Q: What program/what city are you participating in and what are you studying?
A: I am studying in Madrid, Spain through the Syracuse University program. I am currently taking four classes: World Economy, Economics of European Integration, Spanish and Arts of Spain. I also had a fifth course that was a seminar called Eurovision. It was my only class for the first two weeks of my abroad experience and we travelled to Heidelberg and Frankfurt in Germany, Luxembourg in Luxembourg, Brussels and Brugge in Belgium, and Paris and Toulouse in France. We learned about the European Union, the central bank and the major manufacturing industries throughout Europe. We went to the Mercedes Benz factory, the Airbus factory, the European Commission and many other interesting places.
Q: Do you speak the native language? How have you faced the transition of language?
A: Yes! I speak Spanish. At first, I was unsure of my ability to speak Spanish well as my last Spanish class was freshman year at Amherst. However, after spending a month in Madrid so far and having Spanish class four times a week, it is coming along and I am much more confident with my Spanish.
Q: Why did you choose this location/program?
A: I always wanted to go to a Spanish-speaking country to work on my Spanish. I am Mexican, and I have always wanted to be able to speak to my grandfather in the native tongue. I also wanted to be in Europe so that I would have the opportunity to travel to various places. Therefore, Spain was the perfect choice for me. I chose the Syracuse program because it is located in Madrid, which is the capital of Spain, located in the center of the country. I wanted to expose myself to as many opportunities as possible and I figured Madrid could provide me with those. So far, I could not be happier with my decision.
Q: What is your living situation?
A: I am staying in a home stay with a roommate. My host mom is 64 years old, and we live in a nice apartment. Her dinners are incredible and she feeds us so much. My favorite meal so far is her tortilla española which is a combination of eggs, ions and sliced ham, sort of like an omelette. Our apartment is a two-minute walk away from the Bull Fighting Stadium (Plaza de Torod). I walk by it every day on the way to school. It gets really crowded every Thursday and Sunday, and it’s fun to see all the people gather for this historic Spanish tradition. I go to my first bull fight this weekend. I am really excited about it.
Q: What is your favorite thing to do in the city in your spare time? Do you have a favorite street or square?
A: Since my time in Europe, I have been really adventurous. I try to see or do something new every chance I get. Madrid has this really big park called Retiro that has a big lake and a lot of open gardens to relax in. I go there often with friends during the day to have a catch or kick a soccer ball around. My other favorite place is called Plaza de España. It is where a lot of the locals hang out and it has a lot of nice restaurants for tapas. It’s a great place to work on your Spanish and experience the Spanish culture.
Q: What is you favorite native meal?
A: I am a big fan of the tortilla española like I mentioned. It is a combination of eggs, ions, and sliced ham (sort of like an omelette). I’ve recently learned you can put them on a bocadillo (sandwich), and it is a game changer for lunch.
Q: What is something you did that you never expected?
B: This is a hard question to answer because I have done so many things so far. I feel like I have been in Spain at least for six months when it’s only been one and half. A few weekends ago, I travelled to Lagos, Portugal, which is at the very bottom left corner of the Iberian Peninsula. In Lagos, I jumped off 30-foot rock cliffs into the clear blue water and watched a sunset at “the end of the world.” Before the Americas were founded, people thought this point in Portugal was furthest part you could go in the world. I had never anticipated visiting Lagos, so it was definitely a cool experience.
Q: Why would you recommend this program to an interested Amherst student?
A: I would recommend this program to interested students because it combines all the aspects you want in a study abroad experience. The classes are really interesting. The school sponsors trips every other weekend which are a great way to see the country. Madrid also has an airport so it’s super easy to travel to other places. The home stay enables you to experience the Spanish culture first hand and to develop your Spanish quickly.
Q: What do you miss most about Amherst?
A: I definitely miss playing baseball the most. I have got in contact with a few Spanish baseball clubs but it has been difficult to plan a practice as their fall practices are very scattered. I would say Val is a close second. I miss that paella they serve.