Studying Abroad in Madrid, Spain

This past quarter, I was fortunate enough to be able to study abroad in Madrid, Spain. The University of Denver has a great study abroad program with excursions that show the important history of Spain and classes related to different majors, especially mine (Business). Not only was this my first international flight but my first flight in general. You can only imagine my fear of traveling alone to a very unknown area. I had absolutely no idea how it would all work. Thankfully, all my friends that have traveled internationally and the study abroad program gave me helpful tips and were even there to see me off at the airport.

My flight was from Denver to Charlotte to Madrid. Upon arriving to the Adolfo Suarez-Madrid Barajas airport, I immediately fell in love. I was taken to the center of Madrid and from there, everyone left to their chosen housing. I chose to live in an apartment with two other girls. One of them is my friend and the other was also a student from DU that I had never met. Getting used to everything made the first week a bit difficult for me. Being far away from my family and dealing with the time difference were some of the factors but being in a new, beautiful place, you tend to have so much excitement that it doesn’t seem real yet.

The study abroad program helped see most of Spain with excursions and cultural activities. I went to the University of Nebrija and took classes that went towards my major like “Businesses in Spain” and other fun classes like, “Cine Español” which was all about the history and transition of Spain through movies. Before going into class, the International Studies Director of the school told us what to expect from the teachers here and how they differ from teachers back home.

Culture shock, the feeling of disorientation experienced by someone who is suddenly subjected to an unfamiliar culture or way of life, is a major aspect of study abroad. Everyone experiences this but more so in the school. Even though we weren’t put directly with other Spanish students, you could still interact with them on campus. You must be open-minded and have some prior knowledge of their cultures in order to not let it affect your stay.

Half way through the 3 months, homesickness is also something everyone feels, but I found out that by keeping yourself busy and being there for each other helped a lot. Calling families and friends didn’t help with the homesickness but it gave the feeling of comfort. If you ever felt alone, going to the study abroad program’s office was always a good idea. They have great tips and counseling for those that really need it. By the end of the program, it all felt as if we were one big family.

One thing I did not know before going to Europe was how inexpensive it is to travel anywhere. I highly recommend taking advantage of the cheap airfare and going to as many places as you can. Hostels are affordable and student friendly. My advice would be to travel as much as possible and definitely immerse yourself in the culture. Visit the museums, the festivals, eat authentic food, read the news and talk with locals. I learned to be more receptive of other people’s points of views and realize how much is going on in the world. I was able to talk about the migration crisis in front of humanitarian organizations and express my thoughts. Being able to connect with them and learn so much more about what they are really facing, seeing real pictures and hearing stories from people being affected by this was a life changing moment. Going abroad was a once in a lifetime opportunity I will never forget.