Universidad Carlos III de Madrid. Spring 2016

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1 Universidad Carlos III de Madrid Spring

2 1. Preparing for the exchange The first contact from Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (UC3M) came in the end of September. The invited to fill in the UC3M application form and there to submit some information and then submit a photo, a photocopy of passport and also European Health Insurance Card Declaration of Responsibility document. Here you can find all the important information you need for the procedures that UC3M wants you to do: You don t need visa as Spain is a EU country. Although, it is stated in UC3M documents that if you are going to stay longer than three months in Spain, you should register with the Central Registry of foreign citizens to get certificate and your N.I.E (foreign national I.D number). However most of the exchange students in Madrid didn t get the N.I.E, including me and it seems that it s not something you have to do. The bureaucracy in Spain is very sluggish and that was one of the main reasons why I didn t get the N.I.E. The application procedure is very straight forward, only thing is that UC3M may not be the fastest university when it comes to contacting the students that they are accepted to their university. When you receive your acceptance letter UC3M also informs you about their buddy program in which student from UC3M helps you with your questions. Personally I don t know much about how this buddy program works because I never met my buddy. You will also receive about Intensive Spanish course that will take place week before the school starts. The course costs around 250 but I highly recommend taking this course if you want to learn as much Spanish as possible during your exchange period. By taking the course you also get to meet people before the courses start and make friends that are also interested in learning and speaking Spanish. In fact, I also completed semester long Spanish course because I found the Intensive course so useful. Overall the application procedures are pretty clear and stress free. Travelling to Madrid: I booked my flight to Madrid quite late and for that reason I was forced to pick flight that had connecting flight with a long wait but it didn t matter because the flight was quite cheap (150 euros) with luggage included. When arriving to Madrid the best option is either take metro to the city or Cercanias short distance train, this of course depends on which part of the city you are going. Taxi fee from and to airport is fixed 30 euros and therefore I recommend taking either a train or a metro if you don t have much luggage with you.

3 2. Exchange studies The welcoming day in the Getafe campus was on 20 th of January but the Intensive Spanish Course was held between 11 th and 22 nd of January. The lectures lasted till the beginning of May and in the middle of May the exam period started and it lasted till the end of May. Probably the most stressful thing of all of the procedures is the online registration process to the courses. I read travel reports that warned about this system and it really was quite interesting to be honest. The registration works on first come first served basis and that means that you have to have some luck to get all the courses you want. I used a lot of time researching and making plans about which courses I would take if I wouldn t get the courses I wanted and I advice you to to do the same. However, for me everything went well and I was able to enroll to all the courses that I wanted. Although, one of the short history courses that was taught in Spanish had a teacher that spoke very fast Spanish so I had to change that course and I ended up with another Spanish language course. Courses There is a lot of courses to choose from but they need to be from the faculty of social sciences and law. Basically meaning that you can take courses from the field of Business Administration, Economics, Finance and Accounting, Law, Political Science and Sociology. It is increasingly easier to find courses that you like if you can take classes both in Spanish and English. My exchange was masters exchange so I needed to take courses of 4 th year bachelor studies. This is because you are not allowed to take master level courses in UC3M. However, due to timetable issues I had to make some changes to my initial plans and I ended up taking two courses from the field of politics and one from the field of sociology that weren t actually 4 th year bachelor courses. In overall there weren t many courses to choose from when the actual course registration for the exchange students started. That is because the system works in a way that the normal students have their registration approximately week before the exchange students and therefore, there are not many spots left for exchange students for the most popular courses. Below short description of courses I took Teoría de la Poblacíon, 6 ECTS (UG), SANCHEZ BARRICARTE

4 I planned to take this course in English but after the intensive Spanish course and our teacher s encouraging words, I decided to take this course in Spanish instead of English. This turned out to be a great decision as the teacher Barricarte spoke Spanish very deliberately so it was quite easy to follow the lectures even with my lower Spanish skills. The course topics revolved around population growth and other factors that link to it, like economic growth, regional factors, climate change, cultural aspects etc. Basically the whole course was about learning different theories and opinions in favor and against population growth while also examining the data that we have about the effects of population growth. Attendance was mandatory but you still could be absent few times. There were two exams during the semester, the first one had some multiple choice questions and false/correct questions. The second one, the final exam had two essay questions. For me personally, these exams were quite difficult as my Spanish skills were quite low and the teacher didn t give any extra time for exchange students. I would recommend this course Political Analysis I, 6 ECTS (UG), OLIVER STEFAN STRIJBIS This course was introductory level course to Political Science. The course was structured in a way that there was one normal lecture and one discussion lecture each week. On each discussion lecture a research paper was presented by one student group while everyone else were expected to have read the research paper. Each student also had to write a one-page summary of one of the research papers. The course was interesting and it really made me think about politics in a whole different way. This course is not too demanding because if the student presentations are good enough then you can easily pass the exam without spending too much time reading all of the research papers. The group size was about 30 persons and attendance was highly encouraged but not explicitly mandatory. There is a lot of discussion in this course and I think that I learned the most from these discussions so I advice to attend the lectures. The exam consisted of multiple questions to which you needed to reply concisely Political actors and behaviour I, 6 ECTS (UG), OLIVER STEFAN STRIJBIS This course was a little bit more advanced course to Political Science and the teacher was quite surprised of the fact that most of the students in this course were exchange students that haven t taken any previous courses in Political Science. This course was actually quite similar than Political Analysis I, but the biggest difference was that students needed to make two presentations and in one apply theory of certain research paper to the Spanish politics. Course was moderately demanding as you needed to know something about the politics of Spain. The course was structured exactly as

5 Political Analysis I with one normal and one discussion lecture each week. Attendance was not mandatory but highly recommended. Again discussion based learning and therefore, I advice to attend the lectures. The exam consisted of multiple questions in which you needed to reply concisely. Overall I would recommend both of these Politics courses. Curso intensivo de español B1.2, 4 ECTS (UG) Students were assigned to different language level groups based on results on their online exam that was done while registering to the course. However, the first few days you still could change to different group if you wanted to. As soon as the course started I quickly noticed that the other students had far better Spanish speaking skills than I did (or most of them had). Although, I knew the grammar better than most of the students. The Spanish courses in UC3M involve a lot more discussion and speaking than our language courses in Aalto University. The exam is very typical language exam and quite similar than language exams in our School. I would highly recommend taking this course as it gives you more confidence to start speaking Spanish to random spanish people during your exchange period. Curso de español B2.1, 4 ECTS (UG) I took this course to substitute short history course that was taught in Spanish because the teacher spoke Spanish so fast and it seemed that it would be very difficult to pass the exam due to this. This course lasted whole semester but it started little bit later than other courses. The later starting date was great as I was able to drop the course that was too difficult for me and substitute it with this language course even after two weeks of the start of the normal lectures. This course contained even more discussion based exercises than the intensive course. Each week one student picked one interesting article which whole class read, then we would discuss about the article as the student that picked the article would lead the conversation. In this course each student also had to give a presentation about which aspect works great in our home country. The exam again was quite typical language course exam. The course was very useful as it lasted the whole period which forced me to speak Spanish at least on two occasions weekly. I would highly recommend taking as many Spanish language courses that you can during your exchange period, however, the downside is that they cost quite much (250 each course). 3. Free time and other information

6 The school campus is located in Getafe which is minutes train ride away from Madrid city center (Sol and Atocha Renfe stations). Therefore, I would highly recommend to get your place so that the travelling duration to school and back is minimal with the least amount of transfers needed. The Cercanias train to Las Margaritas station where the campus is located goes through Sol and Atocha Renfe, so either you want to live near these stations or close to a metro station that goes to these stations. Living near Sol is probably the best option but also the rents are the highest there. It can be surprising that even though everything else is quite cheap compared to prices in Finland, the rent expenses are quite high especially in the Madrid city center and places where you actually want to live. I got my apartment through Airbnb and booked it for a month, later I signed actual rental agreement for the remaining moths with the landlord. By getting the apartment from Airbnb I probably paid some extra of the apartment but still I got reasonably good apartment and before I even arrived to Madrid. However, it turned out later that the apartment wasn t so great as it probably had mold and also at one point there was water damage upstairs so I had water dripping from the bathroom s ceiling (this was pure bad luck). The apartment was very close to Atocha Renfe station and had store and great gym close by, so the apartment was good enough for me. The apartment was a studio and the rent was 800, which gives roughly the idea of how much rent expenses are in Madrid. I would recommend you to rent a room from one of houses where other exchange students live or even more preferably from an apartment where there are only Spanish people. I think that you can get a room from a shared flat for a month from the city center. You don t have to worry about school fees and at least for the courses I took I didn t have to get any books. The costs of living (excluding rents etc.) are much cheaper than in Finland. Eating out is way cheaper than in Finland and you can actually buy a good bottle of wine in a restaurant while not paying 40 for that like in Finland. The second biggest expense for me after the rent was travelling. Madrid is situated in great location for travelling as it is in the center of Spain and you can travel to other interesting cities in reasonable time. I tried to visit as many interesting places in Spain that I could and I would recommend you to visit at least: País Basco (San Sebastian especially), Barcelona, Valencia, Sevilla, Granada and Cadíz. I also visited Lisbon in Portugal which is also a city worth a visit. In April Spanish people have huge celebrations and a thing called holy week (Semana Santa). During the holy week there are no lectures and therefore, it is the optimal time to go for a road trip to explore Spanish cities especially in the South where the holy week celebrations are the most biggest. You should check organizations that arrange these trips to other cities as they are very convenient way to explore other places but also great way to socialize with other students.

7 Going abroad as an exchange student is great as all of the exchange students are in the same situation and therefore very keen to make new friends and socialize, meaning that you don t need to stress about making friends. The one thing that I would do differently if I would go to exchange now, is that I would rent a room from an apartment where there are other students and preferably Spanish speaking ones. This is because it is the easiest way to get yourself a group of friends to hang out with. However, it is also easy to make friends at school in the language classes and other classes. The parties and the pre-parties are also great places to socialize and make new friends. I would highly recommend to check out Citylife Madrid events as they organize trips and parties that have people also from other universities and the events itself are a lot of fun. The weather in Madrid in the winter isn t actually so great that you first would think of. Another thing is that the apartments are really cold during wintertime because apartments there don t have much insulation and heating is expensive. Even in our Spanish class the teacher told us that people that come from the Nordic countries always complain about the coldness of the apartments because we are so used to live in warm houses when outside is freezing cold. In short, bring warm clothes because you need them. However, the good thing is that summer comes a bit earlier in Spain than in Finland. The biggest difference comparing Spain to Finland is the people and how social people are in Spain. I actually had reverse culture shock when I came back to Finland because people were so social and friendly compared to Finland. 4. Final Comments I definitely recommend UC3M for everyone that like to spend their exchange in a city full of activities and great people. I chose UC3M and Spain because I wanted to practice my Spanish but also I wanted to live in a city that was full of life and a lot of people. The thing I would do differently next time is that I would rent a room from an apartment full of Spanish speaking people because that is the most efficient way to learn the language and also make friends. For example, I had one Austrian friend that moved in with only Spanish speaking people and you just could see how his Spanish speaking abilities started to improve very rapidly after moving in with those guys. Another thing would be checking the apartment very thoroughly before signing any contracts etc. After my exchange I personally think that there should be mandatory exchange for every student as this is an experience that has so many positive aspects to your life. Living in an another country for

8 longer period makes you more tolerant to other cultures but also understand people better. You also learn new language and customs of different country. All this changes your perspective of things that we have in Finland and how differently things are done in different countries. Exchange doesn t only teach you about the culture of the host country but also of the other countries as you socialize with other exchange students. For me the exchange period has definitely been one of the most impactful experiences in my life so far. It changed my way of thinking and made me realize new things about myself, others and life overall. I think that the more you think that you don t need to go to exchange, the more actually you need to do it. You just learn so much. In overall my exchange was awesome experience and I think that your exchange will be also.

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