As I come to the end of my study abroad experience, I would just like to reflect on the experiences I’ve had over the past two months. I cannot believe I survived two months in two different countries! This experience has been incredible and I can’t thank my parents enough for making this possible. Madrid was absolutely beautiful and had been on my bucket list for years! And London is just somewhere I see myself living after college. Going to school in another country is hard to adjust to, especially when it’s your first time. There were so many mistakes that I made but I also stumbled upon a million more happy accidents. So this post is going to be a comparison between Madrid & London and basically my opinions on the how my summer went.
Universidad de Nebrija vs. Foundation for International Education
Classes in Madrid were completely different to the ones in London. I know I’ve talked about this before but there were total opposites and a little bit of an adjustment. In Madrid, grades were not that important to the teachers, they just wanted to make sure we understand what they were teaching us. Our teachers wanted us to understand what we were learning and really made an effort to teach us through games and activities. We felt really comfortable with our teachers and our peers which made the class a lot more fun. They encouraged us to go out and explore the city, understanding that we wanted to experience everything Spain had to offer. The part I didn’t like was that excursions and activities costed extra and that there were not that many. I felt like we were just dropped in Madrid and had to figure everything out for ourselves from food to activities. I didn’t know what were the important things to experience and I think it would have been nice if Drexel or Nebrija offered more within the city of Madrid. It would have also been nice to have something for all the Drexel students where we get a tour of Madrid or at least a packet of do’s and don’ts. I think London handled excursions and activities very well (which I will talk about in my next paragraph). All in all I did love going to class. I felt like I actually learned Spanish and got to use it when walking around, which was great practice.
London, on the other hand, practiced independent learning. They wanted us to go home and read up on the material then ask questions in class or be able to talk about it in an essay. As much as I loved London as a city and as a home, I have to say I didn’t like how we were taught. Honestly, I felt like I was abroad to teach myself about a topic I know nothing about and sit in my flat for 5-7 hours writing paper after paper. The course load is intense in London, which also made me not like the experience so much but everything else was absolutely incredible! London made up for the lack of teaching. I know it is important to have the ability to independently research topics but in my History of Modern Design class we all felt like we were shoving information in our heads that may or may not have been important. We were thrown a topic and told to give a creative presentation on it. Those were all the guidelines given, which didn’t seem fair. But I guess that’s just the teacher and sometimes you have to stick it out for the experience and just try your best. I loved the activities they planned for us and the orientation schedule. It was a lot more organized than Madrid in that the classes provided field trips so you were in class all day and we were given tickets to visit the Parliament building and tickets for a play. We were also given a walking tour of London on our second day, which was actually very helpful.
Overall, both cities were great but I did enjoy studying in Madrid because I felt like I was really learning a lot but I was also not swamped in work.
Madrid vs. London
Now, as cities, there is a lot to compare. I feel like London had a lot more to see and I didn’t accomplish nearly as much as I was hoping to. There are so many markets to go to, shops to browse, streets to walk, and boroughs to check out. There was always something to do like see a play or walk through one of the many big parks or visit a big tourist attraction. In Madrid, there was not a whole lot I felt obligated to see. There was a decent amount of touristy places but it was mostly experiencing the culture and trying to live like a Spaniard. So in that respect, I did have a lot to do in Madrid because I had to try every restaurant and really learn the culture. London is more like New York in the sense that it’s such a mix of cultures that you can’t really call yourself a brit after living there. I mean every other person on the tube has a American accent so it’s not truly British, if that makes sense. So long story short, Madrid has a lot more cultural experiences whereas London has a lot more activities to do.
I found the prices in Madrid to be so much cheaper than London, which I loved! Everything from Zara to Taco Bell was not as expensive as it is in the states and definitely not as much as in London. London is not unaffordable but it is quite pricey, especially when coming from Spain.
Another thing I feel like I have to talk about is the geography and climate. Madrid and London are polar opposites. Madrid was hot and sunny. And the city is very hilly so you’ll always be walking up or down hill. It worked wonders on my calves so I’m not complaining. London is cold, it will probably not reach above 80 degrees (Fahrenheit) too many times. The weather is pretty mild but it does tend to rain a lot. As for geography, there are not nearly as many mountains and valleys of roads. There are some slopes but it’s mostly flat land. In Madrid I felt like everything was pretty close by. I walked everywhere because I kept forgetting to buy a subway pass but nothing was too far. Same with London. Everything was accessible by tube if it wasn’t in the borough (neighborhood). The tube was really easy to use and got you exactly where you needed to be in a short amount of time, which I really appreciated. The public transportation was overall better in London.
I have to say, though, I did love the food in Madrid even though I am a huge fan of the English Breakfast and Afternoon Tea. Madrid’s food had flavor and was so different from anything I had ever had before. London’s food was nothing new.
I know I’m going to hate leaving Europe. It’s been such an amazing experience and I’m already planning my next vacation back here! As for Madrid vs. London, I would have to say Madrid for a nice vacation and London to live and work. Doing a dual city was a lot of fun for me because I don’t like staying in one place for too long but I would suggest applying for a single city if you like a little more stability and really want to explore all that that city/country has to offer. There are pros and cons to both sides but it really just depends on what you will be most comfortable with. In the end, this experience is supposed to be fun so pick a place you have always wanted to visit and just hop on in!
Until next time, Cheers!
P.S. The next post will be my final post so get ready for a lot of sentimental “I don’t wanna leave” and “take me back” statements!