Madrid: Vale! A fantastic time in the big city. Past Review

By (Comparative Sociology, University of Puget Sound) for

IES Abroad: Madrid - IES Abroad in Madrid, Summer

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
I got to test my competency in a huge urban setting. I loved being able to practice and improve my Spanish daily. I loved learning about a brand new culture, while simultaneously learning about how I was able to adapt to a completely new setting.

Review Photos

IES Abroad: Madrid - IES Abroad in Madrid, Summer Photo IES Abroad: Madrid - IES Abroad in Madrid, Summer Photo IES Abroad: Madrid - IES Abroad in Madrid, Summer Photo IES Abroad: Madrid - IES Abroad in Madrid, Summer Photo

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 2 weeks - 1 month

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

Classes were run in a similar fashion to those at my University. The grading system was fair and standard (A-F). I took two classes (one grammar class and one cultural class) Monday through Thursday. Both of my professors were friendly, passionate and accessible. Classes were taught in Spanish so that we could be exposed to the language but questions were encouraged if there was any confusion. The work load was very minimal. The reason for this may have been due to the length of my program? We covered a lot of material in a short span of time so I had to keep up but I never felt overwhelmed.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

A member of the IES Madrid staff was always available in the offices if I needed. I never felt intimidated talking to them or asking them questions. They seemed warm, welcoming and were very helpful. The program size was virtually perfect; there were enough students that we had a range of backgrounds/geographic diversity but I didn't feel overwhelmed in a group of strangers. I loved the weekend trips that IES scheduled for us as a group, as well as the flexibility to travel on our own. The staff notified us of any/all safety precautions or concerns and were available to help in any precarious situation.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

My neighborhood was an easy 20 minute walk away from the University which I loved. Though Madrid is a much larger city than I am used to, I never felt endangered in my neighborhood. A metro stop was located near my apartment that lead to a direct line to the main part of downtown, which meant easy access to nightlife. The young Spanish woman that lived in my apartment was very nice and helpful though there were many days where I didn't see her for large periods of time (this was partially my fault because I was always in and out of the apartment). The size of the apartment was amazing! I thought I was coming to live in a small, European style place but we had ample room. I even wished there were more students filling the empty bedrooms there with us!

* Food:

Oddly enough the food in Spain was my least favorite part of the whole adventure. I never went hungry and the kitchen in my apartment/ my neighborhood in general provided me with easy access to food BUT it was always so bland. I got tired of white bread, ham and cheese. My favorite restaurant was Cien Montaditos (100 little sandwhiches). It is a wonderful place for students, there are branches all across the city. And on Wednesday nights everything on the menu is only 1 euro!! However, when our IES group went on a weekend excursion they treated us to the most delicious restaurant food, I could never complain then.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

Our program took us on a few wonderful trips. Segovia was fun and informative (plus the food was delicious). I was pleased that the program offered optional trips for students (a trip up to a small town in the mountains surrounding Madrid for example). As well, the schedule of the program left a perfect amount of room for students to explore Spain on our own during the weekends. One of my favorite trips of the whole program was with my friends to Granada when I stayed at my first hostel and we explored the city on our own. During one of the final weekends in the program the group was driven to Valencia, a beautiful city by the beach. We were treated to amazing food, awesome lodging and wonderful time at the aquarium and la playa (the beach).

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

* Safety:

Violent crime did not seem to be an issue in Madrid. Be careful of pickpockets! Many people in my program had items stolen from them while their bags sat under their noses. I never had an issue with this, I still carry my bag towards the front of my side as a result. There were a lot of political student protests going on in Puerta del Sol while we were in Madrid. Our program warned us of the risks of being in an area that was so populated during such a heated political time, we never had any issues with the protestors.

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


* 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)


* Did your program have a foreign language component? Yes
Language acquisition improvement?

We spoke solely Spanish during class which was very helpful. As well, I lived in an apartment with a young Spanish woman who functioned as an R.A. I loved being able to speak Spanish with her daily. I do wish more native Spanish speakers had been involved in our program somehow because when we were all together we had a tendency to speak English.

If applicable, to what degree did your living situation aid your language acquisition?

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Apartment
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans
  • Local Students

A Look Back

* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? -If you are like me and are not used to navigating a big city Madrid is a perfect jumping off point! The metro system is clean and accessible. -Don't be afraid to talk to locals! They will want to practice English and you can practice Spanish, plus make a friend or two. -Study abroad isn't necessarily about the classroom experience, you should be willing to dive into all the aspects of a foreign culture: food, dance, art, music etc. Keep an open mind and try things you never thought you could (I loved Flamenco dancing!)