What Our Students Say
For Noorin Bhanji, a senior at Boston University majoring in public relations and advertising, study in Spain was a way to get a jump start on a career in advertising. In Madrid, she took classes on the language and culture of Spain and completed an internship at a research and consulting company called Grupo Consultores. “It was a fantastic opportunity to better learn the language and to see how advertising agencies are doing abroad,’’ says Bhanji.
Read about her study abroad experience, published in the Boston Globe: http://www.boston.com/travel/articles/2011/03/13/a_semester_in_spain/
What is the class that students cannot miss at the Institute?
Definitely Las Mujeres taught by Elena Postigo Castellanos. This was by far my favorite class that I took while abroad in Madrid. It focuses on women and their roles throughout history within and outside of Spain, and we learned a lot about their roles current day vs. how women were perceived under Franco’s regime. It is more or less a history class, and normally history and I don’t quite ‘get along’, but the way in which Elena teaches this class is almost inspiring. Definitely a class you do not want to miss out on. Megan Dervin-Ackerman, BU Madrid Fall 2011, Berklee College of Music
Everyone must take Amalia’s class, Historia de España. She is so interactive and one of the best teachers I have ever had. I learned SO much about the history of Spain and really became educated about this country. Although it is demanding, it is worth it. Sasha Speare, BU Madrid Fall 2009, Northwestern University
Translation with either of the amazing teachers! Such a fun and informative class. I definitely learned a lot of colloquial expressions in this class which proved to be helpful throughout the semester. Melina Vanos, BU Madrid Fall 2011, Boston University
Students should take “Héroes y antihéroes” with Paco Layna. No matter how tired his students are, he is always able to keep the entire class engaged – he’s a very funny and dynamic lecturer (and you can tell he knows a lot about the subject at hand). The content of the class is interesting as well; the idea of the antihero isn’t something as commonly explored in class and so the texts we read and the discussions we had provided a new look at Spanish literature. Molly Kelly, BU Madrid Spring 2012, Harvard University
Translation Through Film is nonpareil. The professor (Vivian) is hysterical and makes the class both interesting and entertaining. Definitely learned a lot in that class and improved my Spanish vocabulary. Scott Rosenkrantz, BU Madrid Fall 2011, Boston University
What is your favorite restaurant to eat at on Friday and Saturday nights?
I love eating at Mercado San Miguel, a food court full of great tapas booths. The tapas are some of the best in Madrid, and they are completely affordable. Catherine Stein, BU Madrid Fall 2011, Boston University
First off, it is not easy to find a favorite restaurant because Madrid has so many. However, there are some that definitely are frequented more than others. I would say Museo del Jamón (arguably the best Museum in Madrid) has great deals for those who want some quick food for cheap. You can get a great big bocadillo for 1€ as well as various drinks for 1€ too. Another example of good food on the cheap would be 100 Montaditos, especially on Wednesdays. My favorite Italian food restaurant is Nardino. Go there and get the lasagna for 9€, just do it. If you’re going upscale, NODO is an awesome Asian-styled restaurant that is worth the trip at least once. And you have got to try the Kebab places. Cheap food and it’s great late night/early morning. Zachary Von Eschen, BU Madrid Fall 2011, Northwestern University
I kind of hopped all over the place on the nights when we didn’t eat at our houses. But there’s one vegetarian restaurant in Malasaña that is pretty great: La Isla de Tesoro. And another near the Tirso de Molina metro called Yatiri, which was absolutely delicious. Other than that, I would encourage students to explore and try out different restaurants. You never know when you could find a hidden gem. Megan Dervin-Ackerman, BU Madrid Fall 2011, Berklee College of Music
Lateral is a great restaurant and doesn’t cost too much either. Bardemcilla has awesome food and the best sangria I’ve had in Spain. It’s also owned by Javier Bardem’s parents. Elena Martinez, BU Madrid Fall 2011, Villanova University
Don’t think I have a favorite. You shouldn’t either. Try not to eat in the same place twice; there are way too many options to limit yourself with favorites. Caitlin Hakala, BU Madrid Fall 2011, Northwestern University
What is your favorite memory from living and studying in Spain?
I think the best parts are visibly seeing your Spanish improve, with respect to the language and/or Madrid in general. That may include somebody asking you for directions and you knowing the answer, showing everything to visitors, or realizing that certain phrases here mean different things. It is fun to finally see yourself progressing, in all respects. Zachary Von Eschen, BU Madrid Fall 2011, Northwestern University
My favorite memory from living and studying in Spain would have to be the first day I met my host mom. I didn’t know what to expect, and the day I showed up at her quaint apartment near the Opera, she told me we were going to her family’s country home for the day and that along with meeting her for the first time, I was going to meet 25 of her relatives. This was probably one of the most nerve-wracking situations I have ever been in, especially since it had been years since I had spoken a word of Spanish and I was going to spend the day with 26 native Spaniards. However, it is also my favorite memory of being in Madrid, because all that fear and all those nerves dissipated instantly when I discovered how ridiculously welcoming and friendly Spaniards are. Megan Dervin-Ackerman, BU Madrid Fall 2011, Berklee College of Music
There was this moment when I was outside on the terrace with my homestay madre at night. We weren’t saying much — just admiring the lights, she was talking about her home in Galicia. That’s probably my favorite memory because at that moment I realized how lucky I was to be able to study abroad for a semester, to be able to understand people in another language. Scott Rosenkrantz, BU Madrid Fall 2011, Boston University
Madrid is a great city to study in because there is always something to do, regardless of what kind of mood you’re in! If you want something a little funky, go to a bar in Chueca or Tribunal. If you’re in the mood to shop, go to Gran Vía or Goya for some good stores… for a bargain, stop by La Latina on a Sunday for the Rastro! If you want to check out the tourist sites, go to Sol and you’re right in the middle of everything! For a relaxing day in the park, check out Retiro or Parque Oeste in Argüelles. Anyway you look at it, Madrid has something for everyone! That was my favorite thing about the city… it’s so livable and familiar and yet, you can always find something new. Darlene Cerullo, BU Madrid Spring 2010, Lafayette College
What was your favorite cafe, late night spot, or reading/studying spot?
I liked studying at Faborit–buy anything and you get the wifi password, and you can sit there for hours. Caitlin Hakala, BU Madrid Fall 2011, Northwestern University
I really liked a café that was right by the Institute, actually. It’s called Top Ten and it serves the most delicious baked goods. The staff is also really friendly. Molly Kelly, BU Madrid Spring 2012, Harvard University
Although it can be a big tourist spot, I love Mercado de San Miguel right off of Plaza Mayor. I loved the environment and you can enjoy a glass of wine, fresh seafood, a café con leche (they usually write your name in chocolate on the top!), or different types of bite-size food f or a decent price. Nina Crouse, BU Madrid Spring 2010, Boston University
One of the most fun and least expensive nights we had was at Cherokee. Elena Martinez, BU Madrid Fall 2011, Villanova University
Favorite late night spot for food and to wander around — c/ Espiritu Santo by the Tribunal metro stop. Scott Rosenkrantz, BU Madrid Fall 2011, Boston University
A vintage cafe called La Lolina near Tribunal. They have a great tea collection and I love their smoothies. Lusi Zhang, BU Madrid Spring 2012, Boston University
What was something you found unexpected about coming to Madrid?
I didn’t expect everyone to be so warm – there’s a very different energy in Spain and it’s really refreshing. I think it emboldened everybody to explore and try new thing, and to meet new people. Molly Kelly, BU Madrid Spring 2012, Harvard University
The Spanish I learned all my life didn’t quite apply, and that Madrilenos have their own phrases and street slang. Samantha Melendez, BU Madrid Fall 2011, Boston University
That they are really friendly! I was worried about communicating with them but as long as you try, they will try their best to help you too. Lusi Zhang, BU Madrid Spring 2012, Boston University
Many museums (for instance the Museo del Prado and Reina Sofía, Spain’s national art museum and contemporary art museum) are free for students with a student ID! Catherine Stein, BU Madrid Fall 2011, Boston University
I was not expecting to fall in love with Madrid so instantaneously, nor was I expecting to like the homestay situation as much as I did. I can truly say, after traveling throughout most of Europe, that Madrid is my favorite city. Melina Vanos, BU Madrid Fall 2011, Boston University
I was not expecting the city to be so beautiful! The streets are so clean you could eat off them and the metro is spotless. People are always spraying the streets with water and picking up trash, keeping the city looking immaculate. Every time I walked around, I was surprised by all the trees and flowers sprinkled throughout the city. Although Madrid has some of the most beautiful parks in Europe, just walking through the city can be enjoyable. Darlene Cerullo, BU Madrid Spring 2010, Lafayette College
How friendly and helpful people here are. I’ve lived in cities before, and especially in Boston, people seem very frigid. But in Madrid, no matter how big the city is, there exists a feeling of community. I really didn’t expect people to be so welcoming and friendly, so it surprised me when they were. Megan Dervin-Ackerman, BU Madrid Fall 2011, Berklee College of Music
What recommendations do you have for future students?
Make Spanish friends early in the semester rather than waiting till the end. And stay in Ma drid instead of traveling every weekend so you won’t be completely worn out, a nd you can really get a feel for the city. Also, go to Real Madrid games or watch them in bars! Elena Martinez, BU Madrid Fall 2011, Villanova University
The best nights are often those that go unplanned. Go with the flow. You are only in Madrid for a short period of time, so get out of your house, eat at different restaurants, walk around and explore Madrid, and be open to meeting Madrileños. Samantha Melendez, BU Madrid Fall 2011, Boston University
Go out of your comfort zone and don’t be afraid. Also, travel around Spain! I’ve been all over and I’ve loved every city I’ve been to. Lusi Zhang, BU Madrid Spring 2012, Boston University
Don’t be scared and do take risks. Something about the Madrileños: they live in the moment. They’re all about having a good time and not worrying about what obligations they might have tomorrow. Sure this can have its downsides, but after experiencing the lifestyle, I understand why people here are so happy (and also age extremely well). Go to your classes, learn a lot, but don’t let your schoolwork hold you back from having a good time. Explore every corner of Madrid. It is a beautiful city that has so much to offer, and can be easily taken for granted. Megan Dervin-Ackerman, BU Madrid Fall 2011, Berklee College of Music
My recommendation is to fully immerse yourself in every way possible. Of course there are times when your hanging out with friends from the program, or using the English language, or even eating a burger from McDonald’s or BK will be comforting and wanted - and by all means eat one, or speak English, or hang out with them! However, if you can meet Spanish friends or go on adventures (like the hiking one many students from the program did when the weather was better), do them! You can go out on the town and speak English in the United States every day. The point of being here is to learn Spanish and see what living like a Madrileño is like. There are no substitutes for the things that are familiar to you and your home and way of life, but there are things that can be their own type of rewarding. Intercambios or Spanish friends or anything of that sort not only will enrich your experience, but they will also leave you with a sense of g ratitude that can only be attained in that way. I can assure you that a night out in Madrid when you only spoke Spanish with real Spanish people will likely be one of the most fun, no matter what you did because you will feel very good about your ability to communicate. Zachary Von Eschen, BU Madrid Fall 2011, Northwestern University
Make an effort with your family– the place you live and the relationships you have (or don’t have) with the parents/kids/etc. can radically change your time abroad. Michelle McCarthy, BU Madrid Spring 2012, Colgate University
Don’t underestimate the cold weather here! Bring a warm jacket and a few sweaters, because it does get cold in Madrid, especially during November and December. Catherine Stein, BU Madrid Fall 2011, Boston University
What do you wish you had done that you didn’t have the time or resources to do?
I wish I had gone to more museums in Madrid and sent postcards to family and friends. Samantha Melendez, BU Madrid Fall 2011, Boston University
I wish I would’ve taken a trip to northern Spain (the Basque country). I have heard from so many people how beautiful it is, but I never got around to planning a trip up there. I think that a lot of students get caught up in exploring as much of Europe as they can and forget about everything Spain has to offer. Megan Dervin-Ackerman, BU Madrid Fall 2011, Berklee College of Music
I wish I could have travelled more! Caitlin Hakala, BU Madrid Fall 2011, Northwestern University
Intercambios. I really wish that I had put more effort into finding an intercambio, because I have no connections to young people in Madrid. I also wish I had started to use the buhos earlier! (Look on googlemaps and plug in the time of 3 am to find out which ones go exactly to your piso). Melina Vanos, BU Madrid Fall 2011, Boston University
I had a wonderful experience studying in Madrid. Four months was simply not enough. If I had known how fast time would fly, I would have taken advantage of the wonderful opportunities that Madrid has to offer. While abroad, I traveled to many countries and although those trips were really interesting, I think that I missed out on weekends in Madrid. If I had to do it all over again, I definitely would have done the Madrid bus tour as soon as I arrived. The bus tour is a great way to see the important sites and attractions in Madrid; you can hop on and off and spend however long you want at the many stops. It’s only 18 € and it is definitely worth the money. I didn’t end up doing it until the last week when my parents came to visit, but I think that if I had done it as soon as I arrived, I would have had a much better understanding of how Madrid was organized, and it’s also a sure way to see all of the highlights. I spent so much time underground on the subway traveling from metro stop to metro stop that it wasn’t until the final weeks that I began to really see Madrid. Mikaelle Comrie, BU Madrid Spring 2010, Harvard University
Go to Granada and see the Alhambra!! Victoria Bean, BU Madrid Spring 2010, Boston University
What is something you wish you had known before coming to Madrid?
The siesta is just a myth. Lots of workplaces take hour lunch breaks, and some stores close around 2pm, but for the most part, few people go home between 2-4pm and even fewer people take naps then. Catherine Stein, BU Madrid Fall 2011, Boston University
I wish I had known that the first couple weeks were going to be the hardest and the most difficult for learning Spanish, but that it gets soo much better! Samantha Melendez, BU Madrid Fall 2011, Boston University
I definitely wish I had been better prepared to deal with living in a homestay. I am used to cooking, cleaning, and doing my own laundry–being very independent while I am at school–but going to live in this home I felt as though it was almost back to middle school. I lived with a single señora who was a little older and has never had children, so she was very sensitive to my needs and eager to take care of me–something I was not very used to, being so independent. I wish I had known to speak up to her immediately and repeatedly about the food I liked and my normal living situation at home so we could have been more on the same page. I believe I could have avoided a lot of uncomfortable experiences had I spoken with my señora and with Miky right away and not just try to deal with everything silently. I also wish I had known that studying at the Universidad Autónoma does not mean that you will automatically make friends, and that you shou ld really make an effort from the start to make friends and not just stick in your own group of American people. Barbara Schuster, BU Madrid Spring 2010, Boston University
I wish I would have known how close everything is in Madrid. Before coming I thought it was a huge, overwhelming city, but now I have realized that it’s really not that big, and is really easy to get the hang of. Melina Vanos, BU Madrid Fall 2011, Boston University
Madrid is not a heels-friendly city. Far too many cobblestones. Even if you’re an experienced tall-shoe lady, don’t bring more than a pair or two. Caitlin Hakala, BU Madrid Fall 2011, Northwestern University
I wish I would have known to not think in dollars but instead to think right away in terms of euros, as tough as it may be. Zachary Von Eschen, BU Madrid Fall 2011, Northwestern University
Keep your things close because getting pick-pocketed is the worst. Elena Martinez, BU Madrid Fall 2011, Villanova University
That it really is the city of “jamón.” As someone who doesn’t really eat meat, I didn’t really understand this facet of the culture here. Not to say that there aren’t a lot of places to get vegetarian food, but I guess I didn’t realize how much they don’t really understand the whole “vegetarian/vegan” way of life. Megan Dervin-Ackerman, BU Madrid Fall 2011, Berklee College of Music
What will you miss the most once you are back in the USA?
I will miss my incredible family, tapas, the metro (so clean!), and the crazy discotecas! Samantha Melendez, BU Madrid Fall 2011, Boston University
Easy question – the food! Elena Martinez, BU Madrid Fall 2011, Villanova University
I will miss how late Madrid stays awake, the tapas, the friendliness of the people, the culture, mi familia española, my amazing teachers, the beautiful architecture, all the art museums, traveling, but most of all, how you can walk almost anywhere and enjoy exploring the city by yourself or with a bunch of friends. (I will also miss saying “vale”!) Nina Crouse, BU Madrid Spring 2010, Boston University
I think what I’ll miss most when I go back the the US is the lifestyle and the mindset here. Like I said before, I’ve never experienced the enthusiasm for life that they have here before studying in Madrid. The people here soak up every moment of every day and really don’t take life for granted, which is something I think a lot of people in the U.S. don’t even think about. In some of my classes we talked about one of the main differences between Spain and the U.S. — One of my professors said that the Spaniards “Work to live instead of living to work,” which I hadn’t really completely thought about until experiencing life as a “madrileña.” I think that in the U.S. it is really easy to get caught up in what major you have in college, or what career you’re going to have, and forget to think about what really matters in life. Megan Dervin-Ackerman, BU Madrid Fall 2011, Berklee College of Music