Archive for April 2010

Don’t forget your units.

April 25, 2010

So … I landed, and slept.

Waking up I decided to try to get some things done.  I wander out of the hotel, still halfway in a daze and start walking around.  Everything felt pretty alien – the signs were in another language, I couldn’t find any street signs, the cars were completely foreign, even the signals on the stoplights looked different.  Now, Im coming from a suburban environment in the US with huge, well lit roads and lots of space (and distance) around you so it was even more shocking to come to a major “world city” where you can walk almost anywhere.

I think out of the things I saw the cars were the most surprising.  I knew that Europe had lots of different types of cars than the US, I just never expected it to be such a dramatic shift.  I’d say that 95 percent of the “coches” here are different than what we have in the US (almost universally smaller versions).  And for some reason they are almost all newer models (I should research that – I am guessing they must have some way of encouraging only newer cars?).  Fiats, Alfas, Seats, Skodas, Smart cars all over the place (and in different varieties – a larger one and a pretty wild looking roadster).  And even the Fords are different cars – Fiestas and Mondeos for example.  I’m not sure I’ve seen a GM here, although I may have seen a Chrysler 300 at one point?  And the scooters are all over the place – some of them look pretty cool but they make a pretty annoying noise when you are trying to sleep 🙂

Another struggle I had almost immediately was units.  Now I spent a lot of time in college learning and using metric, but its still a shock to use it in your day to day life.  How hot is it?  What do I weigh?  How tall am I?  Sure, you can do the conversions for temperature (C = (F – 32) * 5/9), weight (Kg = lbs / 2.2), and height (1 inch = 2.54 cm), but that isn’t the easiest thing to do off the top of your head.  Spanish isn’t the only language I need to brush up on while Im in Madrid!

Landing in Madrid

April 24, 2010

So I’ve survived my first couple weeks in Madrid, Spain and thought I might put together a blog to try to catalog various thoughts and experiences.

I guess the story starts a few years back when I first came to my last employer and realized that long term I probably needed to pick up an MBA at some point.  Previously, despite not believing I really liked school all that much I had earned (mostly by continuing to go to school even when I wasn’t doing all that well) a few technical degrees in the past – a Bachelors in Aerospace Engineering in 1999, Mechanical Engineering in 2001, and a Masters in Management Information Systems degree in 2005.  In 2008 when my plans to move to a subsidiary of my company in the UK didn’t work out I decided that I should try to go get my MBA before it was too late – and why not focus on something international.  I really feel that business is going to continue to move more than more globally, even in the defense sector where I worked.  And if Im going to try to learn international business, why not do it overseas?  I’d never been out of the country besides some short trips to Mexico and wanted to see a bit of the world and broaden myself.  I have always wanted to finally become fluent in Spanish – I’m exposed to it all the time in my hometown, have taken classes, and yet could never get over the hump where I could converse with folks – so I decided that living in Spain and going to school there would finally get the job done 🙂  So that left me with a few top choices (there are some excellent business schools in this country) and I picked IE Business School in Madrid.  Depending on what ranking you follow, its often placed in the top 10 of business schools worldwide.

It took me a while to jump through all the hoops (especially funding, which was very difficult) but finally in late March of this year it was obvious that it was finally going to happen so I quit my job (I didn’t have my student visa yet, but it looked pretty certain that it would work out once I got my police records check from the FBI back in the US) and prepared to move to Madrid.  It felt like any other business trip as I headed to the airport back home and flew to Dallas Ft Worth airport.  I had been there a number of times over the past few years flying around for work, so it felt pretty normal.  Then I stepped onto the Iberia Airlines flight to Madrid … and I was clearly no longer in my comfort zone.  Folks were no longer speaking a whole lot of English (the flight attendants were the main exceptions along with a few random Americans I heard talking) and the plane was huge.  I immediately wished I had retaken Spanish 201 last fall like I had considered 🙂

And then I landed – and of course had no idea where I was going to get my luggage, get my passport stamped, or find a cab.  It wasn’t so much that the signs weren’t always in English (I am fairly good at reading Spanish, less good at understanding it, and very poor at speaking it), but my experiences so far here are that they don’t seem to put as much focus on helping people find things.  In the US I am used to huge signs everywhere – here for example the (small) street signs are on the buildings, sometimes, and never in the middle of the road like they are back in the States.  There was no convenient chart when I got off the plane telling me where my luggage was at so I just followed the crowd through the international arrival area (which was pain free) and wandered around until I saw a few familiar faces from my flight … and there was the luggage.  Two huge bags, a carry on, and my backpack.

I picked up my luggage and wandered out to the cab area (taxi is easy enough to understand in any language).  Surely the cab driver would speak English right?  After all, its Europe they must all speak 10 languages each like most of my classmates.  No such luck.  Fortunately for me I read that the hotel was hard to find so I saved the directions and GPS coordinates on my iPod Touch, in Spanish.  See, and you all thought I was unprepared 😀

After a short drive we made it to my hotel and I stumbled on in … and then proceeded to sleep on and off about 3 hours at a time for the next half week.  International jet lag is pretty brutal 🙂

Welcome to Madrid!

Hello world!

April 17, 2010

This was the beginning of my blog (and Madrid) adventure!