Why should you do an ATHENS week? Besides the fact that it will be the easiest 3 credits you ever do, it will also be an amazing experience.
So, like all KU Leuven Engineering Science students itching to get away from the school mid-semester wishing to have some fun, I too applied for the ATHENS program. I decided to select Biomedical Signal Processing course at UPM, Madrid because:
# After having completed the digital signal processing course under Prof. Marc Moonen, it meant logical sense to do this course as well.
# And its Madrid. Its relatively cheap. [I stay in Belgium! Ha!]. And I have always wanted to visit Spain. They said Spain is an extremely colorful city, and boy, I was not disappointed.
We were booked into a hostel called La Posada de Huertas. It was near the Anton Martin station which was very close to Sol and Gran Via, and an ideal place to stay in if you want to visit around the city. It was cheap (Euro 18.5 per night, with breakfast included). The only issue was that there were 12 people in my room, which I thought would be a major issue, but the only thing you will go to your hostel room for is to sleep. (If you are in Madrid in ATHENS week, I doubt whether you will get too much of it anyway). Because its a hostel, they had a kitchen as well where you can cook your own food. I know a lot of people did that, but there are plenty of cheap places around where you can have good food without burning a hole
in your pocket. But I will come to that later!
The flight tickets cost ~ 200 Euros. [I was unlucky. Some people got their tickets for less that 140 Euros].
Here is us at the Brussels airport heading to our ATHENS week destinations. Debarchan [ the scary one in the picture] claims his ATHENS week was better, but he went to Warsaw. I refuse to believe that Warsaw is better than Madrid.
It was not a long flight, and I don’t remember much of it anyway as I slept through the flight! But when I climbed off the aero-bridge and stepped into the Madrid airport, I was genuinely surpirsed at the size of it. Unlike the Mumbai airport which is grander and really large, Madrid airport’s architecture gave it a better sense of space and area.
(I wasn’t entirely sure whether we are allowed to click pictures in the airport, so I did not take any!)
We were given a UPM survival guide which mentioned exactly which metro to take, and how to reach the venue. If you are heading to Madrid, take the 10 rides pass which costs around 12 Euros. (plus 3 Euros for the airport surcharge and another 2 Euros for the metro card). Madrid has an awesome network of underground subway which makes easy going from one place to the another.
When I got off the metro, it was snowing! You expect to have warm weather in Madrid, but surprise surprise, you get snow in Madrid. But it was not that bad as in Leuven (I heard Leuven froze during the ATHENS week).
The first day only had a visit to the Reina Sofia museum planned. We made the mistake of not taking an audio guide to go around the museum. For someone who is not that much into art, you can and will probably get lost. Because it contained more of modern art (which I find a bit more difficult to understand), I was rather lost. The only remarkable thing that stuck with me from the visit of the Museum was a sculpture “Laughing Girl” by Medardo Rosso. The eyes were sculpted in such a way that as light fell on it, she seemed to be looking sideways. It was marvelous.
P.S. You are not allowed to take pictures inside the museums in Madrid.
We visited Kubo King, a place recommended by Clara Nieto, a batchmate from KU Leuven who hails from Madrid. If you want 4 beers along with a basket of different types of fries at around 6 Euros, you must go there.
One of the first things I observed while I was at Kubo King was that people in Spain converse about regular topics with a lot of emotion. (Reminded me of India!). Also Kubo King apparently is always filled with young people which makes it even nicer!
The other museum we went to was the Prado Museum. It is considered one of the best museums in the world, having painting dating back from the 12th to the 20th century. It is extremely large, and you need more than a day to see and appreciate all the paintings. But if you are in a rush, then you must atleast see the most famous paintings. To get a list of it, you can take the pamphlet thy have near the ticket counter which has a list of all the famous paintings! You should also get the complete El Prado museum guide which is really good. (I kick myself everyday for forgetting to get it! Maybe I will ask one of my friends from Spain to get it for me!)
Near the museum you have the El Retiro park which is huge and a lovely place to spend a lazy afternoon!
They have a huge lake which is a perfect place where you can even go for a boat ride.
We spent quite sometime walking around the park. There were stand up artists performing inside the park which made the entire afternoon a really pleasurable one. (Oh how I wish to go there again as I am stuck studying stupid courses)
That is us in the park! Dina and Karishma are from KU Leuven, Mehmet and Mine are from Istanbul Technical University! Being an international student at KU Leuven, you get to meet a lot of people from different nationalities, and when you come for a ATHENS week, you get to meet even more people! ATHENS program also gives you friends for life!
Here are some more pictures from inside the park!
There is also the statue of the Fallen Angel inside the park which is a major tourist attraction. I cannot find the picture of it! Later that afternoon, we started a city rally organised by BEST members.
Here are some pictures from the city rally!
Following the city rally, the BEST members took us to a pub for tapas! In Madrid there are pubs where when you order a beer, you get a plate of tapas! The larger the beer you ask for, the bigger the plate of tapas. (For those of you don’t know what tapas are, it is a piece of bread with meat or potato and cheese or something on top of it! Just Google it! If you hadn’t had tapas while you are at Spain, you have committed a cardinal sin!)
Although we had classes from Monday to Friday, we still managed to go around a bit on the days! On Wednesday, a night walk was planned! We were taken to the Royal Palace (you mus visit it both at night and day, it is an amazing piece of work), the temple of Debod, Plaza Mayor amongst the notable ones! Following that we headed to disco Bolshoi where we partied till 2am before heading back to the hostel.
The faculty at UPM were really nice, and they gave us a 3 course lunch everyday for free. I think that is really a nice gesture to students, and speaks volumes about kindness of Spanish people.
One of the more memorable places was Circulo de Bellas Artes. From the top of the building you can get a 360 degree view of Madrid. The day we went there, it was drizzling slightly but it was still beautiful!
One of the best places to eat in Madrid is the 100 Montaditos. Like Kubo King, it is always filled with young people where you can have a beer and some amazing food.
On the 24th, I had some time time to kill and so I went around exploring the city on my own! But soon after I realized I was too tired to be able to walk around anymore. I decided I needed to rest! With a heavy heart, I took my luggage and went to the airport!
Karishma and Toon had the same flight as me. So the latter part of the last day at Madrid was spent reminiscing the time we had in Madrid. I realized I need to be back here once again! Madrid is a beautiful city, and you must go there!!
P.S. If you reached the end of this post, and still want to know how the course was. Here it goes.
I took up this course because the content was really interesting to me. I have not heard great reviews about most ATHENS courses, but the course was surprisingly good! The course was structured perfectly, and most of the things could be done in the time allotted. The professor was really good. My cousin brother is epileptic, although it has been years since he had his last episode. We learned of ways to detect seizures before it can happen. My aunt is always worried, and I could connect with the importance of the subject. We also learned about detection of atrial fibrillation which is hard to detect and can be fatal. Some of the patient data are not available publicly (i.e. Physionet) but most of the professor gave us access to the data! That, I think, is really unique about this course.
And the professor David Luengo is a really good educator as well! If you are an electrical engineer, and you want to visit Madrid, the ATHENS Biomedical Signal Processing course is the best opportunity for you to go!