Bad apartment, great experience July 06, 2017

By (Brandeis University) - abroad from 01/10/2017 to 06/02/2017 with

CIEE: Madrid - Liberal Arts

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
I really did learn more about who I was as a person, I learned to look at the world from a more open and accepting viewpoint, I became fluent in another language, discovered a new passion for travel, and made lifelong memories with new friends.

Review Photos

CIEE: Madrid - Liberal Arts Photo CIEE: Madrid - Liberal Arts Photo CIEE: Madrid - Liberal Arts Photo

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 0-2 weeks

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

The advising resources provided by CIEE were great, the staff really felt like they were always on my side. However, the educational system of Spain is sub-par to say the least. The professors were rarely present to answer questions and in most cases reluctant to offer any kind of help. The curriculum itself is a joke and does barely anything to motivate students to work and learn. Classrooms were filled with students who would blatantly talk over the teacher and lastly, in Spain, the majority of your grade is based off of one final cumulative exam (60-70% in most cases) which is a system that I do not believe is conducive to learning nor do i believe it is effective. For this reason, my overall educational experience receives a two star rating.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

I chose the homestay option because it provided me with 2 free meals a day, unlike the student apartment option. My host-mom was great and the whole experience was wonderful for learning the language and the culture. The location of the apartment was wonderful. However, the apartment itself was ridiculously small and not in great condition. This is in comparison to the student apartments which were gigantic, brand new, refurbished, and rather luxurious. The homestay option was also problematic because we were not allowed to have any sort of company ever. No friends, no family, absolutely nobody spending the night. Its hard for me to say whether cultural exposure and free meals outweighs nicer apartments and opportunities to spend time with friends.

* Food:

The food in my homestay as well as in the restaurants and super markets in Spain is both great quality and low cost. You really can't go wrong here.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

Staying in a homestay, I felt much more integrated into the culture than I would have in a student apartment. Taking classes at a real Spanish university also aided this process. By the end of the semester I really had achieved fluency in the language and felt like Madrid was my second home.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

* Safety:

There is lots of police presence in Madrid, though pickpocketing is a huge issue. I never had anything of mine stolen, but that's because I was extremely careful at all times. Don't ever let your guard down because if you do, things will go missing. Always have a hand on your valuables or put them in a zipped up pocket somewhere.

If you could do it all over again would you choose the same program? Yes

While the housing option was not exactly what I was hoping for or expecting, it did not damper the experience. CIEE staff was incredibly caring and helpful, but not overbearing. It was easy to make friends with the other students in the program without having to spend a lot of time at mandatory social events that you don't care about.

Finances

* Money: How easily were you able to live on a student's budget?

(1 = not very easy/$200+ on food & personal expenses/week, 2.5 = $100/week, 5 = very easily/minimal cost)

Food is very cheap in Madrid; I spent about $45 a week on food. However, drinks as well as club entry fees are hefty and if you're going out several times a week, this cost will become overwhelming. Budget how much you want to spend each night and you'll be okay.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? $75
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Make friends with promoters to get into the clubs for free, people on the street sometimes actually do have good deals and aren't just scams, buy your food at grocery stores not convenience stores, plan out meals so that you aren't eating out every night, buy your drinks at the supermarket and not the convenience stores, and avoid buying drinks at bars/clubs wherever you can because they are expensive.

Language

* Did your program have a foreign language component? Yes
How much did the program encourage you to use the language?

0 = No encouragement, 5 = frequent encouragement to use the language

How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? Intermediate
How would you rate your language skills at the end of the program? Fluent
What was the highest level language course you had completed prior to departure? 5th semester of Spanish
How many hours per day did you use the language?
Do you have any tips/advice on the best ways to practice the language for future study abroad participants? Do a homestay, talk to your host family, make Spanish friends. They love practicing their English with you and they love helping you with your Spanish. Whenever you don't know a word, ask what it means. There are lots of Spanish cultural terms that you may never have heard of before.

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
  • Apartment
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
* Who did you take classes with?

Select all that apply

  • Local Students
  • Americans
  • International Students
About how many local friends did you make that you will likely keep in touch with?

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • Low maintenance
  • They were very supporting
  • The staff was awesome
* What could be improved?
  • Homestay could make use of better apartments
  • Homestay could allow students to have friends over
  • CIEE could do a better job informing the students of Spanish University rules and requirements prior to departure
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? I wish I knew that the student apartments were much nicer than homestays, that in homestays you aren't allowed to have people over, and that Spanish Universities don't take care of you like American ones do.

Reasons For Studying Abroad

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The Outright Urbanite
A social butterfly, you're happiest in bustling cities with hip people, and took advantage of all it had to offer. You enjoyed the nightlife, and had fun going out dancing, and socializing with friends. Fun-loving and dressed to the nines, you enjoyed discovering new restaurants, shops, cafes, and bars in your host country.