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!


Finding friends and falling in love on exchange

Declan, S. Bachelor of Business
University of Mannheim, Germany. (Semester 1, 2018)

The thought of going on student exchange never crossed my mind. But one day I was just procrastinating, scrolling through the QUT website, and I came across a link that said: ‘Applications for student exchange in semester 2, 2017 close TOMORROW’. I decided to have a look and see where I could go. I had been learning German out of personal interest for about a year so I thought, why not Germany? I rushed to get my application in on time and hoped for the best, but never really gave it another thought. Then the time came to find out whether I had been accepted and I found out I was headed to the University of Mannheim! I knew it was going to be a challenge but I had no idea what was going to be in store for me, or that I was about to have the best and probably more important time of my life.

Firstly arriving in Mannheim, a small(ish) university town in South-West Germany, was quite daunting. I had to find my way to the student accommodation and check-in, all in a language, that up until that point, I had actually ever conversed in. But I managed. The reality that I was now on the other side of the world had not yet set it, but after my first few days I started to have my doubts and thought to myself, what the hell am I doing here? I was yet to make any friends and the start of the semester was still a couple of weeks away.

But the following day my luck changed. I was sitting in a cafe taking advantage of some free wi-fi when a group of people made their way in and sat next to me. They were all speaking English with various different accents and I figured they must also be exchange students. One of them asked me where I was from, and if I would like to join them. I of course agreed. After our coffees, two of the guys, one from Ireland, one from America, asked me if I’d like to come and play basketball with them. I thought to myself, this can’t be real life? Basketball is my favourite sport, which I’ve been playing since I could walk. So played I did, and continued to hang out with these guys, who have since become two of best friends, for the rest of the semester.

Playing my favourite sport

In addition to the busy university scheduled, the following six months were filled with countless nights out, parties and weekend trips to Amsterdam, Berlin, Munich and Prague. I met so many people from all over the world, fell in love with a girl from Norway, and just had so many great experiences that I will never forget.

Exploring with friends

I think it’s important to get out of your comfort zone and experience different cultures sometimes. I am so happy with my decision to go on exchange and with my time in Mannheim. I learned so much, not just the about world, but about myself. As cliché as it may be.