My Main Uni & My Side Uni

Universidad Pontificia Comillas ICAI-ICADE. Thankfully, the classes are shorter than the name. While Drexel students were headed back to classes or co-op the 2nd week of January, I was at my first college orientation – for the second time. In honor of that, this blog post is going to be an introduction to the school I’ll call home for the next 4 months and a comparison to Drexel.

Me, repping Drexel at my new school.

UP Comillas is a private, Jesuit university located in the city of Madrid. Now, I’ve never attended a religious school before, but other than a large church located inside one of the buildings, a small cross hanging on the wall of every classroom (and I really mean every one) and a “Pastoral Services” department, it’s just like any other technical university. Much like Drexel, it’s not quite center city but it’s just a short walk or train ride from it. In fact, there’s a well known joke about walking in Madrid: If you’re hanging out with a Madrileño and they tell you a location you’re going to is in walking distance, they’re not lying, but be sure to pack 2 overnight bags, an extra pair of shoes and arrange for someone to water your plants.

In direct contrast to Philadelphia, Madrid is a very organically planned city, with several side streets at any given intersection and long, winding roads walled in by tall apartment buildings and shops, with the only exceptions being the large, open plazas or city parks that seem to come from out of nowhere. Unfortunately, Comillas is not directly next to a plaza, so there’s no quad or green space for students to congregate (which leads to a VERY crowded sidewalk between classes when everyone goes outside to smoke). During long breaks or study sessions, most students head back to their apartments or to one of the thousands of coffee shops near campus…and yes, I already have a favorite and the baristas now recognize me when I walk in.

Map of Madrid’s streets

Map of Philadelphia’s streets

Comillas itself is made up of two multi-story buildings, directly next to each other, and an additional suburban campus. In total, roughly 12,000 students are enrolled in either ICAI (the school of engineering), ICADE (the school of law and business) or in the humanities and culture college. To compare it to Drexel, with several dozen buildings, 3 separate campuses, and about 26,000 students, Comillas is small. But for Spain, with exception of a few of the big-name public universities and research institutions, it is right in line with the average size of schools in the country. This has proven to be a great advantage inside the classrooms, where students aren’t crowded into a large lecture hall or stuffed into a small room: there’s open seats, table top space and a very good student to faculty ratio. So far, it’s been a very personal and engaging experience with the professors and I am excited to see what all I have to learn about engineering, Spain, and myself.