What Students Say about the Madrid Program:
I loved Madrid. The people there were wonderful. Walking down Avenida Gran Vía at night there would be groups of squat old women dressed up for a ladies’ night out, meandering along and laughing amongst themselves. It was the kind of place where, waiting in line for a concert, the people next to you would start talking and joking with you like you knew each other. The students there had a different way of being students, too. They seemed to place greater value on their relationships. They could be passionate about their studies but not let it take up the dominant position it seems to in our lives at Carleton. Maybe it’s just part of living in a big city with so much to offer, but it really felt like they had a different, more mature mindset when it came to balancing school and a social life. There was no need to explain or defend the choice to go out instead of stay home and study–as if everyone just knew that people were more important. When I came back to Carleton, I wanted to give more to my relationships. I did, and I ended up falling in love. I’m still dedicated to my studies, of course, and I’m still an introvert, but I think Madrid gave me a different perspective on what really matters, and what I need to be happy. It was refreshing, to say the least.
— Lindsey Weber ’16, CHEM/HIST
Perhaps one of the most memorable aspects of my time in Madrid ties back to the Theory and Practice of Urban Living class that we took. The structure of the course really captured not only the theory of urban spaces, but also encouraged the class to take what was learned in the classroom and apply it to our time in the city. As someone who takes pleasure in reflecting on experiences in various mediums, I really enjoyed the diario (travel diary) assignments which ranged from documenting the sights and sounds of a walk in Madrid, to sketching an image of a plaza.
— Stephanie Valle ’17, PSYC
I slowly formed a bond with the doorman of my building, José Luis. At first, we only spoke to each other about Madrid’s changing weather, but as my time in Spain progressed, I learned that José Luis was an avid reader and fascinated with history. Week after week, as I returned from class and approached the door to my apartment, I would not only greet him but also ask questions about the new colloquial words I had learned that day. When it was time to leave the Spanish neighborhood I had grown accustomed to, he gave me a hug and the typical Spanish beso on the cheek telling me that if I was ever in the neighborhood again that I should not hesitate to come say hello. Relationships like this one were a defining part of my 10-week experience in Spain.
— Alondra Rodríguez ’17, POSI
Going to Madrid was honestly the best decision I made during my Carleton career. It enriched my college experience in ways that would not have been possible in Northfield.
— Will French ’16, POSI
My favorite aspect of the Madrid program was living with my host mom in the heart of the city and experiencing the vibrant and welcoming street life that is specific to Madrid. On a typical weekend, my host mom and I cooked croquetas and paella, went shopping, attended classical music concerts in gorgeous churches, and went out at night for tapas. We had daily conversations about everything from our personal lives to her opinions on the current situation in Catalonia. Through my interactions with my host mom and the local people in Madrid, I learned first-hand about Spanish culture and was able to see my own culture from a different perspective.
— Shannon Holden ’17, POSI
I was nervous to go out of the country for the first time and live in a big city, but I quickly got acclimated to Madrid, which I found to be an easily navigable and comfortable city. I had a wonderful time exploring the different neighborhoods of Madrid and learning to find my way around the city. I especially loved trying new restaurants and cafés, which was easy to do with the food stipend that is part of the program. The program definitely changed my perspective on urban life, and makes me want to live in a big city in the future. One of my favorite aspects of the program was getting to know the monitores, the Spanish university students who showed us around Madrid. The first weekend of the program they joined us on a night out around one of their favorite neighborhoods, Malasaña and took us to some of their favorite bars. They invited us on outings to museums and movie theaters. It was wonderful to talk to actual Spanish students and learn about current events from their perspective, as well as to visit their favorite places to get tapas and churros. This really helped me feel like I wasn’t just a tourist — I was talking to real Spaniards and not just living in an American bubble.
— Sarah Monaghan ’16, PSYC
Overall, my time abroad taught me how to live better.
— Josh Elmore ’16, LING
In ten weeks, Madrid became more than a place I simply passed through. Neighbors smiled at me as I walked the familiar streets of Conde Duque. My favorite waiter practically knew my order before I did, and brought me extra appetizers for free. My host parents and I ate tortilla española together at the dinner table, while my little host sister chattered away about her day at school. I joined a church choir, and whenever I ran into any of the members on the street, they hugged me and gave me dos besos, two kisses, one on each cheek. In ten short weeks, Madrid became my home, because the people of the city became my family.
— Katie Grosh ’18, GEOL
Living in Madrid is very representative of a true urban experience. The program provided the unique opportunity to study urban spaces not only in the classroom but also in the actual city with everyone in it. I found it fascinating to learn about how an urban space is organized and how people interact within and outside of that space. I came to realize that by the mere act of walking into a particular urban space I affected how those people interact with the space and with me as well. One vivid memory I have of Madrid, which continues to be my favorite, was when I was completing an assignment to frequent a café, restaurant, bar, etc. for a few days. My task was to sit in a café and observe how people interact with the restaurant, the space around it, and with each other. I was sitting on the patio of El Rincón de los Reyes, a café near downtown Madrid, when a passerby stopped near me and asked me a question I’ve never been asked before: “Are you a poet or a writer?” I looked at the older man, laughed, and explained that I was just a foreign student studying urban spaces in Madrid. He then helped himself to a seat across from me, asked me where I was from, and then he wrote me a short poem, congratulating me on my eagerness to learn about Madrid. This was just one of many similar experiences that truly enriched my experience in Madrid. Although I am not native to the city, madrileños (people residing in Madrid) acknowledged that I am was participating in their social and urban spaces and approached me not with curiosity, but with a genuine interest in simply chatting for a few minutes, as if to let me know I was contributing to their social atmosphere with my presence. Participating in the Madrid program offers the chance to interact with people who take full advantage of what the city has to offer: bars, plays, nightclubs, restaurants, museums, and the several bohemian and cultural neighborhoods. Most importantly, though, are the opportunities to connect and befriend other students and people in the city, through a random encounter like mine or a planned program outing, joined also by current university students in Madrid.
— Raúl Guzmán ’17, LTAM
Living separately from the other students made Madrid a much more individual experience. While my Spanish definitely improved, I noticed a much more profound change in my self-sufficiency. Living in Madrid taught me life skills I will carry with me through Carleton and back into the “real world.”
— Rachel Olson ’17, PSYC
You get out of the Madrid program what you put into it. It can change your life, if you let it, or it can just be an extended vacation. After living in the countryside for all of my life, I was given the incredible opportunity to learn to not only appreciate the city, but also how to aprovechar (to take advantage of, in a good way) everything it has to offer. Additionally, it allowed me to learn more about who I am as a person, especially in the context of being completely outside my comfort zone by being in another country, with a language and culture that are not my own. I learned important lessons in how to make the language and culture mine, lessons that I think have stuck with me far more than any grammar exercises that you can get from taking classes. I started Spanish here at Carleton and went on the Madrid program, terrified I would be lost and confused the entire time. Instead, I learned how to make the language and culture mine, how to feel comfortable speaking the language even if I felt I didn’t know what I was talking about exactly, and how to be a part of the city and leave my mark on Madrid, just as it left it’s mark on me. I discovered that I can feel more at home in another country, and feel like it is MY place. All in all, was it a challenge? Absolutely. Was it also “worth the pain,” as they say? Without a doubt. It was an adventure I will never forget.
— Jonathan Bisila ’18, CS
When I was still considering the Madrid program, I spent a lot of time exploring the website, reading the reflections of students from years past, and looking through the pictures that they had taken during their time in the city. However, what caught my attention was the quote by José Moreno Villa that is featured on the main page. He describes how the very joy of living in Madrid filled him with so much vitality that he felt compelled to shout out loud during his morning walks. His vision of a “luminous, clear, and somewhat chilly” Madrid instantly captured my imagination, and served as the final impetus to apply for the program. When I found myself there the following fall, I experienced the inexplicable dynamism that had filled José Moreno Villa so many years ago. Madrid’s energy is sudden, surprising, and infectious. It is overwhelming yet comforting, draining yet inspiring. As I learned to navigate the city over the course of ten long weeks, this energy did not wane in the slightest, and it only grew stronger as I found my own place in the sprawling metropolis that has been the source of vitality to so many. While I did not burst forth with spontaneous cries during my many morning walks, Madrid put a spring in my step, and imbued me with a sense clarity I still carry with me to this very day.
— Prathiksha Srinivasa ’16, RELG
During the program in Madrid I measured my personal progress against a map of the metro. First I learned how to navigate from my host family’s apartment to class and to excursions in different parts of the city. As my language skills and comfort level expanded, I began to pay more attention to the prosaic and extraordinary bits of life happening underground. The metro is full of stories — well, maybe not entire stories, but fragments, mysteries, and questions that are explicit, raw, and so real they feel like fiction. “I’m on the way to the hospital,” shouts the elderly lady sitting across from me into her phone, “and please call me back because I don’t want to have to call you again.” Who is the woman in the business suit and why does she look so tired? Where are the school kids going for lunch? Musicians ride the metro, play a song for a minute or two, and then quietly stick out a hand to collect coins from the crowd on their way to the next car. I came to recognize some of them: violinists, guitarists, a surprisingly heart-felt but out of tune karaoke-type routine, a flutist. When we got off at the next stop, the normal social hierarchy would resume, but for a couple minutes we would all be equal, the lady heading to the hospital, the business woman, the school kids, the tourists couple, the flutist, and me.
— Kate Crofton ’16, BIOL