Holy Toledo!

Week 1 of classes is over and it’s weird to think that I actually have to start doing homework again. This was the shortest summer ever for me since high school, so going to classes four days a week feels a little too premature. The nice thing about Carlos III is that there is a lot of flexibility with changing your class schedule for the first two weeks, so the work load is extremely light so far.

The campus is a lot smaller than UCSB, a lot smaller. It feels a lot like high school with people eating lunch in the quad areas and chatting in big hoards between classes. There is also a cafeteria and study area. It’s a busy campus during the school week, which I actually really enjoy. It’s easy to see a lot of my UCSB friends during the day and is a great environment to meet new people from other schools. Here is the link to the Carlos III Universidad International School website if you wanna check it out: https://www.uc3m.es/ss/Satellite/C3IS/en/PortadaMiniSite/1371220461783/

My friend Katie (right) attended UC3M last fall and now happens to be the face of the program, haha!

Also, I’ve learned that the Cercanías (regional train that we take to get to campus) is where I’ve met a lot of people. It’s a 15-20 minute commute each way and International School students usually take classes at the same times, so we travel in packs when going to school. It’s always nice to run into people I know on the train. Going to a commuter school is so weird after living a 3-minute bike ride from all of my classes for the past two years. We have to wake up at least an hour before classes, so we have enough time to walk to the metro station, ride the Cercanías, walk to campus, and get to class on time. It hasn’t annoyed me yet, but I’m sure as the semester progresses, it’ll become much more cumbersome. What makes it better is that we get to pass by this delicious, renowned bakery called La Mallorquina every morning in Sol. It has the best napolitanas de chocolate that I have ever had, and trust me, we have tried a lot of chocolate croissants since being here. LOOK AT THAT SUGAR GLAZE.

A pre-class napolitana de chocolate from La Mallorquina. Shoutout the best food account @lettuce_eatttttt

I haven’t been eating out as much as I did the first week because, as school is starting, I realize that I need to save most of my money for when I travel on the weekends. I’m happy to do that because I would rather have more to spend on trips to other Euro countries than eat out for a few extra meals. Cooking is so fun though, so I don’t mind doing it so often. All summer when I was living in IV, I was cooking all the time after work. The grocery stores here are relatively different from those in the US. We have a Día & Go grocery store right across the street from our house and we go so often that we have become known by the cashiers as the girls who buy wine way too often. We have been surviving (barely) without peanut butter or bagels or coffee creamer or ranch. So…if anyone is coming to visit me in the near future, please, for the love of God, bring one of the above items. Black instant coffee just isn’t cutting it anymore.

Yesterday, we went on a UCEAP optional trip to the city of Toledo, an hour southwest of Madrid. UCEAP puts on a few trips for us throughout the semester: (1) Madrid walking tour and tapas, (2) Toledo day trip, and (3) Segovia day trip. Toledo is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and used to be the capital of Spain before Madrid! We bussed there from Madrid and went on a walking tour through the Primate Cathedral of Saint Mary of Toledo. I’m not a religious person, but I can appreciate the beauty of such an old, culturally significant Roman Catholic Cathedral.

Fun fact: all the gold pictured is actually wood painted with gold paint

After the walking tour, we had free time to get food and explore before heading back to Madrid, so we decided to go to the Museo de la Tortura. It was a museum full of the instruments of how the crown would torture and kill people during the Spanish Inquisition. It sounds a little dark, but it was so fascinating. I am not going to post any pictures of what I saw to save your appetites, but it was a really cool thing to experience, only once.

This entire mural was painted by Luca Giordano in only 240 days because he was ambidextrous!!!

The craziest thing happened on our way home from the trip. We were waiting to take the bus home to La Latina from Atocha and we saw a motorcycle accident! A motorcyclist was flying down the road and he had the rigth of way, but a taxi turned onto the main road without yielding. The motocycle didn’t have enough time to stop because he was going so fast, so he slammed into the back wheel well of the taxi. The left front of his motorcycle was smashed and he was rolling on the ground in pain right in front of us! So many people flooded the street to help and redirect traffic, until the ambulance came. It was so sudden. The ambulance came and we were on our way, but it felt like a scene right out of a movie.

Across from this altar is a huge window high in the ceiling of the cathedral; on the 21st of June (summer solstice) at 12pm, the sun shines directly on the bronze star in the middle and lights up the entire altar.

As I am coming into my third week of living in Madrid, I am realizing that it is so incredibly fun to be abroad and to live in a foreign country, but there are a lot of adjustments that can take its toll on mental health. Everyone posts about how amazing their abroad experience is, which I’m sure is still true, but the adverse effects of going abroad are rarely talked about. I haven’t had any huge problems since being here, but sometimes I do get homesick and feel effects of culture shock. I just had to realize that these feelings are okay because this is a huge four-month commitment that I have decided to make. I’m still loving this city more and more every day, but it does come with its hardships. Just thought I should say something about it!

Us happy on the beach in San Sebastián!

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