ZACH ARNOLD- Many people study abroad for the food, the traveling, and the culture of a brand new place. Very few people say they are going to study abroad for the classes. It’s true that even though we are abroad in a wonderful new country it is still important to remember the study part of this semester. Some students are working hard, while others, like me, are only taking a measly twelve credits this semester. However, I still find that I am always finding new stuff to do. While there is always time for classes and studying there is also time for exploring either Madrid or even other cities all throughout Europe. This is the reason I came abroad not to have my head in the books or to be constantly worrying about my GPA, I came abroad for the experience. As every parent or grandparent I’ve ever talked to says “you’ll never get another experience like this one”, while that is true, I won’t get to study abroad again, I don’t think this is a once in a lifetime experience. There is always more time to travel and to be abroad, but I think that we should make the most of our time here and stop constantly thinking about how we can do better on that next grammar test and actually take in the city. Although I am also a culprit of falling into the hole that makes up the American education system, always concentrating on grades and not as much on actually learning the subject, I still think we need to stop and smell the flowers every once in awhile.
These past two weeks have been a whirlwind, although they say Spanish classes don’t give out much homework I find myself struggling to keep up with the mounds of work that have been piling up. Some days I leave the house at nine and don’t get back until eight o’clock that night. This is a whole different experience, it’s not like living on campus where you can stop into your dorm room after class or take a quick trip to Dhall (Skidmore’s one and only dining hall). We are living in a city where it takes 30 minutes by metro to get from my house to the program center, and even more for some students. No longer do I have the luxury of waking up ten minutes before class starts and still being able to make it on time, I have to wake up an hour early and I am still rushing not to be late.
However, the study part of the abroad experience is still fun. In my ISD (Is Spain Different) class, we have many visits to interesting places around the city. Just the other day we went to the Congress building, which on the outside looks magnificent, but the inside is simply breathtaking. The ceilings are covered with art as well as the walls; if I were part of the congress, I would spend the whole time staring at the ceiling. My other program classes are my Grammar class and an art history class called, Discovering the Prado. In the art history class, we get to be in the Prado for most of our classes, looking at art that is revered around the world. We bounce around from painting to painting while the professor expects us to remember every little detail of each painting, the name, the artist, the size, and much more. The plus side of this is when my parents visit I can impress them and tell them about each painting that we’ve learned about in great detail, we won’t even need a guided tour. The Grammar class is just as interesting. The professor, Enrique, not Iglesias, although that would have made for an interesting grammar class, is a ball of energy. Every class we learn new vocabulary from all aspects of life. The last vocab “quiz” had over 300 words on it and every student in the program seemed to be talking about it. Turns out it wasn’t half bad and we all got over it, until he said we had a test the next week. But hey we did have to learn something while we were here, so mind as well enjoy the classes and take in the experience.