LIZA LEONARD- Tonight I was running my favorite running route in Alcala de Henares, and I realized how beautiful it was in the dusk. At home, running is part of my daily routine, and it helps me stay energized and focused. I was thrilled to realize that I have recreated that ritual here, and that I have a natural place to do it in. There are always other runners, walkers, and people with their friends and dogs on the paths, and it makes me feel at home.
Other than the mountains and the running trails near my house, Alcala de Henares has other perks. Alcala is situated North-East of Madrid, and is a forty-five-minute train ride from the city. To some, this might sound like a disadvantage. Why would you want to spend a semester abroad forty-five minutes away from all the best discotecas? For me, living in Alcala is not perfect but it helps me appreciate a different kind of abroad experience.
It is smaller than Madrid, and more beautiful.
Madrid is awesome, but it is also a massive city. I like that Alcala is smaller and more intimate and also close to mountains and open green spaces. Because it is smaller, it is easier to become “conocido,” or known around town. For example, I found an awesome yoga studio located above a bar on the main street in town. The class meets twice a week, and usually consists of the same 6-8 people. It is more intimate than any class I have ever taken in the US. At home, yoga classes are usually crammed with more than 30 people who hardly socialize with one another. Here, in Alcala, my teacher knows my name, knows what poses I am working on, and even if I am extra tired one week. I like the feeling of being expected in class, of feeling like I belong in this little city.
I always have an excuse not to go out.
I love being social and having fun. However, I have been focusing my energy on areas other than nightlife. I am enjoying traveling with friends, getting to know the people around me, with spending time at home and in Alcala. I am setting a pace of life for myself in which I can have fun but also appreciate why what I am doing here is awesome. I am not cramming my time here so much that it rushes by. The good thing about living in Alcala is that I never feel pressure to go out in Madrid. It is like the old excuse “I can’t go out because my mom won’t let me,” but now it is, “I live in Alcala, I am not coming to Kapital.”
I actually like commuting.
I love sprinting to the train every morning so I don’t miss my classes in Madrid. My backpack flops around and everyone looks at me like I am crazy. Ok, so commuting is not ideal, especially for someone who struggles with waking up early, but I have learned to like my commute. I have found the time to actually do the leisure reading that I always wish I had time for at Tufts. If I don’t feel like reading one day, I listen to music and stare out the window and I let myself gather up my thoughts. Yes, it might sound boring but I really love just thinking about my life and about everything that is happening here. When I finally make it to Madrid, I usually find something cool to do there, too!