By Brendan Weintraub
There are two amazing perks about being in Madrid. Number 1, the language is all around you and there’s little room to speak in English. Number 2, the location of Spain within Europe is prime.
All of us in CIEE have signed a pledge to speak solely Spanish. Let’s be real: getting to know people in your own native language is a bit awkward. You can only imagine what it was like to try to make friends while speaking a language you’re not fluent in. Those first couple of weeks, we definitely broke the pledge while we were getting to know each other outside of orientation. But I can say now that our WhatsApp group text is only in Spanish, and we practice Spanish with each other, using English as a crutch when we don’t know how to say something.
The CIEE program itself is definitely not the only place we need to use Spanish. Spanish is the only language we speak when we communicate with our anfintriones (hosts), professors, waiters, Spanish friends, bartenders, etc. My Spanish comprehension has increased dramatically since I've been here. Mathematically I would say it's an exponential curve. Speaking is coming along a lot slower for me, though. But that doesn’t mean it hasn’t come miles from where it was just a month ago! Learning, I mean really learning, a language is a pretty interesting feat. Not only does your brain absorb new vocabulary, grammar, etc., it starts confusing words in your native language. We joke around between the LA students that we’re getting worse at English as we get better at Spanish. Hey, as long as I can speak with fluidity in both by the time I leave, I’ll be happy!
Now, quickly, about Spain’s location. It’s perfect. Europe itself is easy to get around, but being in the center of Madrid makes it that much easier. If I want to go to the airport, I can hop on a train that’s 3 minutes from my door and get there within 20 minutes. Our group has already been on two day-excursions to La Mancha and Toledo. A bunch of us are going to the Canary Islands for Carnival (yes, the crazy fiesta similar to the one in Rio) this weekend. Next weekend we’re going to Morocco with CIEE for three days. The weekend after a bunch of us are going to Porto, Portugal. The world is your oyster when you are in Madrid!
It’s only been about a month since I landed in Madrid and I’ve already experienced so much of the Spanish culture. I cannot wait to see what the rest of the semester has in store.
¡Hasta luego chicos!