It’s now been a month since I returned to Madrid. As soon as my finals in Spain ended and I turned in my final papers, I went on my first trip by myself. I quickly went to visit a friend in Brussels, see the Christmas markets in Cologne, Germany, and ended up in Valencia. Upon my return to Madrid, I almost immediately went home for the holidays. After this whirlwind trip, followed by a Winter Break full of visiting all my family members across the country, studying for an EMT recertification exam, and getting the flu, I was ready to stay-put, de-stress, and relax for at least a little while before classes started again.
Despite this, after a few lazy days hanging around Madrid, I was recharged and ready to go again. I started going on some day trips and planning my semester, which got me thinking about my favorite things about studying abroad in Spain.
1. The people in Spain are kind and genuine. They drill it into us during orientation, but it is so true that people in Spain just aren’t in a hurry. Sometimes, I’m just as annoyed as the next American by this, but the slower pace of life allows Spaniards to truly have time for one another. This translates to an emphasis on family and community, and authentically caring about others in a way that we just don’t get in the US.
2. Spain is an incredibly diverse country, and based in Madrid, it’s easy to see so much of the country. From rainy (but unbelievably beautiful!) Galicia, to the dry center of the country, to the incredible beaches, I’m constantly blown away by how varied the geography, terrain, weather, and scenery of this country is. From the center of the country, a day trip (Segovia for castles and cathedrals, Cuenca for the views, or Consuegra for the windmills are favorites) can take you to cities or villages each with their own character, but if you want to go further afield (Bilbao to the North or basically anywhere in Andalucia) both coasts are easily accessible.
3. But it’s also super easy to see the rest of Europe from Madrid. Thanks to cheap airlines, most major (or not so major) cities in Europe can be accessed within a 2-3 hour flight.
4. You can easily be in the city or out in nature thanks to the easily accessible mountains. Taking the Cercanías to Cercedilla is easy, but the interurbano buses take you out into adorable towns in the mountains for hikes with spectacular views of the snowcapped Sierra de Guadarrama. Most sites are within 40 minutes to 1 hour, giving you plenty of time to get back to Madrid to salir at night.
5. As a vegetarian and lover of spicy meals, I have a love-hate relationship with the food here. Sometimes the over-salting and overcooked vegetables makes me want nothing more than to cook for myself, but the café con leche, churros (or my preference: porras) con chocolate, and large quantity of egg-based main dishes are pretty swell. And I’ve heard that the jamón is pretty decent too.