Being an accomplished adult can mean many things; that you stand out in your field, push yourself to be better, use your knowledge to teach others, or that you continually conquer new frontiers both as an individual and a professional. Incredibly, Paola- an AIL student here for a one week vacation- is a living embodiment of all these actions and sets an incredible example for us all.

Paola earned her PHD in chemistry in her native Rome before relocating to Florence for several years, and has dedicated her life to learning: “I did classical studies before switching to science, so I studied Greek and Latin, so I'm really used to learning. I also study a lot for my work.” Now she works in pharmaceutical science and lives in Zurich, Switzerland, where she spends her free time attending political documentaries and making friends from all over the world:

“I don't need [Spanish] for my job so it's really just for my pleasure, and just to be able to communicate with colleagues and friends that I have, who speak Spanish- from Uruguay and Colombia. Zurich is pretty much a melting pot, so it's nice if you can communicate in lots of other languages.”

Paola Italy

Spanish and Dance

Meet Paola!

Paola and AIL Madrid

Paola was drawn to AIL Madrid by her research online, where she found many students sharing their positive experiences at the academy. However, it wasn't just Spanish that drew Paola to Madrid, but her deep, addicting love of tango as well:

““I was looking for a tango school in Madrid- actually I thought of going to Buenos Aires right away, but only one week wasn't enough time, so I thought, ‘okay I'll stay with Spanish language but closer!’ -then I saw this nice combination [of Spanish and tango classes], I loved the program, and I'm really enjoying it now. I think it's really cool to travel this way.””

Like her professional life in Zurich, Paola's vacation life in Madrid is full to the brim; she's staying in a lively neighborhood, Chueca, in the heart of the city- in a shared apartment with a woman from Colombia- which gives her direct access to the whole city :

““It depends on the mood, but I like to walk a lot. I like to enjoy lives of local people, so I tend to organize the trips myself and try to embed myself in the environment. I walk, in Madrid I really travel by metro just to cover the longest distances, and otherwise I can walk for 9 kilometers. So generally I prefer cities, or journeys in exotic destinations.””

After visiting museums like the Caixa Forum (where she took in a Roni Horn exhibition), or the modernist Reina Sofia in the mornings, Paola strolls to AIL through the ancient city streets of Madrid. Upon her arrival, she is greeted by her energetic teacher, Lucia, who is “super passionate about what she's doing, has a lot of energy, and is super patient.” ”

Paola's Spanish Adventure

Though she was a complete beginner when she arrived in Spain, Paola's background with Italian, Greek, and Latin immediately proved her language skills to be advanced beyond those of her fellow beginners. Her first teacher, Jesus, suggested she move to a higher level and by lunchtime her first day, Paola had moved forward eight units!

But her quick jump hasn't held Paola back for a minute, “Since I joined the class later than the others, Lucia also suggested some additional materials so that I can catch up on all the units that I missed, about grammar, and she always spends some more time speaking to me... I'm catching up very easily and it is really rewarding.” .”

Additionally, she finds that learning Spanish in this environment causes the language to come almost naturally to her. She says, “I think that I've reached a level of conversation that is as good as the one that I have in German after three years of studying. In one week!” Part of this is due to Lucia's teaching style, which helps Paola build her confidence when speaking:

““I'm a grammar freak, I really love grammar rules. I don't like to start speaking a language without knowing the grammar. So I'm very shy and usually I start to understand much better before I start to feel confident enough to start speaking… So, I think the games are nice. I like them because you lose the focus on the pure grammar rules and just enjoy and be natural when you're speaking the language.”.”

Paola and Tango: A Love Affair

After class gets out and she finishes chatting with Lucia, Paola is off to tango class at one of the various classes arranged for her by AIL Madrid:

““I wouldn't stop each night [if the class didn't end], it's started to be an addiction. I've tried three different schools [this week] - yesterday, for example, the teacher's were an Argentinean couple and were really careful about correction of movements- I like the fact that I change schools each night because each teacher has a different style, cares about something different, and I change partners a lot. I think it's a great way to learn. My final goal is to be able to dance in Milongas, and the more you try the more you learn! "


Paola on her future with Spain:

For Paola, this is just another chapter in her relationship with Spain, since she previously visited her brother when he was living in Valladolid, “We saw so much. I love this country; the food, the country, the people, everything. It's really great.” She is planning to spend New Year's here, and is hoping for another full week of vacation next year to come back to AIL Madrid:

““Yes, I'm planning to come again- I don't know if I will be able to get one full week again next year- but for a sure a long weekend, so I'm definitely in it!””