Approx. Time Difference
March–Add 9 hours
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.
“I loved the experience of being immersed in a completely different culture and language. To anyone adventurous enough to venture out into the unknown, EAP is one of the best programs to venture with! ACCENT was very helpful, informative, and supportive throughout the duration of the program.”
While UCEAP endeavors to keep the information updated and accurate, all program information should be considered in conjunction with program-specific operational correspondence which may contain the most up to date information. There may be times where UCEAP will need to change this information and it will often be updated online. Student is responsible for reviewing all information shared through the program guides and by UCEAP staff in California and abroad, and partners abroad. UCEAP reserves the right to make changes to its programs, whenever, in our sole judgment local conditions so warrant, in response to local circumstances that could substantially change some parts of the program, or if we deem it necessary for the comfort, convenience, or safety of our program participants.
Click a heading below to see section content.
Local UCEAP Support
Campus EAP Office
The Campus EAP Office coordinates recruitment, student selection, orientations, and academic advising; and serves as your primary contact during the application process.
UCEAP Systemwide Office
The UCEAP Systemwide Office establishes and operates programs and coordinates UCEAP administration for all UC campuses from its headquarters in Goleta, California. You will work closely with the following Systemwide Office staff:
Program Advisors provide academic and operational program information to you and your campus as well as administrative support for all aspects of your participation.
Program Specialists manage the logistics of the program. They coordinate document requirements, visa application instructions, health and safety precautions, acceptance and placement by host institutions, arrival and onsite orientation, and housing arrangements.
Academic Staff advise on academic policies, review courses taken abroad for UC credit, and document your registration, grades, petitions and academic records.
Student Finance Accountants assist primarily with UCEAP statements, program fee collection, and financial aid disbursements (in conjunction with your campus Financial Aid Office).
Phone: (805) 893-4268
Phone: (805) 893-4268
Phone: (805) 893-2712
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 Pre-Departure 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
UCEAP programs in Spain are administered by UC faculty and staff. UCEAP administers the summer Language & Culture program in Madrid in close and continual collaboration with ACCENT International, a provider of student services for a number of study abroad programs worldwide. ACCENT is responsible for most of the logistics of the program.
UCEAP/ACCENT Study Center
Vanessa Rodriguez Garcia, Director
ACCENT Madrid Center
Paseo General Martínez Campos, 42 Bajo 4
28010 Madrid, Spain
Phone: (+34) 91 308 59 79
Fax: (+34) 91 308-6348
The UC Faculty Director is responsible for all UCEAP Spain programs, maintains an office at the Barcelona Study Center, and will be available to assist students with academic or personal concerns.
UCEAP Faculty Director
Prof. Max Parra
Facultad de Filología
Universitat de Barcelona
Gran Vía de les Corts Catalanes, 585
08007 Barcelona, Spain
Phone: (+34) 680-336-938
Phone Number Codes
U.S. international code............011 (dial this to call from the U.S.)
Spain country code..................34
Madrid city code......................91
Barcelona city code ................93
Granada city code ..................958
Cádiz city code ..................... 956
Córdoba city code ................. 957
Approximate Time Difference
Add 9 hours
The seven-week Madrid summer program features intensive work on both oral and written language.
There are also two required excursions outside the capital that offer you a break from the academic routine and an opportunity to explore different parts of Spain.
See the Extracurricular Activities chapter of this guide for more information about the excursions.
Classes are planned so that activities to enhance the four skills of listening, reading, writing, and speaking are coordinated and work together. Whenever possible, elements of the madrileño surroundings are incorporated to lend authenticity to the language instruction. In addition, materials from the culture course and excursions outside of the classroom are similarly coordinated. In effect, you will have intense instruction within the classroom and will be using Madrid as your “language lab.”
This intensive program requires your active participation in order to maintain the pace. Students who miss classes or assignments are likely to fall behind quickly and have a difficult time keeping up during the final weeks of the program. Given that there is ample time allowed for more informal experiences of Spain, your academic studies should have your full attention during the short span of the program.
Classes are held in the Instituto Internacional, a turn-of-the-century building in the engaging neighborhood of Chamberí. In addition to classrooms, the Instituto offers language labs, a library, a café, a garden, and Internet access for students with laptops. The office for ACCENT and UCEAP staff, the ACCENT Study Center, is located across the street and offers two multi-purpose study rooms for cultural activities, as well as ample common space for students to work on group projects and assignments. The city of Madrid is treated as your living language lab, and frequent visits to museums and other sites of cultural significance characterize the program.
Regular classes are typically held Monday through Thursday until 4 p.m. Additional activities are scheduled on some weekends.
All students receive and complete a short survey and placement test before leaving California to establish your minimum placement level. Placement results are final, and students will not be allowed to switch levels. Exceptions to this policy are made on a case by case basis, but only in very specific situations.
Students who are able to demonstrate that they took Spanish coursework during the winter or spring quarters—or the spring semester—prior to participation, may be able to improve their level after arrival in Spain but only after a secondary evaluation. All other petitions or requests are unlikely to be considered.
Many students have similar questions after the initial placements:
- Was my level affected because I submitted my test too soon/too late?
No. Results are not necessarily influenced by the amount of time students took to complete the exam.
- Can I retake the placement exam?
No. The placement exam may not be taken again before departure. A separate exam will be available to students who feel they may have been placed incorrectly, but only after arrival in Spain.
- Does level __ satisfy __ requirement on my campus? / Is level __ equivalent to Spanish __ at UC__?
Major/minor/GE or foreign language requirements and course equivalencies are all determined differently at each campus. Please contact your EAP advisor directly if you are unsure who to contact at your home UC.
- Why must I retake/repeat a level I already completed?
While the instructors are made aware of any previous language knowledge/study or you reported on the initial survey, placements reflect a combined analytic and holistic assessment of your exam results. The placement exam evaluated students' combined reading, grammar/vocabulary, and writing skills as of the date the exam was taken. If you took Spanish language during the winter quarter, or are currently enrolled in a Spanish course this term (spring quarter/semester), it may be possible to improve your placement level as noted above.
Registration and Requirements
After you are placed confirm your placement in the appropriate language level, you will register your courses on your MyEAP Study List. You are required to take two courses for a total of 12 quarter units:
- Spanish language (10 UC lower-division quarter units)
- Spanish culture and civilization (3 UC lower-division quarter units)
The culture course is typically taught in English, but one section may be taught in Spanish depending on interest and size of the participant group.
The language course must be taken for a letter grade, but you can opt to take the culture course for pass/no pass credit.
Both UCEAP and ACCENT administration consider attendance at all classes mandatory. You are allowed a total of two absences during the program. Each absence beyond the limit will result in a deduction of 3 percent from your raw total. An absence occurring on a day a quiz or exam is scheduled or an assignment is due will result in a zero for that quiz/exam or assignment. There will be no make-ups permitted.
Poor attendance and lack of participation in all required activities will have a negative impact on your final grade.
Grades for this program are usually available in late August, about a month after the program ends, and may not arrive in time to accommodate your summer degree verification deadline.
For general information about grades, see the Academic Information
chapter of the UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad.
Extending UCEAP Participation
Planning for Back-to-Back Programs
It is occasionally possible to participate in two different UCEAP options consecutively. For example, you might choose to finish your first year of Spanish during the summer in Madrid before participating in the Córdoba Language and Culture fall semester program.
Participation in back-to-back programs requires an exceptional level of organization and maturity. You must be able to plan in advance and prepare for the second program before completing the first. Decide early if you would like to participate in a second program in order to complete necessary preparations while still at your UC campus.
To participate in a program immediately following the Madrid summer program, you must submit a separate application by the campus deadline (which may be the same as the application deadline for the Madrid summer program) and go through the regular UCEAP selection process for each program. Since personal interviews often are a part of the selection process, you must apply for both programs before leaving the U.S. for Spain. Check with your Campus EAP Office to see if they impose any other restrictions.
Once your participation in the second program has been approved, UCEAP will notify your home campus registrar, Financial Aid Office, and Campus EAP Office.
If you are planning to participate in consecutive programs:
- Contact the Program Specialist at the UCEAP Systemwide Office in charge of the programs you will be attending; let the specialist know your plans and ask about any additional paperwork required.
- Provide both the Systemwide Office and your campus EAP advisor with a working e-mail address and plan to check this e-mail often while abroad.
- Submit all required predeparture materials for both programs to UCEAP before leaving California.
- Anticipate your visa requirements; contact the UCEAP Systemwide Office and the Spanish consulate for visa information.
- Contact your campus Financial Aid Officer and the UCEAP Student Finance Coordinator before leaving for Spain to ensure that your finances are in order for both programs.
Program Options & Requirements
You must have a valid student visa in order to register for fall classes.
If you plan to attend a fall or year program, you must apply for a Spain student visa before you depart for the Madrid summer program. This is a time-consuming process and must be completed before departure, so start early. You cannot enter Spain as a tourist and obtain a student visa after arrival. Contact the Operations Specialist and the Spanish consulate for more information.
Back-to-Back Options to Fall & Year Programs
Contemporary Spain Fall Program
Requirements at the time of application (you cannot use grades or credits earned in Madrid to qualify for this program):
If you wish to continue to the Contemporary Spain program after completing the Madrid summer program, you must complete a separate application to the Contemporary Spain, UC Center Madrid Fall program by the campus deadline to be considered for this program.
Language & Culture Fall program at the University of Córdoba
Requirements at the time of application (you cannot use grades or credits earned in Madrid to qualify for this program):
- 2.5 cumulative GPA
- 2.5 language GPA
- Place into the intensive elementary language course at the Madrid summer program (SPAN 33) prior to departure
If you wish to continue to Córdoba after completing the Madrid summer program, you must receive endorsement by the Study Center Director. The director will evaluate your performance during the summer program to verify that you will successfully complete the first year of Spanish. You must complete a separate application to the Language & Culture fall program at the University of Córdoba by the campus deadline to be considered for this program.
Fall or Year Immersion Programs
(Includes Autonomous University of Barcelona, Complutense University of Madrid, University of Barcelona, the University of Granada, and the Hispanic Studies Program at Carlos III University of Madrid.)
Requirements at the time of application (you cannot use grades or credits earned in Madrid to qualify for these programs):
- 2.85 cumulative GPA
- 2.85 language GPA
- Place into the highest language course at the Madrid summer program (SPAN 34) and have completed three quarters or two semesters of Spanish at your home campus prior to departure
If you wish to continue to fall and year immersion programs or the Hispanic Studies program at Carlos III University after completing the Madrid summer program, you must receive endorsement by the Study Center Director. The director will evaluate your performance during the summer program to verify that you will successfully complete the second year of Spanish. You must complete a separate application to the fall and year programs by the campus deadline to be considered for these programs.
Time between Programs
The Madrid summer program ends in early August and fall programs do not begin until late August or early September. It is important that you plan for this gap between the end of the summer program and the beginning of your fall program. You will be responsible for all costs associated with daily living (housing, meals, travel, insurance, etc.) until the start of your fall or year program.
Get acquainted with your new host city, country, and culture before you leave California. Travel guides and travel-related websites such as Lonely Planet
or Time Out
are excellent resources.
An especially valuable resource for Spain is the Spanish government website
, which provides video clips and plenty of other visuals and text as context for suggested travel routes. The ACCENT website
also has useful background information about the Instituto Internacional and the neighborhood in which you’ll be spending a lot of time, and the ACCENT blog
includes links to local events, stores, and services.
Read about the Spanish lifestyle so you will have some idea of what to expect. Keep up with current events by reading articles in newspapers, magazines, and journals that have to do with Spain. You can find many of these in English. Take a look at El País
to see what is featured in Spain’s most widely distributed newspaper (in Spanish).
Prior to departure, spend at least one hour a day working to improve your Spanish. Depending on your language level, some or all of the following may be helpful:
- Take an additional course in Spanish.
- Seek out native Spanish speakers for regular conversation; many ESL teachers can arrange conversation exchanges in English and Spanish.
- Watch Spanish language television regularly to improve your comprehension; write brief summaries of what you have heard on television and have a native speaker correct the grammar for you.
- Go to Spanish movies.
- Download free Spanish language podcasts.
- If available, use the second-language option on your television or DVD player. That way, popular movies can be heard in Spanish with English subtitles.
- Read Spanish newspapers, such as El País, as often as possible. Visit El Periódico for an opportunity to begin reading in Catalán, as it is available online in both Castilian and Catalán.
- Read magazines, cover to cover, using an all-Spanish dictionary. This may be difficult at first and may require a certain amount of discipline, but it will help your overall comprehension and increase your active vocabulary.
- Read at least one book in Spanish in your major or a related field.
- Keep a journal of Spanish words, phrases, expressions, whole sentences, and structures that you would like to add to your repertoire.
- Give your Spanish comprehension a workout; the harder you work at home, the easier your time abroad will be. Feedback on performance in all areas is important.
The first few weeks abroad are typically hard for all UCEAP students. Students commonly feel they are going through this adjustment alone, although most participants experience it. Typically, cross-cultural adjustment issues arise because of uncertainty about how to face certain everyday social encounters. Entering another country is both a geographic move as well as a psychological one.
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.
Be aware that in most homes, a strict non-smoking 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. If you live 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. Student abuse of alcohol or use of illicit drugs is against UC and UCEAP policies and will not be tolerated.
Intolerance and Harassment
Students have reported encountering behaviors that would be labeled as sexist, racist, or discriminatory in the U.S.
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 comments are not unusual.
Female students have indicated that they are stared at, approached, and harassed by men more openly and more frequently in Spain than at home. These behaviors are characterized as annoying, frustrating, and initially shocking, but generally no more than that. Some have commented that there is no “political correctness” in Spain.
To have a rewarding and safe experience, talk to past participants and inform yourself about cultural, legal, and social issues affecting gender roles, relationships, and dating before departure.
It is important that you do not allow cultural differences to prevent you from completing your program in Spain. If you encounter offensive behavior, try physically moving away from the offender, as responding may simply escalate the situation. Seek help from program staff and fellow students, especially if an offensive encounter becomes out of control or causes you increased anxiety and anger. 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.
Official Start Date & Mandatory Orientation
Official UCEAP Start Date
You must be in Spain by the Official Start Date. The specific meeting time and location are provided on the Arrival Instructions that are included in your Pre-Departure Checklist
. 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. Promptly update your MyEAP account with any e-mail and other contact information changes.
There is no group flight for any program. You are responsible for making all flight and travel arrangements. Even if on full financial aid, you are responsible for reserving and purchasing your tickets. Your Financial Aid Office will not do this for you. Standby tickets are not appropriate. You are strongly urged to purchase changeable airline tickets.
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.
Take a copy of the Arrival Instructions to Spain, as this sheet contains all necessary emergency contact information. When traveling, always carry your passport with visa, ticket, prescription medications, and money on your person. Never put these items or other valuables in checked luggage.
If you arrive before the Official UCEAP Start Date, you are responsible for your own lodging until the program start date. You may not move into prearranged housing until the Official UCEAP Start Date, nor may you store items at the Study Center. If you arrive early, you are still expected to meet the group at the designated time and place as indicated on the Arrival Instructions.
Generally, late arrivals are not acceptable; however, certain cases can warrant an exception. Late arrivals must obtain advanced approval from the UCEAP Systemwide Office. If you expect to arrive late, contact the Systemwide Office well in advance of the Official Start Date.
The official UCEAP arrival day is dedicated to student arrival and housing check-in. After arriving at the UC Center Madrid, you will receive a welcome packet and your housing assignment. You will then continue on to either your apartment or homestay. If you arrive early in the day, the staff can advise you about easy walking activities.
The day-long official UCEAP orientation takes place the day after arrival. During this orientation, you will take a tour of the UC Center Madrid facilities. The UCEAP and ACCENT staff will introduce themselves and review all practical components of the Madrid summer program including program calendar, academics, housing, student services, computer access, health, safety, emergencies, money and banking, communication, and public transportation. You will receive a program calendar, maps, and emergency phone numbers. The orientation will also address the purpose, expectations, and goals of the program. The orientation also includes a walking tour of Madrid’s historical center. During the first week of the program there will be a welcome reception for all students.
Travel to Your Host Country
The UCEAP program budget does not include funds for recreational travel abroad.
UCEAP strongly recommends purchasing changeable round trip tickets, which will allow you to make changes to your return flight for a fee. UCEAP discourages purchasing one way tickets, as your Program Budget is based on a changeable round trip student fare, which is generally less expensive. Carefully research airfare rules prior to purchasing a flight. Standby and courier fares are not appropriate. Plan for this expense. Neither UCEAP nor the Financial Aid office will reserve or pay for your ticket. If you are on financial aid, you will need to purchase a plane ticket before you receive a financial aid disbursement.
Most airline tickets are good for one year only. When buying round-trip tickets, purchase tickets that allow changes to the return date. If you do not make round-trip arrangements, be sure to book a return flight with plenty of lead time once abroad. Flights to the U.S. fill up fast and economy-fare seats are booked early.
You are responsible for reserving and purchasing your tickets (even if you are on full financial aid). Your Financial Aid Office is not responsible for purchasing tickets. You are strongly urged to purchase a changeable airline ticket. Standby tickets are not appropriate for UCEAP.
Financial Aid Students
Your financial aid package is calculated using your specific UCEAP Program Budget. The estimated round-trip airfare amount is based on the cost of a changeable student ticket to your host country. If your independent travel costs are greater than the airfare estimate in the UCEAP Program Budget, notify your financial aid counselors. Neither UCEAP nor the Financial Aid Office can guarantee that the additional cost will be funded by financial aid.
Write your passport number down and keep it in a safe place. Carry your passport only when it is necessary. Leave a photocopy of the first page (with photo) of your passport with someone in the U.S.
If you are not a U.S. citizen, you must contact the appropriate Spanish consulate immediately upon acceptance into UCEAP to determine your specific visa requirements. Requirements may differ depending on your country of citizenship and the process may take longer than for U.S. citizens.
Your program is fewer than 90 days long, which does not permit you to apply for a Spain student visa. U.S citizens will be able to travel around the Schengen Area
(including Spain) for up to 90 days total within a 180 day period. If you plan to stay in Europe more than 90 days, you will need to visit non-Schengen Countries (such as the UK or Ireland) in order to avoid staying beyond the 90 day limit in the Schengen Area. Be careful not to arrive in Spain too soon before your program since your 90 day limit will need to last through the end of your UCEAP program.
See the Extending UCEAP Participation chapter in this guide for visa requirements if you are staying in Spain to study after the summer program.
Photocopy all important documents, including your passport photo pages, visa in your passport, travelers check receipts, airline tickets, driver’s license, student ID, and credit cards (front and back). It is easier to replace lost or stolen documents when you have photocopies. Leave copies of these documents at home with a parent or guardian and pack a set in various pieces of luggage. Spending a few moments copying documents now can save time and energy if something is lost or stolen. You may also benefit from saving these copies electronically for easy access to these documents from anywhere.
Undocumented Students and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Students
Consult with an immigration attorney free of charge on your campus to determine if study abroad is right for you.
If you are currently enrolled as a student at UC Davis, UC Irvine, UCLA, UC Merced, UC Riverside, UC San Diego, UC San Francisco, UC Santa Barbara, or UC Santa Cruz, contact the UC Undocumented Legal Services Center at https://law.ucdavis.edu/uc-undocumented/
The UCEAP Program Budget does not include funds to purchase clothing abroad.
Check with your airline regarding the latest baggage allowance and other restrictions. Pack lightly. You will have to carry your own luggage, so make sure you can handle it. Long-distance buses, trains, and taxis in Spain limit luggage to one piece per passenger. If you have excess luggage you must research and find your own storage space. Your Study Center will not store luggage.
Clearly identify each item of luggage on the inside and outside with your name, home address, and Study Center address abroad. Never leave luggage unattended. Read about the Personal Property Benefit included in the UCEAP Insurance Plan and assess if the coverage is adequate. You may decide to protect your belongings with additional insurance.
- Laptop computer with wireless card and Ethernet cable
- Travel converter, transformer, and adapter plugs
- Photocopies of all paperwork submitted to consulate for your student visa
- Photocopies of UCEAP Participation Letter and host university acceptance letter
- Printout of online registration (if applicable)
- Passport-size photos (for public transportation passes)
- 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 for the first few months of your stay; see the Health chapter of this guide for more information
- Good pair of walking shoes
- Slippers (Spaniards do not usually go barefoot at home)
- Rain jacket/umbrella
- Day pack/ backpack (to carry books around the city or to use for a weekend away)
- Travel alarm clock
- Travel smoke detector
- Digital camera
- Bath towel
- 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 cycles AC rather than the 60-cycle current used in the U.S. and voltage is 220–240 rather than the U.S. standard 110 volts for small appliances. Additionally, most electrical sockets have round holes. A converter (or transformer) and adapter plugs are needed in order to use typical 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. Because the cost of electricity abroad is very high and since improper use of appliances may damage electrical outlets and the appliances themselves, it is a good policy to ask before using the outlets.
Climate & Clothing
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 well below freezing. Many buildings in Spain have no central heating and tend to remain cold even after the weather outside has warmed up.
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.
Insurance for Personal Possessions
Consider having additional protection for your property. In spite of your best efforts, it is still possible to experience loss, theft, or accidents that will damage your belongings while traveling. Talk to your parents and analyze their family homeowners’ insurance to determine whether the items brought or bought while abroad are covered by their policy.
UCEAP Travel Insurance policy offers limited personal property coverage. UCEAP strongly recommends that you examine the details of the UCEAP Travel Insurance benefits and purchase additional property insurance coverage, especially to protect high cost items such as laptop computers, Smartphones, tablets, and other valuables. Review the policy carefully before departure and determine if it provides adequate coverage for your possessions before you experience a loss.
If you decide to purchase supplemental personal property coverage, do so before departure and make sure that the coverage extends while traveling because most theft occurs in the airport or while moving into housing. The host university does not protect student belongings—even in university accommodations.
You are responsible for your own personal property. Use logical precautions to safeguard valuables from damage or theft by locking your room and securing currency, jewelry, passport, and other possessions. Avoid wearing expensive clothing or jewelry and going to questionable parts of the city, especially at night or when alone. Minimize your vulnerability by staying in control of your drinking and your behavior. Do not invite casual acquaintances or strangers home.
Understanding Your Finances
It is important that you carefully read all of the information available in the UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad and discuss it with the person who will assist you with your finances while you are abroad.
Understanding your finances before, during, and after your program is crucial to having a successful time abroad. The following list outlines just a few of the many things you will need to know before departure.
Detailed information on the following topics can be found in the Money Matters
chapter of the UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad
- Contact information for finance questions
- How to estimate the cost of your program
- Budget instructions and information
- Who Can and How to make payments to UCEAP
- UCEAP student account information(what fees do I pay to UCEAP and what fees do I pay out of pocket?)
- Banking before and after arrival
- Fees and penalties
- Loan information
- How financial aid works while abroad (how do I get my financial aid from my home campus and how are my fees paid?)
- Various forms (e.g., direct deposit, etc.)
Your MyEAP Account & Budget
Your MyEAP Student Account is similar to your UC campus financial account. It will be available as soon as you are selected for your program in MyEAP. You can make payments through this account using e-checks or credit cards (MasterCard, Visa, American Express, or Discover). The fees that you owe UCEAP will be applied to your account after your program pre-departure withdrawal date, which is listed in MyEAP. For the amount due to UCEAP prior to fees being posted on your account, refer to the UCEAP Program Budget and Payment Schedule located on the second page of your UCEAP Program Budget
. Program fees are subject to change.
Your UCEAP Program Budget lists the fees you will pay to UCEAP and an estimate of the personal expenses you will need to plan for. It does not include the cost of recreational travel or personal entertainment. Review your UCEAP Program Budget frequently. The Payment Schedule is on the second page of the UCEAP Program Budget.
- Download and print your UCEAP Program Budget and Payment Schedule.
- Note the deadlines on the Payment Schedule.
- Give the UCEAP Program Budget and Payment Schedule to the person responsible for paying your UCEAP bills. Sign this person up for Third Party Authorization on MyEAP so they can make payments online.
Refund of Credit balances and Financial Aid Disbursements:
If you are signed up for Direct Deposit on your UC campus, it is not linked to your MyEAP account. You must sign up for eRefund with UCEAP to receive direct deposits from your MyEAP account. For more information, see the UCEAP eRefund Instructions
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.
The official currency unit in Spain is the euro, abbreviated EUR or €. Prices are posted using a comma instead of a period, for example €5,75 is five euros and 75 cents.
- Be sure to have more than one way to access money while abroad.
- Arrive in Spain with at least €200 (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.
- 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. Be sure to 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 money in case one fails (e.g., a local ATM is temporarily out of service). Do not rely solely on one form of access to funds.
You will have to cover the costs of daily transportation, books and school supplies, and personal items, among other expenses. Many students found that their living costs were much greater than expected and suggested budgeting a large 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 or stolen, or might not work. 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 traveler’s 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. Travelers checks are extremely helpful if you plan to open a bank account in Spain. 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 home. 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.
At the American Express office you can write checks (from the States) for travelers checks. However, travelers checks are no longer widely used in Europe and many restaurants and cafés do not accept them. Have a credit card and especially an ATM card to access your money.
Western Union can be used to have money sent from home in a very short amount of time (sometimes within minutes). In most instances, you can receive local currency at competitive foreign exchange rates. Check online
for the number and address of the nearest office.
Take a laptop to Madrid if you have one. Laptop Internet connections and WiFi access are available free of charge at the Instituto Internacional, which is where courses will be held. You can connect to the Internet at the UC Center using an Ethernet cable (plug-ins are located throughout the building) or through a wireless network (if your laptop has a wireless card). In addition, there is a printer available via the Ethernet network for use on a pay-per-page basis. Internet access is available in most homestay and apartment assignments but it may not be wireless.
Laptops are among the most frequently stolen items from travelers.
Computer access varies by host university, but most campus computer facilities are crowded; waiting is common, and the hours can be inconvenient. It is best to bring your own laptop.
If you plan to bring a laptop:
- Be certain the UCEAP Insurance Plan property benefit is enough to cover your laptop in case of loss or theft.
- Do not ship your laptop to Spain. Your laptop 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 set the bag containing your computer out of reach.
- Make sure you have a wireless card installed in your computer 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 adapter plugs.
- Install the latest anti-virus software to minimize hassle.
- Bring a flash drive or other media storage to back up papers, etc.
- If you choose, you can buy a relatively inexpensive portable printer to use with your laptop.
The majority of students also utilize Internet cafés, which are common and popular in Spain, to access the Internet and write and print papers.
If you do not take a laptop, there are just five laptops available only during ACCENT’s office hours and with a sign-up system. There may be up to 100 students on the Madrid summer program, so the wait will be significant. Plan to take your own laptop.
Approximate time difference: add 9 hours
Please share this information with your parents before departure.
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 (see the Your UCEAP Network section in this guide), 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.
Smart Phone Call/Texting Apps
For free or low cost communication with friends and family in the U.S. as well as amongst your contacts abroad, consider downloading an app such as Whatsapp or Viber on your smartphone. These apps are commonly used by locals and are a cost effective way to communicate over a WiFi connection.
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). Use a toll-free access number (900 number) when you call from someone else’s phone so that they are not charged any 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. Some recent UCEAP returnees have rented cell phones.
Take your own U.S. cell phone: Spain operates on a GSM network, so check to make sure your phone operates on GSM.
Apartment Phone Use
Student apartments are not equipped with telephone lines, so you will need to use a cell phone or outside phone to make any calls.
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. The topic of tarjeta telefónica, where to buy them, and how to use them will be covered in depth at your on-site orientation.
Regardless of your accommodations (homestay or apartment), your mail and any packages should be sent to the UC Center Madrid. You will be assigned your own mailbox.
Address mail as follows:
ACCENT Madrid Center
Paseo General Martínez Campos, 42 Bajo 4
28010 Madrid, Spain
Be sure to write “Airmail” on all mail sent overseas and pay the appropriate postage as surface mail can take up to three months to arrive. Past students say that airmail from the U.S. takes two to six weeks to arrive.
Receiving packages overseas can be costly. Any package valued at more than 22 euros, including shipping costs, may be subject to customs charges. 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.
In the event that a package arrives, the ACCENT staff will sign for it and keep it at the UC Center until you are able to pick it up. If a package is not addressed c/o ACCENT Madrid Center or if customs charges a fee, the staff will be unable to sign for a package. In such cases, a message will be left in your mailbox letting you know where to pick it up. It is important to remember that packages sent to you overseas and any customs charges incurred are your direct responsibility. UCEAP cannot intervene on your behalf with the local Postal Service if there are problems receiving your packages. In addition, any packages that arrive after the program end date cannot be forwarded or returned.
If you need to receive important documents overseas, you must use private express mail (Federal Express, 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.
UCEAP/ACCENT-arranged housing options offer you a choice of a homestay or shared apartment. It is not possible to secure your own housing. You must live in the arranged program housing.
In a homestay you will live with a Spanish family, and in an apartment you will live with other UC or international students. One of the main differences between the two options is that a homestay includes breakfast and dinner prepared each day by your host, while in an apartment all meals will be your responsibility. The initial cost of a homestay is higher to reflect the price of the included meals but may be less than the expense of cooking for yourself.
Although each homestay varies regarding amenities and the lifestyles of the hosts, every effort will be made to place you in an environment where you can speak Spanish and observe and participate in the everyday routines of your Madrid family. If you are considering a homestay, become familiar enough with the Spanish language to participate in basic conversations. Host families are carefully pre-screened, and most families have hosted students in the past.
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. Many past participants recommend a homestay over an apartment as a way to reinforce language learning and to make life a little easier.
Homes and rooms in Spain tend to be smaller than 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). You will be provided a single room and a place to study. Rooms will be furnished with fans. Homestays will be fully furnished; you do not need to take towels or bedding with you. You will need to take your own toiletries.
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).
In a homestay, your host will provide one average European-sized load of laundry per week (approximately nine pounds; includes hang drying, ironing, and folding). You are expected to sort your clothes and leave them in the location designated by your host.
Keep in mind that 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 tenant.
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 that you take local customs into account as the family comes to know you. 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 of being with a host family are to interact socially and culturally, and to 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 using their help to learn Spanish.
Several UC or international students will share an apartment. Because it is summer, it is unlikely that you will live with Spaniards. If you choose to live in an apartment, you will likely spend a significant amount of time with the same group of students; you will attend class each day and travel on weekend excursions with your roommates. Many students enjoy this aspect of apartment living.
Each apartment is unique and will vary in size, condition, and proximity to your classes. Keep in mind that living standards in Europe are different from those in the U.S., and apartments tend to be smaller and older.
Student apartments tend to be comfortable but simple. The rooms are furnished with a bed (including sheets, pillows, and blankets) and a closet or armoire, but minimal storage space. Keep this in mind when packing your bags. You will need to take your own towels, soap, shampoo, etc. Bathrooms are small and usually there is only one bathroom per apartment. (In apartments with seven or more students, there is a minimum of two bathrooms.) Kitchen facilities include a cooking range, a refrigerator, and basic cooking utensils shared by everyone in the apartment. Each apartment will have one or more areas for studying, which will include a table or desk. Apartments will be furnished with fans.
All apartments have a washing machine, but they will not have dryers due to the high cost of electricity in Madrid.
Location: Homestays and apartments are located throughout Madrid. You can expect anywhere from a 30- to 45-minute walk, Metro, or bus ride to get to class. Commuting is a regular part of the life of a madrileño.
Living arrangements: Homestays may accommodate a number of UC or international students (each in a single room) and are generally co-ed.
Apartments are co-ed, with single-sex bedrooms, and are shared with other UC or international students. Up to ten people may share an apartment, in a combination of double rooms and the occasional single bedroom.
Guests: If you live in a homestay, you must first get your host’s approval to bring a guest home, even another UCEAP student.
Overnight guests in the apartments are not allowed.
Arrival & departure: You will meet your host family or receive your apartment assignment once you arrive in Madrid. You will not receive any homestay or apartment information prior to departure. It is not possible to arrive early to a homestay or apartment, or to extend your housing arrangement. If you arrive early or plan to remain in Madrid after the program, you must arrange your own accommodations.
Housing assignments: Prior to departure, you will complete a housing questionnaire, which will be used by the ACCENT staff to help place you in a homestay or apartment 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, even while realizing that perhaps not all of them may be met.
Requests to change housing assignment: If you have a problem with your housing, immediately meet with the ACCENT staff and discuss the situation. Do not move out of a homestay or apartment without consulting ACCENT staff. You may not make housing changes or arrangements on your own. If you do move out without consulting ACCENT staff, you will be in violation of UCEAP and ACCENT policy and risk being dismissed from the program.
Lodging costs are included in the program fees you pay to UCEAP, as are costs of any meals provided by the host family. Once in Spain, you will pay directly for any meals not included in the housing arrangement. Due to the included meals and laundry, a homestay arrangement carries a higher fee than an apartment arrangement. Check the UCEAP Student Budget, located in the Money Matters section of your Participants page
for housing costs.
Rules & contract: All students will sign a housing contract, and consequences of breaking the contract range up to expulsion from the program. You will receive a set of “Family Living Guidelines” when you arrive in Madrid to help you adjust more smoothly to your accommodations. In the meantime, keep the following in mind:
Homestay: Remember that many Spaniards smoke, even in the house. Since 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.
Apartment: Electricity is expensive in Madrid. Be conservative with energy use. As it states in your housing contract, you will be billed for any electricity you use over an “average” Spanish amount. The apartment buildings are home to Spanish families and others, and though there are no curfews, quiet hours are generally observed between 11 p.m. and 8 a.m. Excessive noise is prohibited by law and Spaniards are serious about this; residents have the right to call the authorities after 11 p.m. Parties are not allowed in the apartments, and students who violate these rules will be expelled.
In a homestay, some meals are included; in an apartment, no meals are included. Check the UCEAP Student Budget in your Participants
page for meal cost estimates. More details are below.
Homestay: Your host will prepare breakfast and dinner each day. You are responsible for purchasing any other meals, including the midday meal, which is the main meal of the day. Outside of provided meals, you will not have access to the kitchen, and keep this in mind when budgeting for food.
Apartment: Shopping for food and preparing all meals will be your responsibility; however, there are many types of markets available for your grocery needs. The Spanish buy much of their groceries at family-owned specialty corner stores. You’ll find these for fruits/vegetables, seafood, pork, baked goods, and more. Prices are mid-range, and service, if you frequent them often, is personalized.
The best prices are usually found in the larger marketplaces rather than at the corner stores. The least expensive grocery store is Dia Autoservicio. You will have to take your own shopping bags (or pay for theirs) and bag your own groceries.
In addition, most neighborhoods have a large marketplace with stall after stall of products, each stall specializing in one thing: meats and cheeses, chicken and eggs, fruits and vegetables, bread, pastries, dairy products, and dry goods.
Spanish Diet & Meal Times
In the U.S., the morning meal is often considered the most important meal of the day. In Spain, breakfast is rather light, usually consisting of a roll or toast and strong coffee (a “continental breakfast”). Lunch, on the other hand, tends to be a substantial meal and is seen as the main meal of the day. Lunch is typically served around 2 p.m. and Spaniards tend to linger over this main meal. The evening meal, as with breakfast, is lighter, and is served later in the evening, around 9:30 p.m.
The Spanish diet is based on eggs, bread, potatoes, chicken, pork, and fish. Pork and fish have a prominent place in the Spanish diet. Fish and shellfish are abundant but 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 U.S. or Mexican foods. Since olives are one of Spain’s primary crops, olive oil is used almost exclusively in Spanish cooking.
Olive oil is a staple in the Mediterranean diet. The amount of oil used is usually shocking to most California students, and past students have mentioned that they are not used to eating food cooked in oil, chorizo, and eating 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.
Madrid offers endless options for eating out. The UC Center staff can provide a list of cheap and chic restaurants around Madrid. Many restaurants and cafés offer fixed menus or menú del día(a whole meal for a fixed price). You will usually find these meals to be the best value, as they will include a choice of two main dishes, bread, wine or mineral water, and dessert.
There are also numerous cafés and tapas bars throughout Madrid, which are good places for a quick snack. Besides tapas, there are salad bars, which are a great option for lunch. They offer unlimited salads, pastas, soups, desserts, and beverages 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.
There are many restaurants in the vicinity of the UC Center. A full fixed-price lunch, including a drink, bread, starter, main course, and dessert averages about €12 at restaurants near the UC Center. Shopping in the markets is another great way to experience Spanish cuisine.
In addition, there are places to have a quick lunch (with options to eat there or take the food to go) where you can purchase sandwiches, salads, and other light snacks from €2,50 to €5. (Note: some restaurants may be closed in August.)
If you are a vegetarian, you may have some trouble finding foods to eat, particularly 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 not popular. However, there are many restaurants and cafeteria-bars where you can find vegetarian items, such as tortilla Española, cheese portions, ensaladilla rusa (contains tuna and egg), berenjenas a la miel (eggplant dipped in sugarcane honey), slamorejo (cold, thick, tomatoe based soup), and bocadillos de queso. It is important to bring an open mind and some vitamin supplements.
You may find specialty shops that offer vegetarian and vegan options, but they may be expensive.
The UCEAP program budget does not include funds for recreational travel abroad.
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. It is helpful to have an idea of the Madrid transit system before you depart. Maps of the Madrid transit system are readily available online and will be provided in the program materials available at orientation.
Public transportation passes called Tarjeta de Transporte Publico
, are available for purchase. This pass can be used for unlimited rides on the Madrid Metro, buses, and trenes de cercanias
(suburban trains) within a specific number of “zones.” You will need to pay €4 when you buy the card, then you can load it and reload it each month. As of January 2017, a monthly pass covering all zones of Madrid costs €20 for those under 26 years old and €63,70 if over 26. Costs for transportation without the card are much higher. You may need to buy a ten-ride ticket (€12,20) or single tickets (€1,50-2) during your first days in Madrid until you are able to purchase a Tarjeta de Transporte Publico
. Ten-ride and single tickets can be purchased from tobacco shops, Metro ticket booths, and bus company kiosks located throughout Madrid.
The ACCENT staff arranges excursions for opportunities to travel outside Madrid. These excursions are included in the cost of the program and attendance is required.
Most stores in Spain are not open on Sunday, including food stores. This is especially true in smaller cities. Bars, some restaurants, and some bakeries remain open.
In Spain it is cheaper and more convenient to stay in hostels that are not affiliated with the Youth Hostel Card.
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, you are encouraged to talk to past UCEAP Spain participants for tips and suggestions.
While you are encouraged to make the most of you experience abroad, keep in mind that UCEAP is primarily an academic program. Do not make plans to travel until after you have arrived in Madrid and received the course schedule for the summer. Repeated unexcused absences from class will be noticed and will affect your grade. 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 opportunities on weekends to travel without missing classes, and the best opportunity is after the program ends in August.
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.
The ACCENT staff will have information on cultural and social events, and will organize a number of activities for the program, which will vary depending on availability and student interest. Activities might include:
- Tapas evening at a typical Spanish restaurant
- Paella restaurant dinner
- “Madrid on a Budget” walking tour will show you how to save money during your stay in Madrid
- An evening performance of flamenco, theater, or Zarzuela (Spanish operetta)
- Art of Bullfighting Conference, which covers the cultural and historical aspects of the bullfighting tradition
- A few days after the conference, attend a bullfight at Plaza de Toros de las Ventas
- Spanish Cinema Conference, followed by a Spanish movie (with subtitles in English)
- Scavenger Hunt at Retiro Park
- Day trip to the coolest swimming pool in Madrid
Students with Disabilities
The Instituto has a scanner, screen magnification software, and cassette recorders— all available upon request. Adaptive equipment for students with visual disabilities can be obtained from ONCE (the national organization for the blind, Organización Nacional de Ciegos Españoles). Some programs have had students with learning disabilities. Advance copies of syllabi, modified deadlines, taped lectures, extra exam time, and quiet spaces for exams are available. The staff is flexible and willing to make additional accommodations upon advanced request. Follow procedures stipulated in the UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad
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. The law mandates access to buildings for persons with disabilities. 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.
Accessibility at most buildings in Spain is limited, and it is common for older buildings to have stairs and no elevators. Expect to encounter uneven sidewalks, unequipped bathrooms, and narrow doors and aisles. Newer buildings are more accessible and some of the major shopping malls, cinemas, museums, bars, and restaurants are well adapted.
Spanish universities mainly provide support to students with disabilities through “Disability support services.” These services constitute a section, or department, that can appear under different denominations (e.g., office, service, department, center). These offices give support to students with disabilities in higher education. They try to do this in an integral way, trying to solve any problems students may have in their academic or daily life. In addition to official legislation across the country, each university has its particular and specific rules for students with disabilities.
For more information:
Leaving your host city for more than 24 hours?
You are required to complete the ACCENT Travel Sign-out.
You will be given detailed instructions for this during your on-site orientation.
During an emergency (abroad or in the U.S.), it is important for UCEAP and ACCENT officials to know how to reach you so we can help you.
The UCEAP program budget does not include funds for recreational travel abroad.
Spain is highly welcoming and supportive of the LGBT community, leading Europe in both legal protection and social acceptance. Since legalizing homosexuality,the government has periodically passed legislation giving LGBT individuals a high degree of liberty and protection. Socially, despite being a largely Catholic country, the public is generally very supportive of the community. While isolated homophobic incidents occur, they are rare.
For more information,
You should not make plans to travel until you have arrived and received the program schedule at orientation. Your program may include mandatory excursions. If so, you will need to plan your travel around those dates.
In Spain it is cheaper and more convenient to stay in hostels that are not affiliated with the Youth Hostel Card.
For traveling, guidebooks are useful and are often cheaper in the U.S. Buy one or two general guides before departure.
Virtually every destination of interest within Spain is served by trains, buses, or both, making weekend and break travel easy. Students interested in traveling while abroad are encouraged to talk to Study Center staff and past UCEAP Spain participants for tips and suggestions.
While you are encouraged to make the most of your experience abroad, programs offered through UCEAP are academic programs. Although it is typical for Spanish professors not to take formal attendance, repeated unexcused absences from class will be noticed. 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.
The UCEAP Student Budget does not include funds for recreational travel.
Famous for its architecture, cuisine, and thriving nightlife, Barcelona is home to world-class restaurants, shopping, and a multitude of historical and cultural sites. As the second largest city in Spain, Barcelona’s public transportation system is excellent, user friendly, and inexpensive. The Metro system is clean and punctual; there is rarely more than a five-minute wait between trains. For areas not served by the Metro, an efficient bus service serves the city center and commuter rail systems provide links to the areas outside the center. If you are studying at one of the UCEAP programs in Barcelona, you will most likely use these public transport options on a regular basis. A single-ride ticket on the metro costs €1,50-2 or €3 for routs that cross through multiple metro zones, but if you plan on using the metro or buses for numerous trips, it may be best to buy a T-10 card for €11,20-12,20 or €18,30 for routes that cross through multiple metro zones. This multi-person travel card provides discounted fares and can be purchased at Metro automatic vending machines and Metro customer service and information centers.
This World Heritage site is located south of Madrid, in the Andulusian region of Spain, and is well connected with the rest of the country through high-speed rail. Córdoba is a relatively small city that is easily navigable even if you have limited Spanish language ability. If you attend the Language and Culture program in Córdoba, you will be able to walk to classes from your homestay, or you may need to take a bus. Bus passes are reasonably priced: as of January 2017 they were €1,30 for a single ride, €7,20 for a 10-ride ticket with free transfers valid for up to an hour, and €33 for a monthly unlimited pass. For travel to and from Córdoba, the bus and train station are adjacent to one another on the northwestern part of town. If you are planning a trip to Córdoba, be sure to spend some time exploring the Christian, Muslim, and Jewish architecture that make this city a unique historical attraction.
Located at the foot of the snowcapped Sierra Nevada Mountains, Granada boasts a world class ski resort that provides the backdrop to its Moorish cultural heritage, evident in the Alhambra palace, the Albayzín, and its various museums. Granada is, in many respects, an ideal size and most destinations of interest in the city are within walking distance of each other. If you are studying at the University of Granada, keep in mind that the university is located throughout the city, so you will likely need to take the bus to at least some if not all of your classes. The local bus system is efficient and inexpensive. You can also ask the bus driver for a “credibus card,” which discounts the fare. You can give the bus driver cash to recharge this card. Even if you are only visiting the city for a few days and plan on using the bus system, you should consider purchasing a “credibus card.”
The largest city in Spain, Madrid is the Spanish seat of government and the residence of the Spanish monarch. The primary mode of transportation used by Madrileños
, includes buses and the Metro, or just walking. If you plan to travel in Madrid for a long period of time, public transportation passes, called Tarjeta de Transporte Publico
can be used for unlimited rides on the Madrid Metro, buses, and trenes de cercanias
(suburban trains) within a specific number of “zones.” You will need to pay €5 when you buy the card, then you can load it and reload it each month. As of January 2017, a monthly pass covering all zones of Madrid costs €20 for those under 26 years old and €63,70 if over 26. Costs for transportation without the card are much higher. You may need to buy a ten-ride ticket (€12,20) or single tickets (€1,50-2) during your first days in Madrid until you are able to purchase a Tarjeta de Transporte Publico
. Ten-ride and single tickets can be purchased from tobacco shops, Metro ticket booths, and bus company kiosks located throughout Madrid.
Storing Luggage While Traveling
UCEAP Study Centers are not equipped to store luggage for students due to lack of space.
Barcelona: you can store luggage at the Barcelona-Sants Estació train station.
The general RENFE information number is (+34) 90-224-0202
Granada: you can store luggage at two places: The Granada train station, located at Avda. Andaluces (+34) 958-20-40-00, or at the bus station, located at Carretera de Jaén s/n (+34) 958-18-54-80.
Madrid: you can store luggage at the Madrid Avda. Atocha train station (+34) 91-468-83-32.
Know Before you Go
While abroad you are automatically covered by the UCEAP Travel Insurance Policy
. Coverage begins 14 days before the official start date of your UCEAP program term. Coverage ends 31 days after the official end of the UCEAP program term.
The UCEAP travel insurance does not include coverage for preventative care, checkups, and vaccinations.
Read details in Benefits at a Glance
. Familiarize yourself with the coverage, exclusions, and eligibility criteria. Your travel insurance policy number is ADDN 04834823. It is underwritten by Chubb Insurance Company.
There is no deductible or co-insurance but the travel insurance works on a reimbursement basis.
You can submit a claim for a refund consideration of covered expenses. For more information about the medical claim proces
or about non-medical claims
Do not assume that if you seek medical care abroad for a covered illness or injury that the local hospital will bill your insurance. Generally, hospitals around the world, including the US, do not bill insurance companies (unless there is a special arrangement with a local hospital in your UCEAP country). It is your responsibility to inquire with the hospital, at the time of service, and make arrangements to pay any outstanding bills. Payment for medical services abroad is ultimately your responsibility.
For more information refer to your Pre-Departure Checklist, Insurance tab, or the UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad, Insurance chapter
For Questions about Coverage, Benefits and Claims Status
ACI at email@example.com.
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.
As a UCEAP participant you are automatically covered by UCEAP travel insurance anywhere in the world (not only while in Madrid) 14 days before the official start of the program and up to 31 days after the official end of the program. The travel insurance is not the same as your US insurance. It does not cover preventive care. There is no copay or dedutive but you must pay up front for covered medical services and submit a claim for a refund consideration to the insurance company. The travel insurance does not cover no show fees if you make an appointment and do not cancel within the doctor's office policies.
If you are sick or injured, ask the local staff for names of doctors. They can also guide you to submit a claim with the UCEAP insurance for eligible medical services.
If you have questions about your UCEAP travel insurance benefits, coverage or the claims process, contact ACI at firstname.lastname@example.org
If there has been any change in your health—physical, mental, or dental—since you submitted your health clearance form to the UCEAP Systemwide Office, you must immediately notify the UCEAP Program Specialist.
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.
If you have a preexisting medical condition, carry a letter from your physician describing the medical condition, treatment, and prescribed medications, including generic names and dosage. Carry adequate amounts of your prescription medication.
Recognize that your behaviors have a significant impact on your wellness. Observe healthy habits, as follows:
- Eat a balanced diet
- Stay hydrated: Drink water
- Good basic personal hygiene and hand washing are critical to help prevent the spread of illness and disease. Wash your hands frequently with soap and water, especially before eating.
- Avoid negative health behaviors (excessive alcohol consumption, smoking, etc.)
- Do not skip on sleep
- Maintain a positive outlook
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 sub-section of this guide for information on gyms and fitness classes at each UCEAP location.
Know Before you Go
Inform yourself before you travel. Just as language and currency vary around the world, so does medical care. Know what to do if you get sick.
Read the Health chapter
of the UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad
and your Program Guide for important information to plan for a healthy stay abroad.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Traveler's Health
web page has important information about health risks present in the country where you will be studying.
Medical Alert ID
If you have significant allergies or chronic medical conditions, consider wearing a medical alert bracelet or a Medic Alert emblem. For more information, you can contact American Medical ID
- Understand your UCEAP travel insurance terms of coverage.
- If you need a refill while abroad, you must see a local doctor. US prescriptions are not valid in other countries. Note: If the visit to the local doctor is considered preventive care, it will not be covered by the UCEAP travel insurance; your campus or private insurance plan may cover it. You must travel with a letter from your prescribing explaining your diagnosis, treatment, and medication regimen, including the generic name.
- If you need to find out if this appointment would be covered by the UCEAP travel insurance, contact ACI at email@example.com. For more information about the UCEAP travel insurance, refer to your UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad, or your pre-departure checklist, Insurance tab.
- Two classes of medicines – narcotics and psychotropics – are under the control of international law. This covers any medicine that can have an effect on the Central Nervous System (CNS) and the potential to be abused. The narcotic class mostly relates to analgesic opioids and their derivatives (e.g. morphine and codeine) which tend to be highly regulated. Psychotropics are all those medications likely to be used to treat mental disorders such as anxiety, depression, and psychotic conditions.
- If you plan to purchase medication using the UCEAP Travel Insurance coverage, you must fill and pay for medication when coverage is effective (14 days before the official start of the program). Do not assume that your local pharmacy knows about the UCEAP travel insurance policy. It is not the same as your campus health insurance coverage. You will need to pay for the medication and submit a claim to the UCEAP insurance.
- Find out whether your medication is legal in your UCEAP country.
- If traveling with a prescription containing controlled substances, review international agreements governing the transportation of medications across borders check the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) website. The INCB is responsible for international drug control. If traveling with controlled substances, you must have a letter from your doctor. Generally, amphetamines (e.g., Adderall, Vyvanse) are illegal in other countries. Talk with your doctor to switch you to another medication.
- Talk to your doctor to see whether he/she can prescribe an adequate supply of your prescription medication to last through the end of the program. Ask your doctor how to adjust your dosage depending on time zone changes.
- Get a letter from the prescribing physician, on letterhead, indicating your diagnosis, treatment, and medication regimen, including the generic name as brand names vary considerably around the world.
Traveling with prescription medications
- Keep the medication in its original packaging clearly labelled with your name, doctor’s name, generic and brand name, and exact dosage. Carry it in your carry-on luggage, provided it is in pill or solid form. For more information, particularly if your medication is in liquid form, consult the US Transportation Security Administration., Traveling with Medications.
- Carry copies of all original US prescriptions.
- Carry the letter on letterhead from the prescribing physician for all prescribed medications, indicating your diagnosis, treatment, and medication regimen, including the generic names. This is extremely important in case you need treatment or a medication refill abroad.
Why is a letter from your treating physician necessary?
If your particular medication cannot be taken into the country, talk to your doctor. If you need to switch prescriptions, your doctor may need to make changes to your medication at least 3-6 months before departure to monitor side effects and dosage. The letter from your doctor indicating condition, treatment and medication regimen, can help a local physician to assess you and to consider reissuing your prescription provided it is licensed in your UCEAP country. Note that the local doctor's appointment for medication refill may not be covered by the UCEAP travel insurance.
Consult with ACI, firstname.lastname@example.org. Read more in the UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad, Health section.
SINEWS, a multilingual therapy institute offered through TH Spain. A bilingual licensed clinical psychologist is at the other end, to help you deal with emergencies 24/7.
Are you a sexual assault survivor? Are you experiencing suicidal thoughts? Personal crises need immediate professional help. Call 619270148.
If you are currently in treatment in the U.S., discuss your UCEAP program details with your doctor so you can work on a plan in case you need to reach out for care. If you are taking a prescription medication, talk with your prescribing physician before departure about getting the supply you need for going abroad. For information about traveling with medications, refer to the Prescription Medications section in this guide.
Your mental health is important to us all. Create a plan with your treating doctor. Managing your mental health while studying abroad – whether or not you have a pre-existing condition – is something every person must think about when going abroad. Being away from usual stress at home can sometimes be a relief when abroad; experiencing new adventures can be a useful distraction. You will also have times when you feel confused, uncomfortable, annoyed, and many of the same emotions that you manage in your daily life at home.
Cultural adjustment and homesickness are normal. They are usually transitory—lasting a couple of weeks—and do not imply mental illness or an inability to cope. Most students who experience culture adjustment function reasonably well under the stress and are able to keep up with the responsibilities of school and everyday life.
You may feel homesick or sad. Feeling down, anxious, homesick, depressed or stressed might be your body’s reaction to the new environment and different life away from your usual support network. Don't cope alone. Reach out for help to the local UCEAP program staff and your friends. If you have been feeling unhappy for longer than a few days, or it is staring to affect your enjoyment of
life and/or your studies, then you should see a doctor immediately.
The UCEAP travel insurance policy
covers outpatient visits as any other illness up to $500,000; there is no co-pay or deductible, and you can make an appointment with any doctor. Budget for this expense as you must pay up front and submit a claim to the insurance company for a refund consideration. Doctors, hospitals, and clinics will require you to pay bills at the time of treatment. You must then submit a completed claim form and paid receipts to the UCEAP insurance company. For information about the claims process, access Insurance Claims Process
. If you have questions about your UCEAP travel insurance benefits contact ACI at email@example.com.
Students with severe food allergies should take precautions, as the cuisine may include ingredients that can cause anaphylaxis in those affected. A language barrier increases the risks associated with severe food allergies.
Precautions to take include:
For more information, read the UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad
, Health chapter
, Allergies section.
Air pollution routinely exceeds recommended thresholds in urban areas, especially in Zaragoza, Seville, Granada, Cordoba, and Madrid. Individuals with asthma or chronic cardiorespiratory conditions should consult with a healthcare provider and carry necessary medications. On days when air quality is particularly poor, affected individuals should take personal precautions to reduce respiratory stress.
Spain's zero tolerance smoking legislation came into effect in January 2011, tightening the restrictions on smoking (cigarettes, cigars and pipes) in public places first put in place in 2006.
It is illegal to smoke in indoor public places, e.g., bars, restaurants, airports, shopping centers, etc. Smoking is also illegal outside hospitals, schools and children’s play parks. Fines for breaking laws range from €30 to €600k and are being strictly enforced.
You may find that more people smoke around you than in the U.S.
- If you have a chronic health condition that gets worse with second-hand smoke, discuss this with your doctor before departure.
Overall, Spain is considered a safe destination, though street crime continues to be a concern, particularly in urban areas and those frequented by tourists. With the right information - and by thinking ahead - everyone can play a part in preventing being a victim of crime.
Use the same common sense and street smarts that you would use in any big city in the United States. Do not put yourself into risky or threatening situations. Know the areas of town to avoid, and carry emergency phone numbers with you at all times.
- Pay attention to safety briefings during orientation.
- Avoid risky or threatening situations and learn areas of the city to avoid.
- Carry emergency phone numbers with you at all times. If you store them in your cell phone, also keep a hard copy with you in case your cell phone is lost or stolen.
- Avoid heavy drinking, which increases vulnerability to safety risks. If you must drink, do so responsibly. There have been a number of very serious accidents (some with fatal results) due to falls from balconies. A number of these incidents have been caused by being under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
- Do not leave your drinks unattended at bars or restaurants, as there have been some instances of drinks being spiked with illegal substances, leading to incidents of robbery and sexual assaults.
- 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.
- 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.
- When entering larger venues, always decide on a meeting place with those you are with just in case you get separated.
- When carrying valuables (e.g. credit cards or cash) don’t keep them all in one place. Remain aware at all times.
You play an active role in protecting your personal health, safety, and well-being. Consider an action plan.
With the right information - and by thinking ahead - everyone can play a part in minimizing or preventing personal risks. Take time to assess the risks, plan ahead to reduce them, and think how you would lessen the consequences if things go wrong. Start by outlining activities you plan to engage in through your program and/or during independent travel; label the risk and rate it based on the likelihood of harm and the severity of consequences. Consider measures you can take to reduce the severity and chance. Plan your itinerary carefully, let your friends and relatives know where you will be, and research the safest way to travel.
The University of California Education Abroad Program (UCEAP) has established policies and procedures and has contracted with emergency assistance and security providers, to help you minimize your risk exposure and enhance your safety.
Be aware of the global risk of indiscriminate and unpredictable terrorist attacks, which make it impossible to protect yourself from. Remain vigilant in all public areas in your UCEAP city and country and wherever you travel. Many terrorist groups, seeking publicity for political causes within their own country or region, are not looking for student or higher education targets.
Terrorist attacks using vehicles are very hard to prevent and appear to be on the rise. If you are in a crowded public place, know how you can exit quickly, identify barriers or safe places where you can shelter-in-place, and watch out for any vehicles that appear to be going at very high speed.
Report anything suspicious to local authorities. Read all security-related correspondence and advice from local staff. Schedule direct flights, if possible. Avoid stops in high-risk airports or areas. Minimize time spent in the public area of an airport, which is a less protected area. Keep a mental note of safe havens, such as police stations, hotels, and hospitals. Have a plan for what you will do in the case of an emergency. If you are ever caught in a situation where somebody starts shooting, follow the active shooter guidelines: drop to the floor, get down as low as possible, and hide if possible. Cover yourself behind a solid object. Silence your phone. Do not move until the danger has passed.
Steps to manage or minimize risk and enhance your personal safety
Register online with the U.S. embassy 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.
Spanish authorities warn of the availability of so-called "date-rape" drugs and other drugs, including GBH and liquid ecstasy.
Protecting your Passport
Avoid carrying your passport whenever possible; leave it in a secure place and carry a copy. Pickpockets and thieves are active throughout Madrid, especially in and around tourist areas. Make a copy of the first page of your passport to use as a form of ID. Leave your actual passport safe in your room. In case your passport is lost or stolen, immediately notify the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate, local authorities, and the Study Center.
Minimize your chance of becoming a victim of petty theft
Petty crime poses the greatest threat. Most petty crimes are committed by groups of young persons using different distraction tactics. Victims report being approached by individuals holding maps and asking for directions. While the victim is distracted, an accomplice picks the victim’s pockets or purse, removing cash, credit cards, passports, and other valuables. Report lost or stolen possessions immediately to the local police. Keep a copy of the police report for future UCEAP insurance claims and as an explanation of your loss.
- 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, flip-flops, and shorts are all associated with Americans and will likely make you a target.
Alcohol and Your Safety
Drinking even a small amount of alcohol can lead to dangerous or even deadly situations. Drinking can impair a person's judgment, coordination, and reaction time.
Know How to be Safe when Drinking
- Alcohol can cause you to lose all common sense when it comes to your own safety.
- Alcohol is a mind-altering drug, which affects our physical coordination and decision making abilities.
- Some people are more vulnerable than others to the immediate effects of alcohol due to body size, gender, genetics and when they last ate.
- Too much alcohol makes you more prone to accidents.
- The more drinks you have the greater the effect – this is true regardless of your age, gender or size.
- Before going out know how you are getting home and make arrangements in advance such as booking a licensed taxi. Find out from the company the make and model of car to expect.
- Know where you are going and if possible make sure someone else knows where you are going too.
- Keep your mobile is charged and has credit. Do you have a licensed taxi number stored in your phone? Your mobile is charged and has credit. Do you have a licensed taxi number stored in your phone?
- Have enough cash for your journey home and keep your keys separate from your bag.
- Stay in control of your drinking –You are much more vulnerable when you are drunk and some people will take advantage of this.
Protect your belongings. Follow basic precautions.
- Always be aware of your surroundings and those around you. Thieves usually create a distraction before making their move, such as asking for the time so you turn to look at your watch.
- Never carry large amounts of cash. Separate your cash and documents among various pockets.
- Carry your wallet in a front or breast pocket, or in a security money belt/ pouch under your clothes—never in your back pocket. If you must carry a wallet, wrap it in a rubber band—this creates friction, making it harder to pickpocket—or use a chain to attach your wallet to a belt loop. Carry your purse or bag with the strap diagonally across your chest (never around your neck). Keep your hand on your purse or in your wallet pocket.
- Never put your purse, backpack, or laptop by your feet or on a seat next to you. Keep it on your lap at all times. When in crowds or on the Metro, carry your backpack or bag in front of you where you can see it.
- Do not store your camera or other valuables where they can be removed without notice.
- Leave anything you do not need in a particular day at your apartment or homestay in a secure place.
Photocopies of Important Documents
Make photocopies of your passport, credit card/ATM numbers, emergency phone numbers, etc., and store them in a safe place (separate from the actual documents and cards). Leave a set of copies with your parents. You might also choose to store this information in a private online account. If you lose your wallet, purse, or backpack, you will have the copies to make it easier to process a new passport or new cards.
Demonstrations & Protests
Large-scale demonstrations and strikes occur and are usually associated with labor and political policies and activities. Most demonstrations are peaceful, but random acts of violence can occur. Transportation and other public services may be limited or unavailable during strikes and demonstrations.
- Avoid all large gatherings related to civil issues. Even seemingly peaceful rallies can spur violent activity or be met with resistance by security forces. Bystanders may be arrested or harmed by security forces using water cannons, tear gas, or other measures to control crowds.
- If violence erupts or you feel is imminent, leave the area.
- If you cannot leave the area, seek shelter in large, public buildings such as hotels, churches, stores, hospitals, and museums. Wait until the crowds have dissipated before going back outside.
Threat of Terrorism
Terrorism remains an ongoing concern, given Spain’s proximity to North Africa and sizeable immigrant communities. Spain serves as a gateway for Islamist extremists desiring entry into Europe and has served as a logistical hub for some operations in Europe and the Middle East. For example, Spanish authorities have apprehended several cells involved in the recruitment,
funding, and travel of jihadist fighters to Syria and in support of the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq (ISIL). Spain’s North African exclave cities of Melilla and Ceuta are a particular challenge in this context. Recognizing this, Spain is focused on the cities and leverages excellent security cooperation with Morocco to effectively address the issue.
Traffic & Transportation Safety
Spain has an excellent network of roads and highways. Public transportation in large Spanish cities is generally excellent and travel is usually secure, although common sense should prevail if you are unfamiliar with the local crime situation.
- Take precautions particularly in the evening.
- Travel should be accomplished during the day. If overnight travel is required, book tickets only on international rail lines, in a lockable cabin. Never travel alone.
- Use the highest class of travel and the most direct booking available.
- Do not accept food or drink from strangers, as criminals are known to drug unsuspecting travelers, especially foreigners.
- Train stations are usually open 24 hours a day and do not have security to control access.
- Keep your luggage and other possessions in sight. Avoid using the station’s public restrooms if they are vacant or not guarded by an attendant.
In larger cities, subways, buses, commuter trains, trolleys and their associated stations are havens for thieves, pickpockets and purse-snatchers. Use security money belts under your clothing. Keep loose items, such as cameras and purses, within a larger and securable carrying bag that is kept in front of you, never behind.
Rail service is comfortable and reliable, but varies in quality and speed. Intercity buses are usually comfortable and inexpensive.
Do not drive. Spain has a high rate of car accidents, especially among young people.
Licensed taxis usually provide a more secure means of transport. All major cities have metered taxis, in which extra charges must be posted in the vehicle. 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.
If you have a problem or suspect you are being over charged for a taxi ride, ask for an official receipt. The license number for the taxi should be located in a metal plaque by the passenger window. This number identifies a specific taxi and can prove useful in the event of forgotten property or if you decide to file a complaint.
Most cities have phone reservation and radio dispatch services for added security.
Use only telephone-dispatched taxis after dark.
Even though Spain is considered one of the most positive examples of the effects a national road safety program can have. Road safety is a problem in Spain. Pedestrian crossings are marked with zebra black and white wide striped lines.
- Cross streets at a corner, using traffic signals where available and crosswalks. If there is no traffic light at the crossing, the pedestrian has the right of way but cross with caution. Spanish drivers do not usually stop at zebra crossings unless they are accompanied by traffic lights.
- Stay on the sidewalk wherever there is one.
- Stop before you start to cross the street. Look to the left, right, and left again. Cross when it is clear.
- When going out at night, wear brightly colored or reflective clothing.
- Where the view is restricted, stop and confirm whether it is safe to continue.
Madrid Subway System
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.
Follow these general fire safety tips. Most college-related fires in the U.S. are due to a general lack of knowledge about fire safety and prevention. Educate yourself about fire safety standards in your UCEAP country. Fire safety standards differ drastically around the world.
- Know where emergency exists are located and check whether exits are passable.
- Know how to call the local fire department.
Do not stay in housing above the sixth floor so you are within range of most fire department rescue ladders.
- Print and take with you the UCEAP brochure, Fire Safety 101 for Students.
- Purchase and use a smoke detector. Before departure contact the Fire Safety Foundation. Choose from a variety of battery-powered smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) alarms, including models with sealed, 10-year batteries. Once purchased, the alarms and a multilingual installation manual – written in English and the host country’s native language - will be shipped to the address where you are residing.
- Have an escape plan and practice it.
- Treat every smoke alarm activation as a likely fire and react quickly and safely to the alarm.
- Check for fire hazards. Make sure exit routes are not blocked.
- If you have a disability, alert others of the type of assistance you need to leave the building.
- Refer to the UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad, Fire Safety section for life-saving information.
Forest fires occur frequently in Spain during the summer months, especially in southern areas of the country.
Fire - Dial 112
UCEAP Contingency Planning
If a local situation requires increased caution or a program suspension and evacuation of participants, UCEAP will activate contingency plans. For security reasons, contingency plans are not public and cannot be shared with anyone except UCEAP officials.
Program Suspension Policy
If the U.S. Department of State or CDC issues a Travel Advisory after the start date of the program term, UCEAP may suspend the program. If time and local security conditions permit, UCEAP will consult with the UC Study Center Director, UC security provider, U.S. Embassy, U.S. Department of State regional and security analysts, other organizations that offer programs in the same country, and area experts to determine the appropriate timeframe for suspending the program and/or for the evacuation of the students from the host country.
The UCEAP required security evacuation will override any host institution, or local US Embassy evacuation on U.S. government-arranged flights, that require U.S. citizens to sign a promissory note with the government. The safe evacuation of UCEAP students, managed by UCEAP and its security providers, is covered by UCEAP itravel nsurance. UC students are required to follow UC safety directives in the event of an evacuation.
What Is an Emergency?
An emergency is a serious, unexpected, and often dangerous situation requiring immediate action. The following are considered emergencies:
- Any life/death situation
- A traumatic event requiring immediate assistance
- An arrest
- Civil unrest or natural disaster in the host country
In an Emergency
Contact local emergency services first and then contact the following:
If you are in the U.S.
- During office hours (8 a.m.–5 p.m. Pacific Time): Contact your Program Specialist at the UCEAP Systemwide Office at (805) 893-4762.
- After office hours: Call the 24-hour emergency phone numbers at (805) 893-4762 or (805) 882-2086.
Carry the local UCEAP emergency contact information at all times.
Police, Ambulance, or Fire Department: 112
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
The University of California, in accordance with applicable
Federal and State law and University policy, does not
discriminate on the basis of race, national origin, religion,
sex, gender identity, pregnancy,* disability, age, medical
condition (cancer-related), ancestry, marital status,
citizenship, sexual orientation, or status as a Vietnam-era
veteran or special disabled veteran. The University also
prohibits sexual harassment. This nondiscrimination policy
covers admission, access, and treatment in University programs
and activities. Inquiries regarding the University’s
student-related nondiscrimination policies may be directed to
the campus Equal Employment Opportunity/Affirmative Action
* Pregnancy includes pregnancy, childbirth, and medical
conditions related to pregnancy or childbirth.