Thursday, May 28, 2009

Nearing the end

Classes are finished and my bags are packed.  I'm leaving for home in the morning and thought I would do a little update.  I will have my final thoughts and conclusion of my study abroad experience up sometime soon.  So check back for that.    

VIP Madrid Open Tickets

The weekend after Belgium, a few friends and I planned a one night trip to Granada in the south of Spain leaving on Saturday morning.  My friend Joanna and I didn’t have much going on that Friday before we left and decided to meet up and walk around the city with no particular plans in mind.  We meet for about 20 minutes before she gets a phone call from a family friend that is living in Madrid.  She said she had 2 VIP tickets to the opening of the Madrid Open that day and asked if she would like them.  Her friend met us where we were and gave us the tickets but told us the VIP area closed at 5:30.  At that point it was already around 3:30 and we had no idea where the complex even was.  We split a cab and walk into the arena.  We found the VIP section and you could tell we were IMMEDIATELY out of place.  Mind you, we were wearing only t-shirts and flipflops while everyone else were in suites, dresses, and full of Lacoste wear.  It was in a beautiful area that was more like a club/lounge type area with gourmet deserts and an open bar… all for free.  We go up to the bar and get two drinks and sit down along the river.  We could not get over the fact where we were and things like this do not generally happen to either of us.  After enjoying a full plate food of different deserts we headed to our front row seats to watch the first-round womens .  After watching a few sets we decided to walk around the complex a little more.  We find the practice courts where we were able to watch Rafael Nadal from Spain and Rodger Federer practice (number 1 and 2ranked in the world).  These are two of the largest names in the tennis world and we were sitting front row watching them.  It was by far one of the coolest things I have done in Madrid. 


Five of us went down to Granada for one night in the south of Spain.  Granada is a very old city that has a heavy Muslim architecture influence and could pass for an Aerobic city in the Middle East.  The city is built on a hill and the stone streets are very narrow and have a strong Muslim influence.  It is home to the world famous Alhambra which was constructed by the Moorish rulers in the 14th century.  It is an enormous structure with beautiful views of the city and an elaborate garden.  What I loved most about this city was how cheap everything was.  Granada is famous for giving generous portions of “tapas” or mini appetizers with every beer you order.  I don’t think we paid for lunch of dinner once because we would just fill up on tapas throughout the day.  There wasn’t too much to do in Granada and I think one day is plenty to see everything in the city.  Our hostel was very nice and in a great location.  That trip concluded my travels to other cities in Europe.

Accenture Interview

This past semester at Purdue, I was involved in an organization that brings to campus 10 individuals who have made significant contributions to his or her own field for a few days to speak with students about their successes.  I had the honor of working with Frank Modruson, the Chief Information Officer for Accenture (the number one global consulting and outsourcing firm in the world).  I worked closely with him prior to his visit to Purdue as well as spending three days with him during his campus visit.  For our final project in my International Business class, we had to conduct an interview with a company that has presence in Spain and the United States.  The purpose of the interview was to find differences between our countries in the way they conduct business, market entries, clients, ect.  I called Frank to see if there was any way I could conduct an interview with someone in the Madrid office.  The next day I received an e-mail from him saying he has set up an interview with the Chief Information Officer of Accenture:Spain.  She oversees all Accenture offices in Madrid, Malaga, Barcelona, Valencia, and Seville.  We had an hour and a half conversation in her office the following week.  She answered all of my questions and really gave me some great insight of the professional world of Spain.  At the end of the interview she said, “If you ever want to come back or work in Spain, please give me a call and we will try to find you something.”  I about hit the floor stunned.  The next day I wrote her a Thank you e-mail and she replied with thanking me and wanting to continue to stay in touch.  Hopefully some sort of opportunity will come out of this.  

Monday, May 18, 2009


I promise updates are coming soon.  This week has been crazy getting ready for finals, papers, and presentations.  Only a few more days here and I'm back to the States.  A few things on the way are free VIP tickets to the Madrid Open where we saw front row Nadal (Spain's most famous tennis player) and Federer play, a trip to Granada (south of Spain), an interview with the director of the Madrid Accenture office for a class, and a Cultural Urban fest.  Hopefully I will have something here by Thursday.  

Monday, May 4, 2009


I decided to go to Brussels about a month ago to visit two friends from high school Anna Duquaine and Jacqueline Brown.  They were recently in Madrid in the beginning of April so I was excited to see them again and where they study.  I left on Thursday morning and arrived around 2:00pm where I took the train from Brussels International Airport to the Leuven train station, the city they are technically studying.  Both of them had class so they gave me directions to their house which was very close to the train station.  They live in this four story building with 26 other students that range from the age of 18-25 from all over the world (U.S., Spain, Belgium, Japan, Slovakia, ect..).  To say the least, it is quite a diverse group and all of them seem to be very good friends.  I did think it was interesting that although they all come from different backgrounds; they always spoke English around the house.  When they arrived at the house after class, we went out to see the city of Leuven.  Leuven has the population of approx. 60,000 people with 30,000 being students at their university.  It’s a very young, safe, and fun city about 15 minutes outside Brussels.  After walking around a little bit, we ate at this great restaurant called ‘De Werf’ where they are famous for their cheap food (HUGE portions) and their hot chocolate.  They bring out warm milk with chocolate chunks in a separate bowl.  You pour the chocolate chunks into your mug and stir until they melt.  After dinner we returned to their house and watched the TV show ‘Friends’ because it’s the only thing that plays in English.  Everyone was gathered around the couches in the basement watching.  They speak three languages in Belgium but mostly everyone knows English.  That evening they wanted to take me to Leuven’s “Fac Bars.”  There are 11 Fac (short for Faculty) bars in Leuven that each represents a different school at their university.  For instance, they have an Econ Fac bar for all the econ majors, Language Fac bar and so one.  When I arrived one of the Fac bars we went to was packed.  I was expecting drink prices to be quite high because it is in such a central location to many college students, but I couldn’t believe how cheap the beer was.  You get a huge mug full of Deuvel or Estrella for 1-2 Euros.  In Spain, they would easily be 4-5 Euros.  After one of the Fac bars we headed to another bar outside this plaza.  There were students everywhere in this plaza just sitting outside on the tables in this plaza.  It was a great atmosphere and was a lot of fun.  After sitting outside and talking with people from their house from Slovakia, Belgium, and Kentucky, we went to get some Belgium Fries.  In America, our late night food would typically be Taco Bell, Jimmy Johns sandwiches, or pizza.. but in Belgium, its fries with mayonnaise and andaluce sauce.  It was actually a lot better than I imagined. 

The next day we hopped on a train to the city of Brussels.  Another friend from high school, Courtney Barker, had a 9 hour layover in Brussels before she was leaving to Ireland to study for 2 ½ weeks.  We went to the airport to pick her up and put all of her things in a locker at the station so we could explore the city.  Anna and Jacqueline had been to Brussels a few times already so they were able to take us to all the major sites.  Unfortunately May 1, was Labor Day for Europe and all the museums and many shops were closed.  The buildings and architecture was what impressed me the most with the city.  It’s very unique and not like anything else I’ve seen before throughout Spain and Italy.  We stopped by Brussels’ most famous fountain “Manneken Pis” which stands for Little Pee Man.  It is a small bronze fountain sculpture depicting a naked little boy urinating into the fountain’s basin.  What I thought was cool about this was on occasion, the statue is hooked up to a keg of beer and cups will be filled up with the beer flowing from the statue and given out to people passing by.  After taking pictures, we got some chocolate which is one of the three things Belgium is most known for (the others are Waffles and Beer).  We next headed over to the Royal Palace to see where the king lives.  After that we had to take Jacqueline and Courtney to the train stations so Courtney could catch her flight to Ireland and Jacqueline was going to see a play all in Dutch in another city.  After they left, Anna and I went to the Delirium Bar where they serve over 2000 different types of beer.  I got the stereotypical Delirium beer that was alright, but I don’t know if I would get it again.  It was getting late so we wanted to head back to Leuven.  Before I left I wanted an authentic Belgium waffle.  We found a little place along a main strip where I got a Waffle with chocolate sauce and bananas.  We ate it in their Grand Place plaza which you are surrounded but stunning buildings with polished gold as the trimmings. Eating the waffles outside Grand Place was by far one of the coolest things I’ve done in Europe so far.  We headed back to Leuven and called it a night.

Originally we were going to Amsterdam on Saturday but instead we went to the city of Antwerp aka “The diamond capital of the world.”  We walked up and down the streets and they had a huge district for shopping.  It was very crowded throughout the main streets.  We headed towards the river and walked along there for a little bit also.  Although I was disappointed we didn’t go to Amsterdam, Antwerp did have its own “Red Light District.” That was quite the interesting experience and quite frankly one I don’t have to go through again.  We didn’t do too much in Antwerp but it was still a cool little city with a lot of things going on.  We hopped on the train and headed back to Leuven for the hour train ride.  Unfortunately that evening we didn’t go out but I had an early flight the next morning anyway. 

Visiting Brussels has reallysparked an interest in learning other languages than just Spanish.  It’s so common for people there to know 2,3, or 4 languages in Europe.  I swear some people here speak English better than I do, which is quite sad to see how much less we emphasize and value the importance of other cultures and languages in America.  We sort of just expect everyone to know English and become offended when they don't and not bother learning to speak another one.  After this trip I could have really seen myself studying somewhere in Belgium.  Again, I have no regrets coming to Madrid, but it is interesting to see the differences between the two countries.  I am so glad I was able to get this experience because it opened up my eyes even more to the other places, languages, customs, and people of Europe.  Maybe teach in Spain for 9 months after graduation and start graduate school in Belgium September 2011?  We’ll see.

Anna and I in the Delirium Bar

Grand Place plaza

Grand Place plaza at night

Belgium Waffles

Manneken Pis (They dress him up sometimes too)

Leuven's Library that would play Happy Birthday with its bells