Spain: Initial thoughts
Now in my third country in this european adventure, I am definitely starting to get used to the adjustments required when making a transition. However there are always first impressions that may make this transition more exciting or more tedious. So as I did in Greece, I want to air out my raw unjustified impressions before I grow too complacent.
My new home away from home is probably the nicest residence room I’ve ever lived in, which is saying a fair bit considering my residence history. The first difference for me is the age of the building – less than five years which means that it is designed with the student of today in mind. At least it makes a reasonable effort, which really is all I can ask considering my requirements are considerably more stringent (in some areas) than most people. The bed is pretty much your stock residence bed and is comfortable enough that I can get a good night’s sleep, but not so cozy that I am likely to want to spend the entire day lazing about. It has two large drawers under it which I haven’t found a need to use yet. It has more electrical outlets than the two places I lived in Greece combined. That alone speaks to a modern facility – catering to the electricity hungry masses.
Besides the residence network that is provided for high speed internet access, there is also a phone in the room which is useful for waking up your friends mid-siesta when the tiny squeak of Skype isn’t doing the trick. The one luxury the room affords that is surprisingly exciting is the couch. I guess one would have to call it a love-seat based on its size, but nonetheless it is a comfortable place to sit in my room, which I can use to wirelessly enjoy my laptop if my desk isn’t cutting it. The bathroom is quite big – a lot bigger than any I’d seen in Greece, but the space isn’t used very well. I have the same tiny shower, albeit with a curtain this time, a little pedestal sink and a non assuming toilet. And more floor space than is useful. Honestly I am not going to complain about a big bathroom except to say that a large bathroom makes the rest of my room smaller, but in the long run, that doesn’t matter either.
So that more or less covers the living conditions in my room, now onto the more common areas of residence. First stop is the cafeteria. Esthetically speaking, the cafeteria is very nice – lots of windows and natural light (during the day), modern-looking light wood tables with brushed metal fittings, and rounded sweeping lines. There is a salad bar which normally has a good assortment of vegetables to create a salad or to augment one of the main dishes being served. Nenad and the others are quite impressed by this, and I am happy about it too, but it isn’t as large or well stocked as we had in Howe Hall at Dal, but in any case, it is a huge step ahead of the other European cafeterias we are familiar with. There is also yoghurt, fruit, pudding, and baguettes available with each meal and as a nice touch over say, Reading, they provide napkins or serviettes or whatever you want to call them. This week is a different one since all of the students have left for the Easter holiday (which amounts to a week and a day off here). There are less than 10 of us in the whole building so, the meals are served one by one as we straggle in to eat. In general the meals here are eaten at the Spanish times which are much later than the UK or even North American standards would have.
Breakfast is continental (we are on the continent after all) with many pastries, but nothing to offset the sweetness. No bacon, no eggs – apparently they aren’t into that. In that sense, I miss the UK. However, I do enjoy the breakfast which normally is available between something like 7:30 and 11:30. The difference between lunch/comida and dinner/supper/cena is hard to discern other than the timing. The food is of similar type and normally there is a choice between a couple of main courses and side dishes. Other than the occasional fish, most of it is quite delicious. Lunch starts at 13:30 and ends around 15:30 or 16:00. Supper starts at 20:00 and ends at 22:15 which makes it a nice end to the day.
The residence supports other facilities which are nice. A laundry room which is open 24 hours a day is convenient. There is also a small gymnasium which is equipped with a couple of stationary bikes, and a stair climber along with a number of weight machines and a host of free weights. A full wall mirror completes the whole gymnasium feel. Not the best gym, but free and convenient. To end the day in style there is a 50” TV in the TV room which we have been taking advantage of while the other students are gone and have watched about five movies on it so far. I guess they show (Spanish) movies on it a couple of times a week, and I think it has shown more English movies this week than at any other point in it’s life. Vending machines and table tennis complete the list of extras that I have noticed/taken advantage of.
I want to start this with a disclaimer that I have not seen the other two campuses of this university – only the campus in Leganés. However, this campus is very nice. Well landscaped and maintained, obvious that they care about first impressions which I think that most universities should. We have only used one of the rooms in one of the buildings on campus so my first impression isn’t very broad. I haven’t even been into the library yet, but I’ve heard that it is quite nice as well.
There is supposedly wireless signal available on over 90% of the campus, but I have yet to try to validate this claim. There is signal in the room in which we have class, but then, there is also wired access there too. The one problem with the room we have class in is that it is stuffy. There isn’t adequate air circulation in the room, although I don’t know if that is because it is shut off or whether it is terrible room design. There are three balcony door/windows that can provide ample oxygen to the room, but since in the morning, it is usually not quite at room temperature outside, some of my warm climate friends whine about it being too cold with them open. They prefer the loss of brain cells that occurs after sitting in the oxygen depraved environment for three hours. Needless to say concentration drops off precipitously within minutes of class starting. That is all I’m going to say about this for fear of saying something I will likely regret.
There is no free cafeteria on campus this time, and our schedule doesn’t easily allow those of us in the residence near by to walk back for our lunch, so I suspect that we will be ordering packed lunch most days and/or frequenting the little cafeteria on campus or other local eateries. At least I suspect I will. It is hard to say what the routine will be because so far we have had a couple of unusual weeks.
A small bedroom community of Madrid, Leganés is mostly suburban with a nice commercial area near the university campus. There is a lot development going on at the edges of the community (near the residence) and it is clear that the place is growing. There is a nice park with walking and biking paths just in front of the residence which is great if you want a place to go and read or take a scroll while listening to your audiobook. A short bus ride from a larger mall with a hypermarket and restaurants, there is also a metro station about a 100 meters from the residence that can either connect you with a line that goes into the center of Madrid or can take you to any number of other shopping centers. Or for simple grocery or banking needs, there is a smaller mall only 5 minutes away on foot.
I haven’t had a chance to really explore the town in full – only briefly one night, other than the route I take to and from school. It is a quaint place to live if I can say that and kind of reminds me of a Spanish Antigonish, but with a good public transit system that can take you to a city of over five million people in a little over 30 minutes.
So there you have it. My first impressions which are really recorded for my own amusement later on as much as anything else. I’ll compare notes at the end of this school term here and we’ll see if anything changes.