In the Fall of 2020, I had the opportunity to study abroad in Madrid, Spain. I had never been outside of the U.S. before, so I was very excited but also a little bit nervous going into the semester. Thankfully, I had some knowledge of Spanish, so that eased a lot of my fears.
We went in having been assigned one of three seminars. My seminar was titled “Marine Ecology of the Mediterranean Sea and North Africa.” This was a 10-day seminar in which we traveled to the southeast of Spain, learned about the effects of climate change on the Mediterranean and became SCUBA certified to truly explore what we were learning in the classroom. Next, we crossed the Mediterranean Sea by ferry to Melilla, a small piece of northern Africa which is controlled by Spain. We explored the culture of Melilla and learned more about ecological regulations in the area. We then traveled across the border into Morocco, where we were tasked with analyzing the major differences in ecological regulations between Morocco and Spain, and the respective outcomes in the environment. This was such a great kickoff to the semester; there were thirty students in the seminar, from Syracuse as well as other universities, and we all became close friends very quickly. I was lucky enough to go abroad with six friends of mine, but the seminar gave us opportunities to branch out and make new (now close) friends.
When we returned to Madrid, we settled into our routine for the semester. My roommate and I opted to live in a homestay. We lived in an apartment with two host-parents, and we became very close with them as we had dinner with them every night. Mealtimes in Madrid were pushed back from those in the U.S. – we did not eat dinner until 9:00 pm each night! We were surprised to see that the siesta was a very real thing in Madrid, at least with our host parents. Between the hours of 3:00 and 5:00 pm, our host parents were asleep because that was there siesta time.
I took four courses at the Instituto Internacional (Syracuse’s Madrid campus building,) but received fifteen credits as the seminar also counted as a three-credit course. My roommate and I took the bus to the school every morning, which was very easy for us to do since every student is given a Metro card for the semester to be used on buses and the underground Metro system. With the exception of going from our apartment to the university, our main mode of transportation was the Madrid Metro, which was always very fast and reliable.
We were lucky enough to do some traveling throughout the semester as well. Over the course of our four months abroad, we traveled to Portugal, Germany (and went to Oktoberfest!), Ireland, Netherlands, and other cities throughout Spain.
I don’t have one favorite part of my semester abroad, but I do have some highlights. I loved the Marine Ecology seminar and SCUBA diving, going to Oktoberfest in Munich and becoming as close as we did to our host family. After graduation, I would love to someday go back and work in Madrid.