I grew up in Fontana, California before moving closer to L.A. as an adult. For 10 years, I worked at a group home, caring for neglected children. Then, I returned to school at Pasadena City College and transferred to CSU Los Angeles to study psychology. I spent my first year studying in Spain, completing a Spanish minor.
These are my two best friends from Madrid. My roommate, Joan (pronounced Jwáhn), a medical student from Barcelona, became my closest friend and confidant. Karolin is from Germany. Here we are on the roof of Madrid's tallest building during a free architecture tour in the city.
I always dreamed of having an international lifestyle, but it seemed so unattainable. Taking this opportunity opened my eyes to career options and showed me that some version of the international fantasy is doable. Eventually I would like to treat post-traumatic stress in developing countries.
The richness of Spain's history and global influence has always appealed to me. I like mixed up, diverse, challenging things. Getting to study and live in Madrid was like hitting the jackpot. The insight, skills and pure inspiration from the experiences there are priceless. They changed my life dramatically for the better.
Although I made some close American friends, I tried from the start to spend the majority of my time with Spaniards and those from other cultures. The first several weeks had lonely moments, but the bonds I formed paid off enormously in the long run. Spaniards (and Germans, Brazilians, French, Italians, Cubans, etc.) provided deeper knowledge of the culture and invaluable language practice.
Our resident director served us in many capacities. He was our cheerleader, quasi parent and a Yoda of sorts. As a Spaniard (who teaches in California) he came in handy on our group trips, adding fascinating facts about the wonderful castles and ancient places we visited. Here, he points at the local monument, teaching us in his always entertaining way.
This is the lovely building where our classes are concentrated. Madrid is so convenient that you can get to school relatively quickly from anywhere in town. Most of the professors like to connect with the students and are passionate about their subjects.
Madrid built one of the most modern and convenient public transportation systems in Europe, if not the best overall. It's a great way to watch people, but keep your valuables close.
Day by day you stumble across an exhilarating array of cultural activity. During the citywide Fall celebration, Noche en Blanco, they filled our plaza with beach balls.
After sundown during Noche en Blanco, people of all ages bopped and tossed the balls at each other.
Living in such an old place makes daily errands a joy. Around every new corner lies a grand statue, a quirky personality, design, music and overheard conversations.
Madrid has all kinds of opportunities to move. You can swim at the public pool, which features a great roof of skylights shining natural sunlight. I jogged to Retiro Park almost daily. Spaniards love to be out in the sun. Peacocks, boats, cafes, fountains, topiary, rose gardens...there is no end to the gorgeous design and movement.
During Easter, the biggest holiday of the year, we watched the daily religious processionals and state parades from our window.
Europe boasts some fantastic budget airlines. For example, I flew from Paris to Milan for about $20. My favorite destination was Istanbul, where Europe and Asia are merely a water taxi ride apart.
Spaniards are very politically active. During the Sol Revolution activists set up a tent city in the center plaza to push for governmental reform. Huge crowds gathered to participate and explore the makeshift protest barracks and share ideas. With news media, concerts, art and debate, it was an eye-opening time and place.
Learn more about the study abroad program in Spain