Madrid: It took a City of 5 Million for me to Learn to Breathe Past Review

By (Nursing, Belmont University) for

ISA Study Abroad in Madrid, Spain

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
All of the reasons previously mentioned made my experience INCREDIBLY worthwhile. I would highly recommend this program--it seems cliché to say that it changed my life, but it certainly did. I look forward to any new travel experience mostly because of the positive experience I had here. One additional thing that made this program so wonderful was the directors. They were compassionate, helpful, and sincere in their concerns; from our safety to our ability to experience all that Spain could offer us, they wanted only the best.

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.

I had one class, a writing class, with which I provided very minimal help--my professor was condescending and unprofessional when asked to provide additional explanations about class material. Every other class I attended was top notch, and I learned about a myriad of things while also learning Spanish.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

The directors for this program were very knowledgeable, spoke English well (for those difficult to communicate situations), and provided students with their personal cell phone numbers so that we were able to get in touch with them at anytime. The activities that were planned for us were relevant to what we were studying as well as great fun. They were well organized, however, at that time we were asked to meet at specific metro stops as a group prior to departure together--this was difficult early in the program as the city, language, and culture were new to me and I was attempting to find these stops on my own. Eventually, as I became more comfortable with Madrid, this task became easier. Overall, I could not have asked for better program directors.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

I applied to the program late and made my own housing arrangements. I lived in a residencia for women that was near the Islas Filipinas metro stop--it was a central location for me and I enjoyed the neighborhood though, at times, it seemed a little less safe than other neighborhoods after dark. I used the help of a woman that lived a little outside of Madrid to help me find this housing. The other residents were mostly from Spanish speaking countries including Spain, Columbia, and Peru.

* Food:

I did not have any particularly negative experiences while eating out in Madrid--there are so many options and something new to try everywhere. I would recommend making it to smaller restaurants during early evening hours (1600-1900) as this seemed to be when these places sometimes provided free tapas! Great way to try new food!! Supermarkets were also a valuable way to learn about food culture.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

Gardens in southern Spain, Alcázar, the mosque in Córdoba, and the beaches of Málaga were some of the highlights of my experiences in Spain. These places were beautiful and encouraged student exploration. Ávila had a surprising impact on me--a town inside fortress walls, quiet, great little farmer's market, and peaceful time to reflect--some of the calmest most influential thoughts and discoveries of the study abroad experience came to me during this little pit stop. I would have loved to have been able to travel to Eastern Spain as well, but I understand that it is not a quick, easy trip and probably would have been quite expensive to get that many students there.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

* Safety:

Spain overall felt very safe to me. I was out at all hours of the night and day and only a few times felt that I had gotten myself into a situation/location that might not have been ideal. One such time was at a park in central Madrid--I do not recall the name of the park. I was meeting someone there near dusk and a man began making lewd comments to me, I was able to dissipate the situation by relocating myself, but it was still somewhat disturbing. I also found myself near a maze-like shrub area in central Madrid (another location whose name has slipped my mind) late at night, I felt as if I were being followed in that area so I avoided the dark maze and got to a more well lit area. This was my mistake as I should not have been in this area late at night by myself. Madrid as a whole felt like one of the safest larger cities I have ever visited.

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

Language acquisition improvement?

I used Spanish every day. I used it when speaking to the other residents in my housing unit, with people I met on the street, in shops, when ordering food, when asking for directions, everywhere!

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Other
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Other

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • Ample time to explore host city
  • The immersion into Spanish language and culture
  • Many opportunities to travel to other cities in host country
* What could be improved?
  • More freedom to explore other countries while in the program
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? This is a great program for anyone looking to further their education about another culture--especially if they want to increase their ability to speak the language. I learned more Spanish outside of the classroom by speaking to locals or to other students who were there learning Spanish (and with whom that was the only language we had in common). It is important to leave your house/dorm and explore the city on your own. There are many places that cater to American tourists--these places should be avoided! They may help you feel more comfortable in a strange new place, but they coddle your insecurities, allow you to speak a language you are already familiar with, and provide you with food/drinks you already know; travel abroad is to have NEW experiences. This type of program would benefit any student looking for a challenge. Anyone willing to step out of the comfort of their own home and open to participating in new experiences should consider this program.