Karen - IE University

B. Psychological Science
Semester 2, 2016

Academic experience

I decided to take on the whole 3rd-year psychology load. I knew IE was a small uni and my classes were around only 16 people, and by sticking to all the classes I aimed to become more integrated with the group. I enjoyed this intimate setting and was one of the most different things about my exchange uni. 

I enjoyed how easy it was to get to know other people in the class and that it was so easy to talk to teachers. I personally enjoy a more intimate setting and this aspect stood out for me. The uni also focused a lot more on group projects and presentations which was easy to organise and manage within the small town and getting to know more people. The workload generally was not as heavy, even though I took all 6 subjects plus Spanish I still had plenty of time to travel and socialise.

Personal experience

The 6 months of exchange has been one of my most satisfying long-term experiences. Going into a completely foreign environment and not knowing anyone did excite me and I was always enthusiastic about making the most of it, and it wasn't hard to make it a great experience. 

My class was small and if you are open and willing to meet and make friends, I felt that they also would in return. I felt like a part of the class, although already established over 3 years I wormed my way in and was even told to have been one of the most integrated exchange students. I not only had my housemates and other exchange students that were great friends but I had classmates that I spent so much time with, went on trips with and were some of my closest friends. From travels and exchange, I learnt that it really doesn't matter where you are, but who you're with that affects each experience.

IE is an extremely international school, so I now truly have friends from all corners of the globe, which came in handy when I travelled after the semester and had friends in every city. From Segovia, it was easy to travel to Madrid and from there to any city in Spain and many countries. Especially in warmer months, my weekends were dedicated to exploring the beautiful beachside cities and islands of Spain and also neighbouring countries. My understanding of Spanish definitely developed, even though at the uni everyone speaks English there is a large Spanish speaking population.

Accommodation

I lived off-campus but in an all-student townhouse complex. My accommodation set-up was a unique aspect of my experience and definitely wouldn't have been the same otherwise. Within the townhouses, there was roughly 12 of us in the same position (1st year or exchange) and basically all new to Spain. I arrived in Segovia and immediately had 11 friends, meaning there was always someone to hang out with, travel with or party with. We were like a big family by the end and threw some memorable parties and fun group dinners. The residence options are more expensive, the one on-campus being primarily first-years, the Factory is more diverse in who lives there, but still a bit pricier.

Budget

Exchange trip to Morocco!
Exchange trip to Morocco!

Living in Segovia is quite cheap and I spent less than expected, especially in comparison to what it would cost in Madrid. Rent was 450 euros and this was more than average but worth it for the atmosphere. Groceries can get by on 20 euros a week, meals out at the few restaurants in Segovia roughly would be a 15 euro spend, less for tapas. Everywhere is walking distance expect larger supermarkets which is an easy bus ride. Bus to Madrid is 7.50 euros and takes an hour, the train is 25 mins and 13 euros but is outside of town, the bus is more economical. If you book in advance it's always easy to find cheap bus or flights to cities in or around Spain. Going out in Segovia was very cheap as you can walk everywhere and every Tuesday and Thursday there are student nights. I think $4000 can get you by for the four months easily.

Professional development and employability

I believe all experiences that introduce you to diverse cultures and environments are extremely beneficial to people professionally and personally. IE is a very diverse community and it allows you to become more aware of the diverse cultures and values. It is also a very motivated, entrepreneurial atmosphere and motivates you to look for what opportunities are out there. It tests your flexibility and adaptability as you have to learn to work with the ways of other cultures, for example, taking things at a slower pace as sometimes they do in Spain.

Highlight

There were the big standouts of the trip, a memorable spring trip to Mallorca, quad-biking in a Moroccan desert and surfing in the south of Spain. But overall, the best part was the whole experience of creating a place that felt like home. I got to know the windy roads of the little stone-walled town of Segovia. I got to know the people intimately and create life-long bonds. My housemates became my family and every moment was shared with them. I even went back to Segovia after travelling and it felt like returning home, the familiarity of the streets and where to go and knowing who would be there was what made my experience unforgettable.

Top tips

  • Going to a small town for exchange was a really great decision and I loved the community that it creates. Really think hard about whether you want to do one or two semesters. Although the one semester I did so much, an extra semester would have even furthered the connection I felt to that town. 
  • Do make the most of the beautiful country of Spain. Visit Mallorca and rent a car, visit Seville or Granada and appreciate the Moroccan influence on the beautiful cities. Alicante was also another surprisingly fun beachside city, full of tapas bars and people dancing on the streets. 
  • Get involved at the uni, talk to the people you sit next to, join a club. I joined dance club which was on twice a week and I met some lovely people and just expanded my social network so much more and gave me more things to do during the week.
Karen - IE University