¡Prepárate! El Programa de Verano de UNCG en Madrid, España

Expectations, Courtesy and Practical Advice
for Students in the Summer Program in Spain

Consejos de Estudiantes del Programa del Verano 2007
Advice from Students in the Summer Program 2007

1. Don't Forget to Bring . 4. History 7. Thirty Things to Know about Living with your Señora 10. Telephone and Internet
2. Roommates .5. General Advice 8. Life in the City 11. Nightlife
3. Academic Life 6. Manners 9. Excursions 12. More Words of Wisdom

Here are some recommendations from UNCG students who participated in the 2007 Summer in Spain program. The number in parentheses indicates the number of students who gave the same piece of advice.


  • Bring earplugs. Madrid is very noisy all night long. (VERY IMPORTANT) (4) ·
  • Bring good shoes (not just flip-flops) because you'll be on your feet a lot and do a lot of walking. (4) ·
  • Before you leave, buy a guidebook for the city (Small Planet is good) so you'll know what there is to see and do in Madrid. You can get one in Madrid, too. (3) ·
  • Bring a book to read in the bus on long excursions. (2) ·
  • Bring an extra memory card for your camera. (2) ·
  • Bring a water-bottle. (2) ·
  • Bring toilet paper or tissues in your purse or pocket, because you never know. ·
  • Bring Imodium. ·
  • Bring Tylenol. ·
  • Pack lightly. ·
  • School supplies cost money. Bring what you can (notebooks, loose leaf, folders, stapler, tape, glue stick, etc.). ·
  • Always take an umbrella and a sweater because the weather's always changing. ·
  • Don't just pack for hot weather, because it's often cool and rainy.

Guía de consejos de los estudiantes (Guide to student advice)


  • Try to get acquainted with your roommate(s) beforehand. (7) ·
  • Try to find someone you know you can get along with as a roommate, because roommate issues can make you miserable. (4) ·
  • Finding good roommates ahead of time helps deal with the stress of a new culture. ·
  • Make friends in the group and hang out together--you'll make lifelong friendships. ·
  • Not all the roommates are on the same level; some speak Spanish better than others. Talk about how you want to handle it, because you're all there to speak Spanish. ·
  • Get together with your roommates before the trip and get into the habit of speaking Spanish together. ·
  • Be prepared to meet some people you like and some you won't like in the group. Remember it's only five weeks so just be prepared for everything and just have fun.

Guía de consejos de los estudiantes (Guide to student advice)

Torres de San Isidro


  • Remember it's not a vacation; be prepared to work long and hard. (5) ·
  • The classes are really intense, so be prepared. (4) ·
  • The course load is not easy. (3) ·
  • Don't procrastinate; you only have 5 weeks. Don't get behind. (3) ·
  • Be ready to work hard; you will be studying all the time if you want a good grade, but it's worth it. (2) ·
  • Get used to a whole lot more studying than usual. ·
  • Do your homework after dinner because there's always something going on during the day. ·
  • Try to get homework done before the excursions because there is no time during them. ·
  • Remember that the program is a "study abroad" program. ·
  • We are here to learn. Course work is serious! ·
  • Find a café to study in.
  • I was challenged more than any other class I have ever taken. I enjoyed it. It's important to push students as far as you can. I learn best that way.
  • Classes move fast, and you might want to rethink doing 203/204 if 101/102 were hard for you. ·
  • Academic life is difficult to balance because at the same time you're trying to have a social life, take in the culture, go on excursions, speak in Spanish and write in your journal.
  • It's important to use time management skills, develop a routine right away and stick to it.
  • You have to put in a lot of work, but it's easier when you're constantly surrounded by Spanish.
  • School sucks everywhere; study before you get to Spain.
  • Look things over before you come to cut down on stress.
  • Be aware that you'll have to speak Spanish all the time, not just in the classroom.

Guía de consejos de los estudiantes (Guide to student advice)


  • Read about Spain before your trip. (2)
  • Learn some history first, especially if you're taking the culture class. It'll help tremendously! (2)
  • History is important, and there's a lot of it. (2)
  • Talk about the history with your señora; it's so interesting to hear what a Spanish person has to say about it, because it's very long and it was hard, though very interesting.
  • Really try to grasp history, because it really makes for great conversations at the bar or just with people you meet.
  • I am glad I got a lot of history about Spain. They have had an interesting past. Soak up all you can.
  • History will enrich your life; take it all in.

Guía de consejos de los estudiantes (Guide to student advice)


  • Force yourself to speak Spanish. (3)
  • Make yourself speak Spanish even if you're in the 200-level courses.
  • Learn the vosotros form.
  • Never carry around a lot of money; there are always robbers around.

Guía de consejos de los estudiantes (Guide to student advice)


  • Manners are something you need to use while in Spain, whether it be at the bar or at the house you reside at. Showing good manners helps your time in Spain to be better. (2)
  • Spanish people bump into you and stare; they don't mean to be offensive but they have less of a "bubble" around them than Americans do. (2) (Note: Be careful of bumps, because it can be a way of getting at your wallet or purse.)
  • Remember that we are visitors to España and need to accept cultural difference (e.g. lack of deodorant, tendency to stare, less personal space). (2)
  • Learn about customs and manners before getting to Spain.
  • If you wouldn't do it in the US, don't do it in Spain.
  • Do not yawn or stretch when speaking with a Madrileño.
  • Remember to greet everyone when you meet.
  • Besos: your señora may kiss you hello or goodbye, once on each side. It's not necessary to give her a smacker on each cheek, a little peck or air-kiss is fine.
  • Keep a positive attitude at all times. Just because you may not like something doesn't mean that no one else does.
  • Keep your voice down even in bars and restaurants; many times it was obvious that people in our group were disturbing others and furthering the stereotype of the rude, loud Americanos.

Guía de consejos de los estudiantes (Guide to student advice)


Your relationship with your señora will determine to a great extent how much you enjoy or get out of your trip. All the señoras are different, of course; so it is impossible to guarantee the same experience to all program participants. Not all señoras live close to the Institute, few have internet access, not all are good cooks. Every year students evaluate their experience with the señora; no señora is kept in the program if students report a negative experience.

You're more likely to have a good experience if you know some ground rules, most based on simple courtesy:

  • take care of the home your señora is sharing with you by keeping your room clean, your bed made, your things tidy and leaving the bathroom clean.
  • Your señora may enter your room to sweep or to put in your clean laundry, so be prepared.
  • Keep your door closed because it's orderly; it has nothing to do with privacy.
  • Make every effort to speak Spanish with your señora; don't get carried away in English with your roommates and leave her sitting there uninvolved in the conversation.
  • The señora cooks and does laundry, not you.
  • Be sure to ask her permission before using the kitchen or laundry facilities.
  • Separate your laundry yourself and ask the señora if she washes whites separately before putting in your favorite white blouse. If she doesn't wash separately, you may be better off washing it out by hand in the sink and hanging it to dry from a hanger.
  • Find out what areas of the house or apartment are "off limits" and respect your señora's privacy by staying out of those areas.
  • Show up on time for meals.
  • Never let friends in unless the señora invites them in herself.
  • Do not stay out all night without checking in with the señora to make sure she knows you're all right.
  • Most of the señoras go to a lot of trouble to prepare foods they hope you'll like, so at least try the new dish even if you're not sure about it.
  • Compliment the food you enjoy.

The following pieces of advice were volunteered by students in the 2007 summer program.

  1. Wear your shoes in the house; the Spanish do not like to see people walking barefoot, even to the bathroom. (5)
  2. Courtesy is very important here; always say "buenos días" and "gracias." (3)
  3. Be prepared for small spaces and little alone time. (3)
  4. Be kind; watch your language because señoras are more aware of cuss words than you might think. (2)
  5. If there is a serious problem with your señora, let the program directors know about it right away. (2)
  6. I loved my señora but I knew others did not. It's important to discuss problems with the señoras frequently. (2)
  7. It's important to be nice to your señora. (2)
  8. If you clear your plate, your señora will assume you are still hungry and need more food. (2)
    (on the other hand:)
  9. It is disrespectful to take more than you will finish, so be in the clean plate club, or your señora will be angry.
  10. Keep open lines of communication with your señora.
  11. Always say "Buenos días" to your señora the first time you see her in the morning; it's just polite.
  12. You only have 5 weeks to get to know your señora, so be sure to get to know her while you can.
  13. Be sure and let the señora know how you feel; she wants you to be comfortable. If the food's not to your liking or if you need more towels or even if you need help with ordering good food in a café, let her know, because she's there to help.
  14. Never use the telephone, washing machine, coffee maker or any other appliance in your señora's home without permission. Be sure to ask before you use anything.
  15. Tell the señora what you like and what you don't, because if you don't, she'll keep on giving you the same thing you don't like.
  16. Be considerate of your señora: use good manners and don't be late for meals.
  17. Use good manners when eating.
  18. You're not in a hotel, you're staying in your señora's home, so you don't have the same level of personal choice in your daily routine.
  19. Some señoras are really strict and will get upset if you don't make your bed or if you slam doors.
  20. Keep your room clean.
  21. Be quiet in the house.
  22. Don't let anyone into the house who doesn't live there without explicit permission from your señora, not even to use the bathroom.
  23. Don't stay out all night or miss meals without checking in with your señora so she doesn't worry about you.
  24. Turn off the lights when you leave a room; clean your room; don't leave the water running in the shower or when you brush your teeth.
  25. Make sure to ask your señora about the house rules (shower times, if you are allowed to eat and drink when you want) because you do not want to offend her.
  26. The señoras don't know English.
  27. Keep your feet off the furniture. Do not put your feet up on the sofa or coffee table. Sit with your feet on the floor, not folded under you.
  28. Señoras can be stressful but try to talk to them.
  29. Some of the students who complained about their señoras were not very good guests. Mind your manners.
  30. People in Spain smoke a lot more than people in the US; your señora is probably a smoker.

Guía de consejos de los estudiantes (Guide to student advice)


  • Before you leave, buy a guidebook for the city (Small Planet is good) so you'll know what there is to see and do in Madrid. You can get one in Madrid, too. (3)
  • Use a guidebook and make a list of everything you want to do. Do 2 or 3 things a week, because the time goes by quickly and you can't do everything the last week.
  • Get to know your neighborhood.
  • Keep up with your studying, but don't forget to go out and explore Madrid -- you only have 5 weeks.
  • Ask your señora for advice on what to see and things to do in Madrid.
  • Be careful of pickpockets and thieves; they're everywhere and they're good at it.
  • Good walking shoes are the best. The metros are cool but you miss so much; I saw way more walking that I would have stuck in the metro.
  • Take some time off from your roommates and explore Madrid on your own.
  • Visit all the museums you can find.
  • Go shopping at the Rastro; it's cheap.

Guía de consejos de los estudiantes (Guide to student advice)


  • Bring good shoes (not just flip-flops) because you'll be on your feet a lot and do a lot of walking. (4)
  • Excursions are time-consuming and tiring but a lot of fun. (4)
  • Bring your camera on excursions and get enough sleep the night before. Hangovers on excursions are NO BUENO.(2)
  • There are a lot of excursions: try to make the most of them because in all of the cities you are experiencing a different part of the culture. (2)
  • The history of Spain is long, huge, difficult to comprehend within 5 weeks, but actually going to the historic places helps you learn better. (2)
  • Bring a book to read in the bus on long excursions. (2)
  • Take in the cities and cultures; it's different everywhere you go. Talk to the locals and see as much as possible.
  • Sometimes the excursions are less organized than everyone would like them to be, but we had fun and learned a lot anyway. I really liked it that we saw almost everything we talked about in class; it helped me to memorize and find the meaning in what I was learning.
  • History is a large part of this trip, but you learn a lot just walking around.
  • The excursions were great but too short; try to go back to Toledo on your own because there's too much to see in one day.
  • Stay with a group; don't wander off on your own.
  • There are a lot of excursions to museums.
  • Pack lightly.
  • Sleep on the bus.
  • Bring a water-bottle with you and extra card for your camera, because you'll take lots of pictures.
  • Bring snacks.
  • Listen to the recommendations your professors give you to make the most of the excursions.
  • Always take an umbrella and a sweater because the weather's always changing.
  • Don't just pack for hot weather, because it's often cool and rainy.
  • Drink plenty of water, especially on days of excursions.
  • Be nice to others and shower before excursions. Don't make a lot of noise on the bus.
  • See the excursions page for an introduction to some of the outings the group may undertake.

Guía de consejos de los estudiantes (Guide to student advice)


Public telephones have directions in several languages to assist you in making your calls. Note that the emergency number in Spain is "112" and the call is free (gratuito). The top of the telephone has a slot for phone cards as well as for coins.

teclado - foto de Robert Gove
The keyboard is set up differently in Spain; you'll have to look around for things like "@." Ask someone in the internet café to help you; it's a good opportunity to practice your Spanish!


  • Phones are cheaper in the internet café's locutorios than with a phone card in a public phone. (5)
  • Find out beforehand if your señora has wireless internet access that you can use, and bring a laptop if you can. Not all señoras have them, but if yours does it will save you money. You'll need to bring a flash drive and find an internet café to print your work, though. (3)
  • There are telephone and internet cafés everywhere. (2)
  • Budget about €1 - €1.50 per hour for internet use; €.10 - €.25 per minute for phone use in the locutorio.
  • Buy 30 minutes or an hour at a time at the locutorio if they offer it.
  • You can bring your cell phone from home if you have a chip from the cell phone company that allows you to make international calls. This can be cheaper and less of a hassle than using locutorios or phone cards. Check with your cellular company well before the trip to learn how to set this up and get information on the costs.
  • Discuss with your family at home how and how often you will communicate with them; both e-mailing and phone calls are expensive.
  • Just use the phone and internet when you feel homesick.
  • A pay phone will eat up the minutes on a phone card incredibly quickly.
  • Internet really adds up. Don't waste time on Facebook; you can do that in the US.
  • Find a good internet café.
  • Get to know the people that work at the café.
  • Pingo.com is the cheapest phone card I've used. If you bring a laptop, you can use Skype for less than 1/10 of a cent per minute.

  • Wireless hotspots in Madrid:
    Starbucks Arenal, Arenal 14, Centro, Metro Sol
    Cículo de Bellas Artes, Calle de Alcalá 42, Centro, Metro Sol (free in café)
    Cafe Panini, Calle Campomanes 11, Centro, Metro Santo Domingo or Opera
    Faborit, Calle de Alcalá 21, Centro, Metro Sevilla -- outstanding coffee and chocolate, internet connection free to customers
    Opera, Cuesta Santo Domingo 2, Centro, Metro Opera or Santo Domingo
    New Technology Internet Cafe, Gaztambide 36, Argüelles, Metro Moncloa (pay access)

Guía de consejos de los estudiantes (Guide to student advice)


  • It's important to experience the night life; it's a large part of Spanish culture. (2)
  • Alcoholic drinks are very strong! Be careful because it's easy to get drunk. Drink in moderation. (2)
  • Remember, there's a night bus. (2)
  • Madrid is crazy. Visit a bunch of bars but watch your wallets and purses.
  • Don't get drunk every night.
  • The amazing night life is so much better than in the US. Have fun and talk to the Spanish at bars.
  • Go out every chance you get; you can sleep when you get home.
  • Night life here is really night life: typically we went to a bar until 1 or 2, then to a disco until 5 or 7 a.m. It's great fun and a great way to meet locals -- but you won't get much homework done the next day.
  • Night life soon spills into morning life. It's awesome.
  • Stay in groups and go to places you can walk to and from in order to save money on the metro.
  • Don't get so caught up in the night life that you neglect your work because there's a lot of it.
  • Nightlife is great, especially the Montcloa area: better for college students, cheaper than Sol.
  • Even though it's expensive, go out and meet as many people as possible; talk to the bartenders and to others.
  • Go out because you'll find you can learn a lot from people at the bars and clubs about the culture and the language.
  • Watch out for thieves.
  • Discos are awesome and sometimes tapas are free in the bars.
  • Go to Chopendaz, but don't spend too much money on alcohol.
  • Plan how you are going to get home before you go out. The metro closes at 1:30.
  • Find out the night bus routes before going out or plan to take a taxi.
  • Don't go out alone if you can help it.

Guía de consejos de los estudiantes (Guide to student advice)


  • It's a once-in-a-lifetime experience, so soak up the culture, have fun and love every minute that you're here because you'll be sad when it's time to leave. (2)
  • Have fun.
  • Go out and enjoy it. Try different bars and find out what's cheapest. It doesn't hurt to get to know the owner of your favorite bar, either!
  • Live up your time here in Spain. It is the time of your life and you may never have another chance like this. Talk to a lot of people, make new friends, try new things and have fun.
  • Madrid is beautiful and crazy so relax and have fun! Being in another culture is the experience of a lifetime. Enjoy every minute of it; it will go by really fast.
Guía de consejos de los estudiantes (Guide to student advice)