Friday, February 17, 2012

Drew D. - Madrid, Spain - Spring 2012

Madrid!! So I'm finally nestled away in this beautiful city, I've been to Europe before but the flight didn't seem as long as I remember it being. I flew out of O'hare and had a connecting flight at JFK Airport in NYC. Traveling was a very cool experience because it was my first time traveling alone. Finally making it to my destination after traveling some 4,000 miles gave me confidence once I arrived in Madrid. Though my confidence level was increased from finally making it to Madrid, I was humbled by the language barrier. I thought it wasn't going to be such a big issue because I had three semesters of Spanish at Elmhurst under my belt. WRONG. The first week or so in Spain was undoubtedly the most difficult for me and it seemed that people were talking so fast (and they actually do) and when I tried to comprehend anything they were saying, it was like a blur of nonsense once it hit my ears.

Spanish cuisine is amazing!! Lunch and dinner are the biggest meals of the day, which was different for me to begin with because I love eating a big breakfast. I decided to do a homestay for my residence while I'm here studying, I'm served two meals per day and my laundry is done for me. My host mother can pretty much cook anything, and having an open pallet is a definite plus for me because she cooks things from Spanish chorizo with eggs and beans, to chipirones en su tinta (squid cooked in their own ink). Spain is known for its cuisine and a few exchange students and I had the chance to eat at one of the words oldest restaurants on the planet, Restaurante Botin, it has been open for over 300 years without closing once. Their signature dish is cochillo asado, which is a suckling pig that is stuffed with seasonings and then spit roasted over a fire. Amazing.

Nightlife in Madrid is pretty crazy, people don't usually go out until midnight or later. I know, I know, Elmhurst is a pretty crazy party school (not). Let's be honest, by the time Spaniards are about to get their night started, Elmhurst students are ready to finish theirs. Staying out late the first couple nights helped me beat jet lag and also have a blast. There are so many bars and clubs to choose from in Madrid, so far I have experienced a lot of bars but only one club. I want to go to Kapital for my next club experience and for those of you who don't know what Kapital is, it is the largest club in Europe that has seven separate floors, each with different genres of music.

Oh yea, school. Almost forgot to mention it. I'm studying at the Pontifical University of Comillas as an exchange student. I'm an International Business major at Elmhurst and it was a bit difficult to figure out what classes would meet specific requirements for my major. I only found one economics course and one general education course when it was all said and done, but Comillas offers a diploma in International Relations for exchange students if they take at least 20 credit hours of the required courses. I decided to do that because it seemed like a deal to me since I wasn't able to find a lot of courses that I needed. WARNING: STUDENTS LOOKING TO STUDY AT COMILLAS, BE AWARE OF THE FACT THAT ELMHURST COLLEGE ONLY HAS AN EXCHANGE PROGRAM WITH THE DEPARTMENT OF HUMANITIES AND SOCIAL SCIENCES WITH COMILLAS. ALSO, BE PREPARED TO TRAVEL AT LEAST 40-45 MINUTES TO GET TO THE CAMPUS. I thought that the campus that I was going to be studying at was the one nearest to my residence. I never knew that Comillas had another campus until I found out first hand. I was NEVER informed by Elmhurst nor Comillas that I would need to take a metro and a bus to get to the campus where all my classes were. Because of that, I have to buy a bus/metro/train pass and it costs 34 euro a month. The only benefit that to that it's unlimited traveling by metro, bus, or train for the month. PHEW! Okay, I'm done venting about my only negative experience so far, just thought it should be something to be aware of. The campus that my classes are at is in a very pretty location. It's located on rolling hills and a view of the Sierra de Gu
adarrama montain range is easily seen on my way to school. Well that's all I have right now, so to those who have read this, I hope you have found it somewhat informational. Hasta luego!


Blogger Alexa K. said...


Sounds like you are having a blast in Madrid! It sounds like it's so much different than Elmhurst - the food, the distance to the university, the nightlife! How are you balancing everything and still able to take it all in??

2:28 PM  
Blogger Drew Dumont said...


Are you planning to do an exchange with Comillas? If so, the university offers courses specifically for exchange students and I believe you're able to take other courses that my fit your requirements for your major, but they may not be taught in English. Being able to manage my time here in Spain is starting to get a bit difficult but nothing overwhelming. The first month that I was here I was not assigned loads of homework. To be more precise, I had about three or four assignments total and that was for my Spanish course. The way I'm being graded is mainly through midterm and semester papers so that's part of the reason why I've had more time do go out and do things that aren't school related. I'm not going to lie, it's more difficult to balance your time working on assignments here than it is in Elmhurst because the weather is beautiful and there's always something to do. But, the important thing is that you have to take initiative upon yourself and get your work done. I prefer to complete my assignments as soon as I can so I don't have to worry about last minute cramming/editing. Don't hesitate to ask more questions! I know students in CPP250 are assigned to ask questions to people who are abroad right now, but I'm all ears and I'll answer any questions you may have to the best of my ability.

Hasta luego,


10:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


It sounds like you are having a lot of fun. I would be in Spain this semester too but there were complications with the application, therefore, I'm going this summer to Palma de Mallorca. I can't wait!! One thing that I'm worried about is the culture shock because I have never been out of this country alone! How is the culture different in Spain then here and how did you deal with it? How long did it take you to get use to it?

How many classes are you taking? I read a little about how you chose your classes but are you also there to declare a minor in Spanish too? If so, are all your classes in Spanish/ are you taking any Spanish classes?

6:14 PM  
Blogger Drew Dumont said...


Sorry to hear about the complications, but I'm sure you'll have a blast in Palma Mallorca! I'm going there next week for my Spring break!! My experience with culture shock was brief, maybe a week or two? I never got a sense of fear or regret of my decision to study here, though. It was my first time traveling alone and when I arrived at my home-stay, the biggest culture shock I had to deal with was the language barrier. It seemed like my mother was talking soooo fast and a lot of the Spanish she was speaking to me went over my head. But, with practice and being able to hear her speak on a daily basis to me, things began to slow down and I'm able to understand more. Spaniards do speak fast regardless, I'm in an economics class (taught in English) with a whole bunch of Spanish students and when I practice my Spanish with them, they talk or respond to me quickly. When I can't pick up on what they're saying, I simply ask them to repeat again slowly and they're more than willing to do so. Students at Comillas want exchanges to practice their Spanish as much as they can and they're willing to help. Aside from the culture shock, the culture in general here in Spain is unique, especially from a culinary perspective. Lunch is the most important meal of the day (usually starts around 2-2:30) and dinner is the other big meal (usually starts around 8 or 9). I LOVE the food here. I've tried so many different exotic foods since I've been here and also have developed a sweet tooth that I never thought I had. All of the pastry shops that I see when I walk up and down the streets are all so tempting to enter.
As for the classes that I'm taking, I needed a gen-ed requirement in history and a major requirement in economics. Both of those courses are taught in English along with my other two. I'm taking one Spanish course while I'm here to help keep my Spanish fresh, but I didn't want to take a lot of courses in Spanish for a number reasons: 1. I don't think my Spanish is good enough to learn a subject in a different language. 2. The grades that I get here affect my GPA at Elmhurst. 3. I'm getting practice speaking Spanish at home with my host family. 4. The closest friends that I have made here are exchanges in my classes.
The route in course selection that I made may very well be different in relation to the one you take. The exchange program offers courses in both English and Spanish, though. When you arrive, you will take a placement test in Spanish. After that, you will receive your score the next day and should have a good idea on where you stand in regards to the language. Most of the courses taught in English, however, are with the majority of exchange students. I hope I've answered your questions, Amanda!

Un abrazo,


5:26 AM  
Blogger asmith said...


Your experience sounds amazing!! I'm traveling to Spain in the fall. I'm traveling through ISEP, so I'm expecting my experience to be slightly different than yours. I'm hoping I'm a bit closer to campus and since my major is Spanish, I think I'll find classes to satisfy my major.

But here's the real that you've been in Madrid for a considerable amount of time, what are the hot spots? Where MUST I go to have the best food and experience all the good things that you don't find in the guide book? I'll be in an apartment in Madrid, so anywhere around there...although I don't mind traveling around if need be :)

Also, do you mostly hang out with international students? Or have you made friends with locals and other non-exchange students at your school?



10:21 PM  
Blogger Drew Dumont said...


First of all, I love your name! haha
Great questions, though. I'm mostly friends with the exchange students in my program, but I've made a few friends with the locals through my economics course (which is all Spanish students). As for the hot spots in Madrid, there's a lot of selections to fit different preferences. There's a club called Joy which is in Sol and is American for the most part. Kapital is a huuuuuge club right by the Atocha metro stop and is definitely more of a Spanish-populated club, pretty sure it's the largest club in Europe as well. And I heard of this place called "Star Studio" my friends have been buzzing about this, but I have yet to go. As for places to hit up before you go out, there's this chain called "Cien Montaditos." You can get a jarra (pint) of beer or sangria for 2 euro and have the montadito (bocadillo)for free. There's a huge menu selection to choose from. There's another place called "La Risueña" fairly cheap, you can get a bucket of 5 cañas for about 4 euros. The most cost-efficient way that I've found to pregame is going to either of those places or going to the liquor store before you go out. You don't want to buy drinks in the clubs because they can be as expensive as 8+ euro.
If you're going to be here in August, Tomatina might be going on. I would definitely do that if you're here by the time that happens.
If you like going to flea markets, every Sunday there's this event called "Rastro" and it's a huge flea market where you can get a lot of cheap items. If you go, make sure you go with a friend or two because the place is notorious for pickpockets so be careful.
As for the food hot spots in Madrid, you already know I recommend Restaurante Botin. If you go with 4 or more people and you want to try the suckling pig, it will end up being cheaper if you order a whole pig and split it among you and your friends. I think it's 100 euro for a whole pig.
For tapas, there is this place called "La Zapateria" very good food. If you like indulging into more exotic cuisine, they serve rabo de torro (bulls tail), pulpo de gallego (grilled octopus), caracoloes en salsa (snails cooked in a very delicious sauce, one of my favorites), and orejas a la plancha (crunchy pig ears). There's another place called "Taberno de Antonio Sanchez" this place has a lot of history, the place opened in 1830 and every owner has been a bullfighter since it has opened. Really good tapas, I recommend anything on the menu.
Madrid really does have a lot to offer and I hope that I have helped you a little bit. If you need any more suggestions on anything, don't hesitate to ask. My econ professor also sent me a list of food spots to go to while I'm in Madrid. If you would like me to send it to you, send me an email:
Hope you're excited about traveling abroad!!

Hasta luego,


3:41 AM  

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