Studying Abroad is what you make it August 05, 2022

By (english, The University of Texas at Austin) - abroad from 01/13/2022 to 05/20/2022 with

Universidad Pontificia Comillas de Madrid: Madrid - Direct Enrollment & Exchange

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
I learned how to be independent and how to adapt to a foreign country. I learned how to enjoy my own company and realize that I can enjoy traveling by myself. I also learned not to go into any situations with expectations, because regardless of if it's better or worse than you expected, it's never going to be what you thought it was. It was definitely worthwhile, even with the difficult moments.

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 university "Comillas" has a range of professors that were very attentive the the exchange students and there was a range of different classes that were available. The campus that I, and most of the students from my home university, attended was not the university's main campus, so there were not many resources available, however it did have all the basics that are needed. I didn't find the curriculum to be too difficult, however most of the final grades were based on one or two assignments at the end of the semester, so not much room for error. the workload was light with usually no homework. The main downside is that the campus was located 40 minutes from the city center, so the campus life found at most United States universities was nonexistent, and the commute did impact my enjoyment of school. Because of distance from the city, making friends and establishing connections was more difficult than I anticipated, and if the life around the university was more prominent I believe this would have been much easier.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

The program administrator was very helpful, but wasn't to over bearing with her presence, emails, etc... however, you knew that she was always available to help.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

Since the campus was so far, and there was no dorms or anything, we had to find our own housing. My home university recommended different neighborhoods to live in especially in the center, so that we could experience the city. I found student housing in a great location for a good price. Since you have to find your own housing and most likely do not live with students that go to your university, its adds to the difficulties of making connections with the other students. Also since the roommates you get in the housing you choose are completely random, there is no saying on if you will enjoy the housing situation. I really enjoyed my roommates I had when I first moved in (they were students from the previous semester) but I did not really connect with most of the others that came after. Its a situation that you could be extremely lucky and have those roommates make the experience amazing, or not be lucky and have it negatively impact the experience.

* Food:

Since Madrid is a big city there was a plethora of different food choices which was beneficial. There were different types of restaurants for almost all cravings or wants. Spanish food is delicious, but there were so many other options for when tapas got a bit redundant.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

Since Madrid is such a big city, and very popular amongst students abroad, my experience was definitely more of one for exchange and international students and people. While its inevitable to interact with the locals and their culture, I did not completely immersed myself since most of the people around me were also not from that country. But that was very enjoyable in its own way. I did really like the different pace in which Spain lives in, especially compared to the US. The social aspect, for example the nightlife, was something that really was main aspect which made my experience what it was, and something that makes it different from my home school and what makes studying abroad so special.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

I luckily did not have too many issues in which I needed to seek healthcare, and the experience I had were relatively easy and accessible. It was a requirement for Spain to have private healthcare, and with my provider it was simple and fast to get an appointment when I got sick (sinus infection and cold) and different options and locations. It also has telemedicine options which was convenient. My program gave different providers that most foreigners use. I paid very little for the appointments I had and didn't need to pay anything at the time of the actual appointments. Compared to my home healthcare it is significantly cheaper, especially if something worse would have happened, which overall added to the safety I felt.I was able to make all appointments online, and they had so many different resources for all my needs. I don't recall if there was an vaccine you needed to have, but in regards to covid no place besides the airport asked me to show proof of vaccination.

* Safety:

I felt very safe in Madrid. While obviously there is a good amount of pickpocketing, if you are smart about it the likeliness of getting robbed decreases. I was never robbed and took simple precautions to ensure that, however people I knew did experience that. I did witness someone get their phoned robbed but did not feel unsafe being near the incident. As a woman I did feel more safe walking by myself and at different times in the day and at night, compared to different places in the US that I have been to/live in. While I did experience more men coming up to me in Madrid, I did not feel as unsafe compared to the men in the US. Since weapons are not as prevalent it was more reassuring, and there are often people walking at all times of the day around the center that also added in safety. For future students, I would advise to bring bags that attach to your mid body, such as fanny packs, or bags that have complicated opening methods, and making sure they are always in front of your body and not behind/on your side. Also, especially for girls, (this will help in any city you are either living or visiting), if you are in a place you aren't familiar with make sure you aren't looking at your phone too much and are alert of your surroundings. For example if you are using your phone for directions, look at the phone sparingly but don't keep your eyes glued to the screen. That way its not obvious that you don't know your way around.

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

This is a hard question and I wish there was a maybe response. I met some of the best people and had a great time, but that was because of other factors and not my exchange program specifically. I ended up making my friend group because of someone I knew that was living in Madrid at the time. Because of the schools location I was not able to make many friend groups with people at my school, and my luck with my roommates was not the best so if I had not my prior friends I probably would have had a much worse experience. I wouldnt take back the time I had with my friends, but if I could go back or give advice to others I maybe would have chosen a school where there was on campus locations or possibly the schools own international housing, and also a university closer to the city in which I am living in.


* 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)

I was lucky to have financial aid so I didn't have to worry about my home universities costs while abroad. I also set up a go fund me before going to aid in the expenses for traveling, so I was able to travel without worry. Also the rent in Madrid is significantly cheaper than Austin Texas and I was able to afford a great location while still being half the cost of my rent at home. My kitchen and pantry space was limited to cooking at home was difficult and most of the money went to food and drinks. So living on a student budget is difficult since many social actives require paying, so limiting yourself is essential, but also difficult.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? probably around 100-150 per week, but that depends on certain activities for the week.
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Making a gofundme is a smart way to get donations for all the extra things you want to do while abroad. I sent mine primarily to my family members and just from those donations alone I was able to cover all the money I needed for traveling. A lot of people are willing to donate to the cause. Also eating at home allows for you to be able to spend more on social activities, and looking at free activities is helpful too.


* 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

You were able to take a spanish class depending on your level. All other classes however were in english so spanish was not used on campus too much. Since there are so many international students most speak english as the common language for everyone. I am a fluent spanish speaker so I did not notice the encouragement nor how easy it was to communicate or how the school helped in that regard.

How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? Fluent
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 gained all credit for spanish when I graduated high school.
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? Duolingo is helpful to learn any language. Make sure to try to speak in the language when in public, like ordering at a restaurant or buying things in a store. Also it is beneficial to learn some words or phrases in whatever language of the places you are visiting to make it easier to communicate, and its something that all locals appreciate. It is ignorant to assume others will know your language in their home country and not even attempt to speak the language. It is something many europeans notice, and your experiences with locals will change if effort is made.

Direct Enrollment/Exchange

* Did you study abroad through an exchange program or did you directly enroll in the foreign university? Exchange

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Apartment
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans
  • International Students
* Who did you take classes with?

Select all that apply

  • 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?
  • the city
  • the culture
* What could be improved?
  • campus life
  • aid in helping students make connections
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? The restrictions and impact that having a long commute to school make on the experience, and eliminate any expectation I had.