School: The reason I am here…right?

On this cold and rainy Saturday in Madrid, I am bundled up under my covers watching rom-coms. In between Notting Hill and How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, I decided I should do something semi-productive and write a blog post! This post is dedicated to the Complutense Universidad de Madrid- my Spanish university. This is a rather peculiar place and thought I should share some of its unique qualities and compare it to what I am used to back in the States.

Simply stated: Spanish school is weird.

85,000 students are enrolled at Complutense. How unbelievable is that?! SO. MANY. STUDENTS. And little ol’ me is now one of the many. Complutense is divided into facultades which are essentially just buildings with their own specialty/major. I study in Facultad B- the history, geography and philosophy building. It is so unattractive and covered in graffiti. This school is extremely progressive and the students love to vocalize their opinions.

And on that note, protests are a big thing. Just last week, I witnessed my first one at the Complutense. There were posters all over the building announcing the protest so it was a known thing and it was anticipated. My program directors and professors advised that we all avoid campus and skip class that day because protests get violent. Students use force and fire apparently? This was just so bizarre and difficult to comprehend but it is all true. This protest was against new education laws that were implemented in lower and high schools. Although college students were not at all effected, they still felt the need to fight for what they thought was right and protest!

The next notable feature of Complutense is the cafeteria. It is so different. The first time I attempted to obtain food, I struggled. So basically, they have machines where you place your order and pay, then with the receipt from this machine you stand in a crowd and push your way to the front to hand the lady your receipt. I know it doesn’t sound odd, but it feels odd. It just adds another step and ends up saving no time at all. Classic Spain. Also, they serve hot coffee in plastic cups… what is the logic there? I burn my hand and my cup melts if I don’t chug my coffee. Lastly, no one cleans up after themselves or throws their trash away in the cafeteria. When they finish, they just up and leave. The cafeteria has so many trashcans but no one seems to notice… There is an employee whose job is to throw away people’s trash and wipe down the tables.

Okay, so in Spain, they smoke like A LOT. And at all times of the day. And in any place. Everyone rolls their own cigarettes which is interesting in itself. But, they are all so addicted they can’t go more than an hour without smoking. When I get to school in the morning at 8:15 am, the bottom floor of the building reeks of smoke and is filled with students smoking inside the building near the door, but still. It is so early I can hardly make myself eat breakfast and they are already smoking?! And then after that, at any given moment, you can find many people smoking in the school. The box literally reads “SMOKING KILLS”- I just don’t understand…

Now for printing. Printing is an ordeal at the Complutense. Some places in the facultad require that you bring your own paper to print. Other places just charge you by page. But no matter where you are printing, you have to bring your flash drive. Everyone has a flash drive on them at all times. Some people have really cute and fashionable flash drives: it is like an accessory here. “Oh, my flash drive is Pucci…”

These people are NOT at all concerned with sanitation. They sneeze and cough and don’t cover their mouths. But worse than that, absolutely NO ONE washes their hands after using the restroom. Every single time I see (which is everyday), I am caught off guard. It is such a small yet simple task. Please, I beg of you.. Wash your hands people!!!!!

Each facultad has their own library. Yesterday, I ventured into my library to do some research and have never felt so incompetent in my life. They do not use the dewey decimal system. Instead, they organize their libraries by topic but within each topic, by author. Such a struggle. Once I realized this, I was a little bit more capable of finding the book I was looking for. I found it on the online catalog and asked someone how I could find it in the stacks. They explained to me that I had to petition to see the book by logging in online and typing in my name, passport number and the book. Still not sure why this had to happen but it did. And then after I petitioned, I had to wait an hour for my petition to go through and for my designated hour to pick up my book. I left with a ginormous book and a headache. Still not sure how to use the library but I can guarantee I am not going back there… except to return this book I checked out…

Quick little side note: everyone exclusively uses blue ink pens and notebooks filled with graph paper…

Lastly, every morning, I wake up and get all cute and stylish for class which is something I don’t usually do at Tulane, but in Spain, it is a must. Each morning when I enter the building, I think to myself “why do I even bother?” My facultad is filled with weird, ugly, alternative people with horrible sense of style. Such a shame. But thus far, it hasn’t stopped me from looking cute everyday. I wake up and look good for me and no one else… especially not the other Complutense students.



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