Hi! Here’s a post all about what it’s like to live in Madrid!
I lived in an apartment of 8 international students, which was owned by a (somewhat questionable) company that I found through the truly fantastic company CityLife Madrid. It’s an organisation that is dedicated to helping international students in Madrid, and it does exactly that. They run events and trips so you can experience the culture, they can help with administrative things such as setting up a Spanish bank account or getting a Spanish SIM card, and if you go to their offices soon after you arrive, they give you a ‘welcome pack’ full of maps, events, flyers, and discount codes for things all over the city. Definitely check in with them if you’re on placement in Madrid.
Promotion aside, sharing a flat with that many people was an interesting experience – even when I was in halls at Surrey, I only lived in a house of 6 (perks of Hazel Farm!). I lived with three Danish girls, two French students, an American teaching assistant, and a Swedish intern. Living with people from that many different places was cool because I got to experience their cultures. We ate French raclette and tartiflette, and got to celebrate Hanukkah and Thanksgiving!
I also found friends through the other international students at Comillas, as I mentioned in my previous post, and other international students in the city. Going to events like language exchanges was useful for that (although I am a total introvert and didn’t really enjoy going to them). I also joined the only netball team in Madrid, run by a group of British and Australian women (I don’t think there are any other countries that really play netball as much as we do!) and that was nice because I met a few students from other British universities, as well as some people who had been in the city a little longer and had some brilliant advice to offer. It was nice to talk to people who had been through the same struggles we had as newcomers to the country, but who had come out the other side and stuck around!
In my second year at Surrey, I was Vice-President of the LGBT+ society, so I knew I wanted to find something similar that I could be a part of. I started going to meetings at Arcópoli, an LGTB (in Spain the ‘B’ and the ‘T’ are the opposite way around, and no one seems to know why!) association that had begun as part of the Universidad Politécnica, but that had since expanded to cater for the entire city. It was very different to Surrey’s society – much more focused on activism, and much more organised! – but it was another way I was able to meet people and make a few friends.
It was also nice to spend time with some of the other students from my course that were also on placement in Madrid. Having that support system was important, especially at the beginning when we were all getting used to being abroad. The Languages department is small, so we’re all quite close and it was nice to have some friends to share the experience with.
Madrid is a beautiful city, with plenty to do. I was lucky to live within a ten-minute walk from the Puerta del Sol, the city centre, and only one block away from my nearest metro station, which was fantastic and very handy for travelling around the city!
On the whole, I would say that Madrid is very much a ‘walking city’ – it’s quite small, especially when you compare it to central London, and it’s very easy to get from A to B. There are some brilliant shopping streets, with nearly all the brands you’re used to seeing, and then some. There are also a wide variety of museums and galleries, the most famous being the Prado, all of which have free or reduced entry for students. There’s also the gorgeous Parque de Retiro, which has beautiful wide avenues and a boating lake.
In addition, there are a number of “sitios reales” – royal sites – that you can visit, such as the Palacio Real and the Catedral de Nuestra Señora de la Almudena in the centre, the Royal Monastery in El Escorial, just north of the city, and the Palacio Real in Aranjuez, just south. (Both are places you can get to for free on a metro card!)
In terms of trips outside the city, I didn’t do too many, but I did a few. I visited the city of Toledo very early on, and it was beautiful. I also visited Zaragoza for the El Pilar festival in October – it celebrates when St James had a vision of Mary, who told him to build a church on that very spot. It has grown over the years, and is now an enormous cathedral-basilica named for “Nuestra Señora del Pilar” (“Our Lady of the Pillar”), and you can see/touch/kiss a piece of the pillar that Mary supposedly appeared on. Those were both organised trips, through either CityLife Madrid or SmartInsiders, who run regular trips for students. I also went to the Roman city of Segovia, where I had done some work experience when I was in sixth form, and Salamanca, a beautiful university city, both north of Madrid.
That’s about it from me… about Madrid! In two weeks I move to Paris for my second placement, working as a translation assistant, so soon my posts will have a distinctly Parisian flavour!
Thanks for reading!