Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (UC3M) | Semester Exchanges Blog

The first thing you notice about Madrid is how lively it is. There are a lot of people packed into the city and it seems like they’re always on the streets. I recall walking back home around 11:30 pm on one of my first nights and being caught off guard by how many people were at the bars and restaurants along my walk. The city has a relaxed atmosphere and it feels like their daily clock is shifted back a few hours; people eat their meals later, go to bed later, etc. Despite the considerable differences mentioned, as well as others unmentioned, for me, the small differences add up to create complexity in this new environment. Small things like laundry, finding out where to buy certain things since everything isn’t available in one place like an HEB/Walmart/Target, getting a gym membership, and many more add up to present challenges when doing tasks that would be basic back in Texas. These small things aren’t present when you’re on vacation, but when you actually live there you realize there’s nuance in everyday tasks.

My initial impression of the business program at Universidad Carlos III de Madrid has been positive. The professors have a more laid-back style of teaching and prefer the class to flow more like a conversation between the entire room rather than a lecture. One of my classes is all Spanish students, despite this class not being a business class and instead a political science class, I enjoy it quite a bit since I get to hear how Spaniards view world affairs. My business classes are filled with students from all around Europe and some Canadians, so I’m sure I’ll hear many great ideas from a wide range of backgrounds. I hope to learn from the unique perspectives of these students and be able to take some new ideas back home with me.

Categories: 2022, Spain

From the moment you set foot in Madrid, you can feel the special atmosphere that this city has created. There is an extraordinary social scene that is depicted by masses of people dining outdoors, walking alongside the streets, or just spending leisure time in one of the many parks here. I think one of the most alarming differences between Spanish and U.S culture is that overall, people here just feel more relaxed. It does not take more than a day for the casual observer to notice that Spaniards are not in a hurry to get anything done, and as a result, you become immersed in this calm feeling of acceptance. Furthermore, Madrid feels like an international hub. All kinds of people are welcome here as characterized by the warm smiles you receive when speaking with locals, who have no problem trying to accommodate the language barrier if you are still learning Spanish. Another evident difference between the U.S. and Spain is that many people walk to their destinations or use the efficient system of public transportation created by buses and metros, which creates an overall healthier lifestyle through active movement. As far as University classes go, the program at Universidad de Carlos III in Madrid is a breath of fresh air from the routine classes back home. The teaching style that I have experienced thus far has been a range from intense professors who passionately preach their teaching subject to more hands-off professors who choose to encourage classmates to collaborate and reach solutions collectively. Overall, I do not feel that the adjustment to learning the Madrid education system was anything unreasonable because of how well-prepared students at Texas A&M typically are. From this international exchange, I hope to further develop my ability to connect with others who share different views than me, and in turn, become a more well-rounded and open-minded person overall. Simultaneously, I believe that it is important to put yourself in uncomfortable situations in order to stimulate personal growth and that an international exchange is the perfect opportunity for an individual to encounter such experiences. Knowing what I now know after one week in Madrid, I am extremely happy with my choice to study abroad here and am confident that this was the right decision.

Categories: 2022, Spain

Howdy! (or should I say “Hola!”)

When I first arrived in Spain, I had no impression of what the environment would be like. I had only been to Europe once before for a Mays field trip program to earn an international elective credit and I think it helped me not be in such a big culture shock as my current roommates. I already know Spanish, as my family is from Mexico, so communication may not be a significant struggle for me. However, the Spanish here is different compared to the way I speak in Mexico, which I somewhat expected.

As for the business school, the building is different and interesting. Some of my peers say that this campus is much larger than the ones back home, but I definitely believe that TAMU has a larger campus. Mays may be a bit more advanced as there are at least dry erase boards whereas here there are chalkboards but both use projectors. Also, I love the natural light in the building as it has larger windows, which unfortunately Mays does not have.

I live near the center and I love it as I can make it to school and get to experience a better idea of the Madrid lifestyle. There are much more restaurants and cafes nearby rather than fast food locations. I noticed that public transport is extremely more organized and beneficial here than in the US. Also, students have special discounts and benefits for using such things. There is much to see and do such as visiting a park or even looking at the beautiful architecture. I would like to go see some museums, see the beautiful chapels that are here, and try tapas (a traditional type of food). I think that at some point I will feel a bit overwhelmed but in the end, I think I will have the time of my life here.

Categories: 2022, Spain

The past 5 months have flown by faster than I could have imagined. The experience that I had been looking forward to and planning for years is really over and I can’t believe it. There are no words to articulate how amazing and impactful my time abroad was. It truly was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I will be forever grateful for the people I met, the memories I made, and the things I learned this semester. I never thought that I would get so attached to a place and experience as much as I did. If you’re reading this and thinking about studying abroad, do it. I promise it will be worth it. 

When I wrote my last blog post, I had been in Madrid for about two weeks. Everything was still new and fresh and I still had a lot of doubts about living in a new country. Of course, throughout my semester there were ups and downs just as any other semester but I wouldn’t give up this experience for anything. I have learned so much about myself and what I truly value. My perspective has been changed by the people that I have met who are living completely different, yet similar lives to me. I’ve learned to not take myself so seriously and roll with the punches rather than try to plan out everything with such detail. In European, and especially Spanish culture, the people value life more than work. They take time to spend with family and friends and just enjoy life to the fullest. I’ve been conditioned to work hard and achieve my goals my whole life and being abroad has taught me to take a step back and just enjoy the moments that I am given. Being goal-oriented isn’t all that life has to offer. I now prioritize my happiness first.

If I had to pinpoint my favorite aspect of this experience I would definitely say it’s the travel and the people that I got to travel with. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to travel to many cities and countries throughout my time abroad and those trips have made an invaluable impact on me. Immersing myself in completely new cultures every weekend was exhausting at times but the exhilaration of it all outweighed anything else. The feeling of being on a plane to a new place is unbeatable and I am so thankful that I was able to experience that feeling so many times. Throughout my travels, I visited iconic historical sites, art museums, beautiful oceans, and more. It truly felt like I was living in a dream. The best part, however, was the friendships that I cultivated along the way. Traveling with a group strips you down to your core. You see each other tired, hungry, and stressed but you also get to experience the most beautiful places together. It’s a unique bond that will never be broken. 

Lastly, after an entire semester of experience, I can definitely say that I’ve picked up some tips and tricks that I would love to share with incoming students or anyone else who wants to listen. My most important piece of advice remains the same as what I said in my first post; get out of your comfort zone. Try new foods, be independent, meet new people, and do things that you could have never envisioned yourself doing. If you come out of your study abroad the same way as you started it, you will be missing out on what this program is all about. You’re here to learn and grow, so don’t limit yourself!

Now for some more practical advice:

  1. When it comes to packing; less is more. Bring layer-able clothing and essentials but when you get to your city, you’re going to want to buy a new wardrobe anyways so don’t waste the space in your suitcase with old clothes.
  2. Choose a living arrangement in a central location. It was so helpful to be located in the center of Madrid for ease of access to everything. If you are able to find a place in the center, it will make your life a lot easier.
  3. Study for final exams early! UC3M has a grading system where the majority of your final grade comes from the final exam. It’s not what we’re used to at A&M so I found it very helpful to start studying for finals about 3 weeks in advance since they hold so much weight and I didn’t want to risk failing.
  4. Don’t book your travel super far in advance because you will meet new people and want to go on trips with them and if your whole semester is booked out, you won’t have the chance.
  5. Finally: You will get homesick eventually, even if you think you won’t. When that happens, talk about it with your fellow study abroad friends. Everyone experiences it and it helps to talk it out. Just know that it will pass and remember why you signed up for this in the first place.

I hope that this advice is helpful to someone who is about to embark on their own adventures abroad. I can confidently say that this was without a doubt the best semester of my life. I can’t express in words how much Madrid and its people mean to me but I hope that it treats whoever is going to be there next as well as it treated me. Hasta Luego, Madrid! <33 

P.S. If you’re an incoming student reading this and you have any questions, feel free to DM me on Instagram @nikhila_bulusu 🙂

Categories: Spain

Boarding my flight from JFK to MAD, I didn’t know where I would be the next time I flew home. Not in a literal sense – but figuratively speaking. Where would I be personally? I knew I would be in a different, more mature place five months after my first flight; but what is it that I would learn that allowed me to grow into the person I was going home.

If you were to have asked me before going abroad, if I considered myself a “global citizen” I would have said yes, naively convinced that my passion for traveling the world and curiosity of other cultures automatically made me one. I was quickly hit with the truth that that title didn’t fully belong to me.  As defined by the Oxfam organization, a “global citizen” is someone who is aware of and understands the wider world – and their place in it. As Americans, although we are aware of globalization and how different communities can be reached by the touch of an electronic screen button, many of us, including myself have failed to realize that this doesn’t equate to our understanding of the wider world itself.

In history class, we refer to Europe as the Old World, and the Americas as the New World – almost as if they are two separate entities, functioning entirely differently. While I wouldn’t refer to Europe as “old”, I do agree that we are completely different worlds – Europe and the United States of America (yes, intentionally excluding the other nations making up the Americas). From education to government to lifestyle to culture, we have just a handful of similarities (given the UK as an exception). I’ve learned this through exploring different countries, talking with people of other nationalities, listening to course lectures, and every time I do so, I come to this same conclusion. I’ve also learned the consequence of us functioning entirely differently. To sum how one of my international friends put it – the United States is this big, powerful country whose only focus is on itself and its global position.

The other nations can’t help but turn their eyes towards what we are doing in America because of our massive influence in entertainment, media, politics, and the global economy. I’ve always understood our large presence on the international stage, but never considered the true effect on others. Amongst other Americans, we joke about how other countries dislike us but don’t take a step back to understand why they look at us or treat us differently. I believe if more of us did we would know the answer – and it’s one I’ve just stated. Our world is globalizing at an exponential rate, but we still unknowingly function as two different entities. If we look at the bigger picture, turn our eyes and focus on entertainment, media, and politics that aren’t just ours in the United States, we would be aware of and understand the wider world, and more importantly, our place in it – that’s what being a global citizen is all about. That’s why going on exchange has been such an insightful, life-changing opportunity.

I could write a book of takeaway lessons from being an exchange student, but this is by far the most relevant. It is what has changed my perspective, widened my lens, and allowed me to say with full certainty that I am a global citizen. It is what has made me a full advocate for students to apply to a study abroad program and take that flight overseas as I did five months ago.

Categories: Spain

Now that I have completed my semester abroad I am beyond excited to share some of my favorite memories. Throughout this time I had the privilege of living right in the heart of Madrid, this allowed me to get around so much easier and I was always able to get around the city much quicker than if I had lived in the outskirts. During my time in Madrid, I got the chance to discover some of my favorite local spots such as watching the sunset from the palace which was only a 5 min walk from my apartment. Madrid has so much to offer in terms of food and I loved discovering new spots, one of my favorite tapas bars is called El mini bar! I loved going to that place for tinto de verano and their croquetas which are Spanish staples.

During my semester abroad I also had the opportunity to travel so much and I enjoyed exploring new countries with my friends. I was able to visit 10 countries during my time abroad and those experiences were unforgettable. Being able to travel in Europe is so much easier than it is in the US and I highly encourage anyone who is able to take advantage of this! Being able to visit all these countries allowed me to learn a lot about different cultures.

Being abroad was a lot of fun and the experience is so rewarding but I want to shed some light into a portion that lots of people tend to leave out. With good days also come bad days, there’s time when homesickness can get the best of you and I encourage anyone who experiences this while they are abroad to reach out to their support systems, it’s so important to take care of yourself and talk to those around you. Most of the time someone else could probably be feeling the same way as you. One of the ways I coped with feeling homesick was by reaching out to friends who had done previous exchange semesters and sure enough, they had experienced the same things as me.

I could not be more thankful for this experience and every day I am so glad I picked Madrid as the place to do my semester abroad. This city has so much to offer and I will forever cherish the memories I made with my friends abroad. To anyone who is interested in studying in Madrid do it!

Categories: Spain

As I’m writing this, it marks exactly two weeks since I have been living in Madrid. To say that the past few weeks have been a whirlwind would be an understatement. From the 9 hour flight to encountering countless hurdles trying to get my metro card, I have definitely learned a lot that I would love to share.

The first thing that I noticed when I got here was how beautiful the architecture was. The buildings themselves make you feel like you’re in a movie. I filled up my camera roll within two days (and I have no shame). Just waking up to the view from my apartment felt like a dream. Walking 20,000 steps a day around the city and eating nothing but tapas & coffee for the first week honestly just felt like a vacation. The reality of being here for 5 months didn’t hit until the initial adrenaline wore off.

Now I’m going to go ahead and share some essential things that I wish I knew before moving here:

  1. Make a metro card appointment BEFORE you arrive in Madrid. I had to go to a train station in the middle of nowhere just to get this card.
  2. Don’t even think about eating dinner until 9 pm. Everything here is a lot more laid back and meal timings are all shifted a few hours behind American times so just be prepared for that.
  3. Be willing to put yourself out there even if the situation is unfamiliar. Being a study abroad student is all about growing and learning to adapt to a new environment. If you stick around only what you’re comfortable with, then you won’t see the growth that you’re hoping for.

I’ve only been here for a few weeks and I can’t even express how excited I am for the rest of the semester. Traveling, meeting new people, and learning about business from an international perspective is truly a dream come true. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I intend to make the most of every moment. Stay tuned for my reflection at the end of this (hopefully) incredible journey. 🙂

Categories: Spain