I’ve been studying Spanish since 7th grade, so I knew before coming to Colgate that when I studied abroad I wanted to be in a Spanish-speaking country. I decided to come to Madrid because it’s in Europe (which means easy access to traveling!) and because there was already an established Colgate program.
Landing in Spain, I was incredibly nervous to be so far away from my family and forced to navigate my way around a new country in a foreign language. For the first two weeks of the semester our study group was in Santiago de Compostela (northwestern Spain), where we had short classes as an introduction to the semester. I am studying here with ten other Colgate students, two of whom I had talked to prior to arriving at the airport. It’s really surprising that Colgate is so small and I can continue to meet new people so easily. I feel that I have really grown to know and love everyone on this trip. We became so close that when we left Santiago de Compostela for Madrid to live with our host families, it felt like I was leaving my family all over again.
Living with a host family this semester means that I have a host mom and dad, two host sisters, and a host brother, although he is studying abroad in Ireland for the year to practice English (he’s 11). My family is awesome; they are all incredibly helpful whenever I have questions about the culture or things to do, and they are very welcoming. They have also helped me a lot with my Spanish; although they speak English, they only speak Spanish to me. That being said, it is kind of weird living in someone else’s house and not totally feeling like it’s your space. But I have my own room and bathroom, no doubles here!
Being in Madrid is an amazing experience. I have had my past few art classes in the Prado Museum, and I have seen paintings from Diego Velázquez and Francisco de Goya in person that I have been learning about in class. I am taking two classes with only Colgate students, and two that are taught through the university here with Spanish students. While I can’t say that I’ve found all the students to be particularly friendly (in general), the Spanish professors I’ve had are fantastic, and interested in the perspectives of “los Americanos.” Having all of my classes in Spanish is really cool in that I feel like my understanding of the language is improving greatly. It’s also very hard – it took me two full history classes to realize that “OTAN” was the Spanish way of saying “NATO.”
I miss how organized Colgate is in comparison to the university here (I just got my student ID last week), and I miss all the activities I am involved in at Colgate. However, I know that I am incredibly lucky to be in Spain for a semester learning the language and culture. I know that when I go home in December, I will be missing walking out my front door and practicing my Spanish; I’ll also miss the (relatively) warm weather here. It is such a privilege to be studying abroad, and despite missing my dog (a lot), I am so glad to be in Madrid.