The life of a fashion, music and food fanatic on her Year Abroad in Madrid.

Friday, 9 August 2013


The word 'huelga' will be a well known piece of Spanish vocabularly for anyone who has lived in Spain recently. Madrid is a city full of life and fiestas but also of deep underlying social unrest. Huelga is the spanish word for strike, and during my year abroad, a week wouldn't pass without this word coming up in conversation. 

Most of you will know that the Spanish economy is up the swanny. The country's situation is particularly poor for students at the moment. At my University, there wasn't a month that went past, where there wouldn't be a huelga. After listening to a lecturer speak for over an hour in Spanish about Organisational Structure, my mind would begin to wander. But as soon as I heard the word HUELGA, my ears would prick up like a little overexcited puppy. Remember back in High School when it would snow, and the next morning you would pray that school would be called off. Well imagine the excitement of a snow day, times a million, every couple of weeks. Yeah it's awesome. You get to spend the whole day in the sun, without that 2 hour round trip to Uni, sipping on Tinto de Verano, without a care in the world.

During my first couple of weeks in Madrid, I was told that if an Erasmus student went into Uni when the others were on strike, that they would get oranges thrown at them… pretty hilarious. Pretty weird as well though… Another hilarious strike which I encountered was a cleaning strike in my faculty. On the first day of the strike, I was greeted with thousands of little pieces of shredded paper all over the floor in the Business School. 13 days later, lifts were full of rubbish, the toilets were indescribable, and there were news reports that rats had invaded the campus. Not so funny anymore… However, when we returned to University on the 14th day, we were pleased to see that the students had spent their own time cleaning the entire building. Cheers guys!

On a serious note, I’m not surprised that Spanish students are protesting and striking all the time. There has been a huge increase in tuition fees, which means that many Spanish youngsters will not be able to go into higher education. And without an education, it will be difficult to get a job. (if there are any..) There is a severe lack of jobs in Spain at the moment and the unemployment rate for under 25 year olds is currently 55%. Pretty bad ey? With such little opportunity for youngsters in Spain, it really makes me appreciate my education so much more. 

Another issue which I am concerned about is the state of Spanish healthcare system. One of my house mates had to take a trip to the public hospital as he had an inflamed gland in his throat. We knew that he would have to wait for a long time, but we didn't think that it would be as much as an ordeal as it was. The waiting room was full to the brim of people who needed immediate medical attention. We took a seat on the floor as we waited for someone to call out our name and luckily we only had to wait 4 hours in total for the doctors to give us their verdict. However, others weren't as lucky as us, and could have been waiting there all night.The facilities were very poor, the bathrooms were dirty and there was a severe lack of staff. A couple of months before our hospital trip, we attended one of the biggest strikes of 2013 in Madrid. Hospital staff, students, pensioners, single parents and many other unhappy MadrileƱos lined the streets to protest against the budget cuts. 

Let's hope that the economy begins to improve, because Spain is in a pretty bad place right now. 

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