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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

My Study Abroad Adventure – Madrid!

This past summer I had the opportunity to participate in Purdue’s Spanish Department Study Abroad Experience to Madrid, Spain. I was there for 6 weeks with about 30 other Purdue students, and it was the experience of a lifetime! Here’s a quick rundown of some of my favorite memories from my trip:

1. Being with my host family – Along with two other Purdue students, I lived in the home of a Spanish woman, Prado, and her middle-school son, Mario. My roommates Tola and Meghan are seen pictured here with Prado and Mario. We ate meals together, worked on homework with Mario, and had long conversations – all in Spanish of course! It was great to learn about Spanish culture from a native’s perspective. And the home stay experience definitely improved my Spanish speaking skills!

2. Taking classes – While in Madrid, I attended La Universidad Antonio de Nebrija, taking two classes toward my Spanish minor. One class was an art class, where we learned about Spanish history and how it related to art. We studied El Greco, Velasquez, and Goya, and every Thursday we went to the Prado Art Museum to see the paintings in real life! My other class was a food class taught by Purdue Professor Ana Gomez-Bravo. We were able to sample a TON of delicious cuisine from around the city, all while learning about its importance to Spanish culture.
3. Sightseeing – We covered a lot of ground in six weeks! Some of our most frequented hangout spots included La Plaza del Sol for some shopping, Retiro Park (see picture) for a relaxing afternoon in the gardens, and a little coffee shop in the center of the city that served the best Café Bonbon. It was so neat to see some of the more famous Madrid sights, like Plaza Mayor (see picture). We also did some extra traveling on the weekends to places like Seville, Barcelona, Toro, Zamora, Escorial, Granada, Toledo, and Segovia. All of these places were so culture-rich – I was seeing sites that I had read about in my years of Spanish classes! One of my favorite travel spots was our weekend in Barcelona. I got to see most of the Antoni Gaudí architecture, which was my dream to see someday. What a cool experience!

In summary, my trip to Spain this summer was amazing. I learned so much about Spanish culture – our classroom was the city, and it was our homework to explore life in Madrid. We became part of everyday life there – taking the public transportation, conversing with the locals, taking classes, and seeing the ancient sites. I would definitely recommend a study abroad experience to students – it’ll change you for the better!

--- Laurel Donaldson

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