Studying Abroad in Madrid: Courses and Experiences Outside the Classroom

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Updated: Mar 28, 2023
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At the University of Adolfo Ibanez, students are required to take between four and five classes. I have already completed the language requirement here at DU (Spanish 1003), so taking the mandated 6 ECTS-credit (45 hours) Intensive Spanish Language class prior to the start of my semester abroad will not be too challenging. This course will help me apply all of the information I learned in taking Spanish here at DU and apply it to be able to feel comfortable conversing in the language on a day-to-day basis.

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I also plan to take International Marketing, which will help me learn to utilize marketing tactics on a global level. The class description emphasizes that it will not focus primarily on basic marketing information; rather, the instructor wants to focus on strategies and techniques that can be used worldwide. I will have taken the intro level marketing class before going abroad, so my basic understanding of terms and techniques will allow me to apply them on an international scale and create a more advanced understanding of them, not just understanding the definition but knowing how to use them to my advantage when in a different culture/environment.

Next, I plan to take International Business which will teach me how to identify business questions critical to any foreign economy in which I am living. Another course that I find interesting is Intercultural Communications at Nebrija University, a class that has great potential to teach me how to communicate successfully when in a different culture, taking into account cultural differences and nuances. This course will help me achieve my goal of learning how to market/do business with persons in a foreign country by giving me the ability to be able to communicate business decisions in a culturally appropriate manner based on what foreign country I am in. Another course that I found intriguing is Global Skills for International Business Environments. In this course, I will learn essential skills that will help me in working in intercultural environments. These global skills will include learning how cultural empathy is a key part of negotiating international business as well as keeping an open mind to aspects of a particular culture.

I hope to gain new insights in terms of my own personality that I would not be able to obtain in the environment of DU or my hometown. The ISA program at Madrid offers a bridging-cultures program (BCP), which is a part of ISA’s onsite orientation that is held within the first few days of being in Madrid. The BCP aims to prepare me for a successful and rewarding experience in Madrid. The BCP will do this by introducing me to the city’s culture and infrastructure as well as by helping me set goals, learn intercultural awareness, and complete professional development activities. Participating in the BCP will allow me to learn how to immerse myself in Madrid’s culture both socially and professionally, which is of particular importance to me. The professional development toolbox that is located on ISA’s online student portal will help me identify any skills I have developed through personal, academic, and cultural experiences in Madrid. The toolbox will help me articulate these skills I developed while in Madrid in a way that will show future employers the benefits I will provide them as a direct result of my time in Madrid. The ISA program in Madrid will provide me with not only quality instruction in the classroom but also excellent instruction in learning outside the classroom. The ISA discovery model, which is the program’s learning framework for outside-the-classroom experiences, is organized into five areas of discovery; intercultural, historical, sociopolitical, professional, and environmental.

I am very excited that this program emphasizes the benefits of learning beyond the core curriculum that I am taking while in Madrid because I am going abroad to experience a new culture and find new connections that I did not have before, connections to a culture that must be made by stepping outside of one’s comfort zone of the classroom. If ISA didn’t stress the importance of learning outside the classroom, it would be immensely challenging to gain these new personal perspectives that I desperately want to achieve. Nebrija University’s philosophy is to learn by doing, which they say is a crucial experience in the transformation of the student towards global knowledge. In learning by doing, Nebrija university focuses its students on the construction of knowledge for life’s important challenges. I am thrilled that the university places great importance on learning through experience, not just by lecturing, an approach that will benefit me greatly because it will provide me with personal life challenges in an environment that is completely different than my home on campus at DU. The ISA program provides four different excursions along with one optional one that all offer first-hand contact with Spanish culture. Specifically, the excursion to El Escorial, Ávila & Salamanca will provide me with the opportunity to explore El Escorial’s monastery, which includes an ornamental church, library, and a royal mausoleum. In Salamanca, I will get to explore the cobblestone streets to learn about the history of the town, as well as enjoy musical performances, art exhibitions, and museums in the evening time. In Avila, also known as the city of stones and saints, I will get to discover the beauty of the city and see its many Romanesque and Gothic cathedrals.

While I am deeply excited at the idea of studying abroad, I know that there are many challenges I will face while in Madrid. The first and probably most important is that I will be challenged to speak a language that is second nature to me rather than first. Since I have already taken three-quarters of Spanish here at DU, I am relatively prepared with knowledge of the language, which should help in articulating conversation amongst locals. All students are mandated to take a 6 ECTS-credit (45-hour) Intensive Spanish Language class that will make me feel well-equipped with the language-speaking skills necessary to live there. Even if this is not enough to make me feel comfortable with speaking Spanish 24/7, I will also carry a Spanish-to-English dictionary that will help me with vocabulary when I am trying to converse with locals in Spanish. I do anticipate, however, that even with modern-day technology to help with a translation overcoming the language barrier can be frustrating at times. I do not want to be viewed as an American who expects people there to speak English. Therefore I intend to do my best to speak Spanish whenever possible.

Another challenge I will face will be dealing with getting accommodations and support due to my learning disabilities. I have been receiving accommodations and support through the Learning Effectiveness Program since I started school at DU. Madrid’s level of program support is high, which will allow me to meet with staff and make sure I receive my accommodations, but it also involves initiative on my part to ensure that this is put into effect. I will also ask the staff to help guide me in the process of getting my prescription ADHD medication through a local pharmacy. Another challenge I will be faced with is learning coursework in a new environment that may not be similar to the University of Denver’s classroom environment. This challenge will be easier than others to overcome because Nebrija University prides itself on personalized teaching with small groups.

Finally, I anticipate that it will be an adaptation at first to orient myself to a new city and new ways of doing things without feeling overly intimidated. I can use my sense of curiosity about Madrid to aid me, and I will also have help with this challenge by living with other international students in a residence hall who also want to explore the culture and city. These other international students will also be experiencing some of the same feelings of feeling a bit disoriented or homesick, and we can be a support system for each other by motivating each other to maintain our curiosity and drive to meet new people and try new things. The various excursions provided by the ISA program will ensure that I get to see different places outside of campus and force me to remain open-minded and eager about cultures in other towns/cities.

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Studying Abroad in Madrid: Courses and Experiences Outside the Classroom. (2023, Mar 28). Retrieved from