One hears quite often that academics abroad are easy and one doesn't need to put the work in. That may be true in some programs, but it certainly doesn't seem to be that way for me. I am taking 5 classes this semester:
3 in Spanish Modern Spanish Art The History of Women in Spain Business Spanish 2 in English Hemingway in Spain Ancient Judaism and the Origins of Christianity
Mondays and Wednesdays I am in class from 2:00 until 7 with Art from 2-3:40, Business from 4-5:25, and then Women from 5:30-7. It's a long day, but nice when it starts late and I can go to the gym and finish up homework in the mornings. Tuesdays and Thursdays I start at 10:30 with Religion and then have Hemingway at 12-1:30. These days I love to take time to plan out different museums to visit and eat my lunch at a park or other tranquil place. So far I pretty much love all of my classes. Art is fantastic, especially that we take the time to visit museums (so far we've been the The Prado twice to see Goya's works) and I love my professor, as he was on our seminar tour the first week. Women in Spain is another great, great class. The professor is very nice and the subject is very interesting. Hemingway, whom I had never read before, is extremely interesting and I've enjoyed his writings so far. Religion is very nice as well, but so far everything we've learned is a review from classes I've taken at Saint Mike's! But, I really love the subject, so it's fine with me! Then there's Business Spanish, let's just say this class is a little slice of misery for me....I don't like business, reading about it or learning about it. Not quite my cup of tea. Besides academics, my school is in a great location and the bus stops and metro stops are very near. The library in the building is fantastic and there is a nice DVD selection that I take advantage of on the weekends and so many beautiful books and magazines. Also the computer lab is a great resource. Well, that's all for now folks, next week I have 3 midterms...so back to studying I guess!
Saving money whilst studying abroad is quite a major feat...ask anyone who has. Couple that with the exchange rate for the country and their economy, and you may either be sitting pretty or watching everything you spend. Right now in Europe for the countries that use euros the exchange rate is 1 Euro for $1.35 or just about that. Honestly, that is not so great for us at least. For me, that means that I have to be conscious of my spending and make sure that I don't overdo it at times. But Kayley ( you maybe thinking), how do you possibly budget your money when you are in such a fabulous place as Madrid???? Well reader, thanks for asking! Let's see.....
buying groceries instead of eating out all the time. With Syracuse my host ma is responsible for our breakfasts and dinners, so I buy cold cuts and fruits at the local grocery store to make for lunches.
doing research to find free museums or days in which certain museums are free. Some museums have free permanent exhibits or a day of the week when there is free entry
just say no.....to buying tons of clothes or eating out. Sometimes it's difficult when all your friends are gonna go shopping or do something, but it's easier to say no before the activity then during!
Be conscious of every time you go to the ATM or use your credit card, fees add up and if you think about that when you use your card you may think twice!
participate in free school events, at Syracuse you have to give a deposit for certain trips or tours but then if you show up that day you get your money back!
Get a job! I'll be "tutoring" a two year old little girl starting next week and making some money! Woo!! See if your program has a tutoring program that you can participate in!
Well, for now that's all I got, it is difficult living on a budget while abroad, but it can be done!
Well readers, for those of you who will study abroad this may turn out to be quite helpful. There are 3 kinds of packing: over-packing, under-packing, and packing the perfect amount. Over-packing is something you should definitely NOT do...remember you are the one who'll have to drag those suitcases around at the beginning and end of the trip. Plus, all the programs say "pack and then take half out, that's how much you should bring" or something like that. Let's see, I took the "take half out" concept and went to the extreme. I have clothes (obviously) but I seriously skimped on certain things. Nothing that I brought is suitable for say going out with friends at night, I don't have anything good for when it gets warmer, I also only brought three pairs of shoes and no sneakers. I don't know what I was thinking, but I joined a gym and then had to go out and buy sneakers, so naturally I got the cheapest ones I could find and they are hideous. These two extremes are not the ways to go, luckily there still exists the post office and my mom has graciously decided to send me some things to help supplement my sad wardrobe. Packing the perfect amount: WHAT DOES THAT EVEN MEAN? Well friends, that means you bring enough clothing that you can rotate and still like what you have brought in a month and make enough combinations of clothing that it will seem like you have oodles of clothing. It also means that you are prepared for different situations that call for different types of dress: some fancy, some dressy but still casual, clothes for going out in, hanging around clothes, and regular headed to class clothes. It is a difficult balance to avoid over-packing and under-packing. But it can be done! I just haven't mastered it yet.
Also, something to remember, in some places it is more common to hang clothing outside for drying. This is fantastic for the environment and one saves money because there is no electricity used for drying. However, if you need something tomorrow and it is being washed today, you are tough out of luck. I have waited for clothes to dry for 3 days, it is a SLOW process. So, moral of the story is to bring enough underwear and socks to last for a month because you never know.
While living in Madrid (even though it has been a short time) I have discovered quite a few things about myself:
I thought I didn't like rice, but now I do and it's delicious with this "tomate frito" stuff that we put on it. I'm not really sure what it is exactly, but I think it's cooked tomato with garlic and onion...possibly
I like putting nesquik in coffee. It is delicious...just delicious....did I mention delicious?
I like flan....like a mini flan every single night kind of love affair. It is fun, squishy, tasty, and comes in individual packets.
I can stay up until 6 am and function the next day on little sleep. Alright, I only did this once and then took a nap that night and then went to bed early, but I can do it and I'm proud of myself. I can cross it off my life list, although I still haven't pulled an all-nighter...but I can live without that.
Living in Europe doesn't have to be the cliche experience that many people think it is for American students. I confound my host mother Esther when I stay in one night on the weekend, or that I go to bed before 11 p.m.
People are much nicer here than in Paris...sorry Parisians, but people here smile at you, they help you if you're lost on the streets, and I've noticed that people will stop and talk to homeless on the streets
siestas have become a thing of the past (at least in metropolitan cities like Madrid), people here are in an economic crisis much MUCH worse than America with over 20% unemployment, so there is no time to spend napping when there are bills to pay
I discovered that I can take the bus, I only did once in Paris and I was with a class so I didn't have to think about direction at all, but now I take the bus to class and I love love love it!
cell phones are not essential. I've known this, and can proudly say that even in America it is not my third hand...but now it really serves me no purpose except for emergency use so it's "hands free"
Well amigos, I have some tarea...that's Spanish for homework...to do and then it is off to bed!