For my last blog of the semester, I wanted highlight mentor dinners and the Thanksgiving dinner that was held for us a couple weeks ago. Every two weeks, all the students in the program go to different restaurants with their mentor groups. The restaurants are usually picked by the mentors unless we suggest one, and the meal is covered by the program. Since my group is made up of my Latinx peers, the restaurants we went to always sold Latinx food. The first restaurant was a Cuban restaurant. Two weeks after, we headed to a Mexican restaurant called “La Mordida Fuentes.” Then we went to a Caribbean restaurant in Cuatro Caminos called “La Esquina Caribeña.”
In our most recent mentor dinner, we went to a Dominican restaurant called 809 in Legazpi—my personal favorite, but I am pretty biased. I love going to 809 because of how close it is to my host home (I take about six minutes to walk there). It also helps a lot with my homesickness since what I have been missing the most since I have been here is food from home. For appetizers, two of us got “bollos de yuca,” which are boiled and mashed balls of cassava that are stuffed with cheese and then fried. They are super cheap and great appetizers when you have been looking forward to a mentor dinner all day. My friend got a “croqueta de plátano maduro” which is very similar to thebollo de yuca, except instead of cassava, sweet plantains are used. For the main course, most of us got “la bandera,” which, for Dominicans, is the staple of white rice, red beans, and your choice of meat (usually chicken). Needless to say, the food tasted amazing, and if you are planning on visiting Madrid, I definitely recommend you go there with an empty stomach.
On November 26th, the program hosted a Thanksgiving dinner for us, having assumed how homesick we would be by now. It was your “typical American Thanksgiving dinner”—turkey, mashed potatoes, peas, stuffing, and pie for dessert. There was wine at the table, and some students brought their host families, like my friend Sahana who brought her host mom to spend a few hours with us. The dinner was held at the same hotel our orientation had been held in, and toward the end, the director of the program, Susan, gave a heartwarming toast. The dinner was less to glorify the history of Thanksgiving and more to create an opportunity for us to all spend time together. Although the dinner was nothing like I am used to because of my different cultural background, it was nice to spend time with my friends outside of our busy schedules.
As this semester comes to a close, I am more than glad I made the decision to come to Madrid through the Tufts-Skidmore Spain Program. I have found the staff to be so helpful here and easy to talk to when I am feeling overwhelmed or homesick. Also, as someone who comes from a low-income family, I seriously never could have imagined myself traveling to Europe and spending so long here. I am glad that I decided early on to stay here a year, and though I took a huge risk, I am happy with what I have found both in Madrid in this program. I hope my blogs have been helpful and, at the very least, interesting enough to keep you reading. On behalf of the Tufts-Skidmore Spain Program, we would like to wish you a safe and happy holiday!
Nicole—or Nico for short—is an Afro-Latina from the Bronx, NY who dabbles in poetry, prose, photography, and vocalism. She has published two books to date, both written in English and Spanish. She is currently attending Skidmore College with hopes to obtain two bachelor’s degrees for Spanish and Linguistics. Her ultimate goal is to someday open a school for deaf children in the Dominican Republic. She uses her writing to discuss taboo topics, like what it means to be a woman of color today’s world and how that shapes her perception.