Carlos Bustos (he/him) - Stanford in Madrid
Major: International Relations and Spanish
College year while abroad: Junior
About the photo: One of the great things about studying abroad in Europe is the ability to travel and experience new cities. One weekend, I was able to travel to Lisbon, Portugal and learn more about the history of the Iberian Peninsula. This photo is of me strutting my best *Indiana Jones* look.
Questions and Answers with Carlos
Why did you choose to study abroad in Madrid?
As an international relations major with concentrations in economic development and Latin American and Iberian culture, I chose to study abroad in Madrid because I wanted to explore the Iberian peninsula through a political economy perspective. On campus, I was able to take a wide variety of Economics, Political Science and Latin American culture classes, but I was still missing a pivotal connection within my majors. The Madrid program offered a unique perspective with respect European politics and culture that I found to be the perfect complement to my previous coursework.
What were your expectations before you went and how did those change once you arrived in Madrid?
I didn't really come into the study abroad experience with that many expectations. I would say that I had the idea in my head that I would be able to see all of Europe in the eleven weeks that I was studying in Madrid. However, I quickly realized that that was impossible. I think it's important to have a balance of traveling with spending time in the city that you choose to study abroad in. Some of my best weekends were the ones that I spent in Madrid and I think that although traveling to other parts of Europe was fun, I don't think you should come in with the expectation that every weekend is going to be a travel weekend. I realized this about a week into my study abroad experience and it made my experience in Madrid exponentially better.
What were some of the academic benefits from studying abroad in Madrid?
I would say there are a couple of benefits that come with studying abroad in Madrid. The first one is that the majority of the classes are small and give you a great chance to improve on your spanish abilities. Since the courses are all taught in Spanish, you are able to fully immerse yourself in the language more than you would anywhere else. Secondly, a lot of the courses offered have cultural excursions to museums and famous historical landmarks. This is a great way to learn more about Spain while also fully immersing yourself in the Spanish culture.
What did you learn about yourself while you were studying abroad?
More than anything, I learned about how to maintain the right balance of independence and spending time with friends. Studying abroad comes with a certain expectation that you always need to be doing something and with people. However, some of my fondest moments in Madrid were the ones where I decided to go to a cafe by myself and read or take a run through the park during sunset. After coming back, I've become a lot more independent and have much more appreciation for taking the time I need to decompress by myself.
What was the most challenging experience you encountered while you were abroad and what did you learn from it?
The most challenging experience for me was keeping in touch with people from home. Because of the time change, it was difficult to coordinate time to call my parents and face time my friends. However, I learned that being really intentional and proactive about communicating with people is key in maintaining long distance friendships and keeping in touch with family while studying in a different continent.
What was the biggest cultural adjustment you had to make?
The biggest adjustment for me was the daily schedule. Spanish people have very distinct eating schedules and as someone who likes to follow his diet rather closely, this was a big adjustment for me. However, being transparent about these concerns to my host mom from the beginning really helped us establish a routine that worked. Although the 9:30 PM dinners were an adjustment, I quickly adapted to the unique schedule and used snacks as a way to maintain a regular dietary schedule throughout the quarter.
What was your favorite part of your everyday life in Madrid?
Madrid is one of the most lively cities I've ever lived in. I think that the amount of cultural opportunities that you are able to take advantage of is incredible. Whether it's a flamenco show or a museum or a picnic in the park, there is always something you can fill your time with. I also really enjoyed the amount of cafes available in Madrid and it made studying for classes really enjoyable because it was also an excuse for us to visit a new cafe whenever we wanted to!
What was the most memorable experience you had while you were in Madrid?
Our BING dinner was a great night! Getting dressed up and eating amazing food surrounded by the people who, in ten short weeks, had become amazing friends, was a great experience.
What 5 words would you use to describe your experience?
Energizing, enlightening, friendship, immersive, tasty.
What was your favorite food you had in Madrid?
The croquetas de jamon that my host grandma made from scratch were my absolute favorite!
What was the most valuable item you took with you on the program?
My water bottle! The tap water in Madrid is amazing and it was great to be able to stay hydrated while adventuring through the city.
What was your favorite music/band that you discovered in Madrid?
I dove really deep into reggaeton! Definitely a must while in Spain.