Studying abroad in Madrid: the first week

Hello! If you’re reading my website for the first time, I’m a third year PhD student from the University of Portsmouth, working on testing and constraining models of interacting dark energy. If you want to know more about my research, you can click here for an overview and here for some more in-depth information.

However, I’m not in Portsmouth at the moment, and won’t be for the next six months. I’m on long-term attachment at the Instituto de Fisica Teorica at the Universidad Autonoma de Madrid, an extended research visit paid for by the research council that funds my PhD, the Science and Technology Facilities Council, or STFC. I decided to go on long-term attachment as it’s enabling me to work more closely with a collaborator here in Madrid, as well as being a great opportunity to make new collaborations and gain some independence from my supervisor.

It’s my first day in the office today, and I have a perfect view of the mountains to the north of the city. The weather is freezing cold but beautifully sunny, making a change to the damp and grey weather of the UK.

Between arriving and starting at work, I had a few days off to get to know the city. I’m staying in the north-east, near the Parque de Berlin, which was my first port of call the day after I arrived. It’s a small park distinguished by the three pieces of the Berlin Wall that act as the centre piece of a fountain, and the bust of Beethoven nearby (although it’s not clear why — I’m not sure Beethoven ever went to Madrid). I also strolled around a small part of Retiro, the huge park in the city centre that used to be only open to royalty. I’m looking forward to going there again to see more of the park.

This weekend I went to the old part of Madrid and visited the Palacio Real (Royal Palace). I don’t know much about the Spanish monarchy but I’d recommend having a look round the palace (especially if you’re a student because the ticket is only 7 euros). The highlight for me was the collection of beautiful Stradivarius instruments (two violins, a viola and two cellos) that were on display alongside the crown and sceptre, and the abdication letter of Juan Carlos I from 2014.

My first day in the office has been mostly about getting my key and entry card sorted, finding my desk and meeting with collaborators and friends. Tomorrow the work starts in earnest. Check back next week to find out more about the work I’ll be doing while I’m here in Madrid!

One of the Palatine quartet of ornately decorated Stradivarius instruments in the royal palace.

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