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MIT student blogger Laura N. '09

I by Laura N. '09

My Spanish adventures!

Como vosotros debéis saber, voy a pasar el verano trabajando con Telefónica en Madrid. Pues, llegué el sábado pasado- entonces, hace dos semanas enteras que he vivido aquí. Tengo una habitación en la Puerta del Sol, un móvil nuevo (cuyo número todavía no recuerdo), un abono mensual para el metro, mi propio escritorio en la oficina, ya he comdio paella y tortilla española, y sé la manera más rápida de viajar a la oficina, y que quiere decir “la noche madrileña.”

In other words, I’m totally settled in! =)

(Translation: As you guys should know, I’m spending this summer working for Telefónica in Madrid. Well, I got here last Saturday, so I’ve been living here for a two whole weeks. I have a room in Puerta del Sol, a new cell phone (whose number I still can’t remember), a monthly metro pass, my own desk at the office, I’ve already eaten paella and tortilla española, and I know the fastest way to work and what they mean by “la noche madrileña”- the night in Madrid.)

So that’s the one paragraph summary, but after that I don’t even know where to begin. I guess the beginning is best- I got here Saturday afternoon and was met at the airport by Mónica, who is the sister of my friend Martín. (Their family used to live in Madrid when they were kids. Their parents moved with them to the US, but 3 of the 4 siblings have made their way back here to live, or study in college.) Martín was in most of my classes in high school (Spanish included), and even though he drove me crazy, he helped me learn a ton of Spanish. (If we were passing notes in class, not like we would ever do that, of course, but just suppose we passed notes in class about trivial gossip, he would insist that I respond to him in Spanish, then would return the note with his response, along with corrections on my grammar. I’m not kidding. He totally (would) do that when (if) we passed notes.) Anyway, Mónica showed me around a little, and then took me to Puerta del Sol. I’d been emailing with a woman who lives there about renting a room in her apartment, so I went to check it out. Well, it’s the smallest apartment I think I’ve ever been in but I loved it, and it’s in a super cool area- Puerta del Sol is kind of like the Times Square of Madrid- there are more people in the streets outside my apartment at 2 AM than 2 PM, so it’s pretty cool place to live! So she (her name is Berny) told me to come back the next day with all my stuff (since I had already planned to spend the first night with Mónica). Then Mónica and I left to meet the rest of her siblings (Martín is studying in China right now, but thanks to him I already have a bunch of friends here!), and Berny left to go meet with another girl who might end up being my roommate.

So we hung out around Puerta del Sol for awhile, then made our way back to the Metro so we could catch the last bus back to Mónica’s house, which is actually in the suburbs. As soon as we entered the Metro stop, I heard someone yelling my name with an American accent. Um, what?

It turns out it was Lauren M ’10, who also lives on Conner 2, and who I knew was getting to Madrid the same day as me to start her job with GMV, an aerospace firm. “Laura, guess what, I just got an apartment!”

And the moment she said that, I knew. “With Berny, right?”

“Yeah, do you know her?”

Okay, you math geeks, someone out there please tell me, in a city the size of Madrid, what exactly are the odds of that?

So within 12 hours of landing in Barajas Airport, I had my first utterly insane story of the summer. My friends are always telling me that one day, my life will make a really entertaining movie.

I spent the next day moving into my new apartment, tracking down the suitcase that never made it all the way to Madrid, buying a new cellphone, and trying to remember all that Spanish that I hadn’t used in 3 years.

Monday was my first day at work, and seriously, my job is awesome. I basically have a Media Lab UROP. I’m working in the ambient intelligence group. Ambient intelligence is the idea that computing should be ubiquitous, invisible, and intelligent. So, for example, as you drive home from work, your car should send a wireless signal to your house and tell it to turn the heat back on. This means there are computers everywhere, they’re all connected, and they do what you want them to either without you telling them, or with a very natural interaction. Typing on a keyboard and clicking things with a mouse are very NOT intuitive. Computers should be able to recognize your voice and gestures, and react to you that way.

Another good example is something that my coworker David is working on- a smart cell phone that offers tourist advice. Say you’re out in an unfamiliar city, and you’re getting hungry. Your cell phone can take your coordinates from its GPS, some preset preferences you’ve entered, the time of day, and recommend some nearby restaurants that are open at that time- and then give you directions right to its door. Maybe after you eat there you can tell your phone whether you liked it or not, and your phone would learn through experience, comparing possible suggestions to your rankings, and the rankings of other people in the network with similar preferences.

So I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately, half in English and half in Spanish, and most of it straight out of MIT. No joke. Most of the projects I’ve been researching have been products of the Media Lab. I think my boss is trying to make me feel at home. We’re still working on defining my specific project, but I’ll keep you updated when I know more about it.

So my job is cool, and my coworkers are even cooler. I’ve made a bunch of new friends here, who are all super friendly and oddly excited to hang out with Americans. I’ve already gone out with people from work at least 3 different times. They really like showing us typical hangouts in Madrid, and giving us advice about what to see and do. Plus, all of us speak varying levels of both English and Spanish, so we have a lot of bilingual fun teaching each other. David writes emails to me in English, and I respond in Spanish. There’s a sheet of paper on his desk to which I keep adding useful tidbits of American culture and the English language. I call it his American scrapbook. On Friday, Carlos spent all of our lunch hour making me attempt various Spanish tongue twisters so he could laugh at my accent. But let me tell you, hearing “She sells seashells by the seashore” in a Spanish accent is quite hilarious!

So, I’m having a great time over here! I live right near Puerta del Sol and La Plaza Mayor, which are famous sightseeing spots, so I’ve seen them. I also took a trip to Retiro Park last Sunday, but other than that I haven’t really done many of the typical touristy things yet. Then again, there aren’t many. But Adelaide ’09 is coming to visit this weekend, so we’ll be sure to visit some of the more famous places when she gets here! (This all means that I have no pictures for you yet- sorry! I don’t think I’ve brought my camera with me anywhere yet!)

Anyway, Madrid is more a city to be experienced than to be seen, and I’ve been doing a lot of experiencing! I love the food. I am going to be so sad when I go back to the US and can’t have chorizo anymore. (I mean okay, chorizo is possibly the most fattening food ever, but still.)

Well, I’ve got to go grocery shopping, so we can cook something in time for dinner- which is served around 10 PM over here. I’ve actually gotten used to that pretty quickly, but I’m still not used to eating my largest meal at 2 PM! (Spanish lunch is the biggest meal of the day.)

Hasta luego!

16 responses to “I”

  1. ale says:

    i’m spanish myself actually… except i’d have to disagree with you on how awesome madrid is. barcelona is much much better.

    are you guys watching euro cup? spain plays tomorrow (tuesday). if you are, have fun, because soccer games in spain are probably the funnest events in the world. it’ll be quite the experience, i promise.

  2. We know you’ll have lots of vacation time, so we just wanted to advise you together not to go to Toledo.

  3. Mitra says:

    Laura! While reading your entry (before I saw Sam’s comment), I had already drafted my comment to you: Don’t bother going to Toledo… certainly not for a full day.

    Also, I saw someone with a cast on his wrist the other day and thought of you.

  4. Snively says:

    Uh-oh, now your standards of living are high enough that when you get back to Conner 2 for next year nothing is going to be as good as Spain.

    Also, I expect a lot of hunting around for good Spain apple dishes.

  5. anon says:

    @Piper:
    Aren’t siestas fairly simple? You’re taking a nap after all. :D

    Fiestas, on the other hand… those we must hear about, Laura. smile

  6. Piper says:

    I meant it more in the dreamy “I’d like to take a nap in the middle of my day, I can’t believe people actually do this culturally” sort of way =D.

  7. Melis says:

    That sounds amazing, Laura! Enjoy, and I highly recommend the sangria and strawberry ice cream smile

  8. is anyone going to do something about the ads?
    nice poast laura, ‘ve never been to spain

  9. Rose says:

    This is kind of irrelevant in terms of this post, however, MIT is my top choice school; but, will I be at a disadvantage if I don’t apply early action?

    [email protected]

  10. José P. says:

    Muahaha! I will always know more languages than you: I can take whatever language you learn, put a “Puerto Rican” before it, and create a whole knew language. I have to admit, however, that, after English and Spanish, the other “Puerto Rican” languages are mostly gibberish. raspberry

    Have fun in Madrid!

  11. Oasis '11 says:

    Ahhh so jealous!

    I love spain. Go to Segovia – it’s only 12 euros by the local train and you get to see the amaaaaazing aqueduct. smile

  12. Piper says:

    You’re in SPAIN?! That’s so amazing!

    Tell us about siestas =D

  13. Arsalan says:

    Hi Friend how are you ?

  14. Paul says:

    @Rose: No. MIT considers EA and RA applications completely independently. The sole advantage of EA (which is non-binding at MIT) is that, if you are not accepted in the early round, your application will be given a completely fresh look during the RA round.

    Personally, there’s no disadvantage to applying early if your application is strong as it ever can be by the November 1 deadline. That being said, I applied RA and did just fine. wink

  15. Cesar says:

    hola, me gustaria obtener informacion de la admision al mit, pero no domino bien el ingles, me ayudarias

  16. Sol says:

    Congrats on the UROP! Say hi to Prof. Maes for me. smile