From abroad: La vida Española


Matthew Soloway ‘16 looking out over El Estanque del Retiro in Madrid during the waning hours of the afternoon. [Photo Courtesy of Matthew Soloway ‘16]

A Lafayette student details their time in Madrid, Spain

As an American studying at an all-Spanish university, La Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, I felt like a complete stranger when I arrived. I would show up to class with my American friends and sit with them, struggling through international business management and financial markets classes–both taught exclusively in Spanish. I would leave a two-hour lecture not knowing whether I had retained any information, or just sat there for the entirety of the class having the lecture go in one ear and out the other. My brain would be fried from trying to understand all that was going on.

It has taken two months, but I finally feel more at home in classes now. I can understand the jokes the professor makes (or at least I know when to laugh now), and I have a decent understanding of what is expected of me for each class. In a stark contrast to Lafayette, all Spanish classes at UAM are 100 percent lecture, so I do not have to worry about participating because I know my professors will merely ramble in front of the class for the two-hour period. Although I have yet to take a test, I have heard professors are quite partial to those students who write more—the more you can regurgitate, the better grade you receive. This is a bit different from Lafayette, so I am hoping they go easy on the international students, but only time will tell.

Luckily, this experience is not just an academic one. Spanish nightlife is much different from the United States. If I come home before two in the morning, my host mom would most likely give me a weird look and ask why I am home so early. It’s normal for Spaniards my age to stay out until six or seven when they go out–just a bit different from life in the small town of Easton. You can find everything from roof top bars to underground nightclubs to house parties to block parties and everything in between. One thing I must insist is that, if you have not heard the song “El Taxi” by Osmani García, do yourself a favor, look it up and listen to it. You’ll thank me later.

It is quite daunting because there is so much to do and what seems like so little time to do it. Madrid is quite possibly the most incredible city I have ever visited and I constantly remind myself how lucky I am to be living here for a semester, especially considering that I am writing this under 70 degree sunshine in March with no snow in sight. For me the jury is still out as to which one is better, but I can say with 100 percent confidence that if you really want to see and feel the vibe of a city, it is a necessity to travel on your own. It’s even better as a student.

¡Hasta luego cabrones!