Erasmus by numbers

Leave a comment Standard

De Madrid al Cielo

Erasmus by numbers

The other day I had my last ever exam at La Autónoma, and I thought about how much time has passed since the very first time I wrote Durham an email asking about doing Erasmus in Spain. Turns out that it has been almost 2 years. To be precise, 696 days passed in between the sending of that first email and my last exam here in Madrid.

You can’t do justice to a whole year of someone’s life with statistics, and loyal readers of this blog (hi Mum) can expect a more wordy end-of-year post at some point. But nevertheless it got me thinking about some of the numbers that have defined my time studying in Spain, and so here it is, my Erasmus in numbers…

View original post

Semana Santa

Leave a comment Standard

De Madrid al Cielo

Living in the centre of Madrid has its advantages. I had been revising with a friend in a cafe near my flat and arrived home to find my usually quiet and unassuming street full of people. I went up to my room on the third floor to get a good view of whatever was about to happen. After about an hour I went onto the balcony to see the street lined with people in rather sinister black costumes waiting to begin a procession.

This is Semana Santa, the holy week. Over the Easter weekend there are a number of marches through the city centre, involving the aforementioned pointy hatted people and a large float which is carried through the street. There are around 20 or so men carrying it along, and clearly the strain is such that they are substituted out for a breather every few dozen metres. This means…

View original post 50 more words

Spring

Leave a comment Standard

De Madrid al Cielo

 

Image Madrid’s terraza culture

Spring has sprung and that means 25 degrees and clear blue skies, i.e. every day is like that one week a year (if we’re lucky) in England which resembles that annoying Bulmer’s advert https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kjXHHIgKigs. It also means you can instantly tell the foreigners from the locals; the former opting for as little clothing as socially acceptable, the latter still refusing to hang up their winter jackets. There’s some vibe when it starts to get hot in Spain that I just can’t get enough of, but unfortunately any word I use to explain it ends up sounding rather pretentious. I was trying to describe the feeling to an English friend the other day, with little success. I offered “intoxicating.” She told me to “shut up”. In any case, now that the weather is improving, Madrid’s terraza culture is coming into play. In the late afternoon sun…

View original post 297 more words

6 Things You May Not Know About Madrid

Leave a comment Standard

De Madrid al Cielo

  1. It’s cold. The wave of stifling heat that welcomed me off the plane back in August is all but a distant memory these days, as the electric fan I panic-bought on my second day gathers dust in the corner of my room. But it’s not all bad. The mountains of the Sierra de Madrid are covered with snow this time of year, and last week a bunch of friends and I took a bus out there to go skiing for the day. In just over an hour you can get from the centre of town to the bottom of a chairlift, and while the mountains aren’t exactly Alps standard, the mere fact that you can ski on real snow so close to Madrid was quite a nice surprise. Image Skiing at Valdesqui, near Madrid
  2. The lottery is ridiculously popular. My neighbourhood is full of lottery-ticket sellers standing around, constantly shouting…

View original post 533 more words

Granada

Leave a comment Standard

De Madrid al Cielo

ImageDrive 5 hours south from Madrid and you’ll reach Granada, undoubtedly one of Spain’s most beautiful cities. Nestled in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, Granada (which is also the Spanish word for “pomegranate”, many of which are grown in the surrounding area) is home to the Alhambra, the most iconic and well preserved remnant of the Moors’ underappreciated stay on the Iberian Peninsula.

In fact, Granada was the last stronghold of the Moorish reign, before it finally fell during the Reconquista in 1492. The retaking of Spain by the Catholics is still widely celebrated today, but clearly this is a part of the country that doesn’t shun its heritage as much as most. You can spot the Arabic twelve-sided star on shop facades, there are winding outdoor markets selling Moorish trinkets, and even the name of the region is a throwback to olden times. Granada is in Andalusia, which…

View original post 196 more words

Strike

Leave a comment Standard

De Madrid al Cielo

It’s no secret that Spain is having a tough time at the moment. Since the current government came into power there have been a whole load of austerity measures and cuts all over the place. Every now and again we hear about the shocking level of unemployment (currently 26% overall, and over 50% for young people), but on the streets, at least at first glance, you wouldn’t guess that this is a country caught up in the midst of economic turmoil. My parents were recently in town to visit and they commented on how seemingly affluent a city it was, at least compared to the picture painted by the English media. There are people out every night, eating and drinking, the shops are full of customers and it doesn’t exactly seem like all doom and gloom.

But a couple of weeks ago I felt some of the effects of the…

View original post 284 more words

Zaragoza

Leave a comment Standard

De Madrid al Cielo

Last Saturday I forced myself out of bed at an ungodly hour to join two bus-loads of fellow Erasmus students on a trip to Zaragoza, a city about half way between Madrid and Barcelona. We were going to see the Fiestas del Pilar, an annual celebration in honour of the Virgen del Pilar. The whole city turned out for a massive parade of people dressed in the traditional Aragon costume, all carrying flowers, waiting their turn to lay them as an offering to the patron saint of Zaragoza. The focus of the festival is at the enormous basilica near the river, next to which the thousands of bouquets are stacked up to make an impressive display.

It was quite a spectacle (the amount of people taking part would be unheard of in England) and you got the impression that the whole city really grinds to a halt to have a…

View original post 38 more words

Classroom Politics

Leave a comment Standard

De Madrid al Cielo

A few days ago I had my first taste of Spanish democracy, when one of my professors decreed that it was time to elect course representatives. For such a laid-back country, they really did overcomplicate things.

First, two people were selected to carry out the running of the election. The convention is that the first and last people on the register have to do this. Next, any potential candidates for the role were asked to make themselves known. We were electing two representatives in total, and exactly two people put themselves forward. Job done? Not even close. The election runners handed out little pieces of paper and explained that you could either write two, one or no names down. You could also decline to receive your paper, not hand your paper in, or most oddly, write names down and then request that your ballot be torn up. Interestingly, in a…

View original post 156 more words

First Day

Leave a comment Standard

De Madrid al Cielo

Having conveniently forgotten over the past few weeks that I was in Spain to do a Physics degree, last Monday morning came around all too quickly. My first day was going ok until I arrived at my first maths lecture. Trying to understand a heavy-accented Russian man (with a cold) talk about partial differential equations in Spanish is no small feat. And then we started doing some relativistic quantum mechanics in one of my other modules, which proved rather tricky too. I think the hardest thing, rather than understanding the Spanish itself, is trying to slot into another university’s teaching system as, unsurprisingly, they may not teach topics in the same order as one’s home university does, meaning they will take some knowledge (which you may have no idea about) for granted.

All this, along with trying to keep hanging out with the other Erasmus students I’ve met (who frustratingly…

View original post 255 more words