Study Abroad in Madrid

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A Guide to Studying Abroad in Madrid

Offering a culture that prioritizes afternoon naps, excellent gastronomy, and late night parties, Madrid unsurprisingly attracts many international students. But studying in Madrid is a lesson in more than savoring the leisurely Madrileño pace of life: the combination of an abundance of museums boasting the highest pedigree of art, the city’s two world-class futbol teams, and the traditional flamenco dancing (an art form in its own right), imbue the city with the frenetic, cultural energy that makes it so captivating for foreign students. Whether your Spanish game’s pro or you’re linguistically challenged, you’re welcome to study abroad in Madrid regardless.

Study Abroad Programs in Madrid

An academically-sound choice for a year or semester abroad, Madrid has a plethora of the highest-regarded universities in Spain to choose from. Compared with other European cities, Madrid attracts some of the largest numbers of Erasmus students, making it a diverse, welcoming city for students from every country around the world. All things considered, Madrid is one of the best European destinations for study abroad.

If languages aren’t your strong suit, the bonus of study abroad in Madrid is that you don’t actually have to learn Spanish (although, of course, we strongly encourage you to!). Yup, you heard us: a whole host of courses are taught in English. With its status as a city of remarkable artistic heritage, students of art, art history, or fine arts can take advantage of the world-class museums on their new doorstep while studying in Madrid. Business or international business students will also reap the rewards of studying in Spain’s political and economic capital; an informative and advantageous insight into European business is a guaranteed result of studying abroad in Madrid.

Most international students do opt to mix courses for university credit with classes in the world’s second most spoken language, Spanish. Fast-track study abroad programs in Madrid can bring you rapidly up to speed, leaving no real excuse not to be able to ask for una cerveza por favor, or even have a crack at reading Don Quixote, if you’ve a few months to spare.

International students might be surprised by the informality of university study in Madrid; lecturers and students alike call each other tio (the Spanish equivalent of “mate”), while deadlines for submissions are often fairly lax. If this new take on university life sounds appealing, courses are available for a semester, a whole academic year, or even the summer term, with semesters running from October through to December and picking up again in January until June. Bear in mind that the sweltering heat of the Spanish summer turns Madrid from sultry to sweaty; weather is finest in the spring and fall, when temperatures hover between a balmy 68 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit, making these the best seasons to study in Madrid.

Life in Madrid

Madrid is often pitted against Barcelona, the second largest in Spain. But, as the country’s buzzing heart, it deserves its title as the jewel in Spain’s crown. With fewer tourists than its southern rival, it’s a more authentic Spanish city; combining a mix of traditional and cosmopolitan charm, international students will find their cultural appetites fully satisfied while studying in Madrid.

To acquire a real sense of life in Madrid, follow the winding streets of el centro to arrive at its highlights. Here, 73 museums (including the famous Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, El Prado, and Reina Sofia) open their doors to visitors with a thirst for history and a love of international masterpieces such as Picasso’s Guernica.

Professed by the locals to be brimming with mucha marcha (or “lively spirit”), Madrid’s also never short of a parade or fiesta: events such as Madrid Orgullo (Madrid Pride) and the yearly carnaval keep the streets a constant hive of activity. But never fear, boasting eight percent green space (and ranking as one of the greenest cities in the world), there are always plenty of locations to go and recharge your battery. Lounging (er, studying) on verdant lawns in El Parque de Buen Retiro Park is one of the finest ways to spend a lazy spring afternoon.

Spanish culture is centered on food, and Madrid is no different. With a bar for every 192 residents, its cobbled streets are more stuffed with delicious delights than the chocolate-filled churros you’ll inevitably devour within minutes of arrival. A guaranteed tastebud overload, local dishes are available from every poky little bar or street terraza: learn to love al fresco dining with a glass of rioja and a steaming bowl of cocido Madrileño (starring vegetables, chickpeas, chorizo sausage and pork). ¡Que rico!

After-dinner options abound, due in large to Madrid’s spirited student population. Distinct areas of the city have developed to cater toward different music tastes; Lavapiés is perfect for the tighter budget, while Chueca has a thriving gay scene. Whatever your interests, this international city is brimming with an outstanding blend of culture and vibrant, modern city life.

Despite its multicultural nature, international students who choose to study in Madrid are still greeted by Spain’s cultural quirks, the most evident being that everyone’s so laid back they’re almost horizontal (and completely so during the essential afternoon siesta). With a very loose sense of time and a love of paseando (strolling rather than hurrying), appreciating life at its slowest and most relaxed is the first lesson students will learn while studying in Madrid. Renegotiating your sleeping pattern is also essential; late, late nights and early morning lectures are best countered by introducing the aforementioned (and much-needed) siesta into your daily routine, helping to ensure you remain functional.

Accommodation & Visas

Studying abroad in Madrid, despite it being Europe’s third-largest city, doesn’t mean students have to be overwhelmed by the size of their new home. Improvements to the metro and transport systems ensure that wherever students are located, they’re only ever a short train ride away from Madrid’s central quarter.

Accommodation options are numerous, including homestays, shared apartments, and student dormitories. While homestays offer an incomparably immersive experience (and the chance to practice un poco de Español), an apartment or dormitory, normally alongside other international students, offers more independence and an immediate social network. When it comes to exploring your new city, a ready-made group of friends is something to say hola to. If learning the local language is on your “to-do list”, opt for local roommates to pick up local lingo and learn quirky customs. 

U.S. citizens participating in study abroad programs in Madrid that are longer than 90 days will be required to apply for a student visa, and it’s recommended to do so well in advance of the first day of school. Students from EU member states must apply for a residency permit within three months of arrival.

Looking for some additional information on the subject? GoAbroad’s Spanish Embassy Directory can help you find out all the information you need to get cracking with the visa process.

Benefits & Challenges

Madrid is an exciting, pulsating city, where slow, siesta-filled afternoons contrast with the energy of long, late nights. The relaxed way of life here oozes gently into the classroom too, so studying at a Spanish university will definitely be a unique cultural experience. Adapting to this pace of life will take some time, but guarantees you’ll leave with top marks in “people-watching from street cafes” and “siestas for dummies” 

Study abroad in Madrid offers a winning combination of earning university credit while learning the globe’s second most spoken language. By immersing in Madrileño culture, international students soon find that Spanish comes a lot quicker than when tied to the grammar books back at home. Learning los numeros while dancing, whether your step is flamenco or salsa, definitely beats any language lesson you’ve ever had before. Uno, dos, tres, ¡baila!

Study abroad programs in Madrid are the perfect recipe for international learning: well-regarded university courses mixed with ample extra-curricular activities, liberally sprinkled with a language learning opportunities, and topped off with a dash of mellow, laid-back Spanish charm. ¿Listo? ¡Vamos!

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A Guide To
Studying Abroad in Madrid


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