In “normal” times VESTING organizes a yearly International Programme, but, due to corona, the last two trips got cancelled. Luckily, the international programme could proceed as planned this year. After months of hard work by the International Programme Committee, nineteen lucky econometricians had the privilege to visit Madrid for a week. This article will give you an insight into what they experienced over there.
It is 2 pm on Easter Monday when we gather at Groningen station to take the train to Schiphol airport. After a bit more than two hours, we arrive at Schiphol, where we are relieved to see that the people who went to Schiphol by themselves are also present and the group is complete. Apparently, not all of us got the same packing list. Sam managed to fit the entire list in only carry-on luggage, while Lars needed two large suitcases and a backpack. Luckily, even Lars, is allowed to bring his luggage on the plane. We check in our luggage and board the Dreamliner destined for Madrid.
We land in Madrid around 10 pm, where we are greeted with quite comfortable weather, around 22 C. This later turned out to be the warmest weather during the entirety of the trip. At Madrid airport, we are reunited with Simon and Ariyan, who have already been in Madrid for two days to make sure our trip will go perfect. We take the metro and after four transfers, including a bus, we arrive at our hostel. Some of us decide to go for a walk to already explore our part of the city for a bit, but most decide to go to sleep since it has already been midnight.
The next morning, after a good night of sleep for most of us, we take the metro to Liberty Special Markets, a (re)insurance company focused on businesses in the Iberian peninsula. Since we all were on time, which was not expected by the committee members, we arrive half an hour early at Liberty. Here we get a presentation from the vice-president, Fernando, and one of his colleagues. From the way Fernando talks, you can see that he really likes his works, but since the slides are in Spanish, his presentation is sometimes hard to follow. Fernando also asks us to join him and his colleagues for a drink on Thursday, but, unfortunately, we already have plans that afternoon, so we have to pass. We also get some goodies from Liberty, but since those did not arrive on time, there are only four lucky ones that walk away with a new red Liberty jacket.
In the afternoon we have some free time. This time is mainly used to explore the city a bit further. Some of us go to a park, others visit a museum, and some just stroll around in the city. The weather prediction for today was 12 C and rain, but we are very pleased to see that the predictions are completely wrong. This gave us the opportunity to enjoy a beer in the sun at one of the many parks or squares. In the evening we have a nice meal all together at one of the nearby restaurants, where some enjoy the wine and sangria a bit more than others. After that, it is time to go out.
In Groningen, we are used to all bars and clubs being in the same place. This is clearly not the same in Madrid. Most of us wander around the city, looking for clubs that are open on a Tuesday and that are somewhat affordable. Luckily, we have Ariyen who shares the location of a club where he is having the time of his life. We all meet up there so that we can still enjoy our first night going out in Spain. We have a few drinks and dance till it’s time to head back to the hostel, some a bit later than others.
The next morning we get up early, which proved to be quite a challenge, even for some of the committee members. Even though she did not go out, Esther had a horrible night, due to the person sleeping above her in the bunk bed gritting his teeth all night long. Ariyen did go out, and that was something he really felt this morning. Luckily, we did all get up in time to visit WTW. After some introductory presentations about working at WTW, we form four groups to work on a case. During this case, the four groups battled against each other in an insurance market to acquire more market share and profits than the other groups. The interactivity and competitiveness of the case made it very fun to do. When the case is finished, we get a very diverse and tasty lunch, which came in especially handy for those of us that had skipped breakfast.
We leave WTW and head back to the hostel, where we have two hours of free time, which is mainly used to get some sleep or to have a drink. After these two hours, we meet again to travel towards the Wanda Metropolitano, the stadium of Atletico Madrid, to visit the game against Granada FC. The relatively new stadium, which only opened last decade, is impressive to see and gives you a lovely view over the rest of the city. Many of us buy an Atletico scarf before going into the stadium, where we make a horrendous discovery… They only serve alcohol free beer! I was the only one unfortunate enough to realize this only after I ordered.
The game starts and although Atletico is not famous for their attractive football, we are quite hopeful that there will be many goals scored, due to the difference in skill between the two teams. This hope turned out to be false as the first half is over without any real highlights. The second half does not start any better and being seated next to an area where people are allowed to drink beer with alcohol does not make it any better. In the last ten minutes of the game there are finally some highlights, both teams hit the woodwork and are close to a goal, but the game finishes as it started, 0-0. In the night we put the awful game behind us as we go out again for some beers in one of the many bars and clubs around town. Most of us end up in the same club where we dutchies could really learn a dance move or two from the Spaniards on the dance floor.
The next morning we visit the INE, which is the national statistical institute of Spain, comparable to the Dutch CBS. Here we get a presentation from a very adorable man, who does everything in his power to make us feel comfortable and welcomed. We should have also gotten a case here, but quite soon it becomes clear that their definition of a case is quite different from ours and we just get some presentations about what the institute does.
We have a quick lunch before we meet up with people from MSG global. We meet up with them at the terrace of a bar. This could not have been timed better, since it was also one of the few days where the sun was actually shining the entire day. When we arrive at the bar, we see a very familiar face, it is Fernando! On Tuesday he told us to meet him and his colleagues on Thursday afternoon to have a few drinks and by all the luck in the world, this is the same bar where we have our meeting with MSG global. The guys from MSG global are very nice and show real interest in what we currently do with our studies and what we would like to do once we are finished. They tell us about the work they do and how they ended up at MSG. During this talk, Fernando comes up to us to order drinks for us, but MSG has already taken care of that. Once their talk is finished, we have a lovely afternoon with the employees of both Liberty and MSG. Fernando likes us so much that we can drink whatever we want at his cost and he even hands us some cigars. After an amazing afternoon with the people from Liberty and MSG, it is time to have dinner. Many of us decide to try some Spanish or Latin American food at Tiki Taco. Once dinner is finished, it is time to get ready to go out again.
Friday is the last day with a formal activity, this time we visit IE University. IE is a private university in a very modern building that only opened last year. After an extensive tour of the beautiful building, we get a masterclass on communication from one of the professors at the university. Since most of us were quite tired from the entire week, it was quite nice that the professor had a lot of energy and was specialized in communication, making sure all of us still paid good attention to her masterclass.
In the afternoon we all had some free time, which was mainly used to get a few hours of sleep or to visit one of the main tourist attractions, such as the royal palace.
On our last entire day in Madrid, we had a hike planned. There were some doubts whether this would go through because of the bad weather that was forecasted. However, since we live in the Netherlands where we are used to a bit of bad weather, we decided to do the hike anyway. We got up quite early to take the bus to a national park, 40 minutes out of Madrid. Prior to this hike, we were warned to bring warm clothes and even gloves. Of course, as stubborn as we are, we thought that there was no way that we would be needing those in Madrid in April. When we arrived at the starting point of the hike, most of us were stunned at what we saw. Everything was covered in a layer of snow! We started our hike with four guides up into the hills. The snow made it a bit heavier to walk, but it also caused a lot of fun. It did not take long until we got into a snowball fight with each other and our guides.
We walked for a few kilometres up to a point where our guides wanted to go back because more snowfall was predicted, but we did not drive all this way for such a short hike and convinced our guides to continue toward the viewing point. It indeed started to snow and there were some places where the ground was covered in more than 30 centimetres of snow! Once we got to the viewing point, there was not really anything to see, because the valley was covered with thick fog. To get back to the bus in time, our guides decided to take a shortcut. This shortcut required us to walk down a slippery hill, leading to some hilarious moments of people (almost) falling. Luckily, we all got to the bus safely, where we took some last pictures before heading back to Madrid again.
This afternoon, we again had some time for ourselves. Those who had not yet been there visited the royal palace, others went for a drink. In the evening we went to an Argentinian restaurant next to our hostel. Here we enjoyed the delicious Argentinian food and wine, before heading back to the hostel to get ready to go out. This night we all went out together to the same epic club: Teatro Kapital. This club was inside an old theatre and had seven stories with different dance floors, dancers and even a karaoke bar. We drank and danced, some even until the morning hours.
On Sunday we had to fly back to back home. Fortunately, we only had to check out at 11 am, so even those that came home the latest had a few hours of sleep. When we arrived in Madrid, it took us quite some time to get from the airport to our hostel, but today it was even worse. Maps said that we could walk to a nearby bus stop where we could take a direct bus to the airport. Unfortunately, maps did not take into account that today was the marathon of Madrid, meaning that a lot of critical roads were not accessible for vehicles and the marathon even restricted us from crossing a road to another metro station. Eventually, we managed to get to a metro station which took us a bit further from the centre of Madrid, from where we could take the bus to the airport. Most of us arrived on time, but there were a few that thought there would be enough time to have breakfast before heading towards the airport. After a very, very stressed hour, they also arrived at the airport and managed to board the plane just seconds before its departure.