Tag: madrid

Chloe Baker in Madrid

Among chatter of finals, WILD, and summer plans, April is also the month juniors compare study abroad options. I am extremely lucky in that I’ve been a Spanish minor since day 1 of freshman year and always knew that the Madrid program was for me. However, for many, the decision does not come as easily. From watching my friends gallivant around the world and experiencing my own semester abroad, here is some advice for picking the best study abroad opportunity for you.

1) Keep an open mind

Many of the Olin programs are less traditional study abroad destinations when compared to some bigger schools your friends from home may attend. Even if it’s not a location you’ve always heard about, don’t count it out. Every place has its merits.

2) Think about what you want from your abroad experience—without your friends.

I’ve become extremely close with other WashU students while studying abroad.
It’s easy to succumb to groupthink and end up picking a location just because you have friends going there, even if it’s not the type of experience you’re looking for. I made the decision independent of my close friends, and it’s worked out incredibly. Plus, I’ve become extremely close with other WashU students in the process.

3) Keep travelling in mind—consider accessibility and location

For some, travelling is a huge part of their abroad experience; for others, not so much. It was a crucial aspect for me, and I have been lucky enough to visit more than 15 cities during my time abroad. I have friends who have spent most weekends in their abroad city and they’ve loved every minute of it. There’s no right answer to this—it’s just important that you keep in mind a city’s accessibility and location if travelling is important to you.

4) Don’t think of studying abroad as the default option

chloe friend
It’s easy to when everyone is discussing it, but it’s a deeply personal choice and it’s not for everyone. Don’t force yourself to go abroad just because you think it’s the right thing to do or most of your friends are going—that’s a recipe for being unhappy. Needless to say, studying abroad is an incredible experience that has truly opened my eyes to so many different cultures, as well as things about myself.

5) Ask questions!

Do not hesitate to reach out to older friends or even just people you know of who have studied in places you’re interested in. We (students abroad) love talking about our experience and can go on for days. The best way to learn about an abroad destination is to talk to someone who’s experienced it!

Photos courtesy of Chloe Baker

Amanda Martinez, BSBA ‘2016, is studying abroad  this summer in Madrid, Spain. She sent us this virtual postcard recounting her first adventures beyond the capital city.

I‘m back from my first weekend of traveling in Spain and it was amazing! Definitely a bit hectic, as I’ve seen the major sights of three cities in as many days (plus a day for travel). Our class of 20 students went to Granada with our professors on Thursday. We stayed overnight there and took a bus to Cordoba the next morning. Some returned to Madrid, while others of us went to Sevilla Friday night and stayed until Sunday morning! It was a whirlwind tour of some really incredible places.

Thursday we got an early start by meeting at 6:45 a.m. and we were scheduled to leave for Granada at 7 a.m. However, some people slept through their alarms, so we ended up waiting an extra hour on the bus before we even left…it wasn’t pretty. Luckily, I pretty much slept the 5 hours to Granada and was ready to see the city when we arrived at 1:00.

One of our professors is from Granada, so he gave us a walking tour of the city before leading us to the Alhambra. Granada was the last Muslim stronghold before the Catholic expulsion in 1492, and the Alhambra was the last grand palace. Luckily it was preserved and now serves as an amazing historical and cultural experience. Honestly you could spend days exploring the Alhambra because it’s not just a palace, but also a collection of buildings and gardens, the royal city. It is without a doubt one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been.

After four hours of walking and crowds everyone was exhausted. We went back to the hotel to rest before dinner. For dinner, a smaller group of us decided to try some of the different restaurants and bars within walking distance of our hotel. The Spanish way of doing tapas is to bar-hop, ordering a drink and tapa at each place. Some places even give free tapas with a round of drinks–very cost effective for us. We tried a few varieties of bocadillos (sandwiches) and I also tried alcachofas y anchoas, which are marinated artichoke hearts and anchovies. It was delicious, and we felt very Spanish. It was a fun night hanging out with our classmates and experiencing a new city together.

cordobaFriday we checked out of the hotel in Granada in order to make the hour-ish bus ride to Cordoba. Once there, we spent the afternoon at the Mosque of Cordoba, the second largest mosque in the world, second to only the mosque in Baghdad. However today it is owned by the Catholic church, so Muslim prayer is forbidden.

The mosque was so important in the 15th century that instead of destroying it (like they did most mosques), the Catholic inquisition built a cathedral within the mosque. It still functions today as a church. The building itself is beautiful and very well preserved. Both the mosque and the cathedral are impressive in themselves, but the building is so unique because it’s probably the only one in the world that contains such important spaces of two faiths.

After we toured the mosque, we had time to get lunch in Cordoba. I tried some more traditional dishes like calamari and fried eggplant with honey. The eggplant was one of my favorite dishes so far. After lunch the bus driver was nice enough to drop the 15 of us who were Sevilla-bound off at the train station so we could catch our train to Sevilla (a two hour trip)! So, Friday I was technically in three cities in one day.

After arriving in Sevilla we figured out the bus system and crammed all of us and our luggage onto a bus that dropped us off close to our hostel. I hadn’t stayed in a hostel before, but it was a cool experience. The girls had an open room with 6 bunk beds and a bathroom which was nice. Our arrival wasn’t completely drama-free; one girl realized when checking in that her wallet had been stolen on the bus from the train to the hostel. Luckily she noticed it right away and was able to contact her parents. She had also kept her passport and some cash in a different place, which was smart. It definitely made everyone that much more wary of their possessions. We got more tapas for dinner and that night we explored the city a bit on our own before turning in.

Saturday we went sightseeing! First we made our noon time slot for the tickets we had bought for entry into Al Alcazar, another palace. This one has been used by a variety of different royal families and had more gorgeous gardens.

The weather is so consistently nice in the south of Spain that all of the palaces and historic buildings had courtyards and extensive gardens, there wasn’t a concrete distinction between outdoor and indoor space.

Right next to the Alcazar is the Cathedral of Sevilla, a grand cathedral. We explored there and climbed the 35 flights to the top of the bell tower, giving us some amazing views of the city as well as the architecture of the palace and cathedral.

Around 3 p.m. we had lunch on Spanish time. Some of us found a small hole-in-the-wall bar we thought would be pretty cheap…it ended up being the best meal I had on the trip. I got a plate of their house-made paella (delicious), patatas bravas (a traditional Spanish dish of potatoes prepared like home-fries with spicy tomato sauce, (read: even more delicious), and a soda, all for less than 10 euros! We were extremely happy with our day.

sevillaWe decided to take a siesta at the hostel, which ended up being about a 3 hour nap, but hey we were tired from all our traveling. However we made sure to wake up for the European soccer finals at 8:45! It was a huge deal because Madrid’s two teams (Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid) were playing for the championship. The game was very exciting, with Atletico leading 1-0 for almost 90 minutes, but Real winning 4-1 in overtime. While I personally was rooting for Atletico, a good percent of the bar went crazy for Real’s win.

This morning we took the AVE, a high-speed train, back from Sevilla to Madrid. It goes about 120 mph and reduced the 6 hour trip to about 2.5 hours! I realized how happy I was to be back in a homey apartment with clean sheets and a shower (and awesome home cooked food). After two weeks I’m definitely settling in to my room here and Madrid feels more comforting than the other cities I was in. It’s a cool feeling. Anyway, time to go work because I have an essay and a presentation to do for Tuesday…back to classes. I can’t wait to see what this week brings!

Back in 8th grade I began taking Spanish. At that time, I did not have a good reason to study another language except for the fact that it replaced art and music classes. As time went on, I thoroughly enjoyed learning a new language, but above all I was interested in the cultural aspect of my Spanish courses.

Throughout high school it was never an option for me to travel, in the United States or abroad. It was a dream of mine to study in Spain, but I never actually thought I would have the chance. When I was deciding which university to attend, one of the football coaches from Washington University told me it is encouraged at Wash U to study abroad, and the football team supports your decision. For the first time I realized it would be obtainable to live out my dream to study in Spain and finally see new parts of the world.

I took all of the prerequisite classes, planned my courses to allow for me to easily study abroad, and submitted all the paperwork necessary to go to Spain. Going into the summer I received a notification that I was accepted and reality finally set in. I was worried that I would not be able to adapt to a new culture, none of my friends were going to Spain for the semester, and I did not know if I could afford the trip.

I delayed sending in my commitment until the last hours before the deadline. Leading up to the decision, I spent many hours talking to family members or friends about what to do. Finally I decided to hit submit and figure everything out later, for me it was most important to realize my dream.


Kevin Kosiewicz and friends.

When I stepped off the plane in early January I had no idea what to expect. It was too late to go back and any fears or worries I had no longer mattered. On my cab ride over to the hotel I had my first experience speaking with the cab driver. I fumbled many of my words, was flustered, and felt overwhelmed by the situation. That night as I sat in my hotel room, all my worries returned back to me, and I thought maybe Madrid was not the right option for me.

Looking back now over the past two months, I cannot believe at any point I doubted the worth of study abroad, especially in Madrid.

Every day is better than the last, and I can confidently say the past 10 weeks have been better than any in my life. I am grateful to have traveled to many different cities throughout Spain as well as Europe.

It has been amazing to ride a camel on the beach in Morocco, spend an afternoon on the Mediterranean Sea in Barcelona, go to the Eiffel Tower in Paris, overlook the city of Granada while at the Alhambra, and countless other experiences. I look forward to traveling to Dublin for St. Patrick’s Day, visiting a fraternity brother in Istanbul, traveling through Italy with a best friend from high school, then going to Easter Mass at the Vatican. I also plan to visit the house of my great grandparents in Ireland.  I am so thankful to experience these opportunities and so many others.


Kevin at the Eiffel Tower, Paris.

All of my trips have been amazing, and I definitely am excited to see more new places. However, the aspects I value most about my time in Europe are the friendships I have made with people from Spain and all around the world.

When I moved into Madrid the process of making new friends began with my host mom. I was worried about living in a homestay because I heard mixed reviews – people either loved it or they found it to be a burden. In addition, I requested to live without another American so I would not have the comfort of spending time with someone from back home.

Since day one this choice has worked out perfectly. I have built a wonderful relationship with my host mom. We talk about a wide variety of topics and she always helps me with cultural adjustments. My Spanish has improved more in two months than in all of my years in a class room. I value my time at meals with her and doing simple activities such as watching Spanish game shows or talking in the living room.


Camel ride in Morocco.


Besides establishing a great relationship with my host mom, living without an American roommate has helped me branch out. I now have made friends in countries such as Spain, Finland, Italy, France, England, Greece, Chile, Venezuela, Brazil, Australia, Canada, and other universities in the U.S. I have found it refreshing how open everyone is here to talk and share cultural experiences with new people. People are always open to go out for a drink or sit down for a meal.

Meeting the other students at my Spanish university has been my favorite part of studying at Carlos III. I have built friendships that will last a lifetime and hope to one day host many of my new friends in my home in America.

Some of the memories I will cherish most include going for runs in Parque Buen Retiro with these friends, going to their apartments to cook lunches, spending time in bars or cafes, talking about world issues or cultural differences, and going on trips throughout Madrid or Europe together. I am excited to continue building these relationships and meeting even more people throughout the world.

Overall, my time in Spain and Europe has been the best time of my life. I am extremely grateful to have this opportunity and will continue to maximize each day. I love expanding my world knowledge and meeting new friends. I know the initial positive experiences will only continue to get better, and I look forward to more great times to come.

Post by Kevin Kosiewicz, double major in Finance and Marketing, class of 2015