I am going to share my Madrid experience with a few tips and tricks on how to experience Madrid’s full potential as an exchange student!
Apartment hunting is the very first thing exchange student needs to tackle when moving and there are many options depending on what kind of traveller you are and what are your criteria for housing. Spanish skills are going to take you a long way in this process and if your language skills are not the best, you might consider using housing middleman such as Spot-a-home. I booked my apartment through their services and everything went smoothly! If you prefer practice your Spanish skills idealista is full of rentals in shared and studio apartments! Either way, you must act fast. Good apartments are gone before you know it.
My apartment was on this very cozy street right in the city center. Perfect!
Now that the housing is all settled it is time to get to know the city more. Best possible way to meet new people, get information and help is Citylife Madrid. They organize a lot of events that include culture, food events and parties all for free or included on their Citylife Madrid pass. Events alone are worth joining because they are a great way to get to know the city and people. First week there I also got a lot of useful info by stopping by their office and they helped me to book an appointment where I got my metro pass.
When introduced to the city a little bit, it is time to get familiar with the city on your own terms. What I enjoyed the most was a day of shopping in endless supply of second hand and vintage stores and long lunch in some outside seated cafe. To find out unique spots and activities that interest you follow Naked Madrid for detailed tips about all that Madrid has to offer!
With a combination of just finding places, people and things to do on my own and good recommendations I got to experience Madrid’s full potential in a short period of time. Hopefully my short tips help you to experience Madrid as a tourist or as an exchange student.
I studied in Stoke on Trent in England for the autumn semester 2019. I did my studies in Staffordshire University. The university was really big and it was only 15 minute walk form my home so it was really nice. The studies were really different than the ones I was used to in Finland. We had some kind of preparation work for every lecture, for example reading some articles or watching a documentary. Some of them were a bit difficult but made the studying interesting. The lectures were shorter than in Finland and we had no exams, only essays and reports to write. The lectures were really interesting and you could focus on the topics that you were interested.
I have spent my spare time travelling. I have been in London, Manchester, Scotland, Ireland and Northern Ireland as well. It has been super interesting to explore the country! I have also met many other students, local English students but international exchange students as well. Stoke on Trent is famous for the potteries so I have also visited a pottery museum in the city. Sometimes it feels like I have no free time, the studies and essay writings take a lot of my time! I also had my family and my friend visiting me during the exchange which was really nice. Three months is a short time to explore the whole country so I wish to come back in the UK again very soon and visit more places!
My exchange destination is not so known place called Ghent. This city of Belgium is the second largest in Flanders community and ranking third in the whole Belgium after Brussels and Antwerp. I studied international business management during the autumn semester in this beautiful city full of history, stories, colorful streets, and delicacies.
Bikes are a huge thing in Ghent. They are everywhere. I have around three kilometers to the campus, so I rented one as well. Locals said that when you have a bike, you are “the king of the streets”. And that was surely it. There are specifically marked bike streets meaning that cars are not allowed to pass. Having a bike makes moving easy – you can pass the traffic jams, you do not have to wait buses or trams and you save money. It is also environmentally better option than a car. The central area is a low emission zone and restricted to cars – mainly taxes are driving there. Therefore, most of the students and inhabitants have their own or rented bikes. I really like the biking culture and got keen on my bike. Now that I had to return it, I felt kind of that something important is missing.
Ghent is truly a student city in Belgium. There are student activities almost every week and a bar street located near the campus. I spent my spare time as a typical exchange student – travelling, hanging out with other students, roaming around and of course by exploring the food and drink culture. The location is great. You can book a trip to Amsterdam, Paris or some other city just the night before at affordable prices.
When it comes to the studying itself and group works which we have a lot, Belgian students are not that motivated or hard working. The lack of motivation might be explained partly by the fact that they do not have to take entrance examination so everyone can attend school. Power distance and school environment are quite different than in Finland; disputes are not that welcomed, and breaks are shorter. Also, the eating habits are different as students are having chocolate bars, candies or waffles for lunch. The canteen is serving lunch only for couple hours with poor selection and the other campus only have a machine that offers sweets and some sandwiches. So, for me it was quite a surprise and made me to appreciate more the canteen in TAMK. I went home to eat during the gaps which was not a bad thing at all as I got fresh air and exercise.