Spain Student Exchange Summary

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Kirra Sodhi

Universidad Carlos III Madrid, Madrid

Host Country

Deciding on a host country was one of the most difficult parts of my application process. I was comparing countries like Ireland to Norway to Singapore. However, I decided to go to Spain for several different reasons. Firstly, I had always wanted to visit the country, I was so intrigued with there fun and chilled out way of life (which eventually became quite annoying as nothing was ever open). Then there was the weather, now I know that we get a lot of sun, but Madrid is always sunny, in fact I could probably count only 5 days during my semester where there was grey skies. The people of Spain are also so welcoming, even if you know nothing about the language. I originally wanted to study in Barcelona because I though it was an amazing city, which was so multicultural and consisted of many aspects including arts, sports and most importantly beautiful beaches. However, as my business program was only offered in Madrid, I ended up going there instead (which was still a win). As the capital of Spain, Madrid was lively at all hours of the day, filled with amazing food, shops, festivals and lots of street performance. I was really into this traditional Spanish city and all its little quirks.

University and Campus

The university I went to was Universidad Carlos III Madrid, which located outside the city a bit, in a suburb called Getafe and took about 20 – 40min by train from Madrid’s central station (Sol). Compared to QUT’s modern facilities, the school seemed surprisingly quite old with chalk boards in the classrooms. I also found the education system to be dysfunctional and very unorganized, which most exchange students I met there agreed with. All the classes were pretty easy to pass, and the assessment pieces were not too hard. Also, I found that group assignments are very popular. All the classes were done in English which was fortunate since I knew zero Spanish.

Accommodation

This was very different to organize and caused myself I lot of stress when preparing for exchange. On campus accommodation was full and honestly, I would not recommend it as it is located in Getafe which is a very small and basic town. Madrid’s student rental services were various and helpful. For me, I often used be roomers, spotahome and uniplaces to search for apartments. The apartment which I lived in was owned by HELP MADRID they offered good accommodation but definitely ripped you off. I was constantly being charged extra for services like water and gas and each month the charges would increase by sometimes 50 euros which blew my budget out. Apart from this I did enjoy the accommodation, I lived with 11 people all exchange students mostly from the USA. Plus the best thing about the apartment was our location, basically in the middle of Sol, the main plaza was right around the corner.

Conclusion

Spain is an amazing place to go on exchange, especially as it is a large and central European city with something to explore every day. Compared to other European countries, I found it to be relatively cheap, which was definitely a big bonus. Having the ability to travel every weekend was amazing and I was able to see so many countries that I could not imagine.

My advice any future global student is that exchange can challenge you in more ways than you would expect, but the great thing is that you will grow as a person, make amazing friends and have the craziest lifelong memories along the way.

 

Things I did in Madrid!

Olivia H., Bachelor of Mass Communication
University Carlos lll de Madrid, Spain (Semester 2, 2017)

My exchange semester in Madrid was great. Although it had its ups and downs I learnt so much that I will take with me through life. I studied at Carlos III University of Madrid (UC3m) in Getafe.

Most subjects I wanted to do become filled up so I was left with limited study options. The teachers are not very willing to help; however, this is just the Spanish way; they are laid back. Some of the subjects are quite boring and you’re only given one week of classes before you can change/ pull out making it difficult to enjoy the semester. However, the benefits far outweigh these negatives.

It is incredible meeting people from all over the world and learning new things about different countries/ cultures. Exploring Spain and learning about the country and its culture and history is fascinating. I used a group called Smart Insiders who were great with day and weekend trips. They provided fun weekends for really low costs and no hassles.

Now for the practical stuff like budgeting, accommodation, your phone plan and most importantly, language. If you’re concerned about money here is my guide. You could easily do an exchange semester for less than $10 000 if you do not want to travel too much. For the whole semester September through to mid December I was using the QUT bursary and the government loan. With good research on apartments and being good and sometimes frugal with food costs, weekly living costs can be under 50 euros!

I lived in Getafe which although was cheap and convenient to get to uni four days a week, was inconvenient whenever I wanted to go out clubbing or into the city in general. I was paying at least 150 euros per month cheaper than anyone I knew but I either had to ask a friend to stay at theirs or stay out until the trains started again at 5am. When looking for an apartment, make sure all bills are included so you know exactly what you have to pay and can get a better deal. As for a phone sim, I would go into CityLife Madrid or Smart Insiders as they can help you set up with Lyca or Lebara mobile.

You can get by fairly easily without knowing Spanish and you definitely pick it up along the way. However, it is tricky in the first few weeks when you are trying to do things like get your transport card and a phone sim. For the transport card, I would order it a week before you leave for Madrid and deliver it to your accommodation. This is the easiest way and it means you can begin exploring the city right away.

The transport system is very confusing when you first arrive, but you get the hang of it quickly. The main type of transport in the city is the metro. However, to get to places like Getafe (where UC3M is located) you need to get the train, Renfe cercanias. Transport is much cheaper than Brisbane, like anywhere else in the world. Each month you load 20 euro onto your public transport card and it gives you unlimited access to all of the metro, cercanias and bus lines within Madrid.

Finally, travel which is hands down the best part. I went before, after and during my semester and although tiring it is so worth it. I used the semester for travel within Spain and the Summer holidays before and Winter holidays after to explore Europe! Below are some photos of my trip. Thanks for reading!

 

The Best Experience of My Life So Far

Charlotte E., Bachelor of Justice/Bachelor of Laws (Honours)
Universidad Carlos III Madrid, Spain (Semester 1, 2017)

 

Beautiful Madrid at sunset, on top of the Circulo Bella Artes

For my study abroad experience I was lucky enough to spend one semester at Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (UC3M). I can whole-heartedly say it was the best experience of my life so far, and I would recommend anyone who has the opportunity to complete a student exchange to do so.

HOW TO PREPARE
• Save! Save as much money as you can in order to make the most of your experience. Whilst Madrid wasn’t expensive, it is important to be able to live comfortably, go out, and say yes to everything you want to do without monetary restrictions. Depending on how much you want to travel in and around Spain I would say aim to have $12,000+ to spend.

• Look into accommodation prior to arrival! I would definitely recommend staying in the city and commuting by train (25 minutes) to uni as opposed to on-campus accommodation, as the location of campus (Getafe) does not have a lot going on compared to the ever-buzzing city centre of Madrid. Check out the company Help Madrid for room rental, and areas like Malasaña, La Latina, Chueca, Gran Via, and Retiro are the best areas to live in!

The view from the Cathedral over La Latina

• Learn some common phrases! Madrid is a very international city, and so in the centre itself it is possible to mainly get by speaking only English. However, you will find it is easier if you do learn some Spanish prior to living there, and it is also greatly appreciated by the locals.

• Have multiple class options! Whilst UC3M has many classes taught In English (if like me your Spanish isn’t at any level of fluency), international students get the last pick of classes, and so when I went to register for the classes I had planned to take, many were unavailable. So, I would recommend having a few different options for classes and timetables.

WHAT TO EXPECT

• At UC3M: compared to QUT, the university itself was far less organized. The teachers were often late, but I think that just links to the fact that in Spain there is no rush for anything. Whilst this didn’t hinder my experience or my ability to learn, it was just bit of an adjustment.

• In Madrid: Expect to fall in love with the city. It is such a vibrant and liveable city, with something going on at all times. It’s not until you are living there that you truly understand what an amazing city it is. Plaza Mayor, Retiro Park, and Palacio Royale are some of my favourite tourist spots.

The Royal Palace of Madrid

• Everything is much later than in Australia! Typical dinner time in Spain is between 10pm and 11pm, which is something that took a little getting used to. Also, Madrid is well known for it’s unrivalled nightlife so be sure to make the most of the multitude of bars and clubs whilst you’re there.

• Travel! With Europe on your doorstep, make the most of being so close to places like France and Portugal. You can get some crazily cheap flights to all over Europe, and head away for the weekend. As well as other countries, be sure to explore Spain itself! One of my favourite parts of my exchange was travelling to different parts of Spain and seeing it in depth, there’s so much to love about this country. Having said this, make sure you spend enough time in Madrid itself to truly appreciate living in this incredible city.

Delicious Food

Highlights and tips for a semester in Madrid

James W, Bachelor of Engineering

Polytechnic University of Madrid (Semester 2, 2016)

Madrid is a large, lively, beautiful and friendly city. There are always events and things to do, incredible public transport, a compact city centre and it is really safe! Even though it is a big metropolitan city it still has an interesting and different culture. It´s very refreshing to learn about Spanish history, customs and traditions that continue to influence the country a lot today in spite of globalisation and tourism.

If you ever get bored of the capital, Spain is an incredible country to explore. Every single town and city has its own festival, most of them being week long parties filled with free live music, fireworks, dancing, shows and events. Most of these are around summer but don´t miss out whilst you´re there! I went to: la Tomatina, a festival where everyone throws tomatoes at each other. Semana Grande, a week long festival of free music, theatre, sporting events, fireworks and performances. Las Fallas, a festival where artists spend the entire year creating incredibly tall statues the size of buildings and large trees before burning them all on one spectacular night. San Fermines, a week long festival where every morning they run bulls and people down the middle of the streets! There are many more someone could go to and they´re all very different depending on the local region and culture!

The universities are totally different to ours in Australia which makes for a really interesting and potentially challenging experience as well. The bureaucracy, facilities and teaching styles are quite different and seem a bit outdated but actually have a lot of advantages too. The classes tend to be smaller with attendance often compulsory, which makes it easier to get to know the professors and become more interested in the subjects. There is often less dependence on technology which can help fight against the distractions of the internet and “computer says no” bureaucracy.

Living in Madrid is also great because it´s very cheap! There is accommodation for all budgets to be able to live centrally, I lived in the city centre for less than 110 dollars a week with only a week’s search (although a reasonable understanding of Spanish may be required for this). Unlimited public transport pass is 30 dollars a month for under 26 year olds with most services run from 6am to 2am. There are also 24/7 bus routes connecting to the city centre. The university offers 3 course buffet style meals for $7.5 which are so big I used to split the meals across lunch and dinner. That´s less than $8 for lunch, dinner and dessert – they even wash the dishes for you! Coffee can be bought in cafe´s for as cheap as a dollar as well. Going out is also great as they have an incredible bar and tapas culture as well as a wide variety of clubs although most the music is reggaeton, which you´ll learn to love as well.

So go there, make some great friends, travel the country, go to some festivals and enjoy the great tapas and cheap cañas!