My Study Abroad Experience, Part II

Hi! It’s Jasmine again. In my previous post, I talked about how I ended up in Madrid, Spain my junior spring semester. Continue reading to learn about how I adjusted to my new home.

My study abroad (SA) program started in mid-January and ended in late May, which matched with Mudd’s spring semester schedule. My program was well established and big with about 200 SA students from American universities every semester. Staff members helped students adjust to the new environment by getting me from the airport to my new home, buying a SIM card for my phone, obtaining a Madrid public transportation card, and more. We were required to arrive a week before class started to attend an orientation on health and safety, culture shock, and language and to meet with our academic advisers to sign up for classes. During that week, we had time to tour the local university, explore Madrid, and go on a day trip to a nearby city.

Jasmine in front of a garden with orange trees and a fountain

My SA program took us to Córdoba in Southern Spain, where parts of the TV show Game of Thrones were filmed. The warm weather and orange trees reminded me of my home in Southern California.

Madrid has historically been a popular destination for Mudders, so there were 4 Mudd juniors in my program including me and 3 other Mudders in a different program. However, I also made close friends from different universities in the program.

Jasmine and Soluchi sitting in front of a Spanish tower

My housemate from another American university, Soluchi, and I went on a day-trip to a city called Salamanca in Northwestern Spain.

My host mother was a tour guide living alone in an apartment situated in the center of Madrid. I was very fortunate to have her as my señora, or “Spanish mother,” because she made me two typical Spanish meals every day and cleaned my room and did the laundry every week – by the SA program’s policy. When our schedules aligned, we would have dinner together when she gave me advice on places to visit in Madrid and the rest of Spain. I had a single room with all the necessities, such as a bed, bedding, desk, and closet, and I had another SA student in the program living in the same house. There were some house rules, like not bringing friends over or being quiet at night. Students who preferred a more relaxed lifestyle chose to stay in dorms with Spanish college students or apartments with other international students from around the world.

stew with pork ribs and potatoes

My favorite dish made by my host mom is guiso de costillas con patatas, pork rib and potato stew. My señora had an inconsistent work schedule, so whenever she wasn’t home, she would leave the meal in the fridge for me to heat up for lunch or dinner.

Communicating with my host mom was the biggest challenge at home because she barely spoke any English. Getting used to the language was a difficult process. Before that semester, I had taken four years of Spanish in high school and two semesters at Claremont Mckenna College – intermediate and advanced level – and practiced speaking at the Pomona College’s Oldenborg language tables when I had the chance. However, I never felt comfortable carrying out a conversation in Spanish. Most Spaniards, especially those outside of tourist spots and big cities, are not fluent in English, so I was forced to speak Spanish the whole time there, especially at restaurants and stores. I also listened to Spanish podcasts while traveling, read books and the local newspaper, and sometimes overheard conversations on the streets to practice. Spain’s Spanish turned out to be quite different from the Spanish I had learned in school in the States, which was closer to Latin American Spanish. For example, Spaniards use the 2nd-person plural form, vosotros (“you guys” in Spanish), while I was never taught that in school. Spain use different words or slangs, and some Spaniards even have a lisp, pronouncing the c and z with the “th” sound. After communicating in Spanish for 5 months, I can definitely say that I feel more confident with my Spanish. I hope I keep it up!

For money, I made an estimated budget and converted US Dollars to Euros at an American bank before departure. Within Spain, cash is the most common payment method in restaurants and stores, but most places accept cards. It was convenient that most European countries used the same currency; in countries with different currencies, I converted money at currency exchange places or withdrew cash from my American bank account at an ATM with some extra transaction fee. Before leaving for my semester abroad, I notified my bank about my international travels and learned about the policies on foreign transactions. It is important to have a credit card that is accessible abroad, especially for online booking for transportation and lodging.

Stay tuned to read about my classes and my daily life in Madrid! ¡Hasta la proxima (“See you next time” in Spanish)!