Hi! My name is Merily and I spent my most amazing 9 months in the capital of Spain – Madrid. I was an ERASMUS student in a small school named ESIC Business and Marketing School, which is situated a little bit away from the city center of Madrid.
I arrived there completely alone on the 28th of August, which gave me just enough time to get to know the city on my own with a hell of a big heat (35C was normal in the mornings). Going there, I was supposed to stay until the end of January. Half way through October I realized that I couldn’t leave that place any time soon and I did everything I could to stay there for one more semester. I was lucky enough to make that happen!
- What is the most important thing your time abroad has taught you and what was your favorite part of it?
I didn’t know, that it was possible to fall in love with a city that much. I cannot really think of a thing that annoys me there. The culture, the people, the architecture, the way of living – everything, I love it! It was the first time for me to live on my own, so my biggest lesson from Madrid is for sure handling the “grown up life”.
The best part of living in the middle of Spain was for sure the possibility to travel with an amazingly low budget. Flight tickets everywhere are so cheap, every part of Spain is not actually that far away. It’s possible to travel almost every week.
But other than that it teaches a person a lot. ERASMUS time takes your heart and scatters it around the world. It gives you friends for the rest of your lifetime. You might actually find better friends during those months than the people you have known your whole life. And when you mix more cultures than you can count, crazy and amazing friends, and beautiful places around the country, the not so ordinary experience becomes more than extraordinary.
- How does EBS differ from your exchange university?
First of all, I could say ESIC is so much more practical. In the sense, that a lot of courses did not actually include theoretical parts. For example a Marketing simulator, where it all came down to the knowledge you have gotten before that course. But other than that, ESIC and EBS are actually quite similar. Both are small private universities, where people know each other and classes are the same size, which I actually love.
- Describe a typical student day in Madrid
School days in ESIC start at 4-5PM and last until 10PM every Monday-Thursday. It almost feels like evening studies, but that leaves you the whole morning to enjoy the city. Transportation from the city center takes about 45-60minutes. At first, when I started to think about taking the train to school an hour before, it seemed so long, but actually it is nothing. Madrid is a city with 3 million people. Some things just take time there. Weird thing in school is that one class lasts for 50 minutes and there are only 10-minute breaks in between. This was one of the biggest things I had to get used to, but the days passed so fast afterwards.
- What is your favourite memory?
It is just so unfair to make me choose between all of the memories. I will never be able to choose. Maybe it is one of the trips to Malaga or Valencia or Toledo, maybe it is the regular walk to school from the bus station or train station, maybe it is one of the “family dinners” we made with the squad, maybe it is one of the chill days in Retiro park. This decision I cannot make. No, actually I can – my favorite memory includes every day for the past 9 months!
- What did you miss the most about Estonia? And what will you miss most about your host country?
To be honest the thing I missed the most from Estonia was the food. My mother’s cooking, chocolate and black bread. Yummy!. So every time I received a package from my mother I was the happiest kid in town. Secretly made some people fall in love with Kalev’s chocolates and black bread, oops. (Missing your closest people is too obvious of an answer. Be ready to miss them a lot!)
From Spain I am going to miss a lot, but mainly the way of living. It is so laid back. People work so they could enjoy the life not like the northern people, who work to have a better life in the further future. Spaniards live for the present not the future.
- Living costs
It is not the cheapest cities to live in. The extra money after paying rent is mostly spent on food and going out. To comfortably live in Madrid without living like a queen you would need about 400-500€ extra, since going for tapas (dinner or small snacks) a few times a week is usual.
Finding the apartment was the weirdest part of living there. The first 3 weeks of Madrid I was actually homeless (not living on a street, but living without unpacking my things). Maybe it was, because I was too picky, but that adventure ended up me finding a place in Puerta del Sol, which is like Estonia’s town hall square. I lived with two more flat mates – a German ERASMUS student and Spanish landlord. I found the apartment through airbnb.com, while contacting about another flat. For second semester I moved to a place about 30min walk from Puerta del Sol and I lived with 5 more people.
Most of the apartments have over 4-5 bedrooms, which for me is so unusual to move in with 5 absolute strangers, but that gives you great connections. When going to Madrid a thing to remember is that you always should go and see the apartment before deciding. They usually are really good with pictures. And I recommend to start looking for an apartment already in Spring. Another tip – Spaniards don’t like answering emails. Call!
- Flexibility at the university
The university is really student friendly and the international office always helps if they can. Every problem I had or might have had – they found a solution. You just have to have the courage to go and ask for help.
- How is the system there?
This part of the school is maybe the most complicated. Students have to put together their timetable on their own from 4-5 different classes. And times cannot overlap. After getting into the courses the school demands 75% of attendance in order to get to the exam. ERASMUS students do not have so called stereotypical “special treatment”, which I actually liked. And they love bureaucracy.
- Buddy/support system?
I am sad to say, that the best buddy system is if you contact with people who have been there or people who are living there. The school system does offer a buddy for problems and you have their contacts, but to get help from them is not the easiest mission. It of course depends on who you get. You get the most help from the International Office.
- Courses to transfer to EBS?
I managed to transfer all of my courses to EBS easily, but also because I am specializing in marketing. ESIC is a pure marketing school. It does have finance courses, but not so many. I recommend going over their courses before hand.
Editor: Kärt Mättikas