Hey everyone, my name's Arielle Hornedo, and you guys are going to follow my life for the next four months. A little bit about myself, I'm a Junior at Binghamton University, Psychology and Spanish double major, and I still haven't a clue about what I want to do with my life. But that's kind of what this whole study abroad thing is about; finding out about yourself, what you like to do, what you want to do, etc. I'm currently studying in Alcalá de Henares, which is considered a part of Madrid, but is sort of on the outskirts of it. Regardless, it's about a 30 minute train ride away from the downtown area of Madrid, and this town is absolutely awesome.
When I arrived last Thursday, the bus took all the students to Plaza de Cervantes to meet our host families, and I have to admit I was extremely nervous. I'm not fluent in Spanish, I came to Spain all by myself, and I was afraid I'd meet my host mom and we wouldn't be able to communicate. I was completely wrong. First of all, I hate to be biased but my host mom is probably the best one out there. She's so funny, generous, extremely understanding of the fact that I'm here to learn Spanish and am not fluent, and she makes me feel like a part of the family. I've been here for about 10 days, and I've already gotten dinner with her friends a few times, gone shopping with her, and even done a few one on one things in town. She is an amazing woman!
Everyone is given the option to either stay with a host family or go in the dorms, and if you guys are on the fence about it AT ALL, stop thinking about it! There is no better way to become a true part of the culture than to live with a host family. You get to eat what what they eat, be on their same daily schedules, and live where they live. If you wanted to live like an American and eat like an American, then what's the point in coming here?! None of my friends who I met through the program have regretted choosing a homestay in the slightest; everyone loves their "parents" and "siblings" (my host sister is constantly facebook chatting my friends saying "me llamo Aroa, soy la hermana de Arielle").
As you can probably tell, I could talk endlessly about how this first week has gone, but I'll try and keep it as brief as possible. Classes aren't bad, you have a lot of options about what you can take. I'm currently taking a contemporary women's lit class, a spanish business class, a spanish art class and another spanish lit class. I chose to take two lit classes cause those transferred over for me at Binghamton, but there are a ton more options. There are no classes on Fridays which is awesome for travelling if you're interested, or just for relaxing and enjoying not having to be at school.
The culture here is absolutely amazing; the lifestyle is so laid back. Siesta is probably my favorite time of day, where you get to take a nap that is basically built into your schedule. Another cool thing about this town is that all of the restaurants are outdoors. The chairs and tables are just on the sidewalk, sometimes right in the middle of the street (obviously cars can't go down those roads). You just seat yourself, it's really cool. Also if you order a drink, you get tapas for free. Tapas can be anything from an entire sandwich, to potatoes in different sauces, to seafood. You basically get a meal and drink, for the price of just a drink which is awesome. It's really popular for people to go out and meet up with friends, grab a glass of wine or something a little before dinner and just chat. I've done it a few times with my mom and her friends, I actually did it last night as well and met a few more people. The meal times are definitely something my body had to get adjusted to. Breakfast is basically the same time, 8/9 in the morning depending on when your classes start and such. Lunch is around 3, and is the main meal of the day. It's HUGE. I actually just finished lunch and my mom made me a soup with potatoes and all sorts of vegetables in it, ham, chorizo and some bread on the side. It was so good. Dinner is around 9/10 pm and is usually something pretty light like eggs or a sandwich of some sort. By the way, I've been a vegetarian for 5 years, but being here has opened my mind to trying different foods again. So if you're a picky person, coming here will absolutely help you expand your taste. Also, if you do have specific diets, the school will match you up with a family that can tend to your needs. My mom knew I was a vegetarian before I came here and NEVER forces me to eat meat or try anything I don't want to, and she always makes sure I'm comfortable and have something in the house I can eat.
Okay so this was a general "welcome to my life" blog, tried not to make it too crazy lengthy, but the next one will be more detailed about whats going on over here. If you guys have absolutely ANY questions about the food, families, classes, the town in general, nightlife, literally ANYTHING, feel free to leave the questions on here, or you could email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
^ me and my host sister, she's a nut :)