Disha is a 24-year-old AIL Madrid student from Hong Kong, though her family is originally from Mumbai, India. She is currently enrolled in an A1 Intensive course, and will be in Spain for a total of just over six months. Disha has three siblings and is the first one of her immediate family to venture out on her own. She speaks five languages, teaches English, and loves cooking and baking!

In Hong Kong, Disha has taught English, initially on the weekends, since she was 16. For the last four years she's held a full time job at one academy, but felt herself growing weary of the routine, “In Hong Kong its work, home, work, home, and the hours are from 9 to 6:30. I felt like I couldn’t do it anymore.” But they also teach basic levels of Spanish at her academy and in this she saw a glimmer of opportunity: “I said I’m just going to go, and then I’ll come back with the ability to teach Spanish! I’m in Spain until July and I already want to stay longer.”

But she never would have actually have made it here if weren't for her older sister: “She never went anywhere and so she really wanted that for me. Because I started working so early, she said ‘you're young, you should do things with your life’, so she was the one to push me."

Disha Hong-Kong

Intensive Course

Meet Disha!

Finding AIL

Disha's supportive sister did all the initial research for her Spanish adventure; “She found AIL Madrid, Don Quixote, and one other school. What really helped me decide was YouTube: AIL had a video of the shared flat that showed the rooms and there were tons of comments and views. It was a lot of social media; I like reading all the comments and a lot of reviews on Facebook as well.”

Now that she's been at AIL for five weeks, Disha feels over the moon about her choice, “AIL's not a place that says, ‘here';s the grammar, here's this and that’, it's holistic in a way. You get everything: listening, reading, writing, speaking, cultural activities, and the staff, to be honest, just change everything. It's a unique selling point; they're so friendly. I wanted a cell phone and I had one immediately. Then I changed my mind and wanted a SIM card and had that in another five seconds with no problem."

Learning Spanish

During the last five weeks, Disha has come to love her Spanish teacher Andrés. When asked what she thinks of him, she can't help gushing a little: “He's just amazing! He's so funny and so charismatic, and he knows what to say and how to say it. He makes me feel so comfortable and you know how nervous I am. He's so comforting. There was this one time I didn't understand something but I nodded and he asked me, ‘Did you get it?’ I said, ‘yeah, yeah’. Then he asked me again and then explained anyways; he just knows."

Disha enjoys the group jeopardy game in particular, which breaks her out of her shell and reveals her competitive side: “you're in groups and you have to answer questions. It's competitive but still relaxed and fun. It makes you talk on the spot which is a bit freaky, but actually helpful! ;

Discovering Madrid

Disha's original itinerary had her set to be in Madrid for two months, Barcelona for two months, and Salamanca University for a month because, “it looks like Hogwarts!” She felt Madrid was the natural place to begin for two very simple reasons: it is the capital, centered in the middle of Spain, and the Spanish accent is very clear. But now that she has fallen in love with the city and it’s relaxed culture, her plan is wavering slightly, “I don’t want to leave! I’m honestly debating everyday whether to go to Barcelona or not. When I go home I want to be able to say I've been to all these places but, at the same time, I want to speak Spanish perfectly.”

And, though she's has been in the professional world for many years, this trip was Disha's first experience living with anyone but family: “I was scared of the shared flat and living with new people but that has completely changed. Now, they're my best friends. I live with this Italian guy and we were very formal at first, but now it’s like, “get your feet off the table!” It's very fun. I live in Salamanca, it’s about a 15 minute walk from AIL Madrid, it’s perfect, and Retiro Park is right there!”

As for her social life, Disha couldn't be happier, “We go out a lot, to all the cultural activities and Noche de Copas organized by the school. I have an Indian group here as well; you just find Indians everywhere. My friends and I go out to dinner, there is amazing Lebanese food here, and it's so good. There's one in Gran Via where you can get shisha and then a belly dancer appears out of nowhere!”

Exciting Adventures

When Disha first arrived in Madrid, escorted by her loving parents, she had a very unique welcome party waiting at her hotel! In her own words, “We were showing our passports and checking in when I saw Ronaldo come in. I said, ‘Mama, that’s Cristiano Ronaldo!’ I was so shy but she was said ‘Go, go!’ So, as he got into the lift, I decided to approach the bodyguard and said, ‘Excuse me, I just want to say hi,’ and the bodyguard let me. Ronaldo was on his phone and was said, ‘Hi,’ and then went back to his phone. He was the first thing I saw when I arrived!”

And Disha’s interactions with Real Madrid stars didn’t stop there. Two weeks later, she was on a walking tour with her teacher and some classmates when as a man with bodyguards walked by. She was listening to her professor but heard someone say Ronaldo’s name and that “he’s one of the Real Madrid players”. Thinking she was going to make up for being so shy the last time, she ran after him with a few of her classmates: “he got pretty far and then he stopped because he heard us running. He turned around and I thought, ‘Wait, that's not Ronaldo’, and I said, ‘Oops, sorry, I thought you were Ronaldo!’ Then I returned to the group and they asked, ‘did he say no to an autograph?’ and I said, ‘No, that wasn't Ronaldo!’ They laughed and said, ‘that's his teammate, Chicharito Hernandez!’ They still tease me about it all the time. But I saw both Ronaldo and Chicharito within my first two weeks!

Disha's Advice for Future Students

When asked what advice she would give to students who are just starting their adventure with AIL Madrid, she says, “I’d tell them not to be nervous, because that’s just a waste of time. Also, to speak more; I feel like I didn’t speak as much but now I’m trying to. Because you’re in A1 you think, ‘Oh my god it’s going to be wrong,’ but just open your mouth, just try!

One particularly delightful anecdote she shared illustrates how kind people are to new Spanish speakers, “I went to cut my hair and my teacher told me the verb is cortarse. So I went to the salon and I said, ‘Quiero cortarme’ and the hairdresser started laughing. So I said it again, ‘quiero cortarme’ and realized I was saying, ‘I want to cut myself.’ I just forgot to say ‘el pelo’ and I don’t know why. And he was like ‘No pasa nada’; he was so nice to me about it. Now I think that it’s not a big deal, I just speak.”

Will She Come Back?

When discussing what she feels is her inevitable return to Spain, she says, “I don't want to leave, so I don't want to talk about coming back!” It looks like we may have a Madrileña for life!