Alli Emge


Stanford in Madrid, Autumn 2017-18
Major: History
Minor: Spanish
College year while abroad: Junior
About the photo: This is me in front of the Roman aqueduct in Segovia, a small town outside of Madrid.


Why did you choose to study abroad in Madrid? 

One of my primary goals was to improve my fluency in Spanish. Since the students participating in the Madrid program sign a pledge to only speak in Spanish, this goal was an easy one to meet. I also wanted the opportunity to travel to other Spanish and European cities on the weekends.

What were your expectations before you went and how did those change once you arrived in Madrid? 

I did not expect to interact with as many Spaniards, but I met quite a few through my host family.

What were some of the academic benefits from studying abroad in Madrid? 

Aside from improving my level of Spanish, Spain as a country is a diverse country that struggles with identity politics. Most autonomous communities within Spain (equivalent to a state or province), have a strong identity and some, such as Cataluña and the Basque Country, have popular separatist movements. Apart from conflicting national identities, Spain also receives a large influx of immigrants from South America and the Middle East.

What did you learn about yourself while you were studying abroad? 

I was already interested in politics back home, but my time in Spain gave me an opportunity to become interested in the politics of a new country. During the Catalan referendum for independence in the fall of 2017, I interviewed residents of Madrid and Barcelona on their political identity, which helped me to understand the events unfolding in front of me.

What was the most challenging experience you encountered while you were abroad and what did you learn from it? 

As a deaf student who uses cochlear implants, I did not expect to have to make changes to my hearing equipment. Little did I know that radio frequencies are different in Europe, rendering some of my equipment useless. I thought I was sunk, but I made an appointment with an audiologist in central Madrid, who then quickly solved the problem after pressing a few buttons. I learned that when abroad, impossible problems often have a relatively easy solution. You might not be able to prepare for every contingency, but fortunately a city like Madrid is full of resources.

What was the biggest cultural adjustment you had to make? 

Probably greeting people with a kiss on each cheek.

What was your favorite part of your everyday life in Madrid? 

Running in the morning through El Retiro (Madrid's version of Central Park) and exploring all the cute cafes and bars in my neighborhood.

What was the most memorable experience you had while you were in Madrid? 

I found out I had very distant family in Madrid, and I was invited to a large family reunion.

What 5 words would you use to describe your experience? 

1. Malasaña (neighborhood where my host stay was)

2. Jamón

3. Bing trip

4. Enriching

5. Cultral [ly expanding]

Fun Questions:

What was your favorite food you had in Madrid? 

My host mom made an incredible variation on a traditional tortilla española (which is frittata with potato inside).

What was the most valuable item you took with you on the program?  

A sense of adventure!

What was your favorite music/band that you discovered in Madrid? 

Txarango is a Catalan reggae/pop group from Barcelona.