Wednesday, September 21, 2011

First Encounter With Madrid

I'm sorry that I'm updating this blog so sparingly, but I'm sure you guys are understanding of the fact that I have a million different things going on at once while I'm over here!

My host family is still absolutely amazing. My host mom and I have had some super personal conversations lately, and it made me realize how much host families really let you into their personal lives. For most of them, their house and their families are all they have. It's not like in America where you have a house in upstate NY, maybe somewhere in Florida, or anything like that. This is their house, their ONLY house, and it is a very valued possession of theirs. Not only do they give you an inside look at their home, but they let you live in it, and become a part of their lives. My mom has really opened up to me about things that happened in her past, and I've done the same as well. If this sort of thing kinda creeps you out, by all means you don't have to do it! But for me, I love to talk, I love to learn about other people and about what makes them who they are, and my host mom is giving me the opportunity to really get to know her and become a part of her life.

So I must tell you all about my first encounter with the beautiful city of Madrid. First off, as I mentioned in my previous post, Madrid is about half an hour away by train which is awesome. My friends and I decided we were going to spend a whole day/night there. The trains are kind of confusing I'm not going to lie, there are so many different trains at the station when you walk in and I'm just used to the Long Island Rail Road, having one train to wait for and not having to think much about it. But thankfully, my friends had a much better idea of what to do than I did. Anyways, we walked around the Puerta del Sol area in Madrid for a few hours, where you can find a LOT of different kinds of entertainment. Anything ranging from clowns and jokes, to people dressed up as dogs laying around on the ground. There was actually a guy blowing giant bubbles, bigger than your body, and trapping people in them and stuff. Seeing Madrid was such a cool experience for me, because I'm so used to New York City. As many of you know, you have to constantly be walking fast, no one pays attention to any of the entertainment that you pass on the streets, and I feel like everyone is just angry about tourists! But my friends and I were walking at a snail's pace, taking in everything around us, stopping to watch stuff as we pleased, and NOT getting yelled at by people behind us! It was rather refreshing.

At night, we decided to go to a club called Kapital, which is actually really famous in Madrid (known for its tourist visitors). It's a seven-story night club, each with a different genre of music on every floor. They even had live entertainment at certain points in the night, and they blast the crowd with a cool air mist every once in a while. It was absolutely AMAZING! Nothing like the night life in New York, not even in NYC! Everyone was having an awesome time, everyone was dancing, and the place itself was absolutely gorgeous. After we left, we had decided to stay in a hostel. This happened to by my first experience ever with a hostel, and I didn't know what to expect. We booked a 19-bed room which is considered really big. The beds were all bunked; it kind of reminded me like a college dorm room. But the hostel we stayed at, Cat's Hostel, is a 'youth hostel' and is geared towards the younger crowd. They have a lot of events that they organize to get people together, so if you guys are ever interested in meeting new people and staying over in Madrid, definitely check out Cat's Hostel. It was super cheap too. We met a few people from France, someone from Germany, and a girl from Malaysia who we actually wound up inviting out with us! Hostels are definitely places unlike any other, but the concept is awesome. My friends and I loved Madrid so much that we're actually going back tomorrow night, so maybe I'll have more stories for next time :)

                                            Walking around Madrid

Cat's Hostel

Saturday, September 10, 2011

First Week In Alcalá!

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

^ me and my host sister, she's a nut :)