Guest post by: Senior studying finance and information systems, Alejandro Alvarez. During Fall 2019, Alejandro participated in the Foster Undergraduate Exchange program with IE University in Madrid, Spain.
My time in Spain was great. Spending there around four months almost felt like I was going to college there. I guess to start off Madrid, the city I was based off almost felt like back home in Lima. So that was awesome to just jump off the airport upon arrival and talk to the taxi driver as if I would be in Lima. I moved in upon arrival to my apartment which was in purpose just three blocks away from the Santiago Bernabeu stadium, I’ve been a Madridista since day one. I had in the apartment two roommates also exchange students at IE, and additionally two Spanish girls and two guys from Colombia and Chile.
I arrived a couple weeks before the beginning of the semester and took the time to travel with my roommates to Paris, Porto and Toledo, a little town near Madrid which was Spain’s capital long time ago. My good friend Hugo Mata from Foster also joined me and my roommates in the trips. In addition to those trips I also reached out to some of my friends from back home who lived in the coastal Spanish cities. These were probably some of the remarks of my travel time. I found the beach towns to be a lot more traditional and preserved, and it was great knowing someone to do less touristy things and enjoy a more traditional lifestyle. Some of these cities were Valencia, Alicante and Huelva all on the coast. I would get myself there either on a blablacar (which is like an uber going to different cities and very cheap) or an Erasmus bus with other students from other schools in Madrid. Activities there included eating a lot of paella, spending time at the beach and walking around the towns at night.
At school I enjoyed a bunch of activities. Often there’s breaks during class time where people go outside, smoke a cigarette for a while and come back to class. It was great to during this breaks introduce yourself to people from the school, they were usually friendly and eager to socialize with students who weren’t local. The class that I enjoyed the most was the one about Financial Derivatives. It was taught by Professor Jorge Merladet who spent a lot of years at AIG and currently serves as a member of the School of Economists in Madrid. Outside of class, I tried out for the soccer team, scored two goals, probably met more people there than in any other normal month. Sports are a huge aspect when trying to merge into a society, and I would encourage anyone else to try it out too when moving somewhere new. I continued playing soccer recreationally in the famous Park El Retiro and Park Santander.
During the school semester, I joined the gym CR7 next to the school, attended several Real Madrid games and took some flights around Europe as well with other exchange students I met there. Overall, these brief thoughts would sum up my experience in Spain and in Europe. I would definitely want to go back after college for a couple months. Aside from the bocadillos de jamon, I got very used to living in Madrid and whenever taking flights around the area to explore as much as I can. If anything, I would want to go back again around August, since that’s when you can make the most out of the Spanish coast and how beautiful it is.