11 abr. 2012

A Day in the Life of an AIL Madrid Spanish Student

Lake, Retiro Park - Madrid, Spain
Friday morning’s back again: the end of another week. But, unlike most  days where I snooze my alarm clock for half an hour or so, today I  jumped out of bed, eagerly anticipating another day of this incredible Spanish life that I now lead in Madrid.


See today is the end of my third week of an 8 week Spanish language course at AIL Madrid, and it’s fair to say I’m already dreading going back home!

My day began by eating breakfast with my Spanish host family. Before arriving in Madrid, this is what I was most nervous about, because I imagined that it would be really awkward with my limited Spanish, but nothing could be further from the truth! My host mother, Rosa, is the kindest and most welcoming person I think I’ve ever met. From the moment I arrived she made me feel like a part of the family and told me everything I needed to know about Madrid. The best thing about living with a host family is that I get to practice my Spanish every day (literally for breakfast, lunch and dinner) and, because they’re so used to having students stay with them, the family always speaks slowly and clearly to me.

After having breakfast, I went to school on the metro. I chose the Intensive Spanish Course because I wanted to learn as much Spanish as possible whilst I’m here. Classes begin everyday at 9:30 and last until 13:30, including a half hour break, and they go really quickly because they’re so much fun! My Spanish teacher, Susana, is amazing as well - I’m in an intermediate class and she talks clearly so that it’s easier for us to understand her. Also, although the classes have a fairly relaxed atmosphere, they are really well organised and structured, which means that we always learn a lot.

The world famous Prado Museum, Madrid
Our lesson started with a quick conversation about how we were and what we did yesterday after our classes had finished, and then we checked the homework that had been set the previous day. Afterwards, we had an exercise in which we were given a situation with a partner, and we had to describe the problem without saying the actual words. We then had our break, after which we changed topics and looked at the linguistic and cultural differences between Spain and Latin America, with a particular focus on everyone’s favourite subject – the subjunctive! We read a short text which outlined a few differences, and then we talked about what we thought, if we agreed with them and any other differences that we could think of. We finished the lesson by talking about our plans for the weekend and said goodbye to Elle, a French girl who completed her course this week. It’s really sad that she’s leaving, because there are only 5 people in my group (the maximum is 8) so I’ve got to know everyone really quickly and really well.

After my class finished, I went out for lunch with Roberto and Paige, an Italian and an American who are in my class with me, and Eva, a German girl who is staying with the same host family as me. We went to a bar around the corner from the school and ordered some tapas and cañas (caña is the word for a small beer – you should definitely learn it before coming!!) We also had a lovely waiter who helped to explain to us what some of the dishes were that we didn’t understand.

Jamón Iberico, traditional Spanish meat
After we’d finished, we decided to take a walk around Retiro Park. It’s only a ten minute walk away from the school and it’s the best in Madrid! We saw lots of street entertainers while we were walking, such as fortune tellers, human statues and caricaturists. Afterwards, we went rowing on the lake and then we sat down to take in the amazing Spanish weather.

We stayed there for an hour, and then we decided to visit the National Prado Museum. The Prado Museum is a famous art museum in Madrid, and contains artworks and sculptures by famous artists from all over the world. We spent about 2 hours looking in awe at the pieces and feeling cultured before heading back home on the metro to enjoy dinner with our host families.

Here in Spain people tend to eat quite late, and it’s very typical to not eat dinner until 9, 10 or even 11 o’clock. As a special treat, my host mother made Spanish tortilla with jamón ibérico tonight – my new favourite food! Eating is very important in Spain – it doesn’t just involve eating as fast as you can and then leaving the table! So we ate and talked for about an hour and a half, and then it was time for Noche de Copas!


Every Friday, as part of the 10 hours of the cultural and social activities program offered by AIL Madrid, there’s a Noche de Copas in a bar. Here, all of the students and some of the staff get together for (another!) caña and to speak Spanish to each other. Everyone here wants to socialise so it’s always really easy to meet new people. The bar shut at about 3, but for us the night didn’t end there! Roberto, Paige and I, along with two Spanish people that we met (Jorge and Paloma) went to a club called Kapital afterwards, which was more expensive but we were able to dance until the Sun came up. It’s typical to stay out all night here, so if you venture to the metro at 6 in the morning, you can always see people returning from their nights out.

And there it is: another incredible day over in Madrid. I’m not even half way through my time here yet and I’ve already made friends for life, my Spanish has come on leaps and bounds and I’ve discovered a whole new city and culture. Believe me when I say that I’m not looking forward to this course ending!!