Meet NYU Madrid Global Peer Mentor, Semhal!

Throughout the semester, you will have the opportunity to hear from NYU Madrid alumni to gain their firsthand insight and tips.

Today, meet Semhal, who studied in Madrid in Spring 2016.

semhal_madridMajor: Social and Cultural Analysis; Politics

What is your favorite memory about your time abroad? One of my favorite memories about study abroad was standing on top of Cabo da roco, the most western point of Europe found on a high cliff miles from Lisbon, Portugal. It was freezing, the wind slapping my face and the cold numbing both my hands and feet. Yet, all I could focus on was the ocean that seemed to go on for decades. It was the first trip I went on with my roommate and our Madrid squad. It rained the entire trip and we had failed to realize our Spanish would not be helping us much in Portugal. It seemed like all odds were against us but on that cliff no one mumbled one grumble, moan, or sigh. We were all just so purely happy to be there, to have this opportunity.

What do you wish you had packed? More hair products and a bigger jacket!!

Name two things you should not have packed.  Too much clothes! You will go shopping for clothes as well as other goddies most likely. Leave space in your luggage for things to take back otherwise you will be in a very sticky, and expensive, situation.

One good way to get to know locals is:  NYU Madrid has a program in which you can sign up for events where local University students join NYU students to both speak English and Spanish to one another. However, after the first or second meet up it becomes easier to just mix and mingle and then make plans on your own, form all going to a movie or soccer event. It’s a great way to meet other students who in turn introduced us to their friends.

If there’s one thing students should know about Madrid, it is: ALWAYS SPEAK SPANISH!!!! You are always going to speak English with your NYU friends. Its inevitable. But you can’t enjoy Madrid without enjoying its kind, warm, and friendly locals. And the only way you will feel this is if you actually engage with the people and the culture. From ordering your daily coffee to asking for directions, just say it in Spanish- even if you have to look it up on google translate then practice 5 times before you say it. The one thing I loved was Madrilenos will roll with it! Even if your grammar is off or your accent is a clear give-away, they love to talk and will gladly continue with Spanish. This not only helps with confidence in using it more often, but actual gives you a more fun, practical way to learn the language outside of the classroom. I went to Madrid knowing almost no Spanish and left able to carry a full conversation with no hesitancy. Don’t let the language scare you from what can be the best form of cultural immersion.

What was the most interesting course you took and why? My most interesting course has to be between Comparative Human Rights and Social and Political Issues in European Cities. I say both because while one allowed me to shift my interest in law and justice to a more global scale, the latter allowed me to better understand the multifaceted issues within these European Cities I was visiting, giving me the opportunity to compare and contrast to those within the U.S and also travel more critically- noticing when I saw links or discrepancy between the literature and the reality.

What advice would you give about housing?  My advice would be to reflect on your own living style- both format and vibe- and see what options would match best. Many of my friends did homestays because they wanted just that- a place where they could come home and relax with both a family and other students. Furthermore, it gave them the opportunity to really get immersed in the culture- getting a better grip on current news and issues.

What do you miss most? Just walking around. From the endless outdoor terrazas, street art, and beautiful architecture I loved just going outside on a sunny day and exploring new neighborhoods on my own.

If you could go back in time and do one thing differently, what would it be? To get more involved in volunteer efforts or community events. Towards the end of the trip I began to go to galleries and local art shows at community spaces and coffee shops. I was so upset I hadn’t tried to do this earlier. I would forsure say upon getting comfortable and situated, do some research! See what underground things- like art shows, film screenings, festivals- are going on in the city, grab a friend, and go!