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Estefi Acuna Lacarieri

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Estefi Acuna Lacarieri (she/her) - Stanford in Madrid

Majors: Political Science and Communication

College year while abroad: Junior

About the photo:  This photo was taken in the Alhambra, a mesmerizing fortress located in Granada, Spain. I planned this trip to Granada with my friends, like Kiki (pictured on the right), who I met during my time abroad in Winter of 2021-2022. At some point during our visit to the Alhambra, we got lost in a palace, but I was grateful that this happened, since it allowed us to wander around and get to know each other. This trip was definitely one of the highlights of my BOSP experience!


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Why did you choose to study abroad in Madrid?

I chose to study in Madrid because I wanted to explore this beautiful and multicultural city, in addition to traveling across Spain. I also wished to learn more about Spanish culture, history, and art. For instance, I was drawn to Madrid because of courses like “Women in Art.” I also wanted to try authentic Spanish food (and I was not disappointed)!

What were your expectations before you went and how did those change once you arrived in Madrid?

Due to the ongoing pandemic, I was not expecting to be able to travel across Spain as much as I did. Everyone was truly committed to keeping each other safe, while also exploring the country. I was also not expecting to feel so safe in such a hectic city! Madrilenians were incredibly nice when I asked them for directions and the Madrid subway system made me feel 100% safe and independent.

What were some of the academic benefits from studying abroad in Madrid?

The most significant academic benefit of studying in Madrid is the opportunity students have to improve their Spanish with the language pledge. I also think that one of the main academic benefits of this program is that students can explore classes that they normally wouldn’t at Stanford. For instance, I had never taken a class about art, let alone one that also allowed me to visit Madrid museums.

What did you learn about yourself while you were studying abroad?

I realized how much I enjoy the little moments of everyday life, such as those minutes of silence on the Madrilenian subway that allowed me to pause, observe my surroundings, and realize that everyone around me lived a life as complex as my own. I even conversed in Spanish with strangers around me and I found it incredibly fulfilling to learn about their personal stories and lives in Madrid.

What was the most challenging experience you encountered while you were abroad and what did you learn from it?

The most challenging experience I had in Madrid was getting lost and not being able to use my phone because it ran out of battery. Initially, I was not sure how I would find my friends at the place where we were going to meet. However, I decided to ask a stranger for directions and she was incredibly kind. In fact, she let me use her charger and then walked with me so that I felt safe. This experience taught me to trust, rely on others, and remain calm in the face of adversity.

What was the biggest cultural adjustment you had to make?

As a native Spanish speaker, I was initially shocked to hear Spaniards using certain terms that are offensive in my country. After I mentioned this to my Spanish friends, they clarified that these terms meant something completely different in Spain. As a result, I had to culturally adjust and make an honest effort to familiarize myself with the local slang, norms and cultural values. I also relied on my host family and local students for advice on how to overcome cultural barriers.

What was your favorite part of your everyday life in Madrid?

My favorite part of my everyday life in Madrid was commuting to the Institute. In particular, I loved riding the bus because I could see the city’s emblematic landmarks. For instance, I would always pass by the Santiago Bernabéu, and as a Real Madrid fan, that was the best part of my day. I also enjoyed eating meals with my host family. Although we were a small family, I loved every conversation with my host mom. She gave me fantastic recommendations on where to go and what to eat. She also helped me adjust to the culture and understand more about local traditions and values.

What was the most memorable experience you had while you were in Madrid?

Visiting Valencia with my friends during Las Fallas, a traditional Spanish festival held to celebrate the arrival of spring. During this celebration, immense cartoonish sculptures, also known as fallas, across the city of Valencia are set ablaze. I truly enjoyed the parades, live music, and firework displays! I will never forget our final night in Valencia during the Nit del Foc, a night when the sky was filled with colorful fireworks, while everyone danced, sang, and celebrated in the streets.

What 5 words would you use to describe your experience?

Fun, once-in-a-lifetime, transformative, exciting, eye-opening.

What was your favorite food you had in Madrid?

Apart from croquetas, my favorite food that I had in Madrid was paella. Words cannot describe how amazing Spanish paella is. During our final week in Madrid, my friends and I ended up eating three paellas in one sitting!

What was the most valuable item you took with you on the program?

Definitely my phone! It allowed me to search directions, download tickets, share my location, take pictures, communicate with my friends and host family, etc. I would recommend getting a mobile data plan as soon as you arrive in Madrid.

What was your favorite music/band that you discovered in Madrid?

While in Madrid I was introduced to C. Tangana, and I immediately fell in love with his music. His songs combine reggaeton with flamenco, and trap beats.