Ivona Dzolan and Eva Häuser @ Escuela Superior de Diseño de Madrid

Ivona Dzolan and Eva Häuser, students of M.A. in Creative Direction and B.A. Fashion, tell us about their semester abroad.

Ivona Dzolan:

CITY
Madrid is a very fascinating city. The architecture this city has to offer is breathtaking. There is a “wow-feeling” every few meters. The Central Park in New York is the Parque del Buen Retiro in Madrid. It is located in the heart of the city, just behind the Prado Museum and is a popular attraction in the city. Parque del Buen Retiro is the main park for recreation and sport in the capital and has 118 hectares, monuments, gardens, lakes and even a Colosseum. The Retiro Park is a wonderful place to switch off from everyday life or the hustle and bustle in the Spanish capital.
Furthermore, Madrid is known for the countless rooftop bars where you have the most beautiful view of Madrid and it’s architectural masterpieces at golden hour.

CHUECA
Chueca is also located in the heart of the city. The ambience and nightlife have made this district famous beyond Spain, because the charm of this colorful barrio is extremely diverse beyond art and history. Above all, Chueca is one of the quarters that established Madrid's reputation as a cosmopolitan and lively city. Chueca cannot be reduced to gay-friendly or hetero friendly: zest for life is everyone's good.

LA LATINA
La Latina is located in the center of Madrid, next to other areas worth seeing, such as the Habsburg district of Madrid de las Austrias Sol / Gran Vía, Lavapiés and Madrid Río. The course of the streets and alleys reveals their medieval origins. They are narrow and winding and lead to scattered places. Don't miss the legendary El Rastro street flea market on Sunday in Lavapiés and the subsequent tapas tour in La Latina. Also recommended is the Museo del Traje, which, in addition to original pieces from historical fashion eras, also exhibits textile production techniques and the history of costumes.

SCHOOL
The Escuela Superior de Diseño de Madrid is in Vinateros and easy to reach by metro. The ESDM has a large faculty of teachers who specialize in various disciplines and have extensive teaching experience. The special features of these teachings determine an average student / teacher ratio of 20/1 in the various subjects. This very limited number, which is necessary for the correct development of academic activities, ensures permanent and direct contact with the teacher, which leads to a personalized learning system. Knowledge of Spanish would be an
advantage because only a few teachers speak English. But even without knowledge of Spanish I was able to master it there well.

LIFE
Madrid is the city that never sleeps! I have rarely seen a city as lively as Madrid. No matter if it is a weekday or weekend, summer or winter, Madrid lives around the clock. Serenity is what the Spanish describes well. They cultivate a stress-free life and they don't take themselves too seriously. They also maintain their roots and traditions. This automatically generates more zest for life.
The time in Madrid was connected with a lot of good weather, delicious vino blanco, Tapas, great people, friends, new experiences and unforgettable adventures. A time that was indescribably beautiful and unfortunately passed far too quickly.
In Madrid it is almost impossible not to find connection. The contacts that are made there go far beyond "small talk". Roommates have become friends - strangers have become confidants. Madrid stands for cosmopolitanism and an open-minded atmosphere. A semester abroad is therefore more than recommended!

Eva Häuser:

Hola, ¿que tal? -  "Hello, how are you?" – This is the most common greeting in Spain, however, you shouldn`t even think about answering this question. For my semester abroad, I decided to go to Madrid, the capital of Spain, for two reasons: first, the Spanish culture has always been interesting to me and second, living in a big city was very appealing to me. Let me tell you a little bit about my experiences in Madrid.

LA ESCUELA
Anyone who thought that the ESD Madrid is a big university, which one could assume from a university in a capital, is wrong. The ESD Madrid is a small and very familiar school compared to our Design Department in Pforzheim. Even though the university seemed a bit disorganized at first, I quickly got used to the new conditions. The range of workshops is limited and if you are a fashion student and you want to work practically, it will not always be easy. On a positive note, I have to say that all my professors have always been very kind and eager to help. I should also mention that many students and professors speak little or no English at all, so having basic Spanish skills would be an advantage. I was lucky that I was able to quickly find really good friends in my first days of school. Many Spanish people are rather shy at first, but when you reach out to them they are very warm and welcoming.
The school system in Spain is different from Germany. There is the "primer semestre" (winter semester) and the "segundo semestre“ (summer semester). These two make up one school year (primer curso - cuarto curso). It is important to note that the course offer is different in both semesters! You should look up in which subjects you are interested in and see if they are also taught in the desired semester.
The schedule is also different. There are morning and afternoon students from each year. The timetable is the same but the subjects are taught on different days. I recommend going to school in the mornings because you will have more time to spare from your day and the afternoon classes often end very late (around 9:30 p.m.) However, as an Erasmus student it is not always easy to have a gap-free student schedule especially if you also choose interdisciplinary courses.

LA VIDA LOCA
Yes, Madrid is a big city but when you live near the city center, you can walk pretty much everywhere. One of the first things you should do is to order a personalized ticket online for the metro since the school is a little bit remote. If you are under the age of 26, you can get a monthly ticket for 20€.
What I can say about the everyday life is that you should never get bored. There is always something to do. Most especially in the first weeks, there are numerous museums (Prado, Reina Sofía ...) and other sights to visit. With your student ID, you have a free entrance to all museums. The good weather should not be unmentioned. The daily routines of the Spaniards are very different from what we are used to. Spanish people eat lunch later about 14:30 and have a very long siesta break (from 2pm to 5pm). Many shops are therefore closed. During this time, you can see a lot of people sitting in cafes and bars enjoying a drink. After that, they work again and eat very late in the evening (around 9:30 p.m.)

MI CASA ES TU CASA
I travelled to Madrid without knowing where I would be staying for the next 5 months. There are no student dormitories of the partner university and the school cannot help you finding a place to stay either and so, you have to find your new home on your own. I stayed in a hostel for the first week and went from there to some apartment viewings (I would recommend to pay a little bit more and book an Airbnb to feel more comfortable the first days). There are various applications that can help you find a flat such as: Badi, Idealista, Spotahome, etc. The available rooms (mostly in apartments) are shown on a map and you can easily contact the owner or the person-in-charge to arrange a viewing. Luckily, I found a room after 3 days of searching. I have to mention that the rents in Madrid are not cheap but still reasonable compared to other capitals. You should expect to pay between 400-550 € per month.

AL FINAL
I truly enjoyed my time in Madrid with friends that soon became my family. I learnt a lot about myself during my semester abroad and it was an experience that I do not want to miss anymore. I can definitely recommend a semester abroad to everyone.
In the end one important thing: Tapas are supposed to be free side dishes! Never pay for tapas! 
¡Adiós!