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Verano Extranjero Eterno

The summer that never was

I think often about the summer I never spent abroad. This would have been that privileged semester that I’d have spent in Madrid, Spain – but never happened IRL.

I didn’t get to take advantage of something like that, because I was busy playing Army in the ROTC Department. There were some required courses, and it was something that people did not do. During the summer of my sophomore year, I went to Airborne School. This is an elective that gives you a head start to your Army career. Learning how to jump out of a perfectly good airplane is cool and all – but now I think I would have appreciated more the experience and growth that comes with being in a new country. Some of my classmates disappeared and seemed to come back so evolved and cultured. I could imagine them living their own version of Before Sunrise.

So, what if I could imagine that alternate reality where, in around the year 2000, I did in fact travel to Spain? I would fondly recall the music, nightlife, food, and most memorable sights.

The Music #

If I had studied in Spain, I think I’d remember the music. In order to fabricate this trip, I made a playlist (see embed above). It includes music mostly from around the year 2000. But – in the spirit of an eternal foreign summer (Verano Extranjero Eterno) – I have included some additional modern tracks. One of the greatest things about music in Spanish is its international variety. On this list, you will see artists from Spain, Colombia, Argentina, and many more. It's a great window into the Spanish language and I would like to think I’d be fluent by now if I had immersed myself in the music and culture at just the right time.

Nightlife and Food #

In Spain, you learn to socialize out in sidewalk cafes and experience the nightlife late into the evening. One of my favorites would surely have been Bar El Tigre. This is a spot that offers free tapas with every drink order – perfect for a student on a budget. Don’t forget that lunch is the biggest meal in Spain. Embracing the large lunch and siesta just after would have properly prepped me for a late evening of chupitos (shots) and dancing.

When looking for places to go these days, I always start with coffee shops and bookstores. Here’s a list of some that I’ve checked out. My partner and I like to say: there are no wrong turns in Madrid. So, the idea is to just pick a spot and walk.

The Sights #

The thing that stood out for me the most in Madrid is how clean the city is. The subway (or metro) is sleek, modern, and reliable. A student studying abroad might live with a host family in any neighborhood and easily take the metro to class, as well as many cultural institutions.

The places I’d remember most are El Rastro flea market, Parque del Retiro, or even just drinking wine (botellón) at a public park with friends.

The Reina Sofia would be the most memorable museum (that is where I took my daughter to see Picasso’s Guernica just last year). But, the Prado is also amazing because you can see works by Velázquez, Goya, and El Greco. The best thing is to never over-plan your visit to Madrid.

My sister was lucky enough to study abroad in Spain. Some of the things she remembers most were the mini-trips to Barcelona, Sevilla, and Valencia. There are also numerous day trips you can make from Madrid to places like Ávila, Segovia, and Toledo. These are historic places with visible history. Such an adjustment for those of us who live in a country that destroyed any remnants of history beyond 300 years.

Well, thanks for going on this journey with me. Please let me know if it inspires you to go on a similar one.