The best semester you will ever have in college! Past Review

By (Spanish Language, Literature, University of Michigan - Ann Arbor) - abroad from 09/07/2015 to 12/11/2015 with

IES Abroad: Madrid - IES Abroad in Madrid

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
As a student majoring in Spanish and International Relations, studying in Madrid was a like a capstone to my undergraduate studies. During my semester in Madrid I had the opportunity to take classes at the world famous Museo Nacional del Prado, enroll in a course at La Universidad Complutense de Madrid, take the DELE language certification exam through IES sponsorship and even participate in a part time internship for academic credit. Beyond helping me to achieve my academic goals of improving my Spanish and gaining internship experience, I had not anticipated the extent to which IES would help me to grow personally. As cliche as it sounds, my semester abroad was a life-changing experience.

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 1 month - 6 months

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

The course offerings are very interesting and really get you immersed in Spanish culture, but they are not as challenging as my normal university courses. There is barely any homework throughout the semester. Most of the grade is just the midterm, final exam and maybe a final paper or project.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

The staff were one of the best parts of the program.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

My house itself was really nice, but my host family was very reserved so I did not feel very welcome in the home. In retrospect I should have chosen to live in a dorm with Spanish students so I could have made more local friends. The IES staff were very accommodating to students who wanted to switch housing and I could have switched if I had wanted to, but I decided to just stay put.

* Food:

The food itself at my homestay was very good, but the IES policy for homestays is that you only get one meal per day in addition to breakfast and no kitchen privileges, which made some days a little bit awkward when the rest of the family would be eating and I would not be able to join them. I would choose to either cook all your own meals or to live in a dorm, which has three meals included daily.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

Academically, I felt very integrated in Spanish culture through all the courses at local museums like the Prado and Reina Sofia. IES also organized a lot of outings and lessons in Flamenco and cooking to get us immersed in the culture. Some of my friends from IES who lived in the dorms ended up making a lot of Spanish friends, but I did not end up making many myself. If you really want to meet a lot of Spaniards it's up to you to put yourself out there through intercambios, taking courses at Complutense de Madrid, and just approaching locals anywhere you go.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

The IES staff will make appointments for you and ensure that a translator is there if you are uncomfortable conducting your visit in Spanish. The process couldn't have been easier, and afterwards the IES staff helped me get my reimbursements settled with my insurance.

* Safety:

As long as you practice basic common sense, Madrid is a very safe city (speaking from the perspective of a petite, young woman). The city is always buzzing and full of people walking around until all hours of the night, so I felt very comfortable being out until 2 or 3am with friends. Petty crime like pick pocketing is common, especially in crowded areas like the metro or in a club/bar, but if you make sure to be vigilant you will have no issues. IES also provides students with many resources and a crash course on safety during the first week's orientation.

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

The program does a really good job of ensuring students experience all the wonderful things that Spanish culture has to offer through its course selections and by providing cooking and flamenco lessons, weekend excursions, and inviting students to dinners and performances around Madrid. What makes IES so great is that every student is given the opportunity to make their study abroad experience fulfill both their unique needs and personal goals. If you are the sort of person who wants to dive right into Spanish culture and mingle with locals, IES has opportunities to help you do that. If you would prefer to spend most of your time with other students from the US, IES has a community of students from home for you to spend time with. They give you the opportunities to make your semester abroad into the experience that is right for you. I would highly recommend this program for anyone considering studying in Spain!


* 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)

Madrid itself is not very expensive, especially for students. Food is very cheap, especially groceries, and most students get discounts at museums. You are required to purchase a phone and metro card as well as one meal per day if you are in a homestay, which can add up. Purchasing a meal in Madrid can be $6-20 depending on where you eat. I would expect to pay at least $50 a week on food and then about $40-50 each month on metro passes and phone expenses.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? If you wish to travel within Spain or around Europe on weekends, I would expect to pay $100-200 for each trip depending on how much you pay for your travel fare.
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Your lifestyle will dictate how much you spend. If you want to go out to expensive clubs every evening and travel to other countries every weekend, you could easily spend several hundred dollars every week. If you plan trips ahead of time (while train/plane tickets are still cheap) and eat at more student oriented restaurants, your time in Madrid can be very affordable.


* 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

We were required to speak in Spanish while at the IES center and homestays and encouraged to do so with our friends from the US as well.

How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? Advanced
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? I already had an advanced level from spending several months abroad in another Spanish speaking country, but most students were not at a very advanced level before the program and had few issues
How many hours per day did you use the language? 10+
Do you have any tips/advice on the best ways to practice the language for future study abroad participants? I would try to make friends with locals and participate in intercambios with spaniards who are looking to improve their english, this way you both practice your other language and it is a great way to make friends!

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
* Who did you take classes with?

Select all that apply

  • Local Students
  • Americans
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?
  • The staff
  • The courses
  • The cultural experiences and excursions
* What could be improved?
  • The housing policies
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? I wish that I would have chosen to live in the dorms with Spanish students because all of my friends who lived in the dorms left with a lot more local friends than I did!

Reasons For Studying Abroad

To help future students find programs attended by like-minded individuals, please choose the profile that most closely represents you.
The Academic or Linguist
You went abroad with specific academic goals in mind; the program credentials and rigor of your coursework abroad were very important to you. You had a great time abroad, but never lost sight of your studies and (if applicable) were diligent with your foreign language study. Good for you!