By Ryan Ixtlahuac '16
My pervading thought as I stopped and looked around on the first day was (and still is), “This is a crazy, absolutely amazing opportunity!” I am so thankful to be here!
The adjustment to speaking Spanish 24/7 has been initially quite challenging. I live with a host dad (padre de acogida), José Manuel, in one of the myriad apartment buildings in the heart of Madrid. The first day I arrived he took me on a walking tour of this magnificent city and over the past week has introduced me to all of his friends, helping me to feel most welcome and supported. As we are both avid lovers of sports, we went to a Legend's game at the Santiago Bernabeu, a famous soccer stadium here in Madrid. A dream for me! In addition, we watch the Women's World Cup games, basketball, and Master Chef, and go to the gym!
Spanish culture has made me feel as if I have lived here my whole life. The people are so personable (if you can understand them despite their rapid speech), and the weather is similar to that in California, but hotter. This week, every day was in the high 80's and low 90's. Madrid’s buildings have really impressed and amazed me. The rich history and modern nature of Spain clash everywhere and are the fabric that shapes this beautiful city. It’s so clean here, and the people step forward to help one another.
Another observation is that on the streets there is always someone smoking. The air is always smoke-filled, but that is readily accepted and is simply part of the culture. El Metro, the equivalent of the subway in New York or Boston, couldn't be easier to navigate… And it's extremely clean and efficient!
The CIEE program is amazingly well-organized and enjoyable. The leaders are inspiring, knowledgeable, and personable. Each weekday we have class for four hours in the morning, with two short lunch breaks. After a bit of free time to explore, we gather in our groups to go on excursions ie; Prado, Palacio Real, Las Ventas, El Parque del Retiro, clases de flamenco y cocina...etc. This past Friday we went kayaking in Segovia.
There is so much yet to come!