Paella on every corner, people playing soccer in the streets, and restaurants that seemingly never close. These are just a few of the many things that I learned Madrid has to offer…

Last January I embarked on the biggest adventure of my life: studying abroad in Madrid, Spain. Until then, I had never even left North America, nor was I anywhere close to fluent in Spanish (Spoiler: still not remotely fluent in Spanish), so needless to say I was a little bit nervous before my flight. As one might expect, my flight from Toronto was delayed by an hour and a half, however it so happens that this delay would forever alter my exchange experience. During the delay, I met one of the many lifelong friends I made while in Europe. It turned out that not only were we on the same flight, but we were both going to the same school in Madrid, and would also be living only a 5-minute walk from each other while we were there. This was just the beginning of what I can easily call the best five months of my life.

Monkeys

Monkeys on the Rock of Gibraltar. (The mountain in the distance is in Africa.)

Within days of landing in Madrid, I realized just how easy it was going to be to travel around Europe. A quick search on Skyscanner (trust me, this will be your new favorite website if you go on exchange) showed I could get virtually anywhere in Europe for under $100. (Seriously, that’s not a typo.) So even before school started, I had already visited Portugal, and hung out with some monkeys on a giant rock overlooking Morocco.

Shortly after classes started, we assembled a group of Canadians, Americans, an Italian, a New Zealander, and a couple Brits who all had one common goal: to travel somewhere different every weekend. We soon discovered that Spain is a great hub for travel, making flights a lot cheaper and plane rides a lot shorter.

Within just a couple of months we had already visited most of Western Europe and even hopped the pond to ride some camels in Africa. I cannot begin to explain the bond that was created between us as we travelled around the world. Not only were we all learning and experiencing the different cultures of the countries we visited, but we would also share knowledge from our respective countries as well, which allowed me to learn something new about a different country virtually every day.

Desert

Riding into the Sahara Desert in Morocco

Ever since I arrived home to Toronto, I’ve been itching to head back to Europe and continue exploring. However, I know nothing will ever compare to the time I had studying abroad with all of the friends I made. Whether it was learning new slang from countries around the world, or finding out that most people didn’t know that Canada had its own dollar, each day spent with my friends abroad was more entertaining than the one before it.

Es Vedrà Rock in Ibiza, Spain

Pretty decent view of Es Vedrà Rock in Ibiza, Spain

Without a doubt, going on exchange to study in Spain was the best decision I’ve ever made in my life. I was able to travel around Europe at an alarmingly low cost, with friends from all over the world, while at the same time obtaining five credits for school. While my Spanish may not have improved nearly as much as I thought it would, I still could not have possibly imagined my experience abroad being as incredible as it was.

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Looking for adventure? Want to see the world? Want to live abroad?

Visit the International Exchange page on the Ted Rogers School of Management website.

Posted by Josh Hanson

Josh Hanson is in his 3rd year of Marketing Management and attended the Universidad Carlos III Madrid in Madrid, Spain, during the Winter 2016 semester.

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