Some of our American students wanted to share their student-abroad experience in Madrid with you!
Monica Weitekamp (Engineering Program, Spring 2013, Boston University)
As a person who loves exploration, I could not encourage Engineering students more to go to Madrid to study abroad. The program does a great job at giving its participants the opportunity to live like true Spanish students. Among the things I did were learn Spanish dances, play my ukulele while rowing in the beautiful Parque Retiro pond, attend a bull-fight, discover that my eyes were/are bigger than my stomach at countless food festivals and restaurants, make a huge improvement on my Spanish, travel on one of the fastest high-speed rails in the world, and so much more – all with brand-new friends. I also found it easy to stay on track with the Engineering program while there, and my professors at the Universidad Autónoma introduced me to a style of learning outside the American norm (unusual at first, but to my overall benefit). The whole experience expanded how I view people, academics, traditions and cultures to this day, and I’m incredibly grateful I had the opportunity to participate in the program.
Matt Jacobs (Spring 2004, Boston University)
Since his time studying in Madrid, Matt has graduated from BU and pursued a successful and fulfilling career in creative marketing. He is currently living in Brooklyn, NY but returns to Boston often for his work at AMP Agency where he is the Director of Connections and Planning. Matt hopes to return to Spain soon to frolic in parque retiro and eat jamon iberico like he did in the good old days.
Michelle Block (Level III Internship Program, Spring 2013, Boston University)
While I was studying abroad in Madrid I took two classes at the Universidad Autónoma where I made friends not only from Spain but also from all over the world, from Brazil to Australia.
I really wanted to immerse myself, and whether I was working on a group project with my new Spanish friends or cooking a “tortilla española” with them, I felt like a true “Madrileña.” My host family was GREAT. I had two brothers, 20 and 24 years old, which was fun because I’d never had siblings before. My host mom was really accommodating: when she found out I loved peanut butter (which many Spaniards think is really strange), she sent her parents out to buy me some! She would always tell me, “Estás en tu casa” (you’re in YOUR house) and really made me feel at home.
Another huge part of my experience in Madrid was my internship. I worked at a private practice for Speech-Language Pathology, which is my major at BU. In the mornings I worked with my supervisor treating adults with voice disorders, and in the afternoons we’d work with children on speech and language. I was exposed to so much for the first time, and I even got some hands-on experience working with the patients… all in Spanish!
My semester in Madrid was a truly life-changing experience. I keep in touch with my friends, host family, neighbors, and professors from Madrid and will definitely go back and visit them all; I miss them a lot! If you’re thinking about studying abroad there, I would HIGHLY recommend it!
Boston University’s Madrid study abroad program is truly one of the best opportunities for an undergrad, especially in engineering. I was able to stay on track to graduate in four years and had the opportunity to learn fantastic and valuable lessons from the welcoming Spanish people.
My host mom taught me to open my mind and heart to fresh perspective on people, culture, and language. My involvement with the local youth through athletics enabled me to practice my Spanish (as I had to keep up with the very fast pace at which all young people seem to speak), experience life as a Spaniard, and gain fantastic friends halfway across the world.
I really would not replace my experiences in Spain with any other opportunity during my time as an undergrad as it taught or confirmed some many things that I find incredibly valuable to this day.
F. Carter Wheatley (Engineering Program, Spring 2013, Boston University)
Studying abroad in Madrid, Spain was an incredible and unforgettable experience. I truly enjoyed the opportunity to take technical courses at the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid while there for the semester. The courses were all taught by Spanish professors that spoke English and what I enjoyed most was how much each professor truly cared about our performance in their class. I could tell that each of them loved having the opportunity to teach all of us. While the grading system is a bit different, other than that, there really wasn’t anything too different about taking engineering courses in Spain. I felt as though I learn just as much, if not more, than my peers taking the same courses back in the US. If I could, I would go back in time and do it all over again.
Maggie Abbate (Level III, Spring 2010, Syracuse University)
The semester I spent at the Autónoma was one of the most frustrating, yet eye-opening experiences of my life. I found that the entire university system in Madrid was completely different from that of the US, including the attitudes of the students and professors. At the same time, it was an incredibly rewarding experience to complete a semester, not just abroad, but at a foreign university with native students that I wouldn’t trade for anything!
Jimmy Buck (SMG, Spring 2008, Boston University)
My semester at the Autonoma was undoubtedly the most challenging of my undergraduate career — I was the only American in either of my classes and was thrust into the deep end — but it was also an incredibly eye-opening and fun time. I studied marketing and business law, using the 1,600-page Spanish Commerce Code as my only text. Luckily, my professors met with me to go over the materials that I couldn’t understand. My teammates from various projects helped me to feel comfortable with the language, concepts, and life as a Spaniard; I even learned how to crack a joke in Spanish. I had to show that I was willing to break out of my shell to fully make the most out of the experience.
Lucia Donatelli (Level III, Spring 2008, Brown University)
The most memorable part of my experience at the Autonoma was singing in the choir. The other members could not get over my “American” water-bottle, and I was always greeted at rehearsal as “la alta rubia” who could sing very high notes. At the end of my semester, we had the chance to sing in the National Auditiorium of Madrid. I remember looking out at the concert hall and thinking to myself, This is why I came to Madrid!
Greta Mitchell (Level III, Spring 2008, University of Southern California)
Studying at the UAM is a window to glimpse a part of the young Spanish lifestyle that you would never see otherwise. The atmosphere is quite different from studying at a university in the US, and this makes the experience even more unique and valuable! Observing the university lifestyle helped me understand other aspects of Spanish life. I studied at the Facultad de Psicologia. Since in the United States the focus of my Psychology classes were more on theory, at the UAM, I learned more practical application of Psychology (evaluation and treatment of clinical problems) than I ever had before. I was learning things that normally students in a graduate program in the United States would learn. My professors were phenomenal and went out of their way to help me understand class material and succeed.
Steph Gonzalez (Level III, Spring 2010, Boston University)
As a student at the Autonoma I was able to get to know an entirely different academic world than the one that I was used to. Studying at the UAM pushes you to step out of your comfort zone entirely and that is what I found to be most enjoyable and most rewarding. There’s no better way to fully immerse yourself in the city than by sitting next to Spaniards and listening to their professors. I found that because of my experience at the Autonoma, I returned to the United States a much better student because of my ability to adapt to a completely new environment.
Jenna Klebanoff (SMG, Spring 2008, Boston University)
When I first arrived in Spain, I only knew Spanish from studying it in school for eight years – not from any practical experience. I was very nervous when I arrived at my first class at the Autonoma – a finance class about capital markets (Mercados capitales). The professor was a finance professional who spoke Spanish so quickly that my head would spin… even many Spanish students agreed that has accent was difficult to understand! I knew that if I could understand him better, then I would be completely fluent in Spanish by the end of the semester, which was a goal of mine. I befriended some Spanish students who became my buddies and my tutors, and by the end of the semester I could understand the professor and did very well in the class. The program at the Autonoma is hard work, but it is well worth it in the quality of the learning experience.
Katherine McFadden (Level III, Spring 2008, Lafayette College)
At the UAM I got to know my tutor, and later closest Spanish friend, Julia. She helped me with Spanish and class materials when we met twice a week for tutoring. We became friends and Julia introduced me to her friends, invited me to barbecues, taught me how to make empanadas and showed me the city. It’s unlikely I would have gotten to know Madrid this intimately if I hadn’t enrolled in UAM and met Julia. We still keep in touch and I’m hoping to host her in the US in the future.