Taking Trips and Time to Explore Your Own City

I can’t believe it’s already been a month since I arrived in Madrid. I’ve already shared so many new experiences with new and old friends, which gets me excited for the rest of my time abroad. It also scares me because I can see how the time really flies here. Either way, I want to update you on the weekend trips I’ve taken so far and the importance of spending time exploring the city you are studying abroad in.

The first weekend I got here, I flew out to Newcastle, England to visit friends I know from the summer camp I work at. It was intimidating traveling alone, but once I did it I felt so accomplished. I managed to surprise a majority of my friends who came to the “reunion” in Newcastle that weekend, which was so fun! I loved seeing familiar faces and exploring somewhere I had never been before. The trip was definitely worth it, but I did miss out on spending the first weekend abroad in Madrid with some other friends studying abroad with me.

The second weekend, my 2 roommates (also from UMD) and I spontaneously booked a trip to Seville, Spain. That was our first trip together, and it was amazing! Seville is like a perfect little bubble city. Every sight is more beautiful than the next. We did a walking tour of the entire city the first day and took a bunch of pictures (see below). We ate traditional Spanish food, saw a Flamenco show, and rented boats at the Plaza De Espana (highly recommended)! We really loved Seville, so we were sad when it was time to leave.

The third weekend, we went on a trip to Granada that was sponsored by the exchange program at my University. This was really fun because a bunch of IE University exchange students went, along with 3 of my roommates who I invited. We got to explore yet another new city in Spain and make new friends. Even though Granada is also in the South of Spain, it was a lot different than Seville. It was not as picturesque, but the hundreds of small Muslim markets and the Alhambra gardens were so cool. Granada had a lot more Arab influence than Seville. We also did a walking tour of the city when we got there, and then we ate a lot of pizza. Below is a picture of the view from the famous Alhambra palaces in the mountains outside of the city.

Finally, I spent this past weekend in Madrid for the first time (my fourth weekend here). I had explored different areas, shops, bars and restaurants in Madrid before, but I had never toured the whole city until now. I was really excited to be a tourist in my own city for the weekend! My 2 roommates and I took a Salsa class for the first time at a local studio, which was so cool. They only spoke Spanish, so it was interesting to learn with the limited Spanish knowledge I have. Even though we could only understand half of what was being said, we learned mostly visually. The next day we did a walking tour of the city, which took us to the Royal Palace, Plaza Mayor, and more (pictured below). Everything is so close in Madrid, which is nice because we can get around mostly by foot (even though the metro is super cheap and easy). I had been to Sol and Gran Via before, but I had no idea that if I walked a little further I’d discover all of these places we went to on the tour. I was amazed. It made me fall more in love with Madrid.

I’ve realized that a lot of Americans, my friends and I included, are so focused on traveling everywhere when studying abroad in Europe that we sometimes tend to take the city we’re living in for granted. I chose Madrid for a reason, and even though I’ve mainly stayed in Spain this month, I feel like I didn’t really get to fully experience what Madrid has to offer until recently. I was kind of annoyed at myself for taking a month to really explore the whole city, but I’m glad I’ve dedicated time to stay in Madrid. Everyone else was telling me, “Don’t forget to explore your own city,” and I always responded by saying I have so much time here. Well now I’m realizing that the time is going faster than I expected, and I need to take time to appreciate where I am living. Hearing about some of my other friends’ travel plans every weekend sometimes makes me feel like I’m missing out or I need to travel more, but it’s really not a bad thing to stay where you’re studying for a weekend (or ideally more). Since this weekend, I’ve dedicated at least 1 weekend a month to stay in Madrid. I’ve offered to host friends who want to travel to Spain, so we can explore Madrid together and they can learn why I love this city. I’m so grateful that I have this opportunity to study abroad, and I’m excited for the memories I’m going to make over the next 3 months while I’m still in Europe!

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