Throughout my study abroad experience, I will live in a single dorm in the Universidad Rey Juan Carlos – Vicalvaro residence hall. The dormitories house a small population of the URJC network as most students travel to and from school via the metro from different parts of Madrid. So far, I have had the opportunity to meet many welcoming people, like my close friend Cristina from the Canary Islands. However, before I met her, I was nervous about living in the dorms because most students lived off campus and because I am a minority. I was worried I might be discriminated against as the only Black student living in the dorms. However, I found out on the first day that many welcoming people are here.
I remember the first day as if it were yesterday: I flew an 8-hour flight from Nashville to Madrid for the first time in 5 years. When I arrived in Madrid, my program managers had not come, so I wandered, trying to find other students from my program, and to my surprise, I did. We were excited to see each other as we were the first students in Madrid. A few hours later, everyone else filed in, and we had our first introduction at breakfast in the cafe. Later that evening, I was dropped off at my dorm and slept like a baby.
The next few days included a tour around Madrid. The first location we visited was the Royal Palace. Did you know the Royal Palace of Spain has 3,418 rooms, but only (roughly) 25 rooms are available to the general public? If not, now you know! The royal palace was breathtaking. Each room had a different theme, with some rooms made of ceramic tiles, velvet or silk, and wood. Next, we visited El Centro or Downtown Madrid and saw places like Plaza Mayor, San Gines Chocolateria, and the San Miguel Market. Finally, we ended with a few safety tips to keep in mind while studying in Madrid. However, these tips can apply to every place. 1. We learned to always go out with a buddy; traveling through the city alone can be very dangerous. 2. Always be aware of your surroundings; it is very easy to get pickpocketed in Madrid, so keep an eye on yourself and your belongings; never place your bag on the ground or the back of your seat. Finally, always carry cash; in today’s world, people only use their debit and credit cards, but in Madrid, some stores have a requirement that your total must purchase more than 5 euros to use a credit/debit card.
I am excited to begin the semester and cannot wait to explore more of Madrid.