Bronwyn - Universidad Pontificia Comillas

Bachelor of International Studies
Semester 1, 2018

Academic experience

I studied at Universidad Pontificia Comillas, and I took 6 courses: Politics and Society of the Middle East, European History of the 20th Century, International Issues from a Spanish Perspective, Politics of Spain, Comparative Political Systems, and Spanish for Exchange Students B1. All of these courses were designed for international students, or a mix of international and Spanish students, and all of them (except the Spanish course) were completely in English. 
Choosing classes and enrolling etc was frustrating at times, but no more so than the same process at UQ. Comillas has a great system in place for their exchange students, and our co-ordinator actually sat down with us in small groups and walked us through signing into classes and figuring out timetables etc. 
Comillas is a much smaller university than UQ, and I was studying at the humanities campus, which is even smaller again (only 3 buildings). It was really nice to have such small lectures (average 30 people) because you really got to know the lecturers and the other students. The classes themselves were not extremely hard; most of them were designed specifically for exchange students, and Comillas was really understanding of the fact that studying was only one of the many things we were trying to fit into our time in Spain, so I personally found the workload to be equivalent or even easier than that at UQ. Of course if you are taking your classes in Spanish it would be a lot more difficult!

Personal experience

Living in Spain definitely improved my Spanish skills. Don’t worry if you can’t speak Spanish though, as many of the younger Spanish generations, especially in Madrid, speak fantastic English. 
You meet so many like-minded people in the other exchange students, and you suddenly have friends from all over the world. While it is good to make friends with local students, the other exchange students are just as keen as you are to explore new places, to travel, and to generally make the most of the six months. Spain is a fabulous country and well worth exploring; there are several great day trips from Madrid to places like Toledo and Segovia. 
I think I developed a lot more confidence in myself during my exchange. Solo travel is a great way to push your boundaries and make some great memories doing it! 
I definitely learnt to go with the flow a lot more. I am normally someone who likes to plan things well in advance, but when one of your friends asks you on Wednesday if you feel like going to Barcelona that weekend, are you going to say no?! I found it was good not to have any specific plans to travel before you leave Australia – while you’re in Spain you meet so many other people interested in travelling, and by going along with them you end up visiting places you hadn’t thought of before! This happened to me, when a group of us went on a weekend trip down to Morocco (I hadn’t planned on leaving Europe), or across to Malta. They ended up being some of my favourite countries that I visited.


I lived in a ‘colegio mayor’ in Madrid. I live in a college on campus at UQ and thought that a Spanish college would be a great way to make friends and meet people. However these can be expensive, so if you’re on a budget, maybe not for you.
While I lived in a college, a lot of the other exchange students lived in a room in a shared apartment, often with other students, or in a host family. From the combined experiences of myself and my friends, I would recommend renting a room in a shared apartment. Madrid is a great city for students and there are always plenty of cheap places to rent, even right in the city.


Before I went on exchange, I was told that $12-15,000 would cover the costs of the six months, and that turned out to be fairly accurate. Transport in Madrid is very cheap (an unlimited metro pass is 20 euros a month). Most important is to remember to have some money on the side so you can travel while you’re over there – if you’re going to fly all the way to Europe, you need to make the most of it!

Professional Development

Professionally, developing my language and cultural communication skills while in Spain was very useful.


I loved all of it, I can't pick one highlight! Some favourites were: a weekend spent travelling in Morocco, a weekend trip to Valencia with some friends once the weather was warmer so we could go to the beach, or even just the experience of living in Madrid itself. I absolutely love the city of Madrid, it's beautiful, and there's always plenty to see and do.

Top tips

Check which campus your classes are in! A lot of my friends, myself included, deliberately found accommodation close to the main Comillas campus in Madrid. Our classes ended up being in the smaller humanities campus just outside the city limits, and most of us ended up travelling about 45 minutes by train and metro to uni each day.