Today’s visit to the university reminded me of why I was really in Madrid: to study. The USAC program operates out of a campus of the Universidad Rey Juan Carlos. It is a commuter school, but the campus is lively during school time.
After hours of orientation, I took my first siesta. I had heard much debate over the reality of a Spanish nap in late afternoon, but I soon found my answer. Whether or not individuals use the time to rest is a personal decision, but many businesses close between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. for the siesta. Still exhausted from traveling, I took advantage of a few more hours of sleep.
Tapas and Teasing
Revived, I was ready to explore the Madrid’s nightlife. Friends from my program and I met at the Mercado de San Miguel, an indoor food vendor venue, comparable to but smaller than Philadelphia’s Reading Terminal Market. We shared tapas, or Spanish appetizer-sized dishes, under heat lamps among locals, enjoying free time in our new home city. Despite the warmth of the heaters, the Spanish attendees returned our buzzing excitement with cold disapproval. A few of my friends overheard a Spaniard tell his friends: “No hamburgers here, Americans.” When she translated and reported what was said, I became upset. I had made a conscious effort to dress like the women did in Madrid, and I was trying authentic Spanish food served at the market, all in an attempt to adopt the Spanish culture. What more did they want? I do not make fun of foreigners in my country; instead, I appreciate their curiosity for America and their courage to be open to new experiences. In Madrid, I do not even have to say a word before I am identified as American. I could be wearing the same outfit as a Spaniard, and the natives would still know that I did not belong. Though I was aware of this phenomenon, I didn’t realize how true it was and how much it would affect me. I am glad, though, that I was exposed to this adversity early in the trip, so that I have four months to accept the Spanish opinion and be the best madrileña I can be.
My friends and I ventured back out into the city streets to continue the night. Our destination was the Gabana Club. The Wednesday night special drew a crowd of locals and travelers abroad, mimicking the balanced blend of American music and Spanish music. I enjoyed getting to know my program friends celebrating our first night out in Madrid.
- Rest and refuel. Even though there is a new city to explore, preparing your body properly for the adventures ahead is most important.
- Don’t sweat the small stuff, but be conscious of it. Let go of insignificant comments or mistakes, but learn from these events to improve.
- Mercado de San Miguel
- Plaza de San Miguel, 28005 Madrid
- Reading Terminal Market
- 51 N 12th St, Philadelphia, PA 19107, United States
- Gabana Club
- Calle de Velázquez, 6, 28001 Madrid
Paz, Amor, Madrid