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Study Abroad Italian: Study Abroad in Madrid
By: Jason Gurvitz (justin) 2013.10.04


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USACUSAC, a non-profit consortium of U.S. universities, offers summer, winter, semester and yearlong programs in 25 countries, 40 program locations! Earn university credit in language, business, ecology, environmental science, engineering, health, journalism, art history, sociology, music and more. 1-866-404-USAC, www.usac.unr.edu or usac@unr.edu

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What must it be like to live inside the heart of a human being? Stretch your imagination for just a bit and picture yourself sitting on a little bench inside your heart as you carefully study the rhythmic beats of the blood flowing through every vein, every ventricle, and engulfing your new walls and ceilings in a beautiful red glow. The veins jut up and around you with the intensity of crystal skyscrapers shooting out of the ground toward the sky.

With every second that passes you become one with the heart. You are at home. You are comfortable and exhilarated. It is not often that feeling at home also means feeling non stop energy, excitement, and wonder but this home is different from what you are used to.

This is what it's like tostudy abroad in Madrid. One of the most underrated cities in all of Europe, it is the heart of Spain and the lifeblood of a culture that has maintained its identity in our overly structured and sanitized modern world. Although the city can seem daunting to the world-weary traveler at first glance, don't be surprised if you call it home after only a couple of weeks.

I still do. While a student at UC Irvine, I had a study abroad at the University of Alcala de Henares, about 40 minutes north of Madrid by train. Alcala is not only the birthplace of Miguel de Cervantes, who Americans know better as the author of Don Quixote, Man of La Mancha, but Columbus was rumored to have planned his voyages to the New World there.

It is quite a thrill when you are sitting in a bar across the street from one of the churches that was destroyed during Spain's civil war, or reading a book in the front of the birthplace of Cervantes. This energy of this historical backdrop is ever-present in both Alcala and Madrid proper, and will make two particular themes of your year abroad stand out ever more: the night life and adventure.

Madrilenos are nicknamed the vampires of Europe for one simple reason: they never seem to sleep. A typical night in the city can begin at one bar at 12 a.m. and continue on to another ten by the time 6 a.m. rolls around. Then there are those that stay open for breakfast to feed hungry hangovers.

On any given night of the week, at any hour, you are likely to find at least three bars per block open for business in Madrid's center-filled with all types of people. You won't see many places filled with different plastic versions of the same person, like we often see in Los Angeles, but rather a mix of some of the strangest and most naturally unique people you will ever meet.

It is even rumored that Madrid has more bars than all of Sweden, and the country itself boasts more bars than all of the rest of Europe combined. One night in Madrid and you will see why.

There's Capital, a 7-floor dance club, each level catering to different personal tastes, not only musical. There's also Xenon, which is like Capital's little sister, more for the off the edge, Toledo a 2 story club providing both techno and Latin flavors, and Populart, a smoky bar where the music is a strong as the drink and even standing room is hard to find. When you are not recovering from endless nights of bar hopping, you will no doubt be hitting the famed Prado museum, the Plaza Mayor, or the cities surrounding Madrid such as El Ecorial, Segovia, and Toledo. Any guide book such as Let's Go will more than whet you taste buds for these popular tourist sights.

For just $150, I joined about 10 Spaniards for a weekend full of bungee jumping, rock climbing, cycling, and archery all throughout the rocky hills of Extremadura, just three hours outside of Madrid.

Not only was I the only American in the group, but I was forced to take in the language in a new way, such as learning how to tie knots so I wouldn't fall to my death on the rocks below.

While most of us zone out on the study abroad experience while in classes, death is serious. Bodily harm is quite an incentive to pay attention and quite a story to tell you friends when you get home. Just weeks later I took off to other cities in Spain on my own with total confident that I could talk to any Spaniard I would meet. No situation could be much more difficult than learning how to set your bungee cord on a bridge you've never jumped from, much less ever stood on before, so needless to say, meeting Spaniards was not only easier, but more adventurous.

TOP PICKS
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LOW COST STUDY ABROAD ! Accredited High Quality Programs. Quick Admission Confirmation. Academic Credit. Open To All. Easy To Register. Fast Docs. Simple 2 Payment System. Pay Balance Prior, or at Arrival. Budget Study Abroad With CSA. Since 1990. Tel # 206-583-8191 www.centerforstudyabroad.com

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USACUSAC, a non-profit consortium of U.S. universities, offers summer, winter, semester and yearlong programs in 25 countries, 40 program locations! Earn university credit in language, business, ecology, environmental science, engineering, health, journalism, art history, sociology, music and more. 1-866-404-USAC, www.usac.unr.edu or usac@unr.edu


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