After a short transit at Heathrow airport, I arrived at Barajas airport, Madrid, and was greeted by the award winning design (2006 Stirling Prize) terminal, which offered me a hassle and stress-free arrival. Shortly after collecting my oversized luggage, I managed to hop onto a cab without much effort. The driver drove with the aid of a GPS navigation system. Having lived and worked in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore for many years, I could not help but compared Barajas airport to Kuala Lumpur International Airport and Changi Airport, Singapore. I was impressed.

As the cab made its way to the IE campus in the centric Salamanca district of Madrid, technology and sophisticated images were quickly replaced by picturesque streets and buildings, bringing to mind a sense of tranquillity with its rich heritage. By the way, do not confuse it with Salamanca city, around 200km northwest of Madrid, which is one of the UNESCO World Heritage Cities in the world. Coincidentally, Salamanca is known as the city of thought and knowledge. This is a perfect match for IE, a place where great learning and discovery is about to take place for me.

It didnâ??t take me long to assimilate into life in Madrid. Metros (similar to Singaporeâ??s Mass Rapid Transit) run throughout the city. This service operates from 6:00 am right into the night at wee the hour of 1:30am everyday. Major s

hopping malls operate up to 10:00 pm everyday. If you miss Singaporeâ??s

24 hours â??kopitiamâ?, you will love it in Madrid where many tapas bars and restaurants close only at midnight. For those who love to work hard and party even harder, try the dance clubs which only close at 6:00 am!

To help us settle in faster, IE arranges Spanish Language classes for those who are foreign to the 3rd most widely used language in the world. Besides the original intention, it allows students like me to find out more about the campus and more importantly, to meet students congregating here for a wide variety of masters programmes. I would say one of the biggest draw of IE for me to is the great diversity of the studentsâ?? population, providing possibilities to meet people of different nationalities and from different backgrounds. In the IMBA program, studentsâ?? nationalities totalled up to 60 countries! Take for instance, in one Spanish class of 25 students, I counted 16 different nationalities! Picking up Spanish language is truly useful for â??Guirisâ?? like us, a term used on people who are new to this land and canâ??t speak Spanish.

Seann @ Las Ventas Bullfighting Stadium

As the main program has not started, my classmates and I would take the opportunity to organise social events after our Spanish classes. For e.g. we organised a trip to see the traditional bullfight at Las Ventas on Columbus Day, and are now in the midst of planning to watch Real Madrid play live in Estadio Santiago Bernabeu. Besides these, there are more than 53 social, academic and sports clubs established at IE, offering bountiful platforms for networking such as Salsa Dance Club and Asian Family Club.

This is just my 2nd week in IE and I continue to progress further with more discoveries of the city, IE and myself. Although I wish to write more but words alone cannot fully contain and describe my experiences. This is when I realised how true these words ring, â??You have to live and experience IE and Madrid for yourself!â?

This post is a contribution from Tsu-Leong TAN, IMBA 2008 – with his first impressions on IE and Madrid

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