Adjusting to Life In Madrid - Center for Global Engagement

Adjusting to Life In Madrid

My name is Ana Ochoa, and this past fall semester I studied abroad in Madrid. Although this was not the first time I have left the country, it was my first time traveling to Europe and living in a country I had no family in. Although I was not sure what to expect, I quickly fell in love with Madrid. Their culture, the views, and the value of the quality of life was so different, it was very refreshing. Living in Tulsa all my life has always made me depend on a car for transportation but having such ease to the public transportation and how walkable most cities are is one of the things I miss the most from living in Madrid.

Although I do not miss waiting for the next available train/metro. On my slow and lazy days, I would still walk at least 10,000 steps. I think that the hardest thing I experienced abroad was trying to stay connected with family and friends since I was 7 hours ahead, but at least I would win my ring competition by 3 am Tulsa time. Although Spanish is my native language, there were a few barriers to my Spanish compared to their Spanish. Overall, I really enjoyed being around Spanish-speaking people, it reminded me of home. I learned a lot about Spain such as their history, artists, architecture, accounting, and statistics styles. It still did take a while to get used to my new home, dorm, university, and food. Especially because in the US the university dorms are on campus and with other students from the same university, but my dorm was located 45 minutes away from campus and with people from different universities. After I had a set schedule and became accustomed to their lifestyle, it made my experiences much better since I was no longer homesick. It did make coming home for the holidays more difficult since I had already built a new little life in Madrid.

I am not sure if my experience would have been different prior to COVID, but I really could not tell COVID had happened except that we had to wear masks in hospitals, pharmacies, and public transportation but this only applied in Spain. While living abroad, I traveled a lot on the weekends since I did not have classes on Fridays. I traveled to thirteen different cities and five other countries such as France, Italy, Switzerland, Portugal, and the Netherlands. I made all these trips cheap: we stayed in hostels, budgeted, and found cheap flights (my cheapest flight was twenty-seven euros round trip). My roommate and I traveled with friends we met at the university and through our ISA program. One of the best things I did was making friends while traveling through Europe, we would go sightseeing and tried different cuisines. I learned about so many other different cultures and customs from mine and the ones I had previously learned in Spain.

I attended a prestigious university called Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (UC3M) in Getafe, which is the outskirts of Madrid. The teaching style there was completely different and had multiple professors for a single class. The classroom size ratio alone was bigger than the one at TU. UC3M was the university of about 20-30 thousand students. Although I have many opinions about selected courses, I did like attending class with locals. I made a handful of Spanish friends along with a handful of international friends from both the US and from other European countries. I had a better education experience and understanding than others at UC3M because I only had courses with locals instead of taking courses in the international school of UC3M.


Overall, my study abroad experience was incredible, and I can see why people go more than once. I am already looking into when I can go back, but not for educational purposes. Before going abroad, I had spoken to professors and all of them preach about studying abroad as an undergraduate. They were right, I believe that if given that opportunity each undergraduate student should go at least once; I know that if I was given another opportunity and if I have the financial funds again, I would go again in a heartbeat.