I am probably among the shyest, most introverted, and unadventurous people in the world. I must have decided to go to Nebrija in a fit of temporary insanity, or perhaps a head injury, but I’m very glad that I did. Before doing this I didn’t even go to the corner shop alone, I think my family thought I was joking when I said I wanted to go the Madrid for a month, so if you think ‘I’d really like to do this but I’m too scared’, don’t be. It’s true, everyone around you will speak Spanish, often they won’t understand English, and I personally was glad of this fact, my Spanish improved so much so quickly, and I really felt part of the culture, part of Spain. Every day I did something I’d never done before. There is so much support available though, you will be fine, I promise you.
The food in Madrid is so tasty, with very strong flavours. There was an Asturian restaurant near where I stayed called ‘El Llar’ which had what must have been the best ice cream in the world, and a cake shop near Sol that sold croissants filled with marzipan, and some macaroons that tasted so good I literally cried a little every time I ate one. Unless you come from London, you’ve probably never been on a metro before, and if you’re like me the idea scares you. But don’t worry, there’s an app called Metro de Madrid. Download the app, look on Google maps for where the nearest station to you is, where the nearest station to where you’re going is, and draw yourself a little map from you to the station and from the other station to where you’re going. Then put the two stations into the app on routes, and write down everything it tells you. You’ll know exactly what line to get on, where to change lines, how many stops there are before your destination, everything. Make sure to get the transport card by the way, you’ll use it far more than you think you will.
When I first arrived in Madrid, it was a total disaster. I managed to get to the house itself quickly and easily, but after that things didn’t go so well. I was given an address like this: c/ Estacalle 5 - 3º Dcha. This means that the street name is ‘Estacalle’, the house number is ‘5’, and you’re on the 3rd floor on the right. By the way, this isn’t the real address that I was given. Now, by the door outside there are buttons for every apartment, and me being me, I didn’t see the button saying 3º Dcha straight away, but I did see 3A Dcha and 3B Dcha, this being about 1am, my brain didn’t work too well, so I figured, rather than looking more carefully at the buttons, that maybe I had to guess. I did not have to guess, and so I managed to annoy the people in both 3A Dcha and 3B Dcha at 1am. When you go to Madrid, do not do that. 3A Dcha and 3B Dcha are on an ‘intermediate floor’, so after the ground floor the first floor you end up on is 1 intermediate, then 1, then 2 intermediate, then 2, like that. This being 1am, and me already being stressed, I also didn’t spot the lift, and so with my heavy suitcase I trudged up 6 flights of stairs (actually more for me). Do not do this either, I promise there will be a lift. At the top my host family stood observing me, and said ‘why didn’t you use the lift’, pointing to the extremely obvious lift right next to the stairs.
I was really tired at this point, and I’d set some alarms to make sure that I got up on time, in addition to my normal, and later alarms. I decided therefore to deactivate the earliest alarms so that I could sleep a little longer, and seeing the day was Wednesday (I don’t actually remember what day it was, I think it was Wednesday) I deactivated the alarm for Thursday. It was 2am. I did not deactivate the correct alarm. Classes started at 8:30, these alarms went off at 6:30, and I didn’t get to sleep quickly, so with very little sleep the next day I arrived at the university in order to take a placement test and be told the rules for the house and the university. These are sensible rules that normal people don’t break anyway. House rules are things like ‘don’t stink’, ‘don’t leave an ungodly mess’, ‘if you have a pet capuchin don’t bring him to Spain with you’. University rules are things like ‘don’t wear a bikini to university’. The exam is a little strange. In case they use the same one, ‘yo que tú’ means ‘if I were you’. There’s also an oral element to the exam, but I think they forgot to do the oral exam bit with me, they just took me into a room after the exam and talked to me about my plans in Madrid for a bit. Don’t panic about this exam too much, I turned up with 4 hours sleep (I’m used to having 9) and got placed in B1, during the first week you can transfer up (or down) classes, so I went to B2 in the end.
Coming back from the university I managed to get completely and utterly lost for hours, I learned that day the value of having thorough maps of the area with me, although after the first 3 weeks I’d mostly memorised the 15-minute walk to the university, and only occasionally got lost, with a quick glance at my map being enough to get me unlost. There are activities and excursions, you sign up for these in the other building (you’ll quickly learn where that is), these are all worth going to, the activities are free, the excursions don’t cost much. I recommend turning up early to all of them if you’re like me, especially to your first excursion so that you can find the bus for future excursions and the leaving party.
Remember that you’re in Madrid to learn, not for a holiday, but also remember that you’re in Madrid, not just a classroom. Finally, remember that you’re in Spain, not just Madrid. I went to Galicia. At the very least you should try Gazpacho. It’s a chilled soup, and it tastes really good, and like nothing you’ll have eaten before most likely. You should also go to ‘el museo del jamón’ near Sol and try their sandwiches, you haven’t had ham until you’ve had their ham. There’s also a restaurant on a higher floor with some good food. I had a compañero de piso from San Diego, who was nice, although I didn’t interact with him much. The host family was very nice, almost everyone who goes to Nebrija stays with a host family, and it’s definitely the better option. There are so many things to see in Madrid too, there’s el palacio real, there’s lots of statues, and you’ll learn the stories behind many of them in your culture classes, there’s even a genuine Egyptian temple called templo de debod.
You should absolutely go,