Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Parque Del Retiro

In a city the size of Madrid, with people rushing around to get to work, school, university etc. It is very easy to get lost in all the turmoil, so occasionally a small getaway is needed, some place to sit and relax, watch the birds, listen to music. Parque Del Retiro offers exactly that!

The size of the park is immense, you could spend hours wandering through it and not see the same thing twice. There are sculptures, old buildings, waterways and of course plenty of areas to sit on the grass and chill out. Entertainers come out in their droves in the park, there is always some extremely talented performers, from singers, to dancers and classical musicians. It would be very difficult to get bored here!

For the more active of you, Retiro is also a highly popular location for jogging, playing football and even rowing! There is a lake in the middle of the park which is highly popular with both casual and competitive rowers (also and ideal way to spend a romantic evening with a significant other!)

Of course the majority of people are content with strolling through the park, taking in it's many sights and sounds. Listen to some music, watch the dancers or feed the pigeons if you are so inclined.

And let's not forget, it's also a great place to bring a few friends and chill out with a beer!

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Erasmus Diary Entry 2 (How to apply for Erasmus)

My apologies for the massive delay in posting, unfortunately I managed to burn out the fuse on my laptop plug. But thankfully I have now fixed it, I have had a frantic couple of weeks since the last post. I have finally begun my classes at Universidad Rey Juan Carlos.

For those of you unfamiliar with the Erasmus process I will give you a brief summary. The process begins months before you actually arrive at your intended University. For me it began mid-way through my previous semester in Tralee. You must contact the international relations officer in your college and they will explain to you what universities you can attend, how long for and how much of a grant you can get, depending on the university you are going to.

 Once this is done, it is then time to begin researching various colleges with which yours is affiliated. It is important to chose one that has courses similar to what you are studying so you can choose classes which (roughly, they don't have to be exact) tie in with your course. Once you have put in the research and found relevant classes from your desired college, you must then have said classes approved by your department head and year tutor.

Then once all this is completed, you will get a forma called a "learning agreement" where you fill out your class details, amount of credits and all other relevant information. (Yes it sounds like a lot of hassle but it's easier than I make it sound, I promise you!) Once this is completed, the international officer in your college will forward your nomination to your desired University.

Then once you arrive for the Erasmus programme, you will receive an enrolment certificate along with a few more documents to fill out, most of these are just registration forms for the classes and are easy to take care of, just make sure they are done in the specified time-frame.

Unfortunately for Andrew and I, our paperwork is not quite finished. We are enjoying the majority of our classes, they are not overly difficult thank god, and our classmates have been amazingly friendly and welcoming. But one our classes which was supposed to be taught in English is, in fact, being taught in Spanish. So rather than risk failing we are filling out the "changes to learning agreement" form. Which does exactly as the title would suggest, it is a change of classes from the original agreement, again this must be approved by the home institution (your college) before it can proceed.

As well as starting classes, we have begun to join in some of the Erasmus/Munde student events in Madrid city, these events range from club nights to picnics to trips to Morocco and Ibiza! We are making friends from all over the world and they are all genuinely nice people and easy to get on with. So far, only three weeks in, this is already proving to be a once in a lifetime experience.

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Erasmus Diary Entry 1

It has been a week since we landed in Madrid and already this is shaping up to be one of the best decisions I ever made. In 7 short days we have made friends from all over the world, we have hung out with people from as far away as Japan and California and are already learning so much about various cultures. Our grasp of the Spanish language has already improved dramatically (to be fair anything is an improvement from the level I was at), and with a little help from O'Neills Irish Bar (hat tip to Mr. Mark Young) who have organised a "language exchange night" every Tuesday, we should be speaking the language to near perfection at the end of our stay here.

Within two days we had found an apartment to stay in. A nice four bedroom with a view of "Plaza De Toro". We had done a bit of research before coming here and previous Erasmus students told us to stay somewhere near the city as opposed to living nearer to college as it could get quite boring and we would spend our days going to the city anyway.

So, since we moved into our new apartment, the majority of our time has been taken up with trying to find a suitable supermarket for our weekly shopping. Needless to say the majority of our meals for the first few days were bought in a restaurant. But after a couple of days we found an Aldi just a few metro stops away, which means we won't starve! (always a bonus). 

So I would count our first week in Madrid as a success, we are managing to cook for ourselves, do the washing and even managed to meet Gary Cotterill outside the Bernabeau stadium on transfer deadline day, probably a more familiar name to those of you who watch Sky Sports regularly.

So for anyone considering doing the Erasmus programme in future, my advice for the first week is, expect to spend more on food the first few days, find a flat near the city centre and most of all, make friends! Without friends, homesickness will kick in very quick!

Hasta Luego!