Logo: University of Southern California

Postcards from Madrid

Thinking of Home

July 05, 2006 —


The Trojan Family Abroad
I am currently sitting outside on a beautiful Spanish sunny day contemplating how to begin this final postcard.  Words usually come easier to me, but I am having a hard time imagining how to encapsulate and do justice to my thoughts and memories about this program.  Very few other events in my life have been as incredibly eye-opening, jam-packed, exciting, challenging, and wholesomely fun, as this trip has proved to be.  Though these words may seem cliché, I really feel as though I have had the time of my life while here in Spain.
            I have put a lot of time and effort into my classes this summer, but luckily the exchange rate is in my favor for this international investment.  I will walk away from this experience with new memories, friendships, and knowledge that will certainly last a lifetime.  My fellow peers that accompanied me on this trip are an amazing group of individuals, and without the help of this program I fear I would not have had the opportunity to form friendships with many of them.  To that end, I also had a great bonding experience with the faculty and engineering staff that helped make this program possible.  These instructors taught me even more than I already knew about the Trojan Family that extends without borders to every face of the globe.  My favorite souvenirs from this trip will be intangible, but luckily for me that makes them easier to pack.
            I understand that these postcards are usually more involved and more informative about what is currently happening to USC students abroad, but that is clearly not what I chose to write about today.  Instead I wanted to relay that I feel very accomplished and enriched by my time spent in Spain.  But in an effort to avoid being redundant or even more trite with my words, I will end this postcard with a simple “Thank You”{ to all those individuals that made this program what it is.  With that graceful closing, I leave my laptop to return to more sunbathing and people-watching in the park, which is a favorite pastime of mine during these wonderfully hot Spanish summer days. 
                        Tyson Yaberg
Flamenco in Granada
            Loud staccato clapping, shoe heels hitting the floor, guitar strings blurring, and a woman singing—the flamenco performance has begun in earnest and without warning. Only moments before, the entire audience was casually chatting and taking pictures of the cave-like room when the flamenco performers walked in. Without introducing themselves, without any formality, they situated themselves on one side of the room and began. At first the entire audience was taken aback by the sudden interruption of their conversation, but almost immediately a hush came over them. The flamenco performers had captured everyone’s attention with their riveting flair and confidence.
            For the next hour or so, we sat enthralled in the wake of riveting music and enthusiastic dance of the flamenco performance. When the last note sounded, the room was silent for a minute. We sat just as stunned by the sudden silence of the end as the sudden music at beginning. A moment later, the room broke out in applause and magic of the flamenco slowly dissipated.
To see such a performance was a true blessing but what I found to be even more incredible was that I experienced such an event with the entire group of students who came to Spain. I firmly believe that by sharing, it becomes even more unforgettable since the memory is reinforced by each individual’s perspective. The memory is carried richly through retellings of the event and slowly becomes ingrained in all of us, impossible to be forgotten. Truly with so many rich memories, our time here in this little room in Granada will never be forgotten, nor will any of the other memories we created in Spain. It has been the trip of a lifetime, and I cherish the memories without any regret. 
Yan Lin, Lye
The Last Week
We’re done.  It’s hard to believe that seven weeks ago, we were all just arriving in this city that was a mystery to us all.
Few of the girls on the trip could forget our first night here in Madrid.  Dressed up and ready to experience the Spanish food culture, we eagerly stepped into a small restaurant near our apartments for dinner.  We soon found our selves confused over the difference between a bocadillo (sandwich) and a ración (an appetizer).  Our poor waitress tried to explain the carta (menu) to us, but, needless to say we all ended up with quite an interesting dinner.  Although we struggled with the language and culture through the first part of the trip, we have truly grown into society and become part of the Madrilenos during our stay.  What a difference a few weeks makes.  Now, we have become so familiar with the Spanish life style that it will be an adjustment to return home. 
Venturing out alone in the city to get errands done or grab a bite to eat is anything but awkward now that we have spent so much time in this city.  We have all helped each other along the way and have therefore grown together during this life-changing experience.  Few of us in this program knew each other before the trip, but after seven weeks of living and studying together, we have truly created a special friendship.  Our biggest problem that we have faced is that all 30 of us always want to go out together—quite a large crowd for the quaint local restaurants.
Looking back on these seven weeks, I feel so lucky to have been given this opportunity.  Throughout high school and in college, I heard from others that studying abroad was not an experience to miss, but now I realize how amazing this program has been and the experience is simply unexplainable.  The students I have met have all impacted my life in a unique way and I can’t express how thankful I am to have met such amazing people here in Spain. 
Stacey Schwartz
Tamaño Americano
Nothing in Spain came as a shock to me, save for one thing.  It hit me when we ate at a restaurant soon after arriving at the ACCENT center.  I would have my first Spanish meal, along with a lesson in rationing water.
“What would you like to drink?” asked the waiter.  I ordered for water.  He came back and opened a bottle of water pouring it all into a small glass cup.  I looked at it and wondered, “Is this it?”  What happened to the tall glass?  I knew I would want more later so I asked if they served refills.  The waiter cocked his head puzzled from hearing such a request and replied, “It’ll cost you the same as another orange juice.”
Refilling your drink is a luxury.  I’ve been to several restaurants all over Spain and you get a lot less drink anywhere you go.  The small sized drinks teach you to not splurge, something that, now that I sit watch from European soil, is typically American.  Nobody’s heard of getting free refills in Spain.  If you order water, they will bring you bottled water and if you’re thinking about a refill, buddy, you won’t get one without having to open your pocketbook first. 
When in Spain, doff the American habits.  Drink less and socialize more.  And if the small size doesn’t work for you try asking for “tamaño Americano,” or translated “American size.”  They’ll be more than happy to hand you a wickerbasket-sized cup.
Another example of how Spain conserves water is not only shown in the small glasses they use to serve your water nor in the advertisements you’ll see at various points on the bus stops, but in a very common place: the toilet.  It fascinated me when I first read the sticker on my toilet in the apartment.  With the push of a button, you can fully flush the contents of the toilet; however, if you interrupt the flush by pushing the button again, the toilet only flushes halfway saving you lots of water.  If you don’t like following the little rule “if it’s yellow, let it mellow,” you have this neat option of flushing the water just enough to get rid of the yellow without wasting the same amount of water you would us to flush away the brown. 
Daniel Dyba
What I Will Take Home
Sitting back, clearing my head, I realized that I had the privilege of writing my last postcard during the last week I was in Madrid.  Being able to look back and review the entire trip in one sitting, I have the opportunity to formulate an all-enlightening conclusion.  Being able to travel home in a few days and bring back something that I received in Spain would not only be a privilege but a duty that I bestowed upon myself.  The trips to Salemanca, Segovia, Toledo, Barcelona, Sevilla, Granada, and Cordoba all offered a certain perspective on Spanish culture.  Those in Barcelona view themselves differently from those in Madrid, almost as similarly as those from Northern California view themselves a bit differently from those who reside in Southern Califlornia.  We are all under the same banner, yet our locations shape us culturally differently.  The museums, the flamenco show, the Spanish opera, and the architecture have brought a new appreciation for Spain’s history, both socially peaceful at times as well as brutally violent.  The trips to the bars, the clubs, the nightlife, sharing the World Cup in a country that considers it one of its biggest sporting events, have all been truly amazing.
So the question became: what would I take home?  What would be the one thing I would leave those back at home from 8,000 miles away?  I could tell them to get a taste of the arts.  One of my favorite painters happens to be Salvador Dali.  Madrid also happens to have an extensive collection of original Dali paintings, so my trip to the Reina Sofia museum turned out to be a pleasant surprise.  But Spain is not the only place and may not even be the best place to become appreciative of fine arts.  One could go to Paris or Rome or Venice to become acquainted with that.  Many of us traveled to those cities, and many would probably agree.  I could mention how the siesta should become an integral part of everybody’s life, especially the college student’s life.  Switch your sleep schedule from one long night’s sleep to two smaller sleeping periods; you’ll feel better, stay up later, and still get up at a reasonable hour.  But that would not be conducive to the United States’ lifestyle.  We are simply moving too fast to sleep.  I could tell you not to wear a polka dot dress at a flamenco show, but I think Jessica might already have that one covered.  What could I take from this trip that someone else had not already discussed thoroughly?
So how about this.  What I will take out of my seven fantastic weeks in Spain is the friendship of 30 people who have gone through the same thing I have.  It’s funny; many of us did not know each other before we came here.  Being a staple in the engineering school, I thought I had met everyone I could have ever kept track of.  Surprisingly, I knew about 20% of the people on this trip, and many of us knew less than that.  Coming from all different majors, all different parts of the country, all different backgrounds, the trip could have been a disaster.  We could have been resentful or angry or even simply unresponsive to each other.  However, this trip has been absolutely amazing, and I firmly believe it is because we knew we were all in this together, and we all bonded over that.  You are all amazing people, that is why you are all here.  A great number of you I would have never met had it not been for this trip.  It has been a privilege and a pleasure to share seven weeks of something that I could never forget.  The images will pass, the memories will fade, and some of us may never come back.  The care and the graciousness you have all shared towards me has been incredible, and I am so glad we all shared at least one thing new together.  I hope all of you feel the same way about each other, because to me that is the most valuable thing I could have ever gotten.  And the beautiful thing is: I get to take this one home with me.
Robbie Wright
Studying Abroad: The Opportunity of a Lifetime
Studying abroad in Europe is the experience of a lifetime!  I never thought that I would have this kind of opportunity in my life.  Fortunately, it was there and I took it-there was no way I would let this chance go.
How amazing is it that I was able to see the Pope from his balcony after my visit to Italy!  I told my friend Jose Martinez, also a study-abroad student, how lucky I felt to be in the presence of the Pope in St. Peters Basilica, Vatican City.  He was amazed as well; naturally we were both taken back at the realization that we were actually in Rome!  This is how my first free weekend, from June 22nd thru June 25th, was spent.  I don’t regret one moment of it. 
My second free weekend, which the abroad program honors us with, was spent in Munich, Germany.  I was extremely excited to see what Germany was like.  In the end, I have to say it was everything I expected and more.  Munich is a beautiful city which is immersed in the Bavarian culture.  During my stay in Munich, I truly found out how much Germans love beer and pretzels!  The pretzels were enormous and the beer servings were ridiculously huge.  It was strange to see people drinking beer in the morning-and not just a glass of beer but a one -iter tankard of beer!  This was a little fact of German culture that I found very interesting.
But in all seriousness, I could not believe that I was in Germany!  Germany was hosting the FIFA World Cup so the craze for soccer was everywhere.  It was great to see German fans keeping spirit about their team during their game with Portugal.  Luckily, Germany won, taking 3rd place in the World Cup.  It was an achievement every German could be proud of, and I was happy for them.
In the end, the weekend of July 7-9th was spent very well too.  I was extremely happy to spend this time in such a unique place.  I was also very happy to experience Rome in its entirety. 
If there is a lesson to be learned it’s to grasp the opportunity when it reaches you. The last thing you want to do is regret not doing so.  I myself, feel blessed to be in Europe.  Being here has definitely made me a better person as well as a better engineer.  Life has opened up to me and it’s all because I decided to let it happen.  I found a new love in exploring Europe and its various cultures and it would not have been possible if not for the experience of living abroad. 
So, if you’re reading this right now and you’re thinking about studying abroad, GO!
Your biggest regret will be not doing so.  I never believed in my life that I would be here, but I am!  I am writing to you from Madrid, Spain and this would not have been possible if I hadn’t expressed the desire.  It’s definitely my experience of a lifetime and something I’ll never forget!
Everardo Bobadilla Jr
A Versatile Form of Communication

In the United States, and especially in Los Angeles, I have noticed that drivers love to communicate their frustration via the horn of their cars.  A given honk might mean “Look out!” or “Can’t you see that the light has turned green?” or “Get out of my way!” or a number of other things containing language that would get me into trouble.

However, dear reader, even though Angelinos have a glimmering reputation for horn usage, they cannot ever hope to hold a candle to that of the denizens of Madrid.  If one is inside the city, it is indeed a rare occurrence that five minutes should pass without hearing a honk drifting through the Spanish air.  In my time here, I have found the only logical explanation for this anomaly: Madrileños (the name for those from Madrid) use their horns to express much more than we Americans could possibly fathom.  While horns are used to express all the things that we use them for in the States, here they can be so much more expressive.  For instance, drivers coming down the street that faces our apartment at around seven in the morning like to use their horns to say “You’ve slept long enough, and now it is time to get up.”  A honk can also signify “The choclatería on the corner has excellent churros.”  Before Spain was eliminated from the World Cup, great numbers of drivers would simultaneously honk their horns to say “I am overjoyed by the fact that our team has just won another game.”

As one can see, the great use of horns in these parts adds a certain flavor to the Madrid atmosphere.  Indeed, my fellow students and I go through the day, inundated in carefully crafted messages that fly though the air for all to hear.

Gabe Resneck
USC Viterbi students Vincent Sauceda, Brian Inacay, Andy Lei, Jose Martinez, Danny (Kuan-Hsun )Huang at the Coliseum in Rome.
A Tale of Two Cities

In our eight weeks here in Madrid, there are two free weekends in which there are no organized excursions. While the trips to Segovia, Toledo, and Salamanca was excellent in showcasing the unique Spanish culture to the whole engineering group, the free weekends gives the freedom for individuals to spend their time abroad however they choose. For my friends and me, we wanted to leave Spain and take advantage of the country’s proximity to other European countries. So I and five others took off on a Thursday flight to Rome, Italy.
Upon arriving at Fiumicino Airport in Rome, we managed to get a bus ride, albeit expensive, to our hostel. After checking in our hostel, we wasted no time and went out into the city. There was only one problem; we did not know the bus routes. We had a map of the routes but it was confusing to read. In Spain we had sufficed with native Spanish speakers and I also knew enough Spanish to get by. But Spanish is very unlike Italian (contrary to my beliefs at least). When we found a bus to get on, the interesting thing I noticed was that the bus driver does not check for a ticket. There is a machine that takes the ticket that is located in the middle of the bus. Roman buses seem to operate on a honor system. Finally we arrived at Plaza Navonna. We went straight to the pizzeria and gelateria to get pizza and ice cream. After walking around for a little bit, we went home.          
The next day we decided to go to the Roman Coliseum. In order to get there, we had to ride on the Metro. When we descended into the Metro station, the first thing that I noticed was that Rome only had two main Metro lines. Compared to Madrid’s 10 lines, Rome seemed far less advanced. My second observation of the Roman Metro stations startled me. When the Metro arrived, instead of a white shiny train like those found in Madrid, it was a chain of worn-down boxed-shaped cars. Even worst, there was graffiti sprayed all over outside surface. Later that night we were dismayed to find that the Metro closes at 21:00 (9 p.m.) and the buses at midnight. We ended paying an expensive taxi fare to get home.
As the weekend in Rome progressed, I found myself comparing Rome to Madrid. In Madrid the public transportation including the taxis, metro, and buses are more efficient. Although a fare is required for transportation (as opposed to Rome where one can practically ride the buses for free), it is reliable and they operate late into the night. For me Rome was too much of a city of arts and crafts. I liked Madrid’s bars and clubs more. It felt weird for my love of Madrid to grow while I was in Rome, but it was through that comparison that I realized I had settled in Madrid.
At the end of the weekend, I was glad to be home in Madrid.
Andy Lei  
An American 4th of July

            This week was our sixth week in Spain, and I would have no problem continuing to live here indefinitely.  From the friends I’ve made, to the eye-opening culture I’ve come in contact with—this has been one of the greatest experiences of my life.  I strongly encourage anyone who has the chance to participate in one of these programs to do it.  Nevertheless, after six weeks away from America, I can guiltily admit that I have begun to long for some of the little things that America has to offer.  I don’t miss the U.S. enough to make me want to go home of course, but enough to seriously consider walking into a McDonald’s.

            Therefore, on the 4th of July when the engineering students decided to take a break from Spanish culture and celebrate American style at Hard Rock Café, I was excited.  We arrived at Hard Rock as a group of 25, and as we walked under the red white and blue balloon arch they had put up in honor of the American holiday, it was like we were back in the US again.  The menus were in English, and they contained many American food items that we had not seen in the last six weeks.  The restaurant offered giant burgers, American appetizers, American-style salads with all the salad dressings you could ask for, and ribs; all while blasting American rock music. When we got our food it seemed like the best chicken fingers I had ever tasted, and every single one of the 25 plates were scraped clean.

            Although the Hard Rock was the perfect way to celebrate the American holiday, and the short trip to that American oasis seemed to be exactly what a lot of us needed that day, it also made me re-recognize how different the U.S. is from the Spanish culture that I have grown to love over the last six weeks.  In fact, it was almost a relief to walk out into the balmy Madrid air, hop on the Metro, and stop for some gelato after our American celebration.  With only one week left in our program, I have come to realize that the things I have learned and experienced in Spain will stay with me forever, and Madrid will always have a special place in my heart.

Josianna Schwan
Junior, Biomedical Engineering
El Cuarto de Julio…en España

            Yesterday was my favorite holiday: the Fourth of July, a day to honor the birth of American independence and democracy. It is a day I like to celebrate by waving sparklers, watching firecrackers explode in the sky, and consuming mass amounts of hot dogs loaded with relish. Observing this holiday in Spain, then, is quite a challenge. Although I didn’t get the chance to eat any perros calientes, the celebrations were still truly enjoyable.

            For dinner, a large group of the ACCENT Viterbi kids decided to meet up in Madrid’s Hard Rock Café, which is appropriately located in Plaza Colon, the square named after Christopher Columbus (Colon in Spanish). We felt tinges of nostalgia for our home country as we passed by the looming statue of Columbus and searched in vain for any compadres sporting red, white and blue. And inside Hard Rock, there were surprisingly few Americanos celebrating…yet the European-style 4th turned out great. The mix of Spanish and American cultures was entertaining: some people ordered hamburgers, but opted for the Spanish jamon version (on the bill it read “Pig Hamburger”). And throughout dinner, although we were technically there to celebrate the Fourth, our eyes never left the semi-finals World Cup game, a close one between Germany and Italy, on the big screen TV.  On our way home we stopped at an alimentacion to get some popsicles, and while we paid the owner our euros, the tiny black and white TV behind the counter showed Italy’s two adjacent, overtime, game-winning goals. The night ended with a leisurely walk back home, down Fernando el Catolico street, savoring our yummy, and melting, volador and tres chocolates delicacies. It was perfect! With two weeks remaining of my stay in Madrid, I’m left with a happy balance of homesick pride for my own country, and an appreciate love for Spain.

Lucy Hoag

Mark Carbonella and Josh Cariaga in front of Le Château de la Belle au Bois Dormant (Sleeping Beauty Castle) in Disneyland Paris.
It’s a Small World After All

            This weekend (June 22-25) I had the unique opportunity to travel to Paris with Daniel Dyba and Josh Cariaga.  Sure, there are plenty of things to visit in Paris such as the Eiffel Tower or Notre Dame.  Yet, we decided to take a different route of tourist destinations and visited the “Happiest Place in Paris”—Disneyland.

            Several of the attractions in the Paris version are similar to their Anaheim counterparts but with a French twist.  One thing we instantly noticed was that everything was written and spoken in French and English.  Warning signs, ride audio, and even the Mouse himself spoke in two different languages.  Another twist on an American original was “it’s a small world.”  Almost everything was similar to the Anaheim original except for the ending where the French Disney people characterized Americans.  First it was fine with the Statue of Liberty and the Golden Gate Bridge, but slightly hidden after the bridge were two stereotypical “Americans.”  One was dressed as a football player except that in his hand he was eating popcorn.  Standing beside him was a cheerleader, who was drinking a Coke.  Now it is clear where most Europeans get their idea of how Americans act.  By the way, I am still proud to be an American.

            Later in the day, we were waiting to board Pirates of the Caribbean and we noticed something bizarre…Europeans have trouble with the concept of how to form lines.  While we were standing and talking with each other, we noticed that people were coming around us to the left and squeezing their way forward.  Then others started to follow and bump beside us.  Soon we were all squished together in order to maintain our spot in line, and this trend continued until we boarded the vehicles.  It was definitely a unique experience and something I have only experienced while in Europe.  (Oh yeah, the same exact thing happened to us while boarding the plane at the airport.)

            The American influence is seen everywhere within the park.  Sure, some of the attractions were a little different (Big Thunder went underground to cross the lake, Phantom Manor had a weird bride all throughout) but most everything about the park was American.  They even sold US flags!  This trend continued outside the park and into the city of Paris as well.  Unlike Madrid, Western culture is a big influence on how the people acted and dressed.  In fact, it reminded me too much of America and made me homesick for Spain.  This entire experience of Disneyland and the city of Paris itself reminded me that it truly is a small world after all.
--Mark Carbonella
Senior, Mechanical Engineering
Madrid As Home

            Last weekend was a free weekend and I decided to take advantage of our time in Europe by traveling to Rome with five other people in the program. The flight lasted only two hours and I saw the Mediterranean Sea under my plane for the first time. From the time we touched down, we experienced a great culture shock. I suppose we had gotten used to Madrid after shock of the initial week. I think the largest difference we experienced came from the state of repair of the public transportation. The Rome Airport presented a sloppy image of the city for visitors compared to Madrid’s shining Barajas. We again experienced astonishment when we used the subway for the first time. In Madrid, we had gotten used to the excellent public transportation, while in Rome, we had difficulty getting around. Nevertheless, we were able to see many of Rome’s sights.

            We received a ‘top 25’ of places to eat and see in Rome from an engineering student who had been in the program last year. In true Europtrip style, we spent most of our time touring Rome. I would say that the best sight was the Vatican. It was a bit of a pilgrimage for me, but I also remember how several years ago I had missed what I thought was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Because of food poisoning, I had missed seeing the Vatican and Sistine Chapel while on vacation with my family six years ago. Seeing the Sistine Chapel filled a void that had been open for six years. The feeling wasn’t so much that the chapel is one of the greatest sights in the world, but rather, one of satisfaction of fulfilling a task abandoned long ago.

            As we landed in Madrid, I feel glad to be at home, but I also come to the realization that this is home for only a short three weeks. Rome was a vacation, but Madrid is home. I believe that we have all adopted Spain as our home.

Brian Inacay

The crowd, which includes a dozen USC Viterbi students, gathers to watch Spain's beloved soccer team compete in the World Cup. 


World Cup: More than just Soccer

            During the round of 16 in World Cup, Spain was arranged to play against France. We decided to go watch this game at Plaza de Colon. This is where many young Spanish people gather to watch and support the Spanish team. This game was more intense and crowded because this is the next round of the World Cup.

            Unfortunately, Spain lost to France 1-3 and the crowd was very devastated. This is like USC losing in a football game. However, as me and my roommate were walking back towards the metro, we continue to hear Spaniards chanting which is really awkward because the game is already over and it is pointless to continue chanting. Similar things happened in our metro train; many people in the metro were chanting and jumping in the metro.

            From this experience I deeply feel the pride and the love the Spaniards have on the team and country. To me sport is always just sport and is unrelated to nationalism. Sport is just pure entertainment and an exciting thing to watch. This experience in Spain made me realize that World Cup is more than just soccer. World Cup gives opportunity for many smaller and weaker countries to be in the same stage as the developed countries.

            In this game, I realize how much sportsmanship the Spanish people have and still celebrate and take pride in their team. This game shows me how shallow I was since I only care about the winning or losing of the team. There are deeper meanings in this great event.  World Cup is an event where the whole world embraces the game of soccer and come to gather in Germany to show your nationalism and love your country.

World Cup unites the world together and it is a celebration whether or not the teams win or lose. Even though Spain lost and will not advance to the next round, Spanish will always take pride in their team and their country.
Kuan-Hsun Huang
La Copa Mundial

World Cup 2006.  What better time to be in Spain?  Spain has one of the most celebrated teams in the World Cup and we are all here to partake in the experience.  The atmosphere and excitement in Madrid has been absolutely incredible.  Everywhere we go, Spain soccer jerseys line the streets.  People are shouting cheers and everyone is waiving Spanish flags.  Fortunate for us, last Tuesday was the Spain vs. Tunisia game. 

We all heard about a public venue where the game would be shown.  Little did we know what would await us at Plaza Colón.  Piling into the Metro station on the way to the plaza, we were among a stream of red and yellow and completely surrounded by shouts of excitement about the Spain game that would be starting within the hour.   Although we may not have understood what everyone was shouting, words were quite unnecessary.  If you wore red, you were good. 

When we got to the Plaza, we noticed that the roofs were packed with screaming fans.  We wandered through the crowds and eventually made our way to a make-shift ladder that led to the best view of the big screen.  It may have been a wobbly climb up that ladder, but once we reached the top of the roof, it was an amazing view.  All we could see was a sea of red.  When Spain scored the first goal, the crowd erupted.  It was an incredible moment.  Cheers rolled through the sea of fans and we all cheered like mad.  The end of the game brought even more excitement as people chanted and waved Spanish flags down the streets surrounding the plaza.  The march down the streets following Spain’s victory left no place for the traffic to flow. 

On our way home I just couldn’t help but think of what a once-in-a-lifetime experience I just had.  I walked back into my apartment, checked my email, and smiled as I read my message: “Confirmation for Munich Trip 6/22/06.”  What great timing for Germany to be playing in the World Cup on June 23.  The adventure continues.  

Stacey Schwartz

Futbol Mania Takes Madrid

Growing up in the States, I had never really been a soccer fan.  In fact, I must admit that I had never even watched a full game of professional soccer.  However, when I arrived in Spain, World Cup fever had already overtaken the city.  My curiosity peaked, and I decided to see what this “futbol” craze was all about.

            The word on the street was that the Plaza de Colón was the best place in Madrid to view Spain’s gifted futbol team in action.  A group of fellow Viterbians accompanied me and we set off.  Sporting Spain’s colors (which were conveniently USC colors, so we were all prepared) we joined the masses at the Plaza.  The scene was so packed it was almost shocking, I think half of Madrid was in attendance.  Giant screens scattered through the square displayed the game, so every spot was essentially the best place to be. 

At the half, Spain was down by one, and the mood of the crowd was anxious.  Luckily, almost immediately into the second half, Spain scored.  The entire crowd burst into jubilant celebration.  A roar spread through the Plaza which must have shaken the entire city.   Strangers hugged as fireworks sparkled off in the background.  Similar celebration ensued for the next two unanswered goals, and Spain emerged victorious.  Once the Plaza cleared out, I partook in a post-victorious Spanish futbol tradition: dancing in the Cristóbal Colón (a.k.a. Christopher Columbus) fountain right outside the Plaza.  It seemed that all the Madrileños had become a family.

My futbol experience in Madrid has exceeded any expectation I could have held.  Attending futbol games in the Plaza is now one of my favorite activities.  The feeling of solidarity is overwhelming, and it was a time when I feel like a true Madrileña.  Though this entire trip has been life-changing, I must say that I hold a special place in my heart for Spanish futbol.                    
                                                                                      Stephanie Woolf
The Trojan-like Futbol Experience

            Remember the excitement this past year when Matt Leinart stumbled into the Notre Dame end zone with just seconds to spare to keep USC’s perfect winning season?  The chants we screamed and the pride we felt that day will forever be remembered in Trojan history.

            This past Monday, I, along with about 12 other Trojan engineers, had the privilege of watching a Spain futbol game at the Plaza de Colón.  Many Spain fans rally here to watch their national team attempt to declare victory at the 2006 Fifa World Cup in Germany.  Though a huge soccer fan, I expected about two hundred locals to watch the game on a big screen TV, no big deal.  Imagine my surprise when I walked out of the Colón Metro station and saw thousands upon thousands of Spaniards decked out in Spain’s national colors, ironically red and yellow.  Face paint, soccer jerseys, and Spain’s national flags are only a few of the accessories fans displayed at the plaza.  Every square inch of the plaza was occupied, even the tops of portable bathrooms, lamp posts, and branches of trees.  We arrived there about 15 minutes before the game and barely managed to climb on top of a cement structure to watch the game.

            Like Trojan football, there is a main chant that Spain cheers throughout the game.  The chant contains the phrase “Apor ellos Ohe” which translates to “For our team!”  At any point in the game, sections of the crowd begin chanting this repeatedly, similar to our Victory chant.  Even if you were not a soccer fan, being part of the crowd and engulfed by the cheers and chants changed your perspective immediately. 

            Suspense quickly turned into roars of excitement and pride when Spain scored.  Atop our cement structure, fans ran, jumped, and cheered, causing a crack in the cement structure to form.  No one seemed to care except for me and a few other Trojans because futbol is life here in Spain, it’s worth the risk.

            After two hours of intense ball play, Spain emerged victorious with a 3-1 victory over Tunisia.   The celebrating, however, did not end here.  Fans quickly took over the Calle de Castellana, the main street in Madrid that runs North and South.  On the street, fans swarmed cars, jumped into fountains, and waved their nation’s flag with pride.   Where were the police in all of this?  Maintaining crowd control and joining in the fun.  Cars honked and waved at us as we walked in the middle of the street, still spirited from the victory.  Imagine that: a sport as simple as kicking a ball into a net brings unity to a nation.   What an experience to remember!

Only one question remains:  Where can I buy my Spain jersey?

Joshua Cariaga
Senior, Aerospace Engineering



A Modern Quixote

            I understand the folly of comparing myself to Don Quixote, arguably the most notable yet ridiculous character of Spanish literature.  Don Quixote created castles out of simple inns, turned windmills into giants, and could find an adventure every which way he turned.  While every reader of Cervantes’ famous novel becomes greatly sympathetic for its tragic protagonist, I can’t even begin to rival Quixote’s passion and delusion.  Perish the thought.

Yet when I awoke midway through our bus trip to Salamanca, I was immediately struck by the beauty of the Spanish countryside.  The land was a lovely patchwork of small fields walled in with stone parapets.  This quilt of lush grass and golden wheat stretched up to the feet of verdant hills which were, of course, crowned with windmills—the modern variety.  Instantaneously, I was smitten by this desire to don my gleaming armor and blade, mount my mighty steed, and set off for the horizon, where there lay poor folk in desperation, beasts to slay, honor, and adventure.  Fortunately, I was more successful in resisting this feeling than Quixote, but I can imagine the beauty that must have struck him every morning when he peered from his window and eventually drove him to madness.

Indeed, Spain seems soaked in chivalry.  Whether one is walking the streets of old Madrid, marveling at the grand cathedrals that grace every town, exploring the labyrinth that is the city of Toledo, touring the oldest university in Spain, gazing upon the Roman aqueduct in Segovia, or merely staring across the countryside, there is an ever-present feeling of history and legend.  Even as I write this postcard, listening to Flamenco music, it seems that chivalry is just beyond the threshold.
Gabe Resneck
Knight Esquire
Toledo- City of Steel for the Man of Steel

            Walking through Toledo was like taking a time machine back into a different place.  You hit the town center, and if the first thing you noticed was not the massive cathedral that dwarfs the rest of the city, then it would be the brick-paved streets.  A true medieval city, the click-clack of horse hooves against the sun-beaten pavement is now drowned by the car horns that invade the Spanish atmosphere, and yet, if one listens closely one can almost hear a faint whinny as the spirit of Toledo takes us back to a time of brave knights, fair damsels, and courtly love.  I wished to be knighted inside the courtyard of Alcazar, the castle upon the hill.  And as I peered over the castle walls upon the gorge that helped fortify the mighty structure, I could only wish that my view could stretch past the horizon. 

The infusion between the old and new is astonishing.  Mazing yourself through the twists and turns of the city, the modern stores that now inhabit the middle aged buildings blend the archaic with the contemporary.  Walk down one block and Zara, a modern clothing store, displays its huge white walls with its fashionably dressed mannequins.  Walk down the next and three or four tiny Spanish pointy-thingy emporiums flash their glittering blades in the brilliant midday sun.  The names of the stores may vary, and it is a bit hard to judge when midday actually occurs, for the sun is out approximately 27 hours of the day.  That’s right, 27. 

Being a connoisseur of all things sharp, I found myself in a bit of heaven.  I felt, after a bit of a knife-shopping spree, that I could now mount my trusty steed, and henceforth ride into the joust, fully armed, ready for all and any opponent.  A true warrior, forged from the very hearth from which my new-found souvenirs were cast.  It was as if man and blade had become one.  As we departed and I drifted off into bus-induced slumber, I felt that the land I was leaving could have only come from a dream.  And yet, when I awoke, I had the digital camera to prove that I truly had entered another world. 

Robbie Wright
Man of Steel


Everado Bobadilla, Jr in Salamanca
Salamanca Visit
Being here in Spain has opened my eyes about other cultures.  I am really enjoying it and I love the fact that I am living my dreams.  I have always wanted to visit Europe and I am glad that I am abroad with the USC Viterbi School of Engineering.  I thank my parents for supporting me in my venture to study in Spain and experience an opportunity of a lifetime. 
I will make sure to take something from studying abroad.  Already I have made new friends for a lifetime and I am enjoying learning from them as well.  The group of engineers on this trip are all unique and make experiencing Spain even more enjoyable.
During select weeks, we take time off to travel to certain cities in Spain and indulge in the history.  Every city is different but by far my favorite place is Salamanca.  It is a college town full of young people and tons of history.  Salamanca is home to the first university of Spain.  I was honored to be in Salamanca and enjoy the city for the time being. 
These are the experiences I would have regretted missing if I had not applied to study abroad.  I am glad I made the decision to come to explore a new country and a new culture.
Everardo Bobadilla Jr

Viterbi Students Visit Alcazar

Some Very Valuable Advice
Jetlagged and stuffed from our first Spanish meal, my roommates and I stumbled around our new Madrileño neighborhood in search of our first true cultural experience.  Guided by the sound of distant cheering, we eventually came to a large group of rambunctious males in front of a cerveceria (bar).  As we awkwardly watched, I noticed a girl with long blonde hair, jean shorts, and running shoes and immediately darted over to her, as she was obviously an American.  Katie and her friend Danny, our new culturally Spanish, yet actually American friends, explained to us that the guys were on a rugby team, and they had just won the game.  They proceeded to introduce us to a lot of their Spanish friends, which gave us the opportunity to practice our broken Spanish and also gain some very valuable advice:
1)     Dos Besos- Whenever you meet or say good-bye to someone, you give them two kisses, one on each cheek.
2)     Mini- Beware!  When ordering a drink, a mini is a very, very large drink, despite the misleading name.
3)     Mullets- Although there is no word in the Spanish language for mullet, they exist like a rapid spreading disease: girls, boys, dread locks, spiked, dyed, and the list goes on.  This matches the “I love the 80’s” style.
4)     Siestas- Yes, the infamous late afternoon nap time truly exists.  You should sleep during this time not only because naps are essential to surviving the late nights and hot days, but also because there’s nothing open during siesta time.
5)     Chocolate con Churros- The most delicious 24-7 meal available in Madrid.
            Over the past couple weeks, I have taken their advice to heart, especially the churro and siesta part.  In all honesty, although I may not look, act, or even speak like a typical Madrileño, I still feel very much a part of the city, as I have quickly adapted to their lifestyle.  People are extremely nice and helpful, while maintaining this laid back yet successful mentality.  If I were to take away only one thing from the trip, it would be the attitude of the people here.  Throughout the hustle and bustle of running from one metro to another, while jamming a jamon y queso sandwich down your throat, they still take heed and listen to their hearts.  They know how to relax and truly enjoy life by leisurely eating meals, getting plenty of sleep, enjoying the numerous parks, and taking advantage of the beautiful Spanish nights.  And to think, I learned all of this during my first night in Madrid.
Jessica Midkiff
Immersion in the Spanish culture
I thought for a long time about the topic of my postcard considering such subjects as the 80’s Spanish fashion of stripes and polka dots, one of our amazing day trips throughout Spain, or even the Euro mullet.  However I came to the conclusion to talk about immersion in the Spanish culture.  I love to travel and I’ve traveled to Europe previously but I never spent more than a few days in any particular city.  Now entering my fourth week in Madrid I believe I am successfully grasping the Spanish culture.
My first night in Madrid as I walked around the city in my flip-flops and stuck out like a sore thumb, I realized that I wasn’t going to blend in as easily as anticipated.  However I soon came to understand that appearance wasn’t everything, rather it is more important to understand and appreciate the culture.  Once I understood this fact I quickly began to adjust to the new sleeping and eating schedule and now I cannot go a day without my afternoon siesta and cannot eat dinner before 9 p.m.  Back in the U.S., I am so dependent on my car for transportation while now I am completely confident walking around the city or taking the Metro, and even taking a gondola to the Casa de Campo park.  Though I still crave hamburgers and fries, I am trying so many new foods and drinks that are local to Spain and Madrid in particular that I never would have known existed if I was only here for a few days.
I feel that in these three weeks, Madrid has become my home.  I can navigate the streets and the Metro, I can find the non-touristy bars, I can point out good places to eat bocadillos or tapas, I can make my own Sangria, and I am even becoming a regular at the local helado store.  Spending so much time in this amazing city has really helped me to appreciate another culture.  Seven weeks seems so short now, there is so much more that I want to see and experience, I guess I will just have to come back again. 
And now if you’ll excuse me its time for my siesta.
LauraLee Brown
Junior, Biomedical Engineering
Adventures with a Washing Machine
I cannot believe that I have already been in Madrid for three weeks, but I guess the old saying “time flies when you’re having fun” really does hold true. It is so hard to believe that we are almost halfway done. What a crazy and fun adventure this trip has been! There is so much that I’ve already experienced – from the almost constant world cup coverage to the Spanish dishes (I’ve never eaten so much ham before in my life) to the bullfights and endless nights when no one in the city seems to sleep, this has been one of the best times of my life.
Living in Spain for an extended period of time is much different from being a tourist. For one thing, you have to master certain aspects of daily life, such as grocery shopping and laundry… the latter of which is something that I am still having problems with. Unfortunately, living in a hot, smoky city means that washing your clothes is something that needs to be done often. Even more unfortunate is that no one in our apartment can figure out how to use the washing machine provided. This can lead to some very interesting results! There have been many occasions when we have assumed that our clothes have been washed only to find out that soap was never entered into the cycle, or the soap was used, but the machine never rinsed our clothes, or it didn’t drain, or there was never any water in the first place. On one occasion I even ended up flooding much of the bathroom floor. As frustrating as it can be trying to figure out the many foreign dials and buttons, the experience is certainly unique. I don’t know of anyone else who’s flooded a washing machine in Spain, that’s for sure!
Luckily for me I still have four more weeks to figure out the washing machine and a couple of clean shirts still folded away in the dresser.  The end of this amazing adventure is something that I try hard not to think about. Never before have I been in such a wonderful city and shared company with such an incredible group of people. I am so thankful for the many friendships that I have gained while in Spain and this is sure to be something that I will remember for the rest of my life.
Kimberly Ross
Our Home Away from Home
         Although I’ve only been in Madrid for several weeks, this beautiful, culturally rich, bustling city has become my new home away from home.  Upon embarking on this trip across the Atlantic, I was both excited and a bit unsure of what to expect from my first trip out of the United States.  I came to Madrid with little knowledge about the Spanish culture and very limited Spanish-speaking skills, but I was eager to open my eyes to a different way of living and to absorb as much of what this place and these people had to offer me. 
         So far, I have experienced so much of what is España.  From art exhibitions like Picasso’s Guernica, to daily public transportation on el Metro, from famous landmarks like la Plaza Mayor, to experiencing the Spanish siesta, and from traditional pastimes like bullfighting, to shopping at Madrid’s outdoor flea market, El Rastro.  There has been so much to take in.  But now that I have been here for several weeks and seen most of the major tourist sights of the city, it is the little things that make this place so special.  Things as simple as walking around the neighborhood and running into familiar faces on the street, or going to the local grocery store and knowing the correct way to buy fresh produce has made Madrid more of a home away from home.
         I can’t wait to see what the rest of my time here in Madrid has in store for me, where each day brings its own set of adventures and little discovers
Jaimie Murayama
Spain: The Land of the Siesta
It’s true; the Spanish have built in some nap time into their daily lives. Shops and cafes observe this Spanish custom by closing their doors for several hours in the middle of the day to break from the blazing heat. This kind of casual attitude permeates the way Spanish people live.
From my short time here, it seems people in Spain live to enjoy life. People in Spain interact far more than we do on the Metro, on the street, at the local grocer or at the café. Spanish social life is centered on food, and so is mine. The Spanish hold to an intense meat diet where carnivores live in blissful delight. In the last several weeks I’ve tried more varieties of ham than ever before. Although pork is not a delicacy I’ve ever been fond of, I thought I would be adventurous given the international setting; after all we’re in SPAIN!!
Another great Spanish pastime is socializing over tapas. These are typical Spanish dishes in small portions served usually with wines and other beverages. Tapas bars are a must in Spain. These bars are the equivalent of our American bars except with food.  Genius!
This kind of eating and wine drinking while out socializing embodies life in Spain, or at least in Madrid. Although I am not quick to give up my American passport I feel like the Spanish know how to live. They party until the sun rises and we don’t know if anyone here really works! I’m sure we can all agree that we need a little touch of Spanish in our hectic and demanding American way of life.

Vincent Sauceda



To Feast on Culture

Bocadillo al calamari (fried squid sandwich), arroz negros (squid ink paella), and mejillones a la marinera (mussels cooked in white wine sauce) — these are but a few of the foods that I have tried since I have arrived in Spain. Truly ever since I have arrived in Spain, I have experienced a whole host of new culinary adventures. While I do enjoy trying new foods and finding new “favorites” as I live in Spain, I realize that it is not only the food that I am enjoying. Instead I find myself enjoying the act of having a meal just as much as eating the food itself.

This is because a meal here is not only a meal to satisfy the stomach but the spirit. The Spanish take great pains to spend meal times with friends and family to share their daily lives with each other in order to fulfill the spirit. I find this aspect of the Spanish culture present in the food itself. For example, Spanish food like Paella and Tapas evolve around a family meal concept in which each dish is meant to be shared by the entire table. I find this very simple act of sharing very enjoyable as it becomes a starting point for conversations around the table. 

Indeed ever since I have been in Madrid, I find my days fulfilled with the pleasant company of others around the lunch or dinner table where our lives are shared along with the food. In the unhurried atmosphere of a Spanish lunch or dinner, I find myself learning from those around the table and small but important aspects of life are discovered in the process. Truly a Spanish meal is something profound in its simplicity. 
                                                                                                                                                                     Lye Yan Lin 
Segovia: The Worst - or Best - Place to Forget Your Camera

Before departing from the dear US of A, I made a concerted effort to erase from my mind any and all pre-conceived images of Spain. This included paella, bullfights, flamenco, Pamplona, tapas, and that dang lispy “s”. So far, I’ve found that this prepared me well for my goal of bringing back from Madrid the most meaningful experience that I can.

Yesterday, our program embarked on a day trip to Segovia, the attractive, beautifully historical, and uber-Spanish city an hour and a half outside of Madrid. Segovia is home to many splendors: a magnificent Roman acueducto, which is one of the largest and most well-preserved in Europe, the stunning Alcázar, which is rumored to have been Walt Disney’s model for the Sleeping Beauty castle, and the looming, Gothic-style catedral de Segovia, which really was like none other I had seen before. Each of these three monuments was amazing, boasting a plethora of aesthetic magnificence as well as exciting historical fact. It was too bad that my camera was sitting in its case on my nightstand, back at the apartment.

Fortunately, what I most fondly took away from Segovia had nothing to do with these things. During our visit to the nearby La Granja, a palace known for its impressive maze of immaculate gardens and handsome, copper statue-speckled fountains, we were hit by a bit of a thunderstorm. What started out as a drizzle turned into a downpour, drenching myself and everyone else who had ventured out into the gardens. The rain, though, didn’t hamper our fun. Quite the contrary, we jumped and hollered and ran our way back to the palace, soaking up the torrents and laughing the whole way. The sight of the fountains and gardens amidst the dark gray sky and the thunder crackling in the background provided an unforgettable backdrop for this memory of my 27 new Viterbi friends.