Annie K, Spain – Carlos III University (Global Studies)

ACADEMICS

1. What types of classes did you take abroad and how did they compare to UCSB?

While at Carlos III, I took five classes – four directly enrolled at the school, and one through my program. I took classes that pertained to my Global Studies major such as topics in international politics, and sociology of gender and family, but I also took classes that I found interesting such as New Trends in Media. I was also enrolled in one Spanish language class which helped me learn more about the Spanish spoken in Spain. They were similar to classes at UCSB because there were lectures and sections, but there was a lot more group work and presentations.

2. What was your favorite class abroad? 

My favorite class abroad was New Trends in Media. We learned a lot about different trends in the media landscape such as trends and aesthetics in film and music, video games, and how these new trends are affecting our world.

3. Did you intern, volunteer, or conduct fieldwork or research abroad?  If so, tell us about your experience.

No

HOST INSTITUTION

4. How would you describe your host institution?

Carlos III University is located in Getafe which is about a 30 minute train ride from the city center in Madrid. It is a college campus with pretty brick buildings and courtyards. There are mostly Spanish students there, but there is also a fair amount of international students from all over the world.

5. Are there student clubs/organizations that UC students can join?

UC Students can join clubs on campus, but they don’t have a large presence in general. I found that many international students joined intramural sports teams to meet new people from around the world.

HOUSING

6. Describe your housing situation.

I lived in a seven person apartment in the neighborhood of Malasaña in Madrid. Because this program does not provide housing for you, we found our own housing about five months before getting to Madrid. I definitely recommend living in the city center rather than in Getafe where the school is because you will be closer to more shops and restaurants and be able to experience the city culture.

FOOD

7. Where did you eat most of your meals?

I love to cook, so I ate most of my meals at home. There was a grocery store around the corner from my apartment where I would shop once a week and stock up on food. If I did not want to cook, I usually walked a few blocks down to Gran Vía or explored my neighborhood and tried new tapas restaurants.

8. How much was an average meal?  Do you have any budgeting tips for future students?

An average meal is probably around 7 euro. Depending on how nice the restaurant is, a meal could be around 12-15 euro, but also as low as 2 euro. I definitely recommend saving money before studying abroad and also try to cook more if it is possible in your housing situation. I was able to get groceries for a week for about 30 euro. 

9. Would it be difficult for vegetarians/vegans and others with strict dietary restrictions to find meals?

It is not very difficult to find meals if you have dietary restrictions. There are many places that are similar to ones in the US such as juice bars, gluten free bakeries, and there is plenty of sea food. One of my housemates was a vegetarian and she did not find it difficult to eat out in Madrid, nor did she find it difficult to find groceries for her diet restrictions.

10. Describe your most memorable dining experience abroad.

My most memorable dining experience abroad was in Dachau, Germany. It was a Doner Kebab, which are found all around Europe, but this one in Germany was SO GOOD because of the diverse toppings and the experience of eating at a small shop in a local town.

11. What local food or drink do you miss most now that you are back?

I definitely miss the tapas and paella the most! 


HOST CITY

12. Describe your host city.

Madrid is a similar vibe to New York. It is always busy with people and there are restaurants and stores everywhere. There are also a lot of great parks to watch the sunset at and the architecture is beautiful.

13. Was it easy to get around?

It was super easy to get around by metro. The public transportation is really easy to figure out and is the most effective way to get around. Walking and taking the bus are also really great ways to get around.

14. Did you feel safe in your host city? Do you have any safety tips for future students?

I felt safe in Madrid about 95% of the time. There will always be people who will approach you (especially at night), but you just have to ignore them. For sure watch your purse and belongings because pick-pocketing happens in restaurants, metros, and on the busy streets.

15. What were some interesting/fun things that you did in your host city?

I made sure to do all the touristy things in Madrid – tour the palace, row the boats at Parque del Retiro, explore Plaza Mayor, shop at Gran Via and Plaza del Sol, and eat Churros!


HOST CULTURE

16. Describe any cultural differences you experienced while abroad.

They eat meals at very weird times in Spain. Breakfast isn’t really a thing, and dinner isn’t until 9pm or later. They also don’t take things to go so you never see people eating while commuting to work or school. Also, although people are very friendly, they mostly stay to themselves.

17. How did you handle culture shock?

I tried to adapt as quickly as possible to the culture in Spain. It wasn’t too hard to adjust. I found it helpful to try to speak Spanish wherever I went to easily fit in. 

18. What is your favorite aspect of your host culture?

My favorite aspect of my host culture is that you are able to stay at restaurants and coffee shops for however long you want. The customer is responsible for asking for the bill which I liked a lot because I never felt rushed while I was out.


TRAVEL

19. Tell us your favorite travel story from your time abroad.

My favorite trip was to Budapest, Hungary. My older brother studied abroad there and gave me a list of things that we had to do. We went to the baths, the top of St. Stephens Basillica for 360 views of Budapest, and we were able to walk around the entire city. The night life was THE BEST and I constantly miss it to this day. 


REFLECTION

20. What was your biggest fear about studying abroad that turned out to be no big deal?

One of my biggest fears was that I would be homesick and not get used to living so far away from home. Although there were times when I really missed my family and friends at home, I came to realize that it isn’t a big deal because it is so easy to FaceTime and talk to people through WhatsApp. It was also nice that I made so many great friends abroad that it really started to feel like home.

21. What was your biggest challenge abroad?

One of my biggest challenges abroad was actually school. It was harder than I expected it to be and classes were mandatory. Although it was hard, I am glad that I was still academically challenged while abroad.

22. How have you changed as a result of your time abroad?

I have grown to be a very independent person because of abroad. I also have an appreciation for all people and cultures and definitely have a travel bug now.

23. What is your advice to prospective UCSB EAP students?

No matter what country you choose, make the most of your time there! I know that you want to travel as much as you can but also make sure that you appreciate your home city and immerse yourself in the culture.


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