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Why I Chose to Study Abroad in Madrid

Man in yellow outfit in front of gates to the Royal Palace of Madrid

I knew going into university that I wanted to participate in a semester abroad, but it wasn’t until I started seeing flyers around campus and getting emails about info sessions that I really started thinking about it as a reality. Like the overthinker that I am, I immediately opened up tab after tab of where I could go and became completely overwhelmed by the amount of choices I had – in a good way! The process at my university was to list four universities in order of preference. After that, spots would be awarded according to a slightly complicated lottery system.

I was able to narrow my search down somewhat by making lists of universities that offered classes that would count for credit at my home university, that would help me complete my major or minors and that were interesting to me. When I had finished this, however, I was still left with tons of options. 

I decided I wanted to learn Spanish when I was around 11 years old, but didn’t take it seriously until much later. I studied Spanish for two years in high school and then for another year in CEGEP, to prepare for my month-long immersive trip to Nicaragua. After that experience I was thrilled with how far my language skills had come, but didn’t get the chance to practice often at home, save shyly ordering in Spanish at my favourite Mexican restaurants. It had been somewhat of a lifelong dream of mine to study abroad in Argentina, however there were no partner universities available to me for my program and I had to focus my attention elsewhere.

The next best option seemed to be Spain, because of its central location in Europe. While I had developed a deep love for Latin America I couldn’t help but imagine all the weekend trips I could get in if I were in Europe, and thus found myself more and more drawn to Spain. It was also one of the big Western European countries I hadn’t been to yet, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity.

Once I had pretty much decided that Spain was at the top of my list, I had to weigh my options between two universities: Universidad Comillas Pontificia in Madrid and Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona (UAB). I was drawn to Barcelona because of its proximity to the ocean and recommendations from family and friends, however I knew that in terms of improving my Spanish I might be better off in Madrid – Barcelona is part of the Catalonia region of Spain, where the main language is Catalan. UAB is located just outside of Barcelona, and I liked the idea of being in a city centre. Little did I know, the campus I would have to take my classes at in Madrid would also be way out in the suburbs, but I guess ignorance probably made this aspect of the decision easier. One of the factors I preferred about UAB was that it had student accommodation whereas in Madrid I would have to figure it out myself, but in the end Madrid seemed to be calling my name.

The main thing that drew me to Spain was the opportunity to immerse myself in the Spanish language and the central location in Europe, which is great for those looking to do a lot of travel. Although my exchange got cut short due to Covid-19, I am so glad that I chose to study abroad in Madrid and have lots more to write about this incredible city!


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