Starting off my semester at NYU Madrid was certainly a leap of faith on my end. For the first time, I was traveling by myself to a foreign country, navigating not only city streets and restaurant menus on my own, but also cultural norms, academics taught in another language, and overall, a completely new experience outside of what I was used to. Simply put, I fell in love with Madrid. Everyday, there is something that reminds me of the beauty of the city. I firmly believe that a part of the reason that I fell in love with Madrid is because of the NYU Madrid program.
Through the NYU Madrid Intercambio program, I was able to meet quite a few madrileños, the natives of Madrid. I still skype and chat with a handful, so I can maintain my Spanish. Not only did I form last connections, but I also had memorable courses. One of my favorite courses had me studying famous works of art in the Prado Museum every single Thursday afternoon. Apart from school, the cultural divide made me realize how much I missed home, but as I slowly accustomed myself to Spanish culture, I realized that I preferred the relaxed tone of it all to the busyness of New York. I could go to class in the day, have una bocadilla de calamares con sangria for lunch, head back to class, and then proceed about my evening. The classes were difficult in that the ones I signed up for were all taught in Spanish, but the professors all really cared. Never have I seen university professors so invested in knowing me as a person.
As far as traveling and nightlife goes, you cannot beat Madrid's location. You're so close to Portugal and to France as they are your neighbors, but everywhere else in the western half of Europe is just a short flight away. But, don't forget the wonders of Spain itself. There are so many beautiful cities to visit such as Valencia, Barcelona, San Sebastian, Bilbao, Alicante, Cordoba, and so much more. Spanish culture has more to offer than just Madrid and Barcelona. Moreover, the nightlife in Madrid is insane! If you're the type of person who enjoys going out, I promise you that you will not be disappointed. There are so many clubs and bars, and even if you don't like drinking, go out, dance, and socialize! The Spaniards truly know how to enjoy themselves, and their love of life is so apparent in the way they unwind on the weekends.
If I could go back to Madrid tomorrow, I would in a heartbeat. The NYU Madrid program and staff were a strong catalyst for helping me fall in love with not only the city of Madrid, but also the Spanish culture. I promise that if you choose Madrid as your study away site, you will make memories to last a lifetime. I know it changed mine; I hope it changes yours too.