Adriana is a fourth-year student from Spain, who is working on her thesis and has just begun her internship at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in Paris, France. In her third year, she went back to her home country on exchange, studying in Madrid at Universidad Autónoma de Madrid.
By Piyumi Jayasundera
1) When did you go on exchange and for how long?
I went on exchange last year, during the second semester of our year 3. In total, I was in Madrid for around half a year.
2) What kind of courses did you take?
I 100% focused on Spanish law while I was there, as the purpose of my exchange was also to take some of the subjects I would need to pass the Spanish bar later on, which I intend to start next year. I took five courses in total: administrative law, civil procedure, social security law, advanced tax law, and criminal law.
3) What were your professors/teachers like?
The professors were very serious and formal. The style of teaching is much less “modern” than at HHS.
4) How did you find it different to HHS?
The relationship with the professors was completely different - the professors barely know who you are, if at all, as they all teach around 10 groups for each year. Part of your grade for each subject was compulsory intervention in class. This meant you had to prepare the material every day in order to answer questions. If you weren’t asked questions, you had to somehow intervene in order to be able to get the grade - without it, you could not even take the exam.
5) What was the atmosphere of the university like?
The atmosphere at university was similar in a sense, except probably only 5% of the students were non-Spanish. Also, as tends to happen in cities like Madrid, it was very far away from the city centre. By public transport, it would take me around an hour to get to class.
6) What was your first impression of the city, as a student?
The city is fantastic. I had also already lived there in the past, so I knew I loved it already, but it was amazing. You could say one’s first impression is acknowledging that the streets are always full and lively.
7) What did you like doing most in the city? Where are the best places to go?
I think my favourite thing is probably the fact that everyone is out on the street all the time. The weather is outstanding so you can be out all the time, and eating out is super cheap and the food is incredible. Going for walks and eating out with my friends was probably my favourite part of my stay.
As it’s a huge city, there are very many different districts with different things to do. Barrio de Salamanca is very nice and European, whereas La Latina or Malasaña have more of a relaxed vibe to them. El Prado museum is really worth the visit, as is the area around the Royal Palace.
8) How was it to find housing?
Thankfully, that was not very hard as I already had a place to stay there before I moved, so that was great.
9) How was public transport?
The tube (metro) is outstanding. Clean and really modern, and it works super well because traffic tends to be a nightmare in the city. You are entitled to a youth pass until you’re 25, which allows you to travel unlimitedly for only 20€.
10) Were there are problems/disadvantages that you faced?
The whole education system does not work very well, I found. Whereas it’s true that the university (UAM) is a very good one, the way the courses are structured were very old-fashioned in my opinion. After having a much more ‘applied’ approach here at HHS, where we are literally asked to apply the law and analyse certain situations, I found myself having to memorise legal codes off by heart to answer exam questions, article by article. That was quite hard, as was switching back to Spanish, as all of the courses I took were only taught in Spanish.
11) Would you recommend the experience to other students?
I definitely would, it’s an amazing city with great people and a million things to do. I would only stress that having a good knowledge of Spanish is key because no one really speaks much English and the language of the subjects is quite complicated.