Hello! I am entering my fourth week in Madrid, almost completing the first month of studying abroad. As many would say, it feels like we have been here for more than just three weeks. My days are filled with classes, spending time with friends and my host family, and eating good food. In other words, things are superb thus far.
Before arriving in Spain, I hoped to befriend local Spaniards. Luckily, through the Tufts-Skidmore program, we are all assigned mentors. Mentors are students who attend the Universidad Autonoma de Madrid that signed up to mentor four Tufts-Skidmore students, serving as a support and friend.They participated in our orientation week, came with us on city tours, and joined our trip to Toledo. They are pretty great and fun to have around.
Something I appreciate about my mentor and the other mentors is that they ask if I understand what they are saying since we converse only in Spanish. It is easy to pretend to understand when I don’t, but the mentors are helpful in rephrasing or speaking more slowly for me to catch all the ideas they express. Equally, they enjoy learning some new words in English and American slang.
This past week, everyone went out to dinner with their mentor and other mentees. My mentor took us to an Italian restaurant called Bresca. We talked about our majors, the upcoming trip to Toledo, and how everyone seems to be getting sick.
Aside from getting to know Maria better, I also got to know the other mentees. Since there are many students doing the Tufts-Skidmore program, being part of a mentor group is helpful to get to know peers I would not ordinarily see. It is easy to fall into the comfort and reliance of previous friends, so this time of independence and newness with other students is rewarding in its own ways.
Linguistically, I felt more relaxed speaking Spanish at the dinner compared to a classroom. I was not overly worried about making mistakes knowing that the mentor dinners were a time to have fun. On the way home, another mentee told me she felt the same way, that if she forgot a word, she could say the English equivalent to see if someone else remembered. I agree that being in the presence of other Americans can be comforting, making the transition from English to Spanish less intimidating.
In case you were interested, the food was delicious! I ordered the garganelli salmon y vodka which was pasta with a white cream sauce and small pieces of salmon mixed in. I unfortunately forgot to take a picture since I was so hungry at the time, but I recommend checking out the restaurant. It is a five minute walk from the program center and the prices are pretty reasonable.
The mentor dinners will happen every couple of weeks and I am already looking forward to the next one. Even though my weeks can be busy, I am thankful for my mentor and the other mentees for sharing a relaxing and fun evening with me. Who knows, this could be the start of a beautiful friendship.
Tu amiga, Naomi.
Naomi Roter, student blogger primavera 2020