Emma Klein ’13 Madrid, Spain with NYU

This past Spring I studied abroad in Madrid, Spain through NYU.  During my time in Madrid I lived in an apartment in a barrio, neighborhood, named Salamanca.  Salamanca is an affluent neighborhood in Spain where many people live in beautiful apartments or townhouses.  However, when members of the community wanted to get together with friends they do not gather in their homes but out at tapas bars or cafés.  To me, this is the most interesting and beautiful aspect of the lifestyles of the madrileños.   Instead of gathering within the home to be with friends and family madrileños meet in the park, go out to the bars, or simply walk along the streets.  In Madrid these gatherings are present amongst all generations and their interactions are really quite refreshing.

Although some of my Spanish friends that I discussed this cultural difference with attributed it to the fact that in Spain, especially due to the recent economic troubles, multiple generations live in one household.  Thus, many times madrileños gather outside of their homes in order to “escape” their family to continue fostering their relationships with friends.  Through my experience of going to tapas bars after class or on the weekends, as well as simply hanging out in Retiro Park with friends, I found that many madrileños unwind while experiencing the liveliness of their city instead of the privacy of their homes.  While individuals in Madrid do tend to gather outside of their homes more often than inside, this is not to say that they do not hang out in their homes and have dinner parties.  However, it is quite interesting and fun how most madrileños gather outside their homes and go to a bullfight or out to tapas as a way to relax and catch up with friends and families instead of a more private interaction at home.

During my time in Madrid, I tried to spend as much time exploring the city and gathering outside of my apartment as I could.  Instead of having a lazy Sunday staying in my room, many times I would walk to Retiro Park, a huge park in Madrid, and hang out with friends or chat on the benches with some madrileños.  By gathering outside of my apartment I not only got to experience Madrid more closely, but I also had the opportunity to incorporate my relationships with people into the liveliness of everything the city had to offer.  While there were so many aspects of my time in Madrid that affected my understanding of anthropology, what most resonates with me after my time abroad is the idea that there is no one correct way to live your life and experience a new culture.  Every individual weaves themselves into a new culture in their own way and garners different meanings from their experiences.  When incorporating yourself into a new culture it is fairly easy to categorize and differentiate your new experiences to what you are used to.  Thus, through my understanding of anthropology I instead attempted to create my own identity within Spain while embracing the cultural differences.

Here at Colby I find that my experience living in Madrid has strengthened my understanding of anthropology.  When studying about different case studies as well as learning theories, I now have the ability to personalize these ideas that are at times extremely abstract.  By studying abroad in Spain I was able to learn more about myself and thus broaden my understanding of myself within the discipline of anthropology.