MARISA CAPONI- Tonight over an incredible dinner, which consisted of a pasta dish my host sister made with bacon and melted cheese, we were helping my other host sister figure out what to major in (she’s 16 and undecided). Luckily, she still has 2 full years to make the decision, so we discussed almost every potential option – work in business, do interpretation and translation, become a psychologist, etc. My host mom gave advice and feedback such as to brainstorm concrete ideas and do something you’re passionate about. What resonated most with me was that she suggested not to just “trabajar para vivir” but to “vivir para trabajar.” And immediately it hit me how lucky I am to have an internship here with CityLife Madrid.
Tomorrow will only be my fourth official day in the office (located on the breathtaking street Calle Gran Vía, pictured above) but I already feel comfortable and welcome there – certainly not something most interns can say. This won’t come as a surprise, however, if you know anything about CityLife’s mission or have attended any of the meet-ups, weekend trips, or other events. Essentially, the organization consists of a tight-knit community of people from all different countries and cities who are committed to making international students feel welcome by cultivating a positive experience for them here in Madrid. If that doesn’t warm your heart and calm some of your study-abroad jitters, I really don’t know what else possibly could.
Want to stop dreading Mondays? CityLife’s got you. They host events for students almost every night of the week – some of my favorites as a basic American (broke) college student include Monday’s Meet and Dance, Tuesday’s Beer Pong tournaments, Thursday’s Meet and Speak and of course, Saturday’s Meet and Party, which is literally a huge pub crawl. As part of my internship, I get to ref the beer pong tourneys and greet people at the entrance of Meet and Speak. Basically, this event is always super crowded so after you mingle with people on the entrance line, CityLife staff greets you at the front, asks you where you’re from and what languages you speak/want to practice, and then gives you stickers of all the country’s flags which correspond to your answers. So each Thursday I proudly rep my American flag, the Spanish flag of course, and an Italian flag because, well, you can read my last name. You can stick these wherever you want on your body – I’ve seen people put them on their bare arms and legs but the forehead is by far my favorite spot, and they serve as conversation starters and ways to connect with strangers, breaking the ice in a really different yet appropriate way. This event fosters a comfortable shared space where international students as well as local madrileños and anyone looking to meet new people can grab a cheap drink, pick at some tapas, and chat for hours about anything. And believe it or not, I get internship credit for helping out.
Other than that, I’ll be writing blog posts kind of like this one for CityLife’s website, and editing any e-mails or tasks that need to be grammatically correct in English. In the office, everyone speaks English and Spanish, but you’ll often hear bits of conversations in German, Dutch, Italian and more. That being said, for me it’s an opportunity to practice my Spanish without judgement and I can easily receive clarification if I stumble on a word or phrase. The more time I spend with my coworkers the more I come to terms with just how short-term my stay is in Madrid. I am also painfully jealous that these are people’s actual jobs? Like, they get to meet other super friendly and genuine travelers and appease their nerves/apprehensions about being in new places? And spend weekend excursions in other parts of Spain and go wine tasting/dance salsa for free and experience Spanish culture to the fullest with no expiration date? That’s just the start of what I’d say is the epitome of “vivir para trabajar.”
Disclaimer: just because I have a cool internship does not mean I’m not a rookie when it comes to all things Madrid… so whether you’re looking for some expert advice on Madrid’s nightlife, trying to learn some hip Spanish slang or want to take advantage of the (often free) trips and services for students I strongly encourage you to check out CityLife’s super helpful blog.