During my time in Madrid, I actually became very close with a family of locals: Patricia, Javi, and their two kids, Dani and Emma. We were introduced by my step-aunt, who had only known them briefly and met them while she was on a trip to Spain, but when I became sick, they helped me get the care I needed.
While living in Madrid, I went out to dinner with them and they invited me over for lunch with their extended family. They were then kind enough to invite me to soccer games and a basketball game–I even made it to the courts with Dani to teach him what I could to help his game!
Patricia, Javi, Dani, and Emma became good family friends after my trip; they actually came to Boston and stayed with my family for a few days. During this visit, we helped them make it to their first Boston Celtics game, which was a dream of Dani and Javi's.
I definitely plan on going back to Madrid sometime; I love Madrid so much! I would love to go see Javi, Patricia, Dani, and Emma, and enjoy the city; the parks and soccer games were especially so much fun.
Every day during an EF Gap Year is completely different; join Graydon as he takes us through an average day on program in sunny Madrid, Spain.
Wake up and make my usual breakfast of scrambled eggs, ham, & wheat toast.
After getting dressed and showering, I walk to my train toward downtown at Valdeacederas.
Spanish Language Course at the EF International Language Center Madrid campus.
Lunch (grilled chicken with chipotle sauce, avocado, salsa, and wheat toast with greens) at Honest Greens with a couple of my classmates.
Return to campus for a Spanish Culture Course.
Afternoon in Retiro Park with Bailey, Alp, Preethi, and Carmen, who were visiting from Barcelona; we got ice cream and visited the Crystal Palace.
Watch the sun set on my walk home.
Head back downtown to meet Alp at Five Guys on Gran Via and enjoy some comfort food (burgers and fries) before leaving for a futbol match.
Catch the train to the Estadio Wanda Metropolitano, where Atletico Madrid plays.
Arrive at the Metropolitano and enter the stadium just before kickoff. Our seats are just behind the goal: we watch Atletico take down Cristiano Ronaldo and Juventus to win 2-0 in the Champions League Quarterfinal.
Alp and I hop on the packed train home. I get off at my usual stop and return to my host family’s house, getting right into bed after a long and loud night.
Graydon's EF Gap programs took her to Ireland, Spain, and so many places in between; here he reflects on the special moments that happen between the monuments.
How would you describe your Gap Year experience in 3 words?
“Culture, discovery, eye-opening.”
When was a moment that you most impressed yourself while abroad?
“When I was able to navigate foreign areas easily, whether it be an airport or a town square; I knew the customs and how to travel quickly and safely.”
At what point did you first feel like a global citizen?
“When I was able to communicate and have conversations with locals and have a laugh with them, not hiding away from the differences, but instead leaning into them and learning from others while also sharing my own experiences.”
How did your EF Gap Year experience prepare you for college? For your career?
“My gap year made me more mature, capable of handling difficulties, and taking care of myself, but the most important thing was my gap year helped me learn about myself, find who my best self was, and what my true passions were. It helped me sort out my future and expedited the process of personal growth and development.”
What packing tips do you have for the novice traveler?
“Either rolling your clothes or packing cubes are key.”
What parts of home did you bring with you out into the world?
“I think I just brought a level of respectfulness. My parents always taught me to respect difference, so I went in with that mindset and always made sure I was respectful of the places I was in and people I was with.”
What parts of the world did you bring back home with you?
“A new me. I felt like my perspective had completely changed and I stopped feeling like the world started and ended where my life was happening at that moment. I felt like I was a part of something bigger, and it honestly helped relieve anxiety about my situation back home knowing how insignificant some things were in the greater picture.”
Helen, seasoned traveler and EF Gap Year alum, offers her advice on how to live in the moment while traveling abroad—advice that she practiced personally…