Madrid is a city full of excitement. Daniela Hernandez, A Science student, got to experience it first hand when she headed there for a month in the summer of 2017 to study at the Universidad Pontificia Comillas de Madrid.
Daniela has strong roots to her Argentinian heritage, and she wanted to take in the Spanish way-of-life so that she could better appreciate her family’s culture and traditions. Daniela also thought it would make for an interesting opportunity to develop her Spanish skills through school courses, all while being immersed in a Spanish speaking environment.
Daniela describes Madrid as a city full of plazas, churches, and gardens. “Just walking around the city could be fun,” she says. Daniela took two courses in Spain: one on the Spanish language, the other on culture. During the morning, she would be in a classroom and learn about grammar and conjugation in Spanish, and in the afternoon, she would tour the city with her classmates, seeing all the culture and history that Madrid had to offer.
“It was a lot of exploring,” Daniela explains. She got to see paintings by Dali and Picasso, and various pieces of art by Renaissance artists.
Daniela describes that there was always something going on, or something to do and that the attitude of Madrid was a social one. “Everything happened on the street, there were bars and restaurants with people going out. It was so warm, everyone was outside. Even just lounging on the balconies, enjoying the night.”
Daniela describes the locals as friendly and fun loving. She happened to be there during the Eurocup when Madrid won, and seeing the city’s excitement was a very memorable experience for Daniela.
While excitement is everywhere in a city like Madrid, Daniela describes that Spaniards are big on relaxation, they are very laid back compared to Canadians. “I noticed that people [in Spain] take their time eating lunch and going about their day. [They] take the time to get tapas, no rushing at all. They try really hard not to stress, even though it’s a big city that is so busy. In a big city in Canada, like Toronto, that attitude is different. It’s not so laid back.”
The carefree attitudes of the locals was contagious, and Daniela began to feel herself begin to open up to all that Spain had to offer. Daniela had previously had experience in salsa dancing in Canada, but during her time in Madrid, she really got into it. She would go to salsa clubs multiple times a week— there were different themes and she wanted to try them all. Through salsa, she met a variety of different people and would explore different salsa places with them.
Daniela also took time to appreciate the natural beauty of Spain, visiting Granada and Valencia and enjoying the scenery all along the way. In Granada, she went for a hike, and describes it as “an unreal experience”. Daniela loved taking in the views, especially the waterfalls and landscapes.
After she got back from Spain, Daniela continued to indulge her new adventurous side. She was inspired her to travel more— she has since taken part in the Explore Program in Montreal, has volunteered in Fiji, and went backpacking in New Zealand.
Most importantly to her, she went this past summer to Argentina, visiting her family for three weeks. Thanks to her summer in Spain, Daniela now has an excellent grip on Spanish, making Argentina more accessible to her. She feels that experiencing Spanish culture and immersing herself in the language has helped her to better appreciate and understand her Argentinian roots.
“It made Argentina feel more like home in a way I couldn’t see before,” she explains. “It was the baby steps towards new adventures. My time in Spain made me realize that I love traveling and that it’s not as scary as it seemed.”
Daniela is now preparing to study in Jamaica for the winter term, with no plans of stopping her adventures any time soon.