My family is from Mexico, so I wanted to explore the roots of many of our customs and traditions I learned from my parents and grandparents. I am fluent and wanted the opportunity to strengthen my Spanish and speak it more consistently.
What were your expectations before you went and how did those change once you arrived in Madrid?
I expected to hear more English while exploring the streets of Madrid since it is a major city, but to my surprise, I rarely heard it. The strong use of Spanish in Madrid was one of my favorite things about the city.
What were some of the academic benefits from studying abroad in Madrid?
I got to explore courses and topics that I had not had the chance to explore because of my major. I also made the decision to minor in Spanish as a result of my academic experiences in Madrid and have as a result continued to explore interests on campus.
What did you learn about yourself while you were studying abroad?
From navigating a completely new and unfamiliar territory, I learned to be more decisive, adventours, patient, and independent.
What was the most challenging experience you encountered while you were abroad and what did you learn from it?
Adjusting to words, phrases, customs, etc. that were unique to Spain. I grew up exposed to mainly the Spanish my Mexican parents and the Spanish I learned from my Spanish teachers, but I had to adjust to hearing new phrases and also adjust to using different phrases that were not recognized in Spain.
What was the biggest cultural adjustment you had to make?
In general, the customs I noticed in Madrid were understandably very similar to the ones I saw when I visited my family in Mexico. But, I remember the meal times--or better, the general schedule, pace, and lifestyle of Spaniards--to be quite different from what I was used to. I was also never familiar with metro systems before Madrid. I am much more confident using the metro now after depending on it every day in Madrid.
What was your favorite part of your everyday life in Madrid?
My favorite part was sitting at the table with my host mom every morning as we both drank our morning coffee and magdalena.
What was the most memorable experience you had while you were in Madrid?
Although the majority of this experience was outside of Madrid, my journey through Camino de Santiago was undeniably the most memorable experience--I learned so much about self-reflection, perseverance, and spirituality.
What 5 words would you use to describe your experience?
Chorizo. I came into my abroad experience without eating red meat in 7 years so I was surprised to learn how much I loved Spanish chorizo. I wanted to abandon that while in Madrid to a full authentic Spanish experience in every way possible--even if that meant trying foods I normally did not eat.
What was the most valuable item you took with you on the program?
I have a collection of small elephant figurines in my room back home and some in my room at Stanford. The elephants have been gifts from friends and are from all around the world; they serve as my reminder of the importance of human connection in my life. I took one of the figurines with me to Madrid and it was the perfect way of having some small reminder of home. I ended up buying a new part of my collection at Parque Guell in Barcelona to remind myself of my time abroad.
What was your favorite music/band that you discovered in Madrid?
J Balvin, Nicky Jam, Juan Magan, and other artists in general. Although not all artists were originally from Spain, they were very popular in Madrid while I was there. I rarely listened to Spanish music before going abroad, but now, after hearing certain artists anytime I walked around the city and having specific memories of Madrid associated with specific songs, I find myself always listening to Spanish music when I need a sudden burst of energy (my running playlist in now 90% Spanish music).
Every Stanford undergraduate should give serious consideration to studying overseas.
Regardless of the academic path you choose, you will be enriched by time spent in another country. Achieving cultural literacy and gaining substantive understanding of other perspectives in the world will deepen your awareness of yourself, your educational goals, and your own society. Nearly one-half of each graduating class studies abroad through one of Stanford's overseas programs.