I was unsure of what to title this blog post. I thought about putting “International Student Life in Madrid,” but not all of the people that I have met in Madrid have been students or even people that live here (plus it is a dreadfully long title). I settled on this title because of the ambiguity of the term “social life.” Like it can mean any number of things for any different person. Normally, we use it to mean something along the lines of partying or hanging out with your friends. But it’s not really like that. Everyone has some sort of a social life, even if they aren’t partying every weekend. Technically, if you talk to anyone in the entire day, then you have developed some sort of social life. (If you don’t talk to anyone in an entire day that just an achievement because there are a lot of talkative people in the world that you had to avoid to do that.) Most people say that I am social, that I talk to everyone and that I make friends so easily. While that may be true in some respects, that doesn’t mean having a social life comes easy to me or that every day I go out with some friends to have a party. Heck, its a struggle for me to leave the house every day for anything besides school. I like laying in my bed, reading or watching TV. So I mean, even as I talk about some of the social life of Madrid, I’d just like to remind you that even though my social life in Madrid is a lot of partying and hanging out with friends, that does not mean yours needs to be. Read a good book for me in English… I am missing that right now.
Well, like I said, the Madrid social life consists of frequent partying and hanging out with friends as well as going to class and playing sports. To say there is a party ever day of the week would not be stretching the truth at all. There are clubs open every night of the week and the bars of Madrid are never empty (even though there are a bazillion bars). I think the only check to the amount that people go out is that because Madrid is a capital city, a huge city, and a tourism center, the prices are a bit high for things like that. If you want to go out for a solid night of dancing and drinking, take at least 50 euros with you if you’re conservative and 100 euros if you want to splurge. Heck those numbers could both be bigger if you want to eat as well. (I hope I didn’t scare anyone away from Madrid with that one statement.) This is not to say that you can’t go out with plans to spend only 20 euros or less. You can do that as well. But you just have to know the places to visit.
I personally think that the best part about Madrid is the number of different people living in one place. Obviously coming from Farmington, New Mexico, [almost] any city in the world is going to have more people, but Madrid literally has a larger population than all of New Mexico, almost all of Arizona. If Madrid were a state in the USA, it would be ranked 18th on the list. There are 6.5 million people that live in Madrid (I’m not gonna cite this information, you can look it up on Google as well). The sheer weight of numbers in Madrid is visible. Go to any train station. Get on the Metro line 2. Get on an Metro line. Walk through Sol at dusk when it cools off (if you fit on the street). There are so many different people that you can meet. So many times that you can make a new friend (and kick off your amazing social life). But it’s also easy to get lost in a mass that huge, especially when you feel very small.
One of the ways that international students try not to get lost in all of the other people in Madrid is through WhatsApp groups. There are thousands if not millions of different WhatsApp groups made just for organizing international students and other internationals that live in Madrid. It is really quite crazy. If you know someone in a group that you are not in, and you go with them to something that group has organized, you can meet an entirely different population of people that you may not have ever met before. All you need is to be in one WhatsApp group with some people and chances are most of them will be in another. And those people in another. It’s like a giant web of messaging. It’s pretty crazy. As an American student, you are automatically probably in less groups because your information is a little more private because you are not part of Erasmus (the European exchange program), but it is impossible to not accidentally get connected to hundreds of people by accident. And every single weekend people ask in those group what the others are doing, and that’s how we find things out in Madrid. It is a very complicated but simple system that works because of a phenomena that while universal is something people forget. Everybody wants friends; humans seek connection. You may feel like you can’t go out by yourself, but as soon as you have one other person with you then man, the world is up for grabs.
Being an international student in Spain is nice because there are other students from literally every corner of the globe all trying to have a good time and meet people. Just the other day a friend asked me if I wanted to go to a picnic someone was organizing. I was lazy at first and didn’t want to go, but I went and, dang, now I have ten new friends. That was easy. I’ve met students from almost every university in Madrid (it seems like), I have met au pairs, English teachers, and random dudes from England and Germany on vacation. Social life is just talking to people.
As for what we do in Madrid, that’s a pretty simple question. We go eating, and we go drinking. Sometimes we go sightseeing, but it’s always accompanied by eating and/or drinking. I personally like to do my sightseeing on my own, without possibility of the social life, but sometimes it’s more interesting with a group of people. It is definitely more difficult to organize. It is already hard to organize people meeting up at one place, but people meeting up at one place and then moving around to various places? Man you’re just asking for people to get lost. I have to give mad props to the all the teachers who have ever taken me on field trips in my life, and my coaches for taking us to sporting events. I think college students are worse than little kids though. College kids don’t have to answer to you nor owe you any obligation, but they feel they are entitled to be treated as though we have to watch out for them.
My personal favorite thing to do is just get a group of people and bar hop, having one or two drinks at each bar and just having interesting conversation. This is something that we mostly do on Friday and Sunday because those are the more “chill” days. On Saturday, everybody goes out to the clubs to dance, and you are lucky if you make it back home by 4am, but I am of the mindset that if you make it to 4am you might as well stay out until 6am when everyone starts to go home. No point in leaving the job undone. Actually I am joking. Don’t do that, you get very tired. But because I live outside of the city center it costs less to stay up until the metro and trains start up again at 5:30-6:00am than it does to take a taxi to the bus stop or all the way back to my house. Just something that I always have to keep in mind whenever I go out.
Sorry that I do not have more photos from when I have been going out, but that is just because of the nature of clubs and bars: they are very low light places where photos are not the easiest to take. That is just what happens.
This weekend we’re going to Valencia… stay tuned for the blog post next week (hopefully).