Caitlin - Universidad Pontificia Comillas

B. Arts
Semester 1, 2016

Academic experience

While on exchange I completed five courses which equated to a full time study load. Two of the five courses I undertook were taught in english, while the rest were taught in spanish. However, I had the option of completing the assessment in english. 


The subjects I undertook were:
1. Contemporary Spanish History
2. Current International Issues from a Spanish Perspective 
3. Political Systems and Politics in Spain
4. Spanish for Foreign Exchange Students 
5. Spanish Literature from the civil war to the transition to democracy

I chose my subjects from the list of subjects available specifically for exchange students, this had positive and negative consequences. The positive aspects were that the workload was significantly easier, which left ample time to explore Spain and other parts of Europe. Conversely, undertaking subjects only for exchange students meant that I did not mingle with Spanish students. I would recommend looking beyond the suggested subjects for exchange students.

Personal experience

My ability to speak and understand Spanish vastly improved before and after exchange. Before leaving for Madrid I had a fairly intermediate level of Spanish and after finishing exchange I could quite confidently handle most situations in Spanish, additionally, I learned a substantial amount of slang and ‘Mardid-Spanish.’ Finally, after living in Spain for six months my accent and fluency definitely improved.

Accommodation

At Comillas, there is no on-campus living, as such I lived in a 6-bedroom apartment with five other roommates close to the centre of Madrid. The apartment was very centrally located and I could easily walk to Gran Vía (Madrid’s central road). Although be warned, finding an apartment can be quite a stressful endeavour. I would recommend arriving in Madrid about a week to a week and a half earlier in order to begin your apartment hunt. If you go on exchange in UQ Semester 1 (January), you can be a bit more fortunate in finding an apartment as the other universities such as Compultense or Autónoma haven’t yet gone back. However, if you go on exchange in UQ Semester 2 (August), it can be a bit more stressful finding an apartment. Comillas does have a housing office and can assist you with your search or you can use idealist.com (which is what most Spanish people use). However, be prepared to send countless e-mails and WhatsApp messages and not receive a reply.
Finally, in terms of renting it’s completely different to Australia and tenants receive few rights, especially if you are renting for a period of between 5-6 months.

Budget

Glastonbury Festival, United Kingdom
Glastonbury Festival, United Kingdom

Living in Madrid is fairly cheap compared to other major European capital cities. My monthly rent was €400, and my grocery budget per week was roughly €30. Madrid has a vast and reliable public transport system and you can get a travel pass for €20 a month called and Abono Joven (if you’re under 26), which covers zones A-E2. You can use your abono to travel to different cities within the greater community of Madrid such as Toledo.

Professional development and employability

The greatest skill that I have developed from exchange would be my Spanish. I am fairly confident in handling most situations in Spanish now.

Highlight

It is a bit of a cliché, however, the highlight of my experience would have to be the entire thing.

Top tips

  • Don’t be afraid to challenge yourself and definitely do it! 
Caitlin - Universidad Pontificia Comillas