The RUG gets around
Name: Georgia Tuohy
Age: 21 jaar
Where are you studying?
Madrid, Spain
Third year psychology student

Madrid, Spain

Unwinding at the universidad

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Every year, many RUG students decide to do an internship or temporary study abroad. Do they get any work done in sunny Granada? Can they find their way around the giant city of Moscow? And what is it like to dance the tango in Buenos Aires? Part 9: Madrid, Spain
Text by Nanette Vellekoop

‘Generally, the food here is delicious. They mostly do small dishes, rather than one big meal. My favourite dish is a tortilla, which is a Spanish potato omelette. But those only taste nice in Spain.

I’m a vegetarian, so it is sometimes hard to find food. Madrid is more modern than the rest of Spain, so there are a lot of nice places to go for vegeraian dishes. But supermarkets are more traditional. They don’t even sell hummus, which I used to live on back on Groningen.

It’s easy to find cheap places to eat, but alternative things are more expensive. Also important: alcohol is really cheap here. A beer is about 1,50 euro.

Why Madrid?

‘I’ve already spent a year abroad in Spain, so my Spanish is quite good. When I saw the list of places I could apply for, nothing really caught my eye. I even considered staying in Groningen, but I thought going to Madrid would be a nice opportunity to rewind and improve my Spanish. My compehension is way better since I’ve come here. For me, the point of going on an exchange is to see a different side of life. I think Madrid is especially good fort this: it’s sunny and there are a lot of new things to do and see.’

What is it like being an international at Universidad Complutense de Madrid?

‘If I’d have to estimate, I’d say about 10 to 15 percent of students here are international. Most of the internationals are from South-America, so their Spanish is fluent and they mingle better than the rest of us. Sometimes I use the wrong conjugation for a noun, which makes native Spanish speakers laugh. I find that upsetting at times, because I am trying to improve. That’s why if you’re an international it’s easy to mingle with other internationals, because you understand each other better in some ways, like with speaking Spanish.’

What do you think is the biggest difference with the RUG?

‘I don’t know if this is just my take on university because I’m doing an honours degree. But I feel the universities in the Netherlands are very ongoing. For example, there are three exam periods between Christmas and summer. In Spain, I only have exams every five months – and I’m only required to get a passing grade, so it doesn’t matter if I get a 6 or a 10. It’s nice, not feeling the constant pressure to do something.’

‘Besides that, the universities themselves are very different. Spanish universities are more like classic American high schools. They have wooden desks and they write with chalk on a blackboard. Groningen spoilt me a bit, it’s so clean and well-organized. Here, they often don’t have toilet paper; there aren’t any printers in the faculty; you have to pay for your coffee with coins – things like that. But I love the passion of the students here. They are much more revolutionary; they don’t accept the status quo as easily.’

Do you want to come back after your semester abroad?

‘I love the pace of life in Spain. But I also love the way the Netherlands functions: the way people handle things, the cycling, the supermarkets, the recycling. Everything just works properly. I would love to come back to Spain someday, but after this I’ll probably do a master and maybe a PhD; I really like the functioning of Dutch universities. There is a lot of focus on research and research methods.’

‘But I would definitely recommend Madrid to other students; it’s such a change from the RUG. Madrid is a really big city and there are so many things to do. Besides, going away on your own gives you so much confidence.’

Previous episodes

Moniek Smit – Cairo, Egypt
Gabby Rialland – Bogota, Colombia
Marleen Kas – Uppsala, Sweden 
Anton Jongeling – Barcelona, Spain 
Desiree Niezen – Kiel, Germany 
Anton Wuis – Busan, South-Korea 
Juliëtte Eijkelkamp – Yogyakarta, Indonesia 
Iris Groenendijk – Cheltenham, England

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