During orientation, those of us taking classes at the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid (UAM) traveled to the university to get a sense of the layout before the first day of classes. Nonetheless, on my first day I completely forgot the route our mentors showed us to get there. Leaving the program center I walked to a random metro station that I vaguely recalled and proceeded to take five different metro trains until I arrived at the Atocha Renfe station. This was, by the way, completely unnecessary. I was simply hopping from train to train, improvising and changing my mind about the best place to go. Once I was in the Atocha Renfe station I proceeded to run from platform to platform as each person I talked to directed me to a different platform than the person I had just spoken to.
I stopped running and contemplated walking home. At that point I was exhausted, sweaty, and I didn’t want to be late on my first day. But, I also didn’t want to give up and completely miss my first day. After screaming with frustration silently, I walked to the platform I thought was the right one and saw a woman my age with books standing on the platform. When I asked her if the next train stopped at Cantoblanco she smiled and said yes.
The train ride was fast and comfortable. It is nice to see the outskirts of Madrid and the change in landscape. My class (Clinical Psychology) is in the Psychology facultad building at the end of campus. The room is big with two big rows of seats traveling to the back of the room. The room is usually humid and not all one hundred students enrolled in the class show up. Students are eager to learn, but will also leave early and sometimes roll their cigarettes, as the professor is finishing up the lecture. To be fair, it is a three-hour class that only meets once a week.
Anyways, the professor is very smart, interesting and kind. After class on the first day I gathered up the courage to talk to her and introduce myself. She was very receptive to what I had to say and has since been very helpful. I will admit that is challenging to take a class at the university with all native speakers, because of the language, but also because of the difference in expectations and the system. However, I have learned a lot and met some cool people.
On the train I have recently started listening to podcasts. I highly recommend Serial. It is free in the app store. Season one and two are both amazing!
1. Even if everyone around you is running and rushing to their next train, take a breath and figure out where you need to go. The trains come so frequently you don’t need to worry about missing your train.
2. Take a class at UAM or UAH! It is a great experience and you don’t want to miss out on it.
3. Talk to your Spanish classmates. They are helpful, friendly, and will want to talk to you in Spanish and English.