Universidad Carlos III de Madrid | Semester Exchanges Blog

I have been in Spain for over 2 weeks and I have loved every second since I got here! I feel like for me it has not been too hard to get adjusted here because I speak fluent Spanish, however, Spaniards do speak a bit faster and use a lot of words I typically don’t. I’ll start back from the first day of arriving, me and 2 other girls from TAMU flew in together and made our way to our flat (apartment) via a taxi from the airport. When we got to our flat our landlord met us here to give us our keys and introduce us to our roommates. One thing I highly recommend is looking on Erasmus Facebook groups to find housing: it’s significantly cheaper than a dorm and you can find a great location! Thankfully I got in contact with this landlord early on in the fall semester and got rooms for myself and the 2 other girls. We are so lucky to have found this place because it’s in the perfect location in Madrid! Sol has so much to offer from food, shopping, and lots of nightlife activities. As far as adjusting to living here it was a bit challenging for me because the jet lag was real!! And with Madrid being a night city, it’s a bit hard to get some sleep at night lol, but I would not trade sleep for the location of this flat–it’s so worth it!!

I guess I’ll move along to some tips that I have gathered while being here! First and foremost literally nothing here is spicy… which has been a real struggle for me because I’m Mexican and I need spice in my life lol, so if you can, pack your favorite hot sauce. Another thing is that things here are not as sweet/artificial as they are back home which can be a little odd to get used to since we are so used to having all the sweets back home. One other tip I would like to mention is to get your metro card appointment before getting here!!!!!!! Seriously, if you’re reading this I hope you at least take one thing away from it and that is to set your appointment before arriving in Madrid. My friends and I tried to make appointments to get our metro card (which is crucial to getting around here) and the earliest appointment in the location we are staying was like 2 weeks away so we made our earliest appointment in a town that was 1 hour away from Madrid, which was quite the adventure. One other thing I suggest is to pack lightly which I wish I would have done because you will do a lot of shopping here, everything is so much cheaper than back in the US. I hope this helps anyone who is interested in coming to Madrid; of course, I am biased because it’s the place I decided to study abroad at but it seriously is such a beautiful city with so much to offer. There are so many international students here and lots to do!

The amazing view from my apartment!

Categories: 2022, Reciprocal Exchange, Spain

When I got to the city of Madrid, I didn’t know what to expect. Truly. I had never been abroad before partaking on this exchange, but now, twelve days into this program, I have covered quite a bit of foreign ground. Here are my initial impressions and advice for anyone looking to make that trip overseas:

After a total of 18 hours traveling to the capital of Spain, I arrived at the airport only to encounter my first of many international hiccups. While passport control was a somewhat seamless process, the officer who took my documents forgot to stamp them, which led me to getting a jump start on practicing my Spanish speaking skills. It took three officers to resolve the issue, but that wasn’t the end of my airport troubles. Let me preface this by saying: when going on an exchange, depending on your mobile provider will determine whether or not you need an international SIM card. My personal plan did not allow me to use any data without one, and while the airports sell them, their store was closed for the first hour I was there. Eventually, the store opened and I was able to buy a working SIM and get a taxi to my flat in the center of town.

Once getting to the flat, I was finally able to settle in and start navigating the ins and outs of living abroad. Some of the differences I have noticed so far: contactless pay is a thing–it’s so common that taking out your card to pay feels wrong (*note on the credit card: if you are planning to be abroad, get a VISA or Mastercard, those will be the most universally accepted, as I learned); if you attempt to speak Spanish even if it’s at a beginner’s level, they won’t switch to English and rather continue with their language, which is ideal for anyone seeking to learn; Spanish time is real–they truly have a schedule unlike any other where lunch is around 5pm and dinner doesn’t start until 9pm; with that, the city holds its title of having the best nightlife, where the streets are crowded and full of energy every single night.

There are many more things I have learned and yet to learn on this trip, especially when it comes to the inner workings of the Spanish school system. While classes don’t start until tomorrow, it is evident that they approach education in a different way. From looking at the syllabi and talking to my international roommates, I have found that lectures aren’t the main teaching style and rather it’s practicals and presentations that drive home the lessons. I’m interested to see how this semester goes and how I will be able to adapt and adjust!

Overall, this past week has been an incredible and insightful experience, despite the few hiccups I’ve run into. And to think this is only the beginning of my five-month-long adventure!

Categories: 2022, Reciprocal Exchange, Spain

I have officially completed one month in Spain! I arrived a few weeks early than my companions, Kira and Manu, to spend some time with family who live outside of the city. Not only am I happy I was able to see them, but spending ten days with them helped me immerse myself a little bit easier into the Spanish way of life. Things are definitely a lot slower around here, which has been the biggest adjustment, by far. As someone who is notoriously early and always on-the-go, I’ve had a bit of a hard time getting used to doing things at a leisurely pace.

We did just finish our first week of school. I think I am really going to like my classes and I love that my classes are intimate and small. I think my largest class has 35 people. Which is incredibly different than many of the large lectures we have at A&M. My schedule is incredibly flexible though, which gives me a lot of time to explore the city and surrounding areas. I keep having to remind myself that I live here now, and, therefore, don’t have to see everything all at once. Take things slow… maybe I am adjusting to the Spanish way of living better than I think. 😉

Below I’ll add some photos from my first few weeks. Good food. Great experiences. The BEST company.

Categories: 2021, Reciprocal Exchange, Spain

On my first few days in Madrid, the first thing that shocked me the most is how much I walked. According to my watch, I took over 90,000 steps the past week. Also, coming from the state where everything is big, everything here seems small. From food portions to the size of cars and the size of the roads.  Something else that I noticed was that the Spanish people seem to have a very different take on life. People are out on the streets walking around, sitting down to have a drink, and not worrying about the next day. It feels like they take a minute to just relax and appreciate what they have around them. Lastly, I would say that another cultural difference between the United States and Spain is that the public transportation system works almost without flaw. I don’t think that I have gotten in a car more than twice. I can go anywhere using the train, subway, and bus. I can’t wait to see what the next few months have in store for me.

Categories: 2021, Reciprocal Exchange, Spain

Looking back to this past semester living in Madrid, I have mixed feelings about it all. It has without a doubt been the best experience I have lived. I moved to Madrid knowing it would give me so many things to take with me, but I did not think through how hard it would be for me to say goodbye.

There is something extremely special about Madrid- something that makes your time living there only a positive one. I still do not know if it is the people, the food, or the overall culture, but it is for sure something that made me exceedingly happy to say the least. The beginning of my semester included things like “toque de queda” which made it complicated to do things like travel, but as the semester continued things started opening up more giving us a chance to travel. The first opportunity I had was to go skiing with some friends which was definitely something I was dying to do when moving to Europe. I love skiing and the fact that I could have that experience abroad was a memorable one. Along with this trip came my other 2 favorites, which were Gran Canaria and Rome, where I was able to visit with some friends and do things like go to sand dunes, natural pool waters, visit the Colosseum and the Vatican, and so on.

Although I was able to travel during this crazy pandemic study abroad year, I had already fallen in love with Madrid and the people there that it made it hard to even want to leave for only a weekend. This is something that shocked me since I am a person who loves to travel and will do so as much as possible, but the fact that Madrid had that power to make me so happy and never want to leave was definitely a good feeling. I made lifelong friends, visited new places, learned so many new things about different cultures, and most importantly grew as a person.

Leaving Madrid was definitely an emotional rollercoaster for so many reasons, yet all good. But at the same time, although I was sad to leave a part of me knows that this is not the end of my story with Madrid, and I hope this is the case because living in Madrid was the most amazing opportunity and I am so grateful to have experienced it.

I hope whoever has a chance to study abroad I say get out of your comfort zone and do it because I promise you it will be worth it!

Categories: 2021, Reciprocal Exchange, Spain

Howdy!

I recently returned to College Station after finishing my semester in Madrid. Business in Spain tends to be conducted differently than here in the US. However, there are a few similarities. I found that businesses in Spain have different expectations for employees. Employees that I met are typically given more paid time off and the concept of allotted sick days does not exist. Here, employees are used to logging all time off under a specific category or reason. There is definitely something to be said about the phrase “working to live, not living to work” and how it positively affects the quality of life in Spain. Experiencing this was a cultural shift compared to the American dream mentality of prioritizing work and financial security above all else. Businesses that would typically be regarded as customer service based in Madrid revolve much less around the customer than I was accustomed to in the United States. Instead of the mentality of the “customer is always right” or an employee being on the customer’s time, customers must ask for what they need and are usually subject to the employee’s schedule. Customer service in Spain though it is not bad, just different. At my host university, I took a course called International Business Management; I learned a great deal about how regions from all over the world differ in how they conduct business. Things like power distance, masculinity/femininity, and individualism vs. collectivism greatly impact how business is conducted and how consumers make purchasing decisions. It was cool to see examples of this when I compared my knowledge of how business in the US works vs. how it works in Spain.

My experience abroad was an incredible one full of new experiences, new relationships, and personal growth. I am incredibly grateful to have had the opportunity to meet so many amazing people! I rode in a hot air balloon, traveled to the Grand Canary Islands, and spent a ton of time exploring the city I quickly grew to love. Living in Madrid helped me to realize my love for travelling and my desire to eventually become an Aggie expatriate.

Enjoying the view from my apartment!

Beautiful view from the rooftop at Plaza Cibeles!

Lavapiés neighborhood!

Categories: 2021, Reciprocal Exchange, Spain

Hola!

My name is Fernanda Vidales and I am currently studying in Madrid, Spain for this spring semester 2021.  Since the beginning, studying abroad was always something I planned to do because I loved the idea of living in Europe at some point in my life, specifically Spain. Although things changed because it is in the middle of a pandemic, I was still as excited for such an amazing opportunity. I was lucky enough to arrive to Madrid during one of the most historic times, which was when it received the most snow in recorded history so I was able to walk around the city filled with piles of snow for my first few days. It will soon be 2 months since my arrival, yet it has felt like home since day 1.

I started school only a few weeks ago, which is located on the outsides of Madrid in Universidad de Carlos III de Getafe, but I live in the city center. One of the most amazing things about this city is how easy and fast public transportation is. Living in the heart of Madrid has been the best choice because everything is walking distance and I never feel the need to stay in my apartment since I have the chance to distract myself and go for strolls around the city. Because of Covid, there is currently a “toque de queda,” which is currently from 11pm- 6am and it means no one can be out on the streets during those hours and everything is closed–except pharmacies for emergencies.

Even with the toque de queda I have been able to enjoy a somewhat type of normality living in this city because restaurants, movie theaters, bars, etc. are still opened just with a shorter schedule and a smaller capacity. One of my favorite things about Madrid is how every restaurant has a terrace and there are plenty of rooftops in the city so it is very relaxing to spend so much time outdoors. I also really enjoy trying different local restaurants because authentic Spanish food is delicious. Due to the toque de queda, traveling has been complicated but I hope everything gets better soon and I am able to travel around Europe and have some more freedom before I leave. Everyone in Madrid and on campus have been extremely kind and helpful, it makes me look forward to all the amazing friendships I will continue making this semester. Although I just started school, time has been flying by and I know for sure this will be a once in a lifetime experience…one that I wish would never end.

Puerta De Alcalá

El Retiro

Categories: 2021, Reciprocal Exchange, Spain

My initial impression of Universidad Carlos III de Madrid was how comfortable it is. It is a smaller campus than Texas A&M but it is so beautiful. I love hearing different languages (Spanish, Italian, French, English) as I’m walking to class. The people have been extremely welcoming and the professors are incredibly knowledgeable about what they teach. As soon as I arrived, I was made aware of the resources I had available to me. It has been so interesting to see the differences in the formatting of classes here vs. TAMU; many of my classes so far have been based much more on group work.

My initial impressions of Madrid and Spain were of how alive it is. There are always musicians and singers in places of high traffic such as Puerta del Sol and Gran Vía. People always stop to listen! There are so many differences, including the later eating schedule and how people go about their weekdays and weekends. I’ve already met people from so many different countries and it is incredible to live in a place with diverse culture everywhere you go. It is so easy to get lost walking around while just enjoying the view. I absolutely love it here and am so thankful for this experience to study in Spain.

 

Palacio Real de Madrid

This was my first time seeing an actual palace in person! The architecture here and how elaborate it is never ceases to amaze me. It seems like everywhere I look, the building facades are unique and ornate. It is something truly so different from Texas and the United States in general. I have loved my time so far getting to know the city and exploring all of the amazing things it has to offer.

 

Sunset over Madrid!

 

Huevos Rotos – my favorite!

The food here is absolutely incredible! I have tried so many new things, some of my favorites including huevos rotos, croquetas, tortilla española, and pan con tomate.

 

At Templo de Debod

Categories: 2021, Reciprocal Exchange, Spain

Approaching the halfway mark in my study abroad experience means things are starting to really pick up! So in other words, this post is going to concentrate on the “studying” part of studying abroad. In my pervious post I held off on talking about school at Universidad Carlos III de Madrid a.k.a. Carlos Tercero a.k.a. UC3M because everything was still all so new to me. Now that I have been enrolled at UC3M for a few weeks, I feel like I have a better understanding of how things are done here vs. how things are done in the States based on my experience at UC3M so far.

An Aggie in Spain

An Aggie in Spain

My classes consist of two electives Art History II and Contemporary History of Spain and two business courses Marketing Management and Marketing Research.

Building at UC3M

Building at UC3M

With that said, here are a few things that have stood out:

  1. Navigating Aula Global (the online website, or Howdy Portal equivalent) can be tricky. Signing up for classes on your own and just a few days before classes start on a completely new website was beyond frustrating. Luckily, I got all the classes I wanted, so I must have been doing something right!
  2. Grades consist of few a projects, presentations, and exams. This was not really that new to me but I still would say that this is a bit different than how things are done at A&M. For example, in Art History II our final grade consists of a presentation, a paper, and the final – all of which was completed in the second half of the semester. In Contemporary History of Spain, our final grade consists of two 5-page papers and one 25-page group paper.
  3. Grades are put in basically… whenever! This was completely new to me!! At A&M I was used to turning in an assignment or completing an exam and having my grade available within days, and sometimes even hours! We are midway through the semester and I have yet to have a single grade uploaded in at least two of my courses. This completely baffles me! How can students go through an entire semester and just barely be figuring out their grades towards the end of the semester!
  4. Many teachers just read off their PowerPoint slides in lectures. Two out of four of my teachers have fallen into this trap and many of my friends have said the same about their teachers. In my opinion, paraphrasing PowerPoint slides would make lectures more interesting and engaging but when a teacher just stands at the back of the class and reads off of their PowerPoint print out then lectures start to blur together.
  5. Working in a group projects is a must. All of my courses have a least one major presentation or paper completed in a group. Staying on top of group projects while trying to accommodate for everyone’s busy traveling schedule is really difficult to do. I will say that the neat thing about group projects is that you get to get close to your classmates easier when forced to work in a group. I have met some of the coolest people through working in my group projects!
Train Station in Getafe

Train Station in Getafe

Lastly, if you are planning on studying at UC3M try to not live in Getafe. This is strictly my opinion, but let me explain why I think you should stay away form living on campus (or near campus). Getafe is a beautiful small time city but there is not much to do there compared to living in the city center of Madrid. If you live in the city center then I think you feel more inclined to do fun sightseeing, eating, or exploring in Madrid.

I hope this helps… hasta luego!

Categories: 2015, Reciprocal Exchange, Spain