Caroline Fernandes, Madrid

Caroline_Madrid_Circulo de Bellas ArtesI studied in Madrid, Spain for six weeks in the summer of 2014. I took two classes: a Spanish art history class and contemporary Spanish culture class. The art class was one of my favorite classes I have ever taken so far in my college career. We learned about Spanish art throughout history and visited museums to see certain pieces in person. The contemporary Spanish culture class was all about the history of Spain since Franco’s dictatorship. I learned so much about Spain’s history, which allowed me to see how Spain has been shaped over the years.

I learned: Always put yourself out there and try new experiences because those are the moments you remember. I was nervous to study abroad because I had never been away from my family for that long. I always dreamed of studying in Spain and never thought I would do it, but I challenged myself and jumped on that plane to a new place and it was one of my greatest experiences.

Talk to strangers. Contrary to what you learned as a child, talking to strangers is the best thing to do when you are abroad. Locals tell you the best places to visit that may not be in a travel book. There are also so many people travelling around the world with whom you will cross paths and you can’t miss the opportunity to strike up a conversation and hear about their adventures.

I was surprised by: I was surprised by the amount of independence I had while abroad. I could explore the city as I pleased. It was like living on my own in this new city! I was able to make a trip to Barcelona that I was hoping for. Although there are group trips and activities, it is mostly independent exploration so make the most of it!

The hardest part: The hardest part of my experience was getting used to the cultural time differences. In Spain, lunch is in the late afternoon and dinner is really late. This is very different from the culture we have here in the U.S. Even though it was a struggle at first, I got used to it and embraced my new lifestyle.

Also, the classes are not taught the same way as at home, especially with a native Spanish teacher. There are different teaching styles and different expectations. I had to learn and adapt to the new styles, which required a little more effort. I enjoyed that the professors gave breaks during class!

The best part: The best part of my study abroad trip to Spain was my host family! I learned so much from them, and talking with them every night was very helpful in improving my Spanish. We played guitar, watched movies together, and bonded like a real family. I am going to miss my Spanish parents the most out of everything.

My tips: 

  • If you are a peanut butter lover, bring some with you. Peanut butter is hard to find in all grocery stores, and costs a lot.
  • Don’t bring unnecessary items because you will want the space in your luggage for the trip home.
  • Practice your vosotros form!
  • Talk to locals and other people traveling.
  • Get to know your host family.
  • Explore the city, because some of the best places discovered are the ones you stumble upon while walking around.
  • Take advantage of the cultural reimbursements!
  • If you have any questions about studying in Madrid, feel free to contact me at