I have just wrapped up my semester exchange in Madrid at the Universidad Carlos III de Madrid and it was an incredible experience that I wouldn’t trade for anything. In my six months abroad my perspective has changed, and I have gained a better insight in cultural differences that I would never have learned without spending time living abroad.
Having arrived in Madrid two weeks before school had started I had some time to get situated with the city and the different style of life. The first thing I highly recommend to those studying abroad in Madrid is to purchase a metro-transportation card that is 20 euros a month and is a necessity to get around the city and also if you are staying in the city center it is a must if you have to go to school, due to the school being a 25 minute train ride from the main station atocha. Life in Madrid is very different from life in college station. For starters you walk everywhere and the streets are always very crowded with tourists and locals. I had stayed in the heart of madrid, sol, which was very convenient because I was close to many events in the city center. I highly recommend to live in the city center because I knew people who were staying in Getafe, where the campus is and they had wished they were staying in the city center due to the nuisance of having to take the train to get into the city.
I also recommend for anyone coming to do research into housing for living in the city center before coming because Mays does not deal directly with housing companies and therefore you have to deal with housing yourself. I definitely recommend to talk with others in the group and look at different options in the city center. School in Madrid was completely different than what I was accustomed to at TAMU. For starters each class was separated into two sessions- one lecture, and one practical. Each of these classes were about one hour and a half and we only had to meet once which was convenient. Also my classes didn’t really have much daily work so I found myself with not that much homework besides revising my lecture notes. How the classes work at my university is that you have one or two big assignments that are worth 40% of your grade than you have one huge test that is worth normally 60-70% of your grade. The catch with the final test is that you have to pass the final test or you will not pass the course. In other words you have to make a 5 out of 10 to pass the class. And for example, you could have a 4 with previous assignments before the final test and receive a 2 out of 6 on the final test which would put your overall score at a 6-10 in the class, which you would think you passed. Their system does not work like this, so that if a test is out of 6 you have to receive a 3 otherwise you fail the class. In the school they allow retakes but they are two-three weeks after finals so i would advise to plan to pass the first time around. Also for those interested in learning or improving their Spanish I would highly recommend avoiding taking the core classes in Spanish if your level of Spanish is not near perfect due to the fact that the courses are university leveled and are not tailored to those learning Spanish. The University offers Spanish courses for those interested in learning the language that would be far better of an option. The business courses I was taking abroad were very insightful because their are a lot of international students at the school so their lectures are tailored for more international topics which was very interesting and made for me to be always interested in the lectures.
I also choose my classes for Monday- Wednesday so I found myself with a lot of times on the week/weekends to travel around Europe. Which travelling around Europe is very easy with their cheap air fare prices and the efficient train system they have. One word of advice for those coming is to be extremely careful with your personal belongings. The city is very safe but the one con is that there is a lot of pick pocketing, especially among foreigners. Me and two other people in my program and other friends all had the misfortune of having our phones stolen. The insurance provided helped a lot with insuring $500 of stolen goods. But the whole process was a hassle having gone to the police station and buying a new phone so I would highly recommend to those coming to be very careful with their belongings especially in public places like the metro, train, and bars and clubs.
Couple pointers is that there are two great groups that host a number of events and trips in Madrid which is a great way to meet people, which are citylifeMadrid and smartinsiders. City life Madrid also had a event Thursday called Meet and Speak where I had gone several times and meet some really cool people from all over the world and it is basically an event for those interested in learning a new language and gives you chance to practice speaking a new language and meeting new people. These trips the companies have are all planned and are a great way to meet other people and explore different parts of Spain.
Also some things about cultural business differences in Spain is that in Spain restaurants and local businesses are closed for a few hours between lunch and dinner. This is primarily due to the siesta culture that is in Spain and this break also allows business owners a chance to spend with their family and friends. People in Spain are very social and this is evident with them having long lunch breaks for work,3 hours and during this time they go home to spend time with family or go have a drink and some tapas with some friends. Also in Spain dinner is normally had at 9-10 which is due to the time zone and the culture of having a long lunch break so this is something to keep in mind when arriving in Spain. Studies in Spain are always taught in a global perspective with them being aware of the importance of international trade and with them being in the EU they have numerous business partners to boost their economies. Also during my time in Madrid I also found work teaching English to little kids was an amazing experience and was a great way to make some extra money. This was an opportunity anyone studying abroad should take and their is a high demand for English teachers due to the world being so globalized now a days and English is the global language.
For anyone finding them self in Madrid or studying abroad in Europe don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions. My email is email@example.com. Overall my Erasmus experience in Madrid was a once in a lifetime experience, where I got to broaden my perspective and also had a chance to visit many cool places around Europe, meet new people from all over the world, and take classes in a foreign university. I highly recommend for anyone in Mays to study abroad for a semester because the experience will surely change your life.