other parts of Europe as friends have confirmed to me).
Here are just a few examples:
- Classes get cancelled ALL THE TIME! Sounds like a dream come true but I would much rather get a semester done in under 4 months with no cancelled classes than stretch it out to 5 months so that your prof can go to his yoga class that was rescheduled during class time (true story). Profs send an email the day before, even an hour before saying class is cancelled or they get someone to put a note on the door and that’s that. Crazy!
- Even crazier, and I still can’t wrap my head around this one, being late is normal. Walking into class 20, 30, 40 minutes late is no big deal here (reminder: I’m in Madrid, Spain). One of my profs consistently shows up 45 minutes after class has started. In Canada, some profs make it very clear that if you’re not going to arrive on time, don’t bother coming and interrupting their class. I still find myself staring wide eyed at people who have the audacity (yes, the AUDACITY) to walk in halfway through class and simply nod at the prof who doesn’t bat an eye.
- Get ready to hear my mom laughing from wherever you’re reading this: I still can’t find one of my classes. I was successfully going for two to three weeks until I got sick and missed one class. Well, during that missed class, everyone was abducted by aliens because I went back the next class and no one was there. I check my email, nothing. I check moodle (an online classroom where teachers can post information and course materials), nothing. Thinking the prof simply cancelled the class, I went home and tried again the following class to no avail. I’ve not only emailed the prof, but I’ve also tried contacting members of the class and no one has responded. The information office in the faculty thinks they’re still in the original classroom, but they aren’t. I still check for life every class. So if anyone knows where Dr. Jose Manuel Ramirez’s class went, please let them know I miss them.
- My favourite difference: they sell alcohol in the cafeterias and the vending machines. You want a beer before your test? Say no more, you’re in the right place. Every Thursday, there is also a huge party type thing in the middle of the greenery outside the faculties where people walk around selling beer and you just drink and hang out on the grass. Did I mention this goes from 2:00 p.m. to well past dark?
Since my last post, I’ve been on three incredible trips with some amazing people. I took a dip in the ocean and the mediterranean, ate soooo much pizza and walked so long and so far I thought my feet weren’t going to make it.
Kayaking in Buitrago (North of Madrid) – This day trip was organized by the company I rent my room from and was such a great experience and met some super cool people. I went with my fellow Canadian, the one, the only, Lorianne and we invited our very first friend, Lukas, who is from Germany and his roommate, Connor, from the United States.
The bus ride took two hours with views of the countryside which was very Alberta-like except way more hills (for the internationals reading this, Alberta is a province in Canada to the right of British Columbia). We explored the little town before our kayaking adventure and then off we went down this beautiful lake in our two-man kayaks. The four of us spotted an abandoned tower and decided to explore where we took a ridiculous amount of pictures in 20 minutes. We only just caught the bus home because we took so long.
Cádiz (South of Spain) – OMG I LOVE THIS PLACE AND WANT TO GO BACK!! I was invited by Lukas and Connor who knew I’ve been dying to go to the beach and I dragged my Belgian friend, Utah, to join us (which wasn’t hard because she wanted to go to the beach too). So the four of us rented a car and took a six-hour road trip to the ocean blasting tunes and doing some intense carpool karaoke. We spent half of the first day at the beach trying to get some colour from sun-tanning and the other half in Tarifa where you can see Africa from the smallest (and lamest) castle known to man. Yes, it was cool you could see Africa from it, but no one died there, no battles were fought there, and there were no royal family or any history there, other than archeologists thought there might be tombs, but they were wrong and now there are holes in the ground. Still super cool to visit though!
That night, we ate full pizzas to ourselves then out for a night on the town and I discovered you could buy a litre of wine for less than 1 euro. On our last day, we ate at one of my favourite places ‘100 Montadidos’, where they have 100 different sandwich options and explored a beautiful cathedral before heading back to Madrid, exhausted, but satisfied.
Valencia (East coast) – Three of my roommates and I decided to take a vacation to the beach for the long weekend (October 12 is a holiday and surprise surprise, 90% of profs cancelled Friday classes). We bused out early on Thursday and upon arrival, had a wonderful lunch in a cute plaza with rainbow benches. After checking into our Air B&B (which was way nicer than we were expecting) we headed to the beach to catch the last of the sunlight for the day. On the way home, we picked up pizza and called it a night.
The next day, we went to la Ciudad de Ciencias which is so amazing I don’t have the words to describe how incredible it was. This place had an aquarium, museum of modern art, movie theatre, dinosaur exhibit, massive park with every kind of tree imaginable, garden that turns into a nightclub, and a science centre…needless to say, we spent the entire day there. At the end of the day, my italian roommate offered to cook us pasta and let me tell you, NEVER TURN THAT DOWN!!! After going out for frozen yogurt, that actually tasted like yogurt had been frozen and then placed in a cone, we all fell asleep before midnight.
The next morning, we went to the most famous market in Valencia to buy snacks for the ride home and met up with a friend of mine from first year university who I haven’t seen in far too long. He showed us all around Valencia, the best ice cream and coffee places and us four girls helped him pick a new fragrance, which was so funny! We spent our last few hours in Valencia wandering around the town and through part of the previously mentioned massive park before taking the four-hour bus ride away from the sea.
Here are just some random things about Spain, in no particular order, that I feel you should know:
- The boy sitting next to me right now is wearing a parka…fur hood and everything…it’s 24 degrees celsius…I’m in a t-shirt.
- To tell someone, “eres la leche” is telling them that “they are the sh*t” but it directly translates to “you are the milk”. It’s actually a huge compliment!
- Trying to collect a package that is being held hostage by the mailing company because there is prescription medication in it is next to impossible; a legitimate wild goose chase.
- I have yet to find bagels in a grocery store.
- Trying to explain what “knock on wood” means is fairly difficult…especially when you’re trying to do it in Spanish.
- People judge when you eat cold leftover pizza.
- I would probably kill for a Tim Hortons’ coffee, chili and bagel combo right now.
- Last but not least, there have been rumours that Spain is falling back to into a dictatorship like when Francisco Franco ruled but that is FALSE!! What is actually going on in North East Spain is nothing like what is being told in other parts of the world. The Spanish government as a whole is trying to prevent the government of one individual province from running like a dictatorship. Spain is encouraging democracy but this one provincial government is trying to change the game. Us international students have been hearing rumours that our home countries are broadcasting false information. I am safe, we are all safe.
And now for some sappy stuff and some advice for the future explorers:
To my family, I am safe and happy. Missing Thanksgiving was really hard but I’ve learned to be more grateful for the things and the opportunities I do have.
To mi amigas, OMG I MISS OUR LATE NIGHT TALKS. I’m so glad you guys have each other but please stop having fun without me…I said no fun while I’m gone.
To my amazing boyfriend, I can’t wait to see you for new years where we can end another perfect year and start the next. Keep working hard and have as many bro nights as you can now while I can’t tag along 😉
And to the future lost and confused but still motivated BIB explorers, if there is one thing I’ve learned in these past two months, it’s to always say yes to every opportunity. Step out of your comfort zone, learn to dance the salsa even with two left feet, eat that thing that smells a little funky but all the locals are doing it so you should too but especially, push yourself. Find out what you’re really capable of; fall down, get back up and learn from it. When life is being a bum and throwing lemons at you, stick them in the freezer overnight then throw them back the next morning when they are much harder and will hurt more. A lot of things are going to happen, good and bad, and you have to face it head on. Someone very important to me sent me this quote over Instagram when I was at a low point and I am forever grateful, “Challenges are what make life interesting and overcoming them is what makes life meaningful.” So get off that butt and go make life meaningful!
– The Hobbit Chica
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