Approx. Time Difference
March–Add 9 hours
Welcome to your program!
This guide was created to help you navigate the different aspects of travelling abroad as a UCEAP student. All important aspects of attending university in your host country are addressed here, including academic information, extension of UCEAP participation, cultural awareness, orientation, transportation, finances, and much more.
Remember to also visit the Participants
section of the UCEAP website for important information and deadlines.
“More than just traveling, UCEAP offers the opportunity to live and study in the host country on their terms while still making real progress toward a UC degree. I changed my major from biology to Spanish literature because of my experiences in Mexico and Spain. I went far away to learn about other cultures and nations and people, and I learned more about my own country, my own culture, and above all, myself. Once I finally did change my major, I received higher grades than I ever had. This I owe to my understanding of what was important to me, something I would never possess to the same extent that I do now were it not for UCEAP.”
~ Lenore De Asis, UC Irvine
Click a heading below to see section content.
Your UCEAP Network
Local UCEAP support, UCEAP online & Study Center abroad
Student Finance Accountant
UCEAP Systemwide Office
6950 Hollister Avenue, Suite 200
Goleta, CA 93117-5823
Phone: (805) 893-4762; Fax: (805) 893-2583
Bookmark your Participants
program page. This resource lists requirements and policies you need to know before you go abroad, including your Predeparture Checklist, UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad
, Program Calendar, UCEAP Student Budgets, and payment instructions.
Connect with us! Join our Facebook network via the UCEAP Spain
Study Centers Abroad
UC faculty and staff administer UCEAP programs in Spain. Every program in Spain has a corresponding UCEAP office that is staffed to assist program participants with academic, logistical, and personal concerns. The UC Faculty Director, who is responsible for all UCEAP Spain programs, will maintain an office at the Centro California/Illinois in Barcelona.
UCEAP maintains offices and staff on the campus of Carlos III University. The Madrid Study Center, located on the Carlos III University campus in Getafe, oversees UCEAP programs at Carlos III, the Complutense University of Madrid, and the UC Center Madrid.
Carlos III Office
Rocío Navas, Sr. Admin Coordinator
Centro de Estudios de la Universidad de California
Edificio López Aranguren, Despacho 15.1.55
Universidad Carlos III de Madrid
Calle Madrid, 126
Phone Number Codes
U.S. international code: 011 (dial this to call from the U.S.)
Spain country code: 34
Madrid city code: 91
Approximate Time Difference
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University-specific academic information, internships &
The Hispanic Studies program takes place at the Getafe campus of Carlos III University, located ten kilometers from the center of Madrid. This program is designed to improve your Spanish language skills and deepen your knowledge of Spain’s history, culture, and contemporary society within the context of the rest of Europe.
You will be grouped with other UCEAP students for language study according to the results of the written and oral placement tests you will take just after arrival. All other Hispanic Studies courses are open to you and all courses are taught in Spanish by Carlos III faculty.
You will enroll directly in the Carlos III University of Madrid and take classes with international and/or host country students at one of Spain's most innovative universities. You will live in Madrid and the local Study Center Staff will assist you with your academic life.
You may enroll in regular Carlos III courses as well as mini-cursos conducted by public figures from all walks of life.
For Hispanic Studies participants, the daily experience involves attending classes with your UCEAP peers. Participants in the spring immersion will primarily take courses with local Spanish students. Past students report that classes are engaging and offer interesting insights into contemporary Spain (although students of different language levels have different experiences as far as the intensity of instruction). The availability of mini-cursos—short courses in the humanities open to both Hispanic Studies and immersion students—allows you to spend time in classrooms with Spanish students and focus on subjects of particular interest for parts of the semester. The option of adding a couple of mini-cursos into the core program enables you to adjust your academic pursuits and immersion into the Spanish university to the level at which you are comfortable. Hispanic Studies students may also find it possible to add a regular Carlos III course to their program, though you should pay close attention to the fact that the class schedules, and date of the final in particular, differ from the Hispanic Studies courses.
Course Information & Registration
Explore the UCEAP website for additional course information (including important details and restrictions), links to host institution websites, and program
Students are encouraged to prepare by searching for courses early on and making tentative lists. This is particularly important for students in spring immersion as you will be completing your registration before you arrive in Spain. More information regarding online registration will come directly from the Systemwide Office prior to the start of the program.
The UCEAP Study Center assists with official enrollment in the Hispanic Studies mini-cursos and regular Carlos III courses. They also are available to answer questions regarding your MyEAP registration.
UCEAP requires you enroll in a minimum of 21 UC quarter units on this program, which is equivalent to four or five courses.
- Hispanic Studies students can meet the minimum unit requirement by taking either five Hispanic Studies courses (worth 4.5 UC units each), or a combination of Hispanic studies courses and regular Carlos III courses (including mini-cursos).
- Spring immersion students can meet the minimum unit requirement by taking four regular Carlos III courses (usually worth 5.0 UC quarter units each), or a combination of regular courses plus an Hispanic Studies course and/or mini-curso(s).
Be aware that some of these courses have conflicting schedules and you may need to consider alternative classes that might fit your needs. While Hispanic Studies participants can choose to take a regular Carlos III course, this option is more feasible during the spring program, when UC and Carlos III academic calendars better coincide. The Hispanic Studies fall program ends in December, whereas the finals for the regular courses take place in mid-January. Final exams for regular courses in the spring also take place about one month after the end of the program.
The humanities mini-cursos are much easier to schedule since they are more likely to require intense activity for short periods of time rather than a semester-long commitment. The program of mini-cursos is always exciting because politicians, artists, philosophers, scientists, professors, and other figures of note offer lecture series, conferences, or intensive short courses that are worth one or two UC quarter units. You may consider taking a combination of these short courses to replace one Hispanic Studies course, or you may add them to a full Hispanic Studies course list.
require some flexibility since their schedule will not likely be ready until after you arrive in Spain and final grades may take longer to report than the Hispanic Studies grades. As soon as the schedule of classes for the mini-cursos
is available, it will be posted at the Cursos de Humanidades
page of the Carlos III website. (On the website, Primer Cuatrimestre
refers to the fall schedule, and Segundo Cuatrimestre
refers to the spring schedule.)
Hispanic Studies students:
- Five courses: Spanish 114, Spanish 118, or Spanish 128, depending on placement, for 4.5 UC quarter units (intermediate students take two: Spanish 107 and Spanish 108)
- Four other Hispanic Studies courses for 4.5 UC quarter units each (or substitute one regular Carlos III course)
- Full-time course of study: 21 UC quarter units
- Class attendance is mandatory. Poor attendance and lack of participation will have a negative impact on your final grade.
- You may not approach professors to request early exams. Early departures are not allowed.
Be aware that grades for regular Carlos III courses (including the mini-cursos) may be delayed by the host university and may be posted later than grades for the Hispanic Studies courses.
Fall grades are usually available in late January or early February. Spring grades are usually available in late June or early July.
You will receive an automatic e-mail notification when your grades are transmitted to the UC Registrar. Although you will need to wait a while longer for grades to be posted to your official UC transcript, you will be able to view your grades through MyEAP at that time.
For detailed information about grades, see the Academic Information
chapter of the UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad
Extending UCEAP Participation
Extension information, forms & deadlines
UCEAP offers rich opportunities for combining different programs and extending your time abroad. As with most rewarding experiences, doing so requires an exceptional level of organization and maturity. You must be able to plan in advance and prepare for the second program while completing the first.
It is possible to extend from the Carlos III Hispanic Studies fall program to the Carlos III spring immersion program (taking regular university courses).If you think you might want to extend your studies in Spain, indicate your intention on the Departmental and College Preliminary Approval to Extend
(DPA) form and submit it to UCEAP before departure.
Once in Spain, you must submit a Request for Final Approval
(RFA) of extension before November 1. The extension request must be supported by the Study Center Director, your UC campus department head, and your dean or provost.
UCEAP must approve your extension request. Requests for extensions are not guaranteed and are only considered when there is space in the program. If demand exceeds capacity, first priority will be given to spring applicants who have not yet participated in UCEAP. In such a case, extension applicants will be ranked by GPA, with priority going to those with the higher GPAs.
If you are admitted for a spring program, you are expected to complete the academic year in Spain. A request to shorten the stay will be treated as a withdrawal from the program, with possible financial penalties.
Once your extension is approved, UCEAP will notify your UC campus registrar, Financial Aid Office, and Campus EAP Office. For information about the steps you need to take with regard to finances, see the Extension of Participation
chapter of the UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad
Academic Requirements for Extension
If you are extending to the Carlos III immersion program (spring), you are also required to take a minimum load of 21 UC quarter units in order to meet minimum UC progress. Since regular Carlos III courses are usually worth 6 units each, you may meet the unit requirement by taking three regular courses plus a Hispanic Studies course or mini-curso, or by taking four regular Carlos III courses.
If you are extending, you can search for regular Carlos III courses through your MyEAP study list portal for the spring term. You may be able to see the schedule of classes, which is posted on the Undergraduate Programs
page of the Carlos III website.
Be aware that grades for regular Carlos III courses (including the mini-cursos) may be delayed by the host university and may be posted later than grades for the Hispanic Studies courses.
Class attendance is mandatory. Poor attendance and lack of participation will have a negative impact on your final grade.
To extend to the spring semester, submit a DPA form prior to departure and note that you plan to extend. If you submit a DPA form, you should receive a university acceptance letter from Spain indicating that you will be studying in Spain for a full year. The acceptance letter will allow you to apply for a year-long visa and might help you avoid returning to the U.S. to renew a semester visa.
If you do not receive a year-long visa, you will have to return to the U.S. between semesters to apply for a new visa.
UCEAP recommends that you assign a parent or trusted family member your Power of Attorney. If you decide to extend while you are in Spain, a Power of Attorney can help facilitate the visa application process; the person you designate might be able to begin the process while you are in Spain. You will still have to return to the U.S. in order to personally pick up your visa at the consulate.
Refer to your UCEAP online Predeparture Checklist for detailed information about obtaining a student visa.
Spring Program Housing
UCEAP does not arrange housing for students extending from fall to spring. You are responsible for finding, securing, and paying for your own housing for the spring semester. The Carlos III coordinators can offer advice.
Payment for the extension portion of the program is due by the final due date listed on the spring Payment Voucher. The campus Financial Aid Office will be advised of the revised budget based on the extension and any exceptions for your particular situation.
Time Between Programs
Fall classes at Carlos III end in mid-December. The Carlos III spring program does not begin until mid-January. It is important that you plan for this gap in time between the end of the fall program and the beginning of the spring program. Some participants decide to return to the U.S. during this period (you may have to in order to renew your student visa). If you remain in Spain between programs, you will be responsible for all costs associated with daily living, travel, insurance, housing, etc., until the start of the Carlos III spring program.
If your extension to the spring program is approved, and you return to the U.S. in between programs, you will be covered up to 45 days while in the U.S.
If your extension to the spring program is approved and you remain abroad in between programs, you will only be covered up to 31 days after the official end of the fall program and starting only 14 days before the official start date of the spring program. Depending on your programs, you may have a three- to ten-day gap in your insurance coverage between programs. Therefore, if you remain abroad during the break between the fall and spring programs and want to be fully insured, refer to the Insurance Information tab of your Participants
program page for procedures and forms. The cost of this extension coverage is not included in UCEAP fees.
Consecutive Programs: Continuing on UCEAP
In addition to the extension options, it is occasionally possible to participate in two different UCEAP programs consecutively. For example, a participant in a fall semester Spain program might choose to apply to a spring semester UCEAP program in Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, or Mexico.
If you would like to participate in two programs, submit an application for each program by the campus deadline (before you leave the U.S.). You will go through the regular UCEAP selection process for each program, including a possible interview. You must meet all selection criteria for both programs and your UC campus must select you to participate. The Campus EAP Office may impose other requirements as well.
You are expected to have background knowledge of Spain prior to arrival. Get acquainted with your new host city, country, and culture before you leave California. Travel guides and travel-related websites such as Lonely Planet
and Time Out
are excellent resources. Take a travel guidebook; they are more expensive and harder to find in Spain.
Read about the Spanish lifestyle so you will have an idea of what to expect. Keep up with current events by reading articles in newspapers, magazines, and journals that have to do with Spain. Take a look at El País
to see what is featured in Spain’s most widely distributed newspaper (in Spanish). The Terra Internet portal
also offers daily updates and can provide insight on Spain’s media and popular culture.
An especially valuable resource for Spain is the Spanish government website
, which provides video clips as well as plenty of other visuals and text as context for its suggested travel routes.
City of Madrid:
Before looking closely at any particular culture, one must generally understand what culture is and how it works. What people do and say in a particular culture—whether it be yours or that of your host country—is not arbitrary and spontaneous, but is consistent with what people in that culture value and believe. Cultural adjustment can be a trying experience but it is also challenging and enlightening, the kind of experience you would expect to have while studying abroad. The first few weeks typically are hard for all students, regardless of who they are or what UCEAP program they are on. It is common for students to feel as though they are going through this adjustment alone, although most participants experience it. Typically, cross-cultural adjustment issues arise because travelers are uncertain about how to face certain everyday social encounters. Entering another country is both a geographic move as well as a psychological one.
In addition, while tourist season will be in full swing when you arrive for fall programs, most Spanish university students have not yet returned from summer vacation, and the atmosphere around the university may be very quiet and even seem deserted. Many stores may still be closed and university services curtailed for the summer, including public transportation. This may add to the feeling that things seem lonely and difficult; you should keep in mind that things will improve once the regular academic year begins.
Smoking in public places is now illegal in Spain (ley antitabaco); however, some people smoke anyway and it may not be easy to find a smoke-free environment in which to eat.
A strict non-smoking home environment is less common than in the United States. Families often smoke in their homes and, even if the family does not smoke in the home, visitors may do so. Since you will be living in a homestay, prepare for these possibilities.
As in many countries, alcohol and other drugs are a part of Spanish youth culture, but typically there is no pressure to partake. Moderate drinking as a part of meals and social occasions is traditional in Spanish culture from a very young age; on the other hand, “binge” drinking at parties or drinking to get drunk tends to be much less common among Spanish university students than can be the case on U.S. college campuses. Abuse of alcohol may bring unwelcome attention and difficulties; getting drunk is not considered acceptable behavior in Spain.
Use of illicit drugs is a crime and can result in serious penalties.
If you choose to consume alcohol, know that you remain responsible for your actions at all times and that alcohol abuse is against UC and UCEAP policy.
Intolerance and Street Harassment
Students have reported encountering behaviors that would be labeled as sexist, racist, or discriminatory in the U.S.
The main targets of racism in Spain are Gypsies, or Romany. UC students of African-American, Asian-Pacific Islander, Latin, and Middle Eastern backgrounds in particular may frequently find themselves the objects of stares and comments, ranging from relatively innocent to occasionally hostile.
Graffiti—including anti-Semitic, anti-Islamic, and generally anti-immigrant messages—is not unusual.
You may face gender-based street harassment at some point. Female students on UCEAP have indicated that they were stared at, approached, and harassed by men more openly and more frequently in Spain than in the U.S. They have characterized these behaviors as annoying, frustrating, and initially shocking, but generally no more than that. Some have commented that there is no “political correctness” in Spain.
Talk to past participants and inform yourself about cultural, legal, and social issues affecting gender roles, relationships, and dating before departure.
Educate yourself about these issues and cultural differences before departure. Never submit to behaviors that invade your personal boundaries or make you feel unsafe or uncomfortable. If a situation feels inappropriate or makes you uneasy, get yourself out of the situation. Never sacrifice yourself or your sense of safety for the sake of cultural sensitivity.
If you reach a point at which catcalls become intolerable, and you feel angry, frustrated, powerless, and afraid, do not show any aggressive behavior (yelling, throwing things, etc.) as it can be dangerous. Get help from UCEAP staff and fellow students if you experience offensive behavior, especially if it becomes out of control or causes you undue stress and anxiety. Female returnees indicate that harassment can occur no matter what the circumstances; however, they recommend adapting your dress, comments, and actions to blend more closely to local norms. Talking to Spanish women and observing them in their daily activities can help to accomplish this.
In most cases these incidents represent a cultural difference that causes annoyance and frustration for UC students, rather than a source of physical danger. Inform yourself about social and political issues in Spain, think about and discuss these issues before departure, practice personal tolerance, and be mature and realistic in your expectations.
Arrival & Orientation
Travel documents, packing tips, travel to and from
your host country
When traveling, always carry your passport, visa, ticket, prescription medications, and money on your person. Never put valuables in your checked luggage. Identify each item of luggage on the inside and outside with your name, home address, and the Study Center address. To avoid theft, never leave your luggage unattended. Read about the personal property benefit in the UCEAP Insurance Plan
and assess if it is adequate.
Pack lightly. Most airlines have weight restrictions and long-distance buses, trains, and taxis in Spain limit luggage to one piece per passenger. If you have excess luggage, you must find your own storage space; neither your homestay host nor the Study Center will store luggage.
- Laptop computer with wireless capability and Ethernet cable
- Travel voltage converter or transformer, and adaptor plugs
- Photocopies of all paperwork submitted to consulate for your student visa
- Photocopies of UCEAP Participation Letter and host university acceptance letter
- Spanish grammar book
- Spanish-only and Spanish-English dictionaries
- Notepaper and pens
- Flash drive (or other back-up media storage device for papers)
- Prescription medication (enough to last the length of your stay; see the Health chapter for more information)
- Good pair of walking shoes
- Slippers (Spaniards do not usually go barefoot at home)
- Rain jacket
- Day pack/ backpack (to carry books around the city or to use for a weekend away)
- Travel alarm clock
- Travel smoke alarm
- Digital camera
- Passport-size photos (for public transportation passes)
- Gifts for foreign hosts and new friends (CDs; T-shirts with city, state, or campus logos; California postcards)
- Photos of home, family, pets
Do Not Pack
The electrical current used in Europe is 50 Hz AC rather than the 60 Hz current used in the U.S., and voltage is 220–240 rather than the standard U.S. 110–120 volts for small appliances. Additionally, most electrical outlets have round sockets. A converter (or transformer) and adaptor plugs are needed in order to use typical U.S. home appliances. Most computers come with a built-in voltage converter.
Travel irons, curling irons, blow-dryers, and electric razors with built-in converters for all currents can be purchased in the U.S. or abroad. The cost of electricity abroad is high and improper use of appliances may damage both the electrical outlets and the appliances. Ask your host family before using the outlets.
Climate & Clothing
Most items available in the U.S. will also be available in Spain. Clothing in Spain tends to be of good quality and is reasonably priced. Wool items are of particularly good quality. Shoes are well made, but large sizes may be hard to find.
The UCEAP Student Budget does not include funds for the purchase of clothing abroad.
When selecting clothing to pack, keep in mind the Spanish culture; women who wear skimpy clothing attract comments and attention that can be crude and often annoying.
Spain’s inland climate is continental, meaning summers tend to be hot, winters tend to be cold, and the temperature between day and night differs significantly depending on the season. The average winter temperature is 30ºF to 40ºF, but from December to February it may drop to well below freezing. Many buildings in Spain have no central heating and tend to remain cold even after the weather outside has warmed up.
Contact the appropriate Spanish consulate immediately to determine your specific visa requirements. Requirements may differ depending on your country of citizenship and the process may take longer than it does for U.S. citizens.
Required Spanish Student Visa
You must secure a student visa from the Spanish consulate before going to Spain; otherwise, you will be asked to leave the program.
A visa is official permission to enter and reside in Spain; the visa process is controlled by the Spanish government. In order to obtain a student visa, you must first possess a passport that is valid at least six months beyond the end date of your UCEAP program. If you do not have a valid passport, apply for one immediately. If you are a permanent resident of California, you will apply for a student visa at the Consulate of Spain in either San Francisco or Los Angeles. It is not possible to apply for a visa after arrival in Spain. You cannot enter Spain as a tourist and obtain a student visa after arrival.
UCEAP will provide detailed visa information and it is vital that you read this information carefully. The Spanish consulate sets strict rules for obtaining a student visa. These rules are not set by UCEAP; therefore, UCEAP cannot help you with a late visa application or with an application that is delayed or denied.
You will submit original documents to the Spanish consulate when you apply for the visa. Make and keep copies of all documents before submitting them; you will need these copies after you arrive in Spain in order to complete the student visa process.
If you plan to travel in Europe prior to the beginning of the program, keep in mind that the visa process is lengthy and delays or complications are common. Because applying for the visa requires submitting your passport (along with all other required documents) to the Spanish consulate in the U.S., visa complications or delays can disrupt pre-program travel plans. To avoid potential problems, plan travel for vacation breaks during the term and after the program is over.
If you receive the visa for stays over 180 days:
- When you arrive in Spain, you must have your passport stamped by the Spanish authorities at the airport. If you arrive in Europe through a different country, have your passport stamped by the authorities of the European country in which you enter. If you do not get the stamp, take your plane ticket to Spain in order to show the exact date of arrival, and contact your program coordinator within 72 hours of entry. Also be sure to have a copy of your host university acceptance letter to present to Spanish authorities. The UCEAP staff in Spain will provide detailed instructions on this process after arrival. Take copies of all paperwork and documents from the entry visa application process with you to Spain; you will need them to obtain the tarjeta de estudiante (student card).
- The initial student visa issued should allow you to enter Spain for 90 days. After arrival, you will be required to obtain the tarjeta de estudiante in order to complete the student visa process and obtain official permission to remain in Spain for the rest of the academic year. You must apply for the tarjeta de estudiante within the first 30 days of your arrival.
Be aware that the police may keep your passport for up to two months while they are processing your new visa. If you wish to travel, you can give the police a copy of your passport, but if you do that you should remain in the European Union until your visa is fully valid with the Spanish resident card.
If you receive the visa for stays under 180 days, you do not have to do anything upon arrival in Spain. This visa will allow you to stay up to six months without needing a student residency card.
Official Start Date
You must be in Spain by the Official Start Date. The specific meeting time and location are provided on the Arrival Instructions, which are included in your Predeparture Checklist. Take a copy of the Arrival Instructions to Spain, as this sheet contains all necessary emergency contact information. If you fail to appear on the Official Start Date, you are subject to dismissal from the program (Student Agreement, Section 10).
Check your e-mail daily and stay in contact with UCEAP in order to be kept informed of any program changes prior to departure. Update MyEAP with any e-mail and address changes promptly.
There is no group flight for this program. You are responsible for making all flight and travel arrangements and for purchasing your tickets, even if you are on full financial aid. Your Financial Aid Office will not do this for you. You are strongly urged to purchase changeable airline tickets. Standby tickets are not appropriate.
Flights are routinely changed or canceled. Confirm your flight schedule with your airline approximately two weeks before your departure date. In addition, the start date of a program can change due to unforeseen circumstances. You are responsible for making modifications to your travel itinerary to accommodate such changes. UCEAP is not responsible for any non-recoverable transportation charges you may incur.
If you arrive before the Official Start Date, you are still expected to meet the group at the designated time and place as indicated on the Arrival Instructions. You will be responsible for your own lodging until the program start date. You may not move into prearranged housing until the start date, nor may you store items at the Study Center.
Generally, late arrivals are not acceptable; however, certain cases can warrant an exception. Late arrivals must obtain approval from the UCEAP Systemwide Office in advance. If you expect to arrive late, contact the Systemwide Office well in advance of the official program start date.
Financial Aid Students
Your financial aid package is based partly on the UCEAP Student Budget for the program. The estimated round-trip airfare is based on the cost of a changeable student fare to Spain. If your independent travel costs are greater than the airfare estimate in the UCEAP Student Budget, notify your financial aid counselor. Neither UCEAP nor the Financial Aid Office can guarantee that the additional cost will be funded by financial aid.
The UCEAP Student Budget does not include funds for recreational travel abroad.
You must attend a required orientation that is administered through the UCEAP Study Center. The required UCEAP orientation will take place at the hotel the day you arrive and will last approximately three hours.
During orientation, you will participate in lectures and activities designed to help you acclimate to Spain and become familiar with the Study Center and Madrid. The Study Center staff will review all practical components of the program, including the program calendar, academics, housing, student services, computer access, Spanish culture, health, safety and emergencies, money and banking, phones, mail, and public transportation. You will also receive guides, maps, and other orientation materials.
Your host family will pick you up the next day and take you to the place where you will be living during the program. The first week of the program consists of an orientation at Carlos III. During this week, you will take a Spanish placement exam (Hispanic Studies students), meet with your professors, and receive information from various services on campus, including sports and cultural activity information from Espacio Estudiantes and the Erasmus Student Network.
Travel options & travel sign-out
Carlos III University is located in Getafe, in the south of Madrid, ten kilometers from the city center. Regardless of whether you live in Madrid or Getafe, it is common for commutes to take 45 minutes or more each way from home to campus.
During your stay in Madrid, your primary mode of transportation will be the nearest form of public transportation, including buses and the metro, or just walking. Public transportation passes, called abonos de transportes, are available for purchase once in Madrid. These all-purpose monthly passes are good for unlimited rides on the Madrid Metro, buses, and trenes de cercanias (suburban trains) within a specific number of “zones.” As of January 2012, a monthly pass covering all of central Madrid and the first suburban zone costs €34,60 for those under 23 years old (processing the under-23 pass will take at least two weeks) and €55,50 if over 23 (this pass can be processed in five minutes at any tobacco shop). An abono pass requires a small passport-sized photo in order to be processed; consider taking several of these with you.
In order to apply for the 180-day visa, you will need a return ticket. If you do not make round-trip arrangements, be sure to book a return flight with plenty of lead time once abroad. Study Center staff can refer you to a local travel agency for information on return travel. Flights to the U.S. fill up fast and economy-fare seats are booked early.
MyEAP student account, UCEAP student budget & handling
Handling Money Abroad
It is important that you plan your finances carefully and that you prepare before departure in order to ensure access to your money while abroad.
- Be sure to have more than one way to access money while abroad.
- Arrive in Spain with at least €200 in cash (some in small bills). You can obtain euros from a U.S. bank. Some banks require at least a week or two to obtain foreign currency.
- Take at least one credit card in your name (preferably two), and two ATM cards (if possible) from your U.S. bank account. The ATM cards must have an international (four-digit) PIN in order to work in Spain.
- Travelers Checks are useful for large purchases, to save you from high credit card conversion rates. They are also a safe back-up to get money, in case your credit card is lost, stolen, or shut down by your bank for international use.
- Do not plan to have checks (financial aid, money from family, etc.) sent to Spain. Checks should be sent to a trusted friend or relative who can deposit the funds into your U.S. bank account.
- Assign your Power of Attorney to someone you trust.
Bank and Creditor Information
Discuss the following important details with your bank and credit card companies:
- Notify them that you will be traveling abroad; otherwise, they may flag or cancel your cards for unusual activity.
- Staying in contact while abroad, including contact phone numbers and e-mail (store contact information online so that you can easily access it while traveling).
- Whether or not your ATM card can be used in Spain and other travel destinations. Cirrus and Plus systems are common throughout Europe, but if you do not have an international PIN, you will need to change it.
- Transaction fees for using an international ATM, including usage fees charged by ATMs in Spain, and daily withdrawal and transfer limits (there may also be European ATM withdrawal limitations).
- Process for reporting lost/stolen cards and obtaining replacements (keep your account numbers in a secure, easily accessible location in case of emergencies).
- Partner banks in Spain to minimize fees and allow access to certain benefits and services. Charles Schwab usually reimburses international ATM fees, and Bank of America has a relationship with Barclays Bank and does not charge ATM fees, so students have opened accounts with these banks before departure; other banks may offer similar services.
- Available online services, which will allow you to check account balances and pay bills. Ask about online banking fees.
- Cash advance services, including fees and interest rates (they are sometimes double that of purchases).
While in Spain
Plan on using a combination of methods to obtain cash in case one fails (e.g., a local ATM is temporarily out of service). Do not rely solely on one method of accessing funds.
You will have to cover the costs of daily transportation, books and school supplies, and personal items, among other expenses. Many UCEAP students have found that their living costs were much greater than expected and suggest budgeting a generous amount of spending money.
Using an ATM card is the easiest way to access your money overseas and the exchange rate is the most favorable. ATMs are widely available in Spain and you will receive cash in local currency (euros). Plan to have financial aid or other support funds deposited directly into your U.S. checking account by a relative or reliable friend. You can then withdraw these funds (in euros) via an ATM.
Avoid carrying large amounts of cash and do not withdraw money from an ATM at night. An ATM card can be lost, stolen, or damaged. For this reason, we recommend that you take two ATM cards to Spain.
Credit cards are useful for emergencies, travel expenses, and everyday purchases. Most stores and restaurants in Spain honor major credit cards. Visa is the most widely accepted credit card in Europe, followed by MasterCard. American Express (AmEx) is not widely accepted, but can be used to purchase travelers checks abroad. The Discover card is not widely accepted outside the U.S. and is not worth taking to Spain.
Take at least two international credit cards and always leave one at home while in Spain; if one is lost or stolen, you will have an immediate backup. These credit cards must be in your name (not a parent’s).
If you need a cash advance after hours at an ATM, you will need an international PIN. If you conduct a cash advance transaction inside a bank, you may not need an international PIN, but you will need your passport.
Travelers checks can be useful in an emergency, as an alternate source of money if you lose your wallet, or if a card does not work. In addition, travelers checks can be replaced if lost or stolen. If you don’t use the travelers checks in Spain, you can deposit them to your bank account upon your return to the U.S.
Purchase the checks in U.S. dollars before you depart; AmEx Travelers Cheques are the most widely accepted. Be sure to make two copies of the check numbers and give one copy to a family member or friend before you leave the U.S. Keep the other copy for yourself, separate from the actual checks. If your checks are lost or stolen, you will need to provide these numbers and corresponding receipts in order to obtain replacements.
Travelers checks can be exchanged for euros at any bank marked Cambio or at exchange offices (oficinas de cambio). A transaction fee will be charged and some banks may insist on exchanging a minimum amount.
Western Union can be used to have money sent from home in a short amount of time (sometimes within minutes). In most cases, you can receive local currency at competitive foreign exchange rates. Check the Western Union website
or the local phone directory for the number and address of the nearest office.
Mail, local and international calls & computer access
To call or send a fax to Spain from California, dial the international access code (011), then the country code (34), then the city code (Madrid: 91), and then the phone number. When making calls within Spain, you must dial the city code, even for local calls.
For calling your home in the U.S., UCEAP recommends that you open a free Skype account
. It is one of the most inexpensive ways to keep in touch with family and friends in the U.S. With your own computer and a headset or at an Internet café (locutorio
), you can call other Skype users free of charge with excellent call quality. Even if you are calling a landline in the U.S., the rates are affordable at about 2.3¢ per minute. Ask your friends and family to download the program to their computers and you will be able to talk for free.
Prepaid Phone Cards
Phone cards are also a good option to call the U.S. You can buy them from a locutorio
, or you can conveniently buy them online from Cloncom
. On this website you can check rates and receive your PIN and access numbers via e-mail.
You can use a prepaid card on any phone (home, cell, and public phones). Plan to use a toll-free access number (900 number) when you call from someone else’s phone so that they are not charged fees for the call.
Be mindful of the following:
901 Access: This access method allows you to pay for a local call but receive more minutes for your international call. To call from a pay phone, insert coins and then dial the 901 access number provided. Do not use this access number when you call from a homestay.
900 Access: By using this access method you will be making a toll-free call.
Using a cell phone to call home can be expensive, although you will not be charged for incoming calls from the U.S. and there are some companies that specialize in student rates. In general, getting a cell phone is a good idea so you can call and text message friends in Spain.
Prepaid cell phones: With prepaid phones, you have maximum flexibility since you pay as you go. As you need more credit you simply buy recharge cards (recargas) that are widely available from El Corte Ingles, your local kiosk, or online. The minimum amount of credit that you must add is usually between €5 and €10.
Cell phone rental services: There are cell phone rental services available. Recent UCEAP returnees have rented cell phones with no complaints.
Take your own U.S. cell phone:Spain operates on a GSM network, so check to make sure your phone operates on GSM.
Homestay Phone Use
Do not expect to use a host family’s phone except in an emergency (even if you have a calling card or credit card). You will most likely need to use an outside phone, either a cell phone or pay phone, to make calls. There are pay phones located throughout the city. For all pay phones, you will need to purchase a tarjeta telefónica (phone card) from a quiosco or estanco.
Mail & Shipments
Use e-mail, faxes, and private couriers (e.g., FedEx or DHL) for critical communications and shipments, as the Spanish mail system can be slow.
Under no circumstances should you ship laptops, digital cameras, or luggage abroad; it is expensive and subject to arbitrary customs duties.
Never ship medication or have it sent to you. Customs will not accept it.
Be sure to write “Airmail” on all mail sent overseas. Surface mail can take up to three months to arrive.
Airmail from the U.S. can take two to six weeks to arrive. Do not use the phrase “in care of” on any letters; this phrase is not recognized in Spain. Have your family/friends address mail directly to you. If you need to receive important documents overseas, you must use private express mail (FedEx, DHL, etc.). The item will be registered and insured and the mailing time will be less than that of the Postal Service. The express mail service offered by the U.S. Postal Service takes much longer than the private services because the package enters the regular mail system once it arrives overseas.
Do not send packages, boxes, or luggage of any size to the local Study Center or Carlos III program office. The Carlos III program office can only accept regular letter envelopes—not packages.
Receiving packages overseas can be costly. Any package valued at more than 22 euros, including shipping costs, may be subject to customs charges. If you feel it is absolutely necessary to send goods abroad, you will be able to receive small packages at your homestay address once settled. Large packages are not delivered and you must pick them up at a distant facility or at the cargo airport. Written notification is usually sent to the recipient and the package is held at a central storage location until the recipient retrieves it. Daily storage charges often are imposed on packages that are not retrieved immediately.
If at all possible, avoid having packages sent as they may be held in customs for a lengthy period of time and, when released, may include substantial customs charges. Customs charges are usually based on the dollar value declared when a package is sent; however, these charges are somewhat arbitrary and nearly impossible to predict. Warn parents and friends that they should avoid declaring a high value on a package; in some cases the duty charged could exceed the value of the package. You will have to pay these high duty charges in order to accept the packages sent; all packages will be shipped back to the U.S. if these charges are not paid. Fees as high as $100 or more for something as simple as a coat or care package are common. Asking friends and family to declare “Used Items for Personal Use Only/No Commercial Value” (Efectos Personales Usados/Sin Valor Comercial) on packages may alleviate high customs charges, but be forewarned that even inexpensive items marked in this way are not immune to customs charges or delays. Customs officials have the right to examine the contents of any package to assess value.
Ask family and friends to stop sending you mail and packages at least two weeks before the program end date. Remember that similar arrangements will need to be made to ship the same articles home at the end of the program.
Computer Access & Use
Laptops are among the most frequently stolen items from travelers.
Most campus computer facilities are crowded, waiting is common, and the hours can be inconvenient. It is best to take your own laptop.
If you plan to take a laptop:
- Be certain the property benefit included in the UCEAP Insurance Plan is enough to cover your laptop in case of loss or theft.
- Do not ship your laptop abroad; it may be held for inspection by customs officials and customs fees are costly, even for older laptops.
- Always carry your laptop with you and never leave it out of reach or it will likely be stolen.
- Make sure your computer is wireless-enabled in order to access any available WiFi networks. Some UC campuses are members of Eduroam, a WiFi network consortium accessible at all universities in Spain.
- Bring your own Ethernet cable.
- Ensure that your laptop is equipped with a built-in voltage transformer that enables it to operate on the 220-volt system used in Spain (this is a fairly common feature) and bring adaptor plugs.
- Install the latest antivirus software to minimize hassle.
- Bring a flash drive or other media storage to back-up papers, etc.
- If you choose, you can buy relatively inexpensive portable printers to use with your laptop.
- Do not expect computer use in a homestay. You will not be allowed to use the phone line in a homestay to connect to the Internet.
Carlos III has 16 computer labs on campus with nearly 400 computers. Computer labs have low-cost printing facilities available. In addition, wireless Internet is available everywhere on campus.
The campus is surrounded by private businesses (similar to Kinkos) where you can access fax machines and scanners at student rates.
You will receive a temporary e-mail account that you should use for the duration of the program for all communication with professors and Carlos III administrators. Many students choose to use a Web-based e-mail account (such as Gmail, Hotmail, etc.) for personal e-mail. You have the option of redirecting your Carlos III e-mail to your personal account. Be sure to check your Carlos III e-mail directly, or through a proxy to your personal account, on a regular basis to make sure you do not miss important messages from your professors or the administration.
Housing & Meals
Program housing options, supplies needed & meals
All students are placed in a UCEAP-arranged homestay. If you are participating in the Spring Immersion program, you will live in a UCEAP-arranged homestay for the first month and afterwards may find your own housing in Madrid or make arrangements to stay with your host family for the semester. The Carlos III coordinators can offer advice on finding housing. If you are a Hispanic Studies student, you will live in a homestay for the duration of your term.
Homestay accommodations provide the opportunity to live with Spanish families, observe firsthand how the Spanish live, and be more fully immersed in the language and culture of Spain. Living in a homestay requires respect and sensitivity to others. You must live in the program-arranged housing, even if you have family in Spain. However, if you extend from the fall program to a spring term at another program, you may find your own housing in the spring.
You will meet your host family once you arrive in Spain. You will not receive any homestay information prior to departure. The housing questionnaire you complete before departure will assist the housing coordinator in placing you with an appropriate host.
Homes and rooms in Spain tend to be smaller than is typically the case in California. Storage space tends to be limited, and amenities may be different from what you are accustomed to in the U.S. (for example, many rooms do not have closets or heaters). You will be provided with a single room equipped with a bed, dresser, and table or desk, plus a lamp for studying. Be mindful of how common areas are used (e.g., it is probably inappropriate to study in the living room if someone wants to watch TV).
Every homestay situation is different, and Spanish households come in as many varieties as U.S. households. The term “homestay” does not necessarily indicate a nuclear family that will treat you as a member of the family; hosts may be single or married, young or old, and may or may not have children living at home. All homestays consist of a host or hosts who rent out an extra room or rooms to international students in order to earn additional income. They may include you in family events or may treat you as more of a paying guest.
Be open, observant, and aware. The homestay is intended to be a mutually convenient social arrangement, a cultural experience, and a financial agreement between you and your host family. At the same time, the home is intended to be more than just a place to stay; it is a family setting, and it is imperative for you to take into account local customs as the family comes to know you personally.
Ideally, you will become part of the family, but to do so requires time, patience, sensitivity, negotiation, and understanding. Dialogue and consideration are usually the best vehicles for good results.
The primary purposes for being with a host family are to interact socially and culturally, acquire knowledge about Spanish daily living, and improve language proficiency in Spanish. It is expected that everyone, including other guests in the home, will speak Spanish at all times. If a host family requests that you speak in English, it may be beneficial to work out a reciprocal arrangement whereby you occasionally speak in English, while remaining committed to learning Spanish.
Carlos III University is located in Getafe, a neighborhood on the outskirts of Madrid (about 10 kilometers from the city center). You have the option to live in either Madrid or Getafe. Getafe has all the necessary medical facilities, shopping and recreational outlets, and provides easy access in the evenings and on the weekends to the center of Madrid for cultural and social activities. If you live in Madrid, there is a commuter train that runs between Atocha station and Carlos III University. However, you must consider the time that it will take to get to Atocha station from your homestay, which will likely be in a different area of Madrid, and the waiting periods. In many cases, commuting from Madrid to Getafe could take more than one hour each way.
Regardless of where your homestay is located, you will need to do some commuting. If you live in Getafe, you will commute to campus and to Madrid at night and on weekends; if you live in Madrid, you will commute to school at Carlos III each weekday. You can expect anywhere from a 30- to 45-minute commute to get to class. Commuting is a regular part of the life of a madrileño.
You may request a single or a double room; every effort will be made to meet your request, but it is not guaranteed. You will also indicate if you prefer to live in Madrid or Getafe. Generally only one UCEAP student is housed with each family, although if program enrollment is high, a maximum of two UCEAP students may be lodged with a single family.
Packing & Laundry
Your homestay will be fully furnished; you do not need to pack towels or bedding, but you will need to provide your own toiletries (soap, deodorant, shampoo, etc.).
Your clothes will be washed once a week; one load of whites and one load of dark clothes. Due to the high cost of electricity in Spain, homestays may not have dryers. Sheets are changed every seven to ten days. Bathrooms and bedrooms are cleaned on a regular basis.
Due to the specialized nature of the program, you may not have a spouse or dependents accompany you to Spain.
You must first get your host’s approval to bring a guest home, even if the guest is another UCEAP student. Overnight guests are not allowed in homestays.
Arrival & Departure
It is not possible to arrive early to a homestay nor is it possible for Hispanic Studies students to extend the housing arrangement. If you arrive early or plan to remain in Spain after the program, you must arrange your own accommodations.
If you are in the Hispanic Studies program and are taking regular Carlos III classes (not core classes), be aware that program housing is arranged only for the duration of the core classes. Carlos III regular classes often run longer, and you will be responsible for extending and paying for your housing arrangements. The Study Center can assist by providing a list of Spanish websites, newspapers, or private agencies/coordinators that offer housing services. This will be discussed in detail during the on-site orientation.
Prior to departure, you will complete a housing questionnaire that will be used by housing staff to help place you in a homestay suitable to your needs. It is crucial you take the questionnaire seriously and answer all the questions thoughtfully. Past students recommend you be specific and honest about your needs and accept that perhaps not all of them may be met.
Requests to change housing assignments: If you have a problem with your housing, immediately meet with the Study Center staff and discuss the situation. Do not move out of a homestay or apartment without consulting UCEAP staff. You may not make housing changes or arrangements on your own. If you move out without consulting UCEAP staff, you will be in violation of UCEAP policy and risk being dismissed from the program.
All homestay charges are included in the UCEAP fees. Review the UCEAP Student Budget for exact room and meal costs. You will be charged only for the dates of the program; rates are prorated and are not based on a full month’s charge. You do not receive discounts or reimbursements for dates you are traveling.
Room and board fees are subject to change.
Rules & Contract
You must read and sign a housing contract that states all housing rules, responsibilities, and established norms, as well as your rights. Your signature indicates that you understand and agree to the housing contract. Consequences of breaking the contract range up to expulsion from the program. In addition to the contract, keep the following in mind:
- Alcohol or drug abuse will not be tolerated and may result in dismissal from the program.
- Given the cost of energy, be energy efficient and turn off lights or other appliances if you are not using them. Avoid using the Internet after 1:00 a.m. (if your homestay has Internet access), and be conservative with your water use and shower length.
- Remember that many Spaniards smoke, even in the house.
- If you are living in a family environment, adhere to the customs established in the house for all members of the household.
- Be considerate as to your arrival times at night and in the early morning hours. Be aware of noise level and avoid rowdy behavior when others might be sleeping.
Meals in Arranged Homestays
Your homestay arrangement includes two typical Spanish meals per weekday (breakfast and dinner) and three meals on holidays and weekends. The cost for your meals is included in the UCEAP fees. Expect only what is customary in Spanish homes. This means breakfast (el desayuno), lunch (la comida) at 2:00 or 3:00 p.m., and dinner (la cena) usually around 9:00 or 10:00 p.m. Breakfast is rather light, usually consisting of a roll and strong coffee (a continental breakfast). It is typically not considered a “meal.” In contrast, lunch tends to be a substantial meal and is seen as the main meal of the day. The evening meal, as with breakfast, is lighter and is served late in the evening. Meals are served in accordance with the Spanish family schedule, although occasionally breakfast may be served a little earlier for you if you have classes early in the morning. Do not expect kitchen privileges; your host will buy and prepare the food.
If you will be gone for a weekend, notify your host at least 24 hours in advance and your host will provide you with sack lunches containing a reasonable amount of food for two days. For trips longer than two days, your host will provide you with the same amount of food you would need for a weekend trip. Be sure to always let your host know if you are going to be late for a meal, if you are going to miss a meal, or if you are going to spend the evening out or the weekend away.
Menus will be prepared according to the criteria of each host. It is in your best interest to become familiar with Spanish food and customs. Typical traditional Spanish dishes will be introduced frequently at meal times. UCEAP has asked the host families to be somewhat flexible in accommodating their meals to the tastes of American students, and they are aware that there may be initial difficulties in adapting to the Spanish diet. In the event that you, for whatever reason, follow a special diet (vegetarianism, religious practice, or a medical condition such as diabetes, etc.), the family will try to prepare dishes that conform to those dietary requirements.
The Spanish Diet
The Spanish diet is based on eggs, bread, potatoes, chicken, fish, and pork. Pork has a prominent place in the Spanish diet. Fish and shellfish are abundant, although they can be expensive. Their quality and preparation are superb, although past students have commented that they were initially unprepared for a fish to be served intact. Vegetables and fruits are of equally high quality. Spanish foods and their preparation bear little resemblance to American or Mexican foods.
Since olives are one of Spain’s primary crops, olive oil is used almost exclusively in Spanish cooking. The amount of oil used is usually shocking to most California students, and past students have mentioned that they are not used to eating so much fried food, chorizo, and tapas. “Greasy” and “oily” are two food descriptions heard often from UC students, yet many come to enjoy the food during their stay in Spain.
Carlos III cafeterias serve food all day, but do not serve hot meals between 4:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. You can find sandwiches for €1,50 to 3,50 or a set menu with a first course, main course (including a vegetarian option), dessert, and drink for €5,20. A 10-menu voucher is also available for about €49. Other examples of snack options include coffee with milk €0,85, croissant €1,50, and Coca-Cola €1,10.
Madrid offers endless options for eating out. Many restaurants and cafés offer fixed menus or a menu del día (a whole meal for a fixed price). These meals are usually the best value, as they include a choice of two main dishes, bread, wine or mineral water, and dessert.
There are also many cafés and tapas bars, which are good places for a quick snack. In Madrid there are also salad bars, which are a great option for lunch. They offer a beverage and unlimited salads, pastas, soups, and desserts for approximately €8. In bars, you can also order a Spanish sandwich (bocadillo) for about €4. When eating out, it is less expensive to sit inside than it is to sit at an outside table, and even less expensive to sit at the bar.
Shopping in the markets is another great way to experience Spanish cuisine. Spaniards buy much of their groceries at family-owned specialty corner stores. You will find these for fruits, vegetables, seafood, pork, baked goods, and more. Prices are mid-range and service is personalized if you frequent them often.
The best prices are usually found in the larger marketplaces rather than at the corner stores. The least expensive grocery store is Autoservicio Día. You will have to take your own shopping bags (or pay for theirs) and bag your own groceries.
Most neighborhoods have a large marketplace with stalls of products, each stall specializing in one thing (e.g., meats and cheeses, chicken and eggs, fruits and vegetables, bread, pastries, dairy products, and dry goods).
Madrid offers a wide variety of vegetarian restaurants. However, you may have some trouble finding particular foods to eat, especially if you do not eat fish. Most prepared foods contain some form of meat or are cooked with chicken or meat broth. It is important to remember that vegetarianism is not as widely accepted or understood in Spain as it is in California. In some instances, vegetarian guests have been provided with a prime piece of ham, as the host may interpret “meat” only to mean beef. Refraining from eating meat for religious reasons is usually accepted. When eating out, vegetarians may substitute the main dish with a salad, bread, or another vegetable, but in general, vegetarian cooking is basic. Many restaurants and cafeteria-bars offer vegetarian items, such as tortilla Española, cheese portions, ensaladilla rusa, and bocadillos de queso. Come with an open mind and some vitamin supplements.
Social activities, excursions & working in your host
Participating in extracurricular cultural and social activities while on UCEAP is an excellent way to meet people, improve your language skills, and integrate more fully into the community.
Join sports, musical, theater, or arts groups; volunteer at local organizations; attend lectures and receptions held in academic and community circles; and get the most out of your time abroad.
Opportunities are not limited to those mentioned in this guide. This section discusses just a few of the many activities past students have enjoyed.
The Study Center staff will have information on cultural and social events. Information about events is often posted on the Carlos III Facebook group
. The Study Center arranges a number of social and cultural activities. You are strongly encouraged to participate in the E-xchange Program arranged through the Study Center. Through this program, you will be put in e-mail contact with Spanish students studying English before arriving in Madrid. The E-xchange gives both you and the Spanish students the chance to begin practicing language skills and building friendships that you can continue after arrival in Spain. It also gives you the opportunity to ask Madrid students about Spanish culture, everyday life for university students, and what to generally expect once you arrive in Spain.
Carlos III student organizations arrange a variety of cultural activities, including offerings in theater, music, literature, cinema, and photography. You may participate in the university choir, vocal training, the chamber group, and various types of campus concerts. There are also dance courses, theater workshops, painting courses, literary competitions, courses in technical artistic expression, activities for volunteers, cultural trips, and exhibitions and lectures.
Carlos III also offers a variety of sporting activities, including classes in tennis, fitness, athletics, relaxation techniques, aerobics, aikido, climbing, chess, squash, indoor football, and basketball. Other avenues for participating in sports include inter-university competition in football, tennis, volleyball, basketball, etc. The only limitation is that these activities may interfere with class hours.
Semester students will receive regular student ID cards and student privileges, including the ability to join any student organization with purchase of a taco (student activity card).
One of the most dynamic organizations in Madrid is Erasmus Student Network (ESN), an apolitical and nonprofit student association that is present all over Europe (32 countries and 280 delegations). It was founded in 1990 by exchange students and it is based on the “students helping students” principle. ESN works to improve the stay of not only European Erasmus students but Americans as well and help them with their integration into Spain and the Spanish society. With the ESN card you have access to many advantages: special discounts on all trips, parties, journeys, and events they organize.
For more information about Madrid, esMadrid.com
is the portal of the city of Madrid. It aims to make visitors, companies, and inhabitants aware of what the city has to offer.
Most stores in Spain are closed on Sundays, including grocery stores. This is especially true in smaller cities. Bars and some restaurants and bakeries remain open.
Hispanic Studies students should not make plans to travel until they have arrived and received the program schedule at orientation. The Hispanic Studies program includes mandatory excursions, and you will need to plan your travel around those dates.
It is cheaper and more convenient to stay in hostels that are not affiliated with the Youth Hostel Card.
Take one or two travel guides with you. Guides are available in Spain but may be more expensive.
Virtually every destination of interest within Spain is served by trains, buses, or both, making weekend and break travel easy. If you are interested in traveling while abroad, talk to past UCEAP participants for tips and suggestions.
While you are encouraged to make the most of your experience abroad, you are reminded that UCEAP is primarily an academic program. Although some Spanish professors may not take formal attendance, repeated unexcused absences from class will be noticed. In many cases, exams concentrate heavily on material presented in class. Failure to regularly attend class can result in a lowered or failing grade. Do not plan to travel on class days or on days that group events have been scheduled. There will be numerous opportunities on weekends and national holidays to travel without missing classes.
Any time you will be away from Madrid for more than 24 hours, you are required to inform the Study Center and to complete and submit the Travel Sign-out form in MyEAP
. It is essential for UCEAP to be able to locate you in the event of an emergency.
The UCEAP Student Budget does not include funds for recreational travel.
Physical health, medications, counseling & student
Physical Fitness & Health
Spain’s options for gyms are always growing. Past students who have joined local gyms have met excellent exercise or jogging companions. Jogging is usually restricted to parks. See the Extracurricular Activities
chapter in this guide for information on sports and fitness classes at Carlos III University.
Local Medical Service
Medical services in Spain are comparable to those in the U.S. and northern Europe. If you have a preexisting medical condition, carry a letter from your physician describing the medical condition and adequate amounts of your prescription medications, including their generic names.
If you feel sick or have a medical emergency, seek medical attention and contact your Study Center coordinator immediately. The Study Center will help you choose a clinic to visit, help you with the UCEAP insurance claim process, and arrange with your professors if extended absence is expected. It is a good idea to let the Study Center know of any medical services you receive, even in routine or non-emergency situations.
In Madrid, there are several hospitals with emergency room services. In Getafe, the Hospital Universitario de Getafe
is located close to the Carlos III campus and is useful for emergencies.
The Study Center has made arrangements with two hospitals to provide translation services and direct billing to the UCEAP insurance company: Unidad Médica
and Hospital Universitario Madrid
, run through Hospiquality, where doctors and nurses are bilingual in Spanish and English. Contact the Study Center for more information.
If you choose not to go to the hospitals above, ask the Study Center staff for a list of English-speaking doctors that students have used in the past. Doctor visits cost approximately 45 euros for a general doctor and 100 euros for a specialist, and tests are extra. Keep some cash and credit cards on hand for emergencies as not all doctors will accept credit cards for payments. Doctors and hospitals abroad will not bill U.S. insurance companies for medical expenses; be prepared to pay up front and file a claim for reimbursement of eligible expenses with the UCEAP insurance company. Save all bills and receipts and keep copies of all documentation sent to the claims adjustor.
Never send medication to Spain or have it sent. Spanish customs may not accept it or may impose high fines. Take enough prescription medication to last through your stay. If you cannot take enough medicine, you can take a letter from your physician describing your diagnosis and treatment and make an appointment with a physician in Spain who may consider prescribing the same or similar medication.
Carry your prescribed medications in their original, clearly labeled containers. Keep copies of all prescriptions, including the generic names for medications and a note from the prescribing physician on letterhead stationery.
Contact Europ Assistance (UCEAP’s travel assistance provider) at 1+ (866) 451-7606 before departure to make sure your prescribed medication is considered legal in Spain.
If you have significant allergies or a chronic medical condition that may not be easily recognized, such as diabetes or epilepsy, you may want to consider wearing a medical alert bracelet or a Medic Alert emblem. For more information, contact:
Medic Alert Foundation International
2323 Colorado Avenue
Turlock, CA 95382
Phone: (888) 633-4298
For more information about allergies, read the Health
chapter of the UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad
Students who are experiencing difficulties in the U.S. (relationship, emotional, substance abuse, etc.) sometimes feel that a change of environment will help them to move past the current problem. However, living and studying in another country can be stressful activities for many students that often compound or exacerbate existing conditions.
Emotional distress can have an impact on academic progress, personal relationships, and a successful study abroad experience. It is important that you recognize triggers and signs of emotional distress and act immediately to get help. Know the warning signs, learn techniques and skills to manage stress, and reach out for help. You can find information on bilingual mental health professionals and make an appointment through your Study Center.
UCEAP Insurance Plan
The required UCEAP Insurance Plan is paid by UC. There is no copay or deductible. More details about the plan are available in the UCEAP Insurance Plan
Students with Disabilities
The Carlos III University may provide suitable accommodations for students with disabilities to successfully complete the program. Some accommodations the university can provide include free parking, direct elevator access, elevators to classrooms for students with reduced mobility, adjustment of space and furniture in classrooms, text zooming, self-copied notebooks, Braille printer, scanners, and magnifying glasses. Students with disabilities are evaluated individually by a professional who will determine how the student can be helped and inquire what kind of support is needed, if any.
While in Spain, students with disabilities may find accessibility and accommodation different from the United States. Spain has laws that prohibit discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities in employment and education; and mandate access to health care, access to information technology, and communication (including social media), access to buildings for persons with disabilities, and the provision of other state services. While the government generally enforces these provisions, levels of assistance and accessibility differ between regions. Madrid, Barcelona, and many of the other major cities have improved access to public transportation, museums, and other public buildings.
Theft, intolerance, fire safety & emergency contacts
Register online with the U.S. Department of State through the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program
(STEP), a free service provided by the U.S. Government to U.S. citizens who are traveling to, or living in, a foreign country. This registration will allow you to get routine and emergency information from the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.
UCEAP also takes safety measures to help protect you. All UCEAP Study Centers have emergency contingency plans in place, including membership in the U.S. embassy’s Warden Network, which allows the U.S. embassy to stay in communication with, and disseminate information to, the American community primarily in times of crisis or emergency.<
Madrid is a major international city. Take measures to ensure your personal safety, and practice the same safe behavior and common sense that you would use in any city in the United States:
- Pay attention to safety briefings during orientation.
- Avoid risky or threatening situations and learn areas of the city to avoid.
- Know emergency phone numbers and carry them with you at all times.
- Avoid heavy drinking, which increases vulnerability to safety risks. If you must drink, do so responsibly.
- Never walk or travel alone in the late evening.
- Arrange ahead of time to walk home with a friend, and always carry enough money for cab fare home. Students, male and female, walking home alone at night have been mugged, even right outside their apartment door.
- Do not walk alone any time the streets are deserted, such as during the siesta. Clubs and bars let out at 7 a.m.; even though you might consider this “morning,” it can still be dark and it is not safe to walk alone..
- You are strongly discouraged from driving.
Demonstrations & Protests
Demonstrations, rallies, and protests are common in Madrid and are usually related to labor disputes or domestic and foreign policy issues. Most demonstrations and protests are nonviolent, but violence may erupt. If you find yourself caught in the middle of a protest, seek shelter. Keep a mental note of safe havens—such as police stations, hotels, and hospitals—and mark these on a local map.
Spain faces terrorism threats from both the Basque terrorist organization ETA (Euskadi ta Askatasuna—Basque Fatherland and Liberty) and al-Qa’ida elements and cells. ETA traditionally directs its attacks against government officials (police, military, and politicians) and facilities, as well as journalists and business executives (especially those involved in bringing high-speed rail to the Basque region). While ETA operates principally in the areas of northern Spain and southwestern France, attacks do take place in other areas including Madrid, Andalusia, and Barcelona.
Avoid carrying your passport whenever possible (leave it in a secure place). Make a clear photocopy of the first page (the one with your photo) and carry that for identification. In case your passport is lost or stolen, immediately notify the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate, local authorities, and the Study Center. The greatest security threat is petty crime, such as pick-pocketing, mugging, and property theft. Pickpockets and thieves are active throughout Madrid, especially in and around tourist areas. Most petty crimes are committed by groups of young persons using a variety of distraction tactics. Pickpockets are professional and good at what they do; they prefer tourists and tend to work in tourist and crowded areas, in addition to the metro, airports, and train stations.
Minimize your chance of becoming a victim of petty theft:
- Be low-key and keep a close eye on your personal belongings.
- Look like you know where you are going, even if you do not. Plan ahead when you are in an unfamiliar part of the city so you do not have to pull out a map on the sidewalk and advertise that you are lost.
- Dress to blend in. College sweatshirts, sweatpants, baseball caps, flipflops, and shorts are all associated with Americans and will likely make you a target.
To protect your belongings, keep the following suggestions in mind:
- Be aware of your surroundings. Thieves usually wait for or create a distraction before making their move. This could be as simple as asking for the time so that you turn to look at your watch. Be alert and aware.
- Never carry large amounts of cash.
- Carry your wallet in a front or breast pocket, or in a hidden money belt or document security pouch; never in your back pocket.
- Carry your purse or bag with the strap diagonally across your chest or in front of you, where you can see it. Keep your hands on your belongings at all times.
- Never put your purse, backpack, or laptop by your feet or on the seat next to you in public transportation. Keep it on your lap at all times. If you have a large backpack, place it in between your feet with the straps wrapped around your legs.
- Do not store your camera or other valuables where they can be removed without notice.
- Leave anything you do not need on a particular day at your apartment or homestay in a secure place.
- If you take a laptop, purchase a motion detection laptop alarm. Some alarms plug into your laptop’s PC card slot. When it is moved the alarm goes off.
- Make photocopies of your passport, credit card/ATM numbers, emergency phone numbers, etc., and store the copies in a safe place (separate from the actual documents and cards). Store this important information in a private online account, such as your e-mail. If you lose your wallet, purse, or backpack, you can access the back-up photocopies or the e-mail with the critical information.
Transportation & Road Safety
Spain has an excellent network of roads and highways. Travel by public transportation is usually secure, although common sense should prevail, especially if you are unfamiliar with the local crime situation.
Spain’s bus system is extensive, serving cities and rural areas. The Madrid subway system is extensive and inexpensive.
Train travel is reliable, though not as fast as the bus (with the exception of the high-speed AVE or Alta Velocidad Española).
Petty criminals ply buses, trains, and the Metro system, especially Metro and bus lines serving the Old City, Gran Via (Metro green line), and Retiro park areas (Metro red line); avoid these areas at night. A number of petty crime incidents also occur frequently at Madrid Barajas International Airport (MAD); passengers should guard belongings closely.
Use only officially licensed taxis. They are governed by strict legislation and standards are higher than in unlicensed taxis. Licensed taxis are normally white with a red diagonal band on the door and will display a LIBRE (free) sign or an illuminated green light at night when they are available. Look for the taximeter inside and word TAXI painted on the outside. Asking for a receipt will deter most drivers from overcharging. Most cities have phone reservation and radio dispatch services for added security.
Use only telephone-dispatched taxis after dark.
Educate yourself about fire safety. Purchase and use a smoke detector. Have an escape plan. Refer to the Fire Safety
section of the UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad
for more information.
If you are abroad
Carry the local emergency contact information at all times:
- If you need immediate emergency assistance call 112 for Police, Ambulance, or Fire Department
- If necessary, call the emergency number of the U.S. Embassy in Madrid: (34)-91-587-2200
U.S. Embassy in Madrid
American Citizen Services (ACS) Unit
Calle Serrano 75
Business Hours:M–F, 8:30 a.m.–1:00 p.m.
Phone: (34) 91-587-2240
Fax: (34) 91-587-2303
After-Hours Emergency Phone: (34) 91-587-2200
If you have a health, travel, or safety emergency and do not have access to local or UCEAP representative emergency information, contact the UCEAP travel and emergency assistance center, Europ Assistance, available 24/7:
Call international collect: 1+202-828-5896
Call within the U.S.: 1+866-451-7606
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