It’s hard to believe, but after all these months I’ve finally arrived in Spain! Time continues to fly by as the two week anniversary of my arrival in Spain approaches. I’ve been trying to get started with my blog nearly every day since arrival, but life has been so hectic and full of experiences to write about that the list keeps growing and growing. It would be impossible for me to recount as much as I would like to about these first days in Spain, so I will share my memories of the first two weeks and some thoughts from my experiences here.

Our first day consisted of activities geared towards getting to know each other. We all ate lunch together, then walked to the Facultad de Dcoumentación where we had some ice breaking activities. After this, the night was ours to explore! On our second day in Spain we moved in with our host families. I am incredibly happy with mine! I have a mother Paqui, father Juan, a sister Eva Maria, a dog Wall-E and a cat Gato. We spent the first night talking about music, film and television, both American and Spanish. Since my arrival here, they have been amazingly patient with my Spanish and inability to produce the words I want on a regular basis. Not only does the family help me with my Spanish, but Paqui’s cooking is delicious. Everything I’ve eaten here I’ve enjoyed; from tuna pasta to paella to gazpacho, I am quite pleased with the Spanish diet!

During our orientation period we’ve had conversation classes with Basi, a student at the University. Fun and laid back, they’ve been a way for us to practice speaking and learn some local colloquialisms. Some examples! De puta madre: When something is incredibly awesome. Ex: Mi fin de semana fue de puta madre. Joder: Similar to how Fail is used in the US, but slightly more sympathetic. Ex: Your friend drops his bag and all of his books fall out. Joder. Tú estás como un queso: You are beautiful. (Crazy, I know) Ex: You are introduced to a beautiful girl by a friend. Mucho gusto, tú estás como un queso.These are but a few examples of the colorful colloquiums of Madrid and Alcalá. More will definitely follow as I learn them throughout the semester.The days and nights of our first full week in Alcalá were spent exploring. On Wednesday we took our first trip into Madrid to visit the program center and get acquainted with the city a bit. Renting a rowboat in the Parque de Retiro was definitely one of the highlights.

Wednesday and Thursday nights we went out to different discoteccas and bars in the town, familiarizing ourselves with the local social scene. Alcalá is home to the University of Alcalá where students from Spain, Europe, and the rest of the world come to study, making it an interesting location for going out. We were some of the first students to arrive in town as classes begin on the 20th, so we often found ourselves the only ones dancing like crazy. It did get us free drinks, however!Friday night we met our intercambios (penpals) at a fiesta hosted by the program. None of my intercambios were able to make it up, but I was able to meet a lot of Spanish students and make a few friends. We went out for tapas afterwards and then to a couple of different clubs. Really fun to be able to go out and speak Spanish for an entire night with people who know it so well. Friday was definitely one of my favorite evenings here with meeting new people and finally beginning to feel like a student studying in Spain and less like a tourist visiting for a week.The city of Madrid hosted La Noche en Blanco this past Saturday. A group of us went in the Basi and Yolanda, another University student working with the program. The entire city is opened up to the public; museums open their doors for free, the main streets are closed to vehicles, and stages with concerts, dancing, and other performances line the street. The beautiful architecture of Madrid was on display as all of the buildings and statues were illuminated brilliantly. Music rose from the fountain of Poseidon as people danced in the street.

Click below to see the video:La Noche en Blanco La Noche en Blanco is a perfect showcase of the social spirit in Spain. Everyone is encouraged to come into the city and spend the night enjoying the company of friends, family, and complete strangers. It is the ultimate fiesta, allowing you to make what you want of it and providing everyone an opportunity to enjoy the amazing culture Madrid has to offer. On the walk home from the bus station I ran into a few of the Spaniards I met on Friday night and talked for a bit. Further solidified the feeling of being part of the student community here.Early Sunday morning we returned to Madrid to visit the Prado. Too much to see in a single day, let alone a two hour tour! We focused on the amazing collections of Velazquez and Goya. The incredible depth and lighting of Valezquez’s paintings are simply incredible. Staring up into these grand paintings makes one feel as if he is there with the subject, standing in the past. Goya’s intense later paintings have always fascinated me and there is nothing like seeing them in person. I could spend hours in that museum. Explored Madrid some more on Sunday then went out for tapas and some drinks with some Spanish friends.Orientation continued this week with more conversation classes and the beginning of our program classes in grammar and art history. The grammar class is being taught by one of the program coordinators and will definitely help improve my Spanish. The first art history class was this evening in Madrid and I’m definitely going to enjoy it as well. University classes begin on Monday and I still have yet to choose. So many choices! Life here is beginning to settle in and the initial honeymoon phase is ending, but I am falling in love with Spain more and more every day. This weekend we are traveling to Segovia which should be a lot of fun! I am hoping to update this blog at least weekly, but keep an eye on my flickr page for all of my photographs. This blog is here to share my experiences with friends and family so feel free to ask questions and leave comments!