October 16, 2013, by Guest blog

Impressions and improvements

Post by Hannah Sheehan

Hot, loud and full of life.  When I arrived in Madrid on the 30th August I instantly thought where am I? I couldn’t quite believe that this big city was going to be my home for the next 6 months. I live in a small town in the South-east of England and have been brought up as a country girl so as you can imagine experiencing the city life at first-hand was an instant shock to the system.

Madrid was better than I had imagined, I was impressed with how much character the city had to offer. The obvious huge, impressive buildings are apparent, but also the city offers the small cobbled, quiet streets and beautiful blocks of flats with little balconies contributing the real Spanish character.

I arrived with my Mum in Madrid but unfortunately she was only able to stay for the weekend; when she left I had never felt so alone before, eating lunch in our local café on my own. I had nobody there to speak to or chill out with, but nonetheless one month down the line I have found a big group of friends from all different countries. I have learnt that it is important to have the strength to get out there, meet new people and new faces so that you do not feel alone.

Flat-hunting in Madrid proved a lot more difficult than anticipated. As I was doing it alone it was even harder, but with the help of idealista and adverts on lamp-posts (believe it or not it is a thing here!) I eventually found a great flat in a University neighborhood within walking distance to my job. It was a long process calling up landlords, arranging viewings, arriving at flats to find they are not at all what the website claims or even to find landlords not turning up. I have come accustomed that everything is Spain is casual, you are lucky to get a contract drawn up with your landlord, and rent is usually paid cash-in-hand, both ideals difficult for English people to get their head around.

Having only been working in Madrid for a month, I feel like I know a lot about how Spanish people function and how they work. They are very easy-going, friendly, a little unorganized when it comes to running a business (i.e. turning up to meeting an hour late- hoping this is not the norm) but also fiery and extremely loud. They have no fear of putting their opinion across; I learnt this instantly at my first meeting at work.

The language barrier was initially a problem in several situations, especially those at work. At the start I was disheartened and very distant feeling like I didn’t understand anything that was being said as the Spanish speak so fast. Nonetheless after a month I have now gained the confidence to speak Spanish and to understand it. I have come to realise that if you immerse yourself in the language: reading the newspaper, listening to music, watching Spanish films, practising as much as possible with native speakers it does get a lot easier. I feel myself improving every day and aspire to be fluent by the end of the 6 months.

I am looking forward to explore Madrid and also travel around Spain having already visited Segovia, Álcala de Henares and Cádiz. Time is passing by very quickly and sooner or later I will be back in Nottingham for my final year and so I aim to make the most of every experience in this year abroad.

Hasta luego!


Posted in First impressions