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Stephanie in Spain - Week 1: Döner Kebabs, Tinto de Verano y Muchos Amigos

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Hola from España!

It’s hard to believe it is only the end of week 1 because it has felt like a month since I’ve left home to pursue this new adventure! Getting settled into a completely different city while assimilating to the time and language difference has been quite the challenge, but overall enjoyable. I’ve been enjoying making a ton of new friends while becoming close with my orientation group as well and overall people are quite understanding and just as excited for the experience as I am.

Before leaving for Madrid, my parents held a gathering in which everyone I was really hoping to see before I left came from all over the country! It was the most exciting thing to not only have them all together to say farewell before I left, but to also reunite both my mom’s and dad’s family after not seeing each other for years. I was absolutely floored by the day and it really helped me feel confident about going on this adventure knowing that I had so many people back home supporting my decision.

Flying into Madrid actually went quite smoothly! I was really fortunate in sitting right behind a girl from my program and sitting beside a girl from Ohio State. We may have gotten a little tipsy from the free wine at dinner but the conversations were hilarious and made me feel really comfortable during the flight. Leaving the airport was nice and easy since we made it on the first CIEE bus out and onto orientation we went!

Here are the things I’ve noticed and learned as a guiri (Spanish slang for tourist) in my first week:

1) Spaniards love to stare: It’s isn’t ever in a really judgemental way, but they love looking around at people and what they’re doing. They look at your outfit. They look at your phone on the Metro. Unlike in the U.S., it’s just a thing people do (especially when you’re not a Spaniard)!

2) Döner Kebabs = gold: Those little pockets of gyro meat, lettuce, onion, tomato, sauces and happiness are one of the few things that are keeping me sane here in a land of potatoes, bread and olive oil. Seriously though, if you love gyros as much as I do, Döner Kebabs are one step up on the comfort food scale with all of the happiness and joy. Throw in a tinto de verano (red wine with Sprite and fruit) and you’ll be in absolute heaven!

3) The paperwork doesn’t end when you get here: After going through all of the different sections of the visa paperwork, going to the appointment and jumping through all of the hoops thrown at you, YEP, there’s more to do. The TIE (tarjeta identidad de extranjero) is another fun little process that gets plopped in your lap as well as getting an abono (Metro card). However, my program was as helpful as they could be in making sure we were taken care of.

4) Public Transit is AWESOME: The Metro, the train and the busses are wonderful here. Coming from Pittsburgh where public transit is the biggest joke, I can say it is absolutely wonderful to have a reliable way to get around. Everything comes on time and arrives on time and my type-A personality jumps for joy every time.

5) The weather is insane: Walking at least 7 miles a day is one thing. Walking 7 miles a day in 100+ degree dry heat is completely another thing. It honestly feels like I’m walking through a dessert most of the times, and seeing the Madrileños walking around with sweaters and pants on only makes me sweat more. Good news is that the little grocery stores here carry 2L water bottles for less than a Euro – a necessity in this heat!

**As a point of advice for anyone coming to Madrid around this time of year, wear whatever makes you comfortable (shorts, tank tops, dresses, athletic wear – whatever you want). There is nothing too formal or too casual about anyone here. OF COURSE they will stare at you regardless, so you might as well be comfortable and not constricted trying to look like a native when you’re not. Just be yourself!**

6) Gypsies love chicken wingsWhen I came in Madrid in high school, I did not remember encountering gypsies in the center of the city, but they’re seriously everywhere! Good luck sitting outside because if you don’t give them money, they may just take a chicken wing out of your Paella Valencia.

Okay yinz, that’s what I got for ya! Coming up this week is moving from my hotel into my piso (pictures soon to follow!), getting in touch with my school and figuring out this beautiful city solo. Hasta luego!

-Stephanie

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