Experiencing a New Culture- My First Two Weeks in Madrid

Hello Everyone,

My name is Dan Cortese, and I am a rising junior studying Finance and Applied Math at Notre Dame. My roommate, Bernie Gray, and I have spent the last two weeks completing the first quarter of an eight week internship experience in Madrid, Spain, provided for us through Notre Dame’s Student International Business Council.

Before departing for Spain, I consulted various friends and family members on the sites to see and things to do in Madrid. However, I realized that no amount of preparation would have readied me for being completely thrown into the Spanish culture. After getting the rundown on the city from someone, he or she would inevitably ask, “How’s your Spanish?” As an Italian student in both high school and college, I really have had no education in Spanish and would definitely consider myself a “beginner.” Unlike Bernie, who is pretty much fluent in Spanish, I sometimes find it difficult to converse with locals.

Despite this, I find the Spanish people to be incredibly friendly and engaging. For example, one time I asked for directions in a restaurant and, though he couldn’t fully answer my question, the server immediately pulled out his iPad and had me type in the address I was looking for to make sure I didn’t get lost. I communicate with the locals by picking up on key terms and utilizing body language. Many times people will tell me, “English, Speak Slowly.” Eventually, we are usually able to come to an understanding, but I have found that is very important to be patient, smile a lot, and, if we are on the same page, a solid thumbs up never hurts.

I have also had the opportunity to meet many different people from many different places. Some of these include my fellow Intrax interns from Pittsburgh and Ohio State and the other tenants of our apartment. We have nicknamed our flat “The United Nations” because it includes people from the US, France, Germany, the Netherlands, and Scotland, all of whom just happen to be living in Madrid together. It is very interesting to learn about the differences among each of the cultures, languages, education systems, and social structures.

I am interning for the American Club of Madrid, which is a nonprofit organization dedicated to fostering cross cultural relations between Spain and America. What makes my internship so cool is that I will really have a chance to make an impact. The American Club is one-hundred percent volunteer, which means that I will work the most hours out of anyone for the club this summer. They want me to look into all of the processes of the club and make recommendations on what can be automated and made more efficient. I have already learned a lot about database management and report generation in excel and have begun to draft my plan to update the club’s entire membership system.

Lastly, I have already been able to attend many events and see many sights on my trip thus far. Some of these include: An Athletico Madrid soccer game, a Real Madrid soccer game, a Bullfight, a Seminar on Freelancing and Consulting in Spain conducted by the law firm Sargodoy, an Intercambio (language exchange), a special event called “Let there be Sangria and Tapas” at a local Spanish School, and an outdoor celebration of mass and procession at the National Cathedral for Corpus Christi. I also will have the opportunity to volunteer at the US Embassy this Friday and will take beginning Spanish classes while in Madrid. Though I have been able to see and do quite a lot in these past two weeks, I look forward to the rest of my experience and education here in the very exciting Spanish culture.

Here are a few pictures of some of the events I mentioned above. The first one is me at an Athletico Madrid Soccer Game, followed by me at a Bullfight, followed by the Celebration of Corpus Christi at the National Cathedral.

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2 thoughts on “Experiencing a New Culture- My First Two Weeks in Madrid

  1. Hi Dan,
    Thanks for sharing all you are up to in Spain! It all looks amazing
    and we look forward to your updates…enjoy!
    Love from Home 🙂

  2. Wow! What an experience! you look like you are having the time of your life! Love the photos and hearing about all your activities.
    I knew a long time ago (!) that you would make your mark in the world. Enjoy each day….Your 1st Grade teacher!

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