RACHEL ALLEN- As I approach my final month in Madrid, I am surprised at how quick this semester has gone by. I am so thankful for all I’ve learned here – inside and outside the classroom. As I’ve talked about my non-academic learning here before, I want to focus on my classes for this post. I take four program classes here – one grammar class, two art classes and a political science class. In no particular order, I will go in depth in describing each of my classes and teachers. So watch out because no one is safe from my wrath (just kidding this is the best set of professors I’ve ever had).
Grammar class with Enrique
Let’s be honest, we were all not looking forward to taking a mandatory grammar class. At least I wasn’t. But, I (obviously) changed my tune after the first class with Enrique as my professor. If anyone reading this knows Enrique I’m sure you understand, but allow me to explain him for others. Enrique is a linguist and a genius. He doesn’t teach Spanish out of a textbook like a high school or even college professor would – he teaches Spanish like native children learn. He teaches us important vocabulary for our lives here, such as traveling terms, how to order a vase of water in a restaurant, and how to say bitter (if anyone knows me, you know I’m constantly a bitter chica). He even teaches us sounds to make when we are thinking. Instead of being like Patrick Star and saying “duhhhhhhhhh”, we should say “ehhhhhh”. These little tricks help us seem more like locals.
The best part about grammar class is that it is completely conversational. If we take a 20-minute tangent to talk about movies we saw that weekend, that’s completely normal. My confidence in my speaking capabilities comes from this class from realizing no question is a stupid question. Enrique is such a cool dude and I could honestly talk to him for hours without getting bored.
Cons: I can’t hang out with Enrique all the time.
Is Spain Different?
Okay I already focused on this class in a previous blog post, but more things have happened I need to tell y’all (just between us girls). Since our field trip to the Congreso, we have spoken to the political party Podemos (one of the most left-leaning political parties) and we have even gone to the Spanish equivalent of the White House (El Palacio de Moncloa) to talk to a cabinet member. El Partido Popular (the most right-leaning political party) is currently in power, so it was fortunate that we got exposure from both sides of the political spectrum in Spain. These field trips are opportunities I know I would not find anywhere else, so I’m un-ironically #blessed to be in this class.
Besides field trips, classes in the program center are always interesting. They are always conversationally driven, and Josep (our professor) is always open to any question. It’s interesting to see all the challenges Spain faces politically, socially and economically and how it differs from the United States. For example, I know a lot of soon-to-be college graduate *tentatively raises hand* in the US are scared to find work. But in Spain, the unemployment rate for people under 26 is 50%. That’s one in two kids! That’s like if Mary-Kate became a fashion mogul, and Ashley just kept on living in the Full House house.
Cons: Class is at 9am, so I look neither fresh, nor clean.
Art is 100% for sure not my forte. It’s definitely my piano (music joke? Maybe? Did it land? Email me @ firstname.lastname@example.org to give me some feedback). Taking Sketchbook is a great choice to make because it is a great (and cheap!) way to see the city. So far we have been to countless museums that I probably wouldn’t have gone to otherwise, the Botanical Gardens and an art school. I definitely have shown improvement in my drawings, which is the point of the class. I would never ever consider myself an artist however – sketching is just a great way to use another part of my brain I normally don’t use.
Our professor Pepa is very laidback, which is exactly what I want as a beginner. She just casually sits on the floor to sketch an example of what we should be doing and thirty seconds later she’s drawn a masterpiece. It’s all very casual. My favorite lesson we’ve had so far has been nude drawings. I love the idea of drawing real people, not idealistic versions of them.
Cons: your entire hand will be covered in lead from the pencils.
This class for sure is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Twice a week, I learn in the Prado Museum. I know very little about art and I still realize how big of a deal that is. Also, since taking this class I have found myself paying more attention in art museums. I have been fortunate enough to travel around Europe and I always make my friends take me to National Galleries. For example, when I visited Merilla and my high school friend Dillan in London we went to the National Gallery and there were at least two paintings there I studied in class. I proceeded to drop all my knowledge on the paintings and earned major cool points with Merilla and Dillan aka my parents for the day.
But back to the class. At first I will look at a painting and go “why is this so famous?” Then by the end of class I’m on my phone looking up conspiracy theories as to how said painting was created. Our professor Alicia is enthusiastic about the class and always has an answer for any question, no matter how miniscule. Old art is very interesting to me because I look at it and can figure out the religious, mythological or secular story behind it. Whereas with contemporary art sometimes it’s just a canvas painted white and I want to scream “whyyyyyy”
Cons: Fighting for bench space during class.
And there you have it. I hope you enjoyed my academic life.