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