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Approaching Madrid

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  • Students must arrive in Madrid on the arrival date indicated on the Key Dates page and go directly to their assigned homestays. Detailed housing assignment information and specific arrival instructions will be communicated directly with accepted students.

NOTE: Should you choose to arrive early or stay after the end of the official program dates, you will be responsible for arranging your own accommodations. Early arrival to the host families’ homes is not permitted.

  • The on-site orientation in Madrid begins with two intense days of introduction to the program and the city and continues with activities and workshops spaced throughout the first two weeks you are on site. All sessions and activities, with the exception of those related to safety and security, are conducted in Spanish. The dynamic combination of information sessions, workshops, team-building activities, shared meals, site visits and the first sessions of the “Introduction to Spanish Culture” course will help students begin to acclimate to the program and to the city from day one. During orientation, students will meet local faculty, local university students, the Center staff and other program collaborators. Orientation also serves to cement the language pledge and help the cohort develop the habit of using only Spanish in their communications. The orientation schedule will be shared with the cohort via email prior to arrival.

Accommodations and Meals

Students in the Madrid Program will be housed in different local homestays within the metropolitan area. An average commute from the host family to the Stanford Center will be between 20 and 30 minutes.

Families play an integral role in the Madrid Program by providing students with an environment of cultural and linguistic immersion, as well as a safe and welcoming space. The homestay program in Madrid gives students the rewarding opportunity to integrate into a Spanish home and gain first-hand insights into Spanish life, reinforcing and facilitating students’ cultural and linguistic integration.

While there is a wide variety of homestays, all of our families must meet a strict set of standards and are carefully chosen and monitored. While in Madrid, your living situation will be one of the following:

  • A single room in a homestay with another Stanford student.
  • A single room in a homestay where you are the only student.

Meals at the Homestay

In line with local customs, three daily meals are included in your homestay experience- breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Additional meals and snacks are the responsibility of the student. Vegetarians and other students with dietary restrictions are welcome to participate in the program as we do have families that accept students with dietary accommodations and/or restrictions, but one should be aware that adaptations are not as common in Spain as in the U.S. We encourage students to be as open-minded as possible with regards to cultural issues, understanding that food, too, is an essential part of culture. 

Additionally, students will receive a weekly meal stipend for lunch on their own on two weekdays.

Meeting People and Extracurricular Activities

Madrid has more things to do than you could possibly exhaust in a quarter. Beyond the activities offered through classes as well as program-sponsored outings, you are encouraged to explore the city in depth, from its streets and neighborhoods to its outdoor spaces and museums.

Talking with people in a neighborhood café, reading local newspapers, and “getting lost” for a day to explore new surroundings puts you in contact with the city life that locals know. Specifically, students are encouraged to connect with the local community through regular and recurring activities. This may mean continuing a hobby or interest from home or trying something new while in Madrid. Not only does this help students to create routine and structure around their experience, but it will also provide a natural contact point with locals. Host families and staff can help you find activities that are of interest and through which you can make your experience more enriching.

Charlas and Cultural Activities program

In order to facilitate social interaction with Spanish peers, the Madrid program works with a group of local university students who organize weekly chats and social activities. As part of the Introduction to Spanish Culture course, all students participate in the Charlas and Cultural Activities Program and sign up for a weekly “chat” with one of the local students. In addition, students will sign up for at least 3 of the activities hosted by the students or other program collaborators. These activities are designed to help students experience the city and surrounding areas as madrileñxs would, thus facilitating cultural understanding and integration. These activities are based on the interests of the current Stanford group, local holidays, weather, etc. Activities in the past have included: a neighborhood urban art tour, pick-up games of soccer or basketball, an escape room, a cooking class, a group outing to see a film, or a day trip to a city near Madrid such as Segovia or Toledo.

City Life

Today, Madrid is the financial and political center of Spanish life, home to the Government, Cortes (House of Representatives and Senate) and the Royal Family, as well as a vibrant cultural hub. Wide 18th and 19th century boulevards in parts of the city contrast with the narrow and winding streets of the historic center. 

A variety of world-renowned museums, including the Prado, Thyssen-Bornemisza, and Reina Sofía, makes Madrid a mecca for art lovers. Madrid’s local art galleries and community spaces, such as La Casa Encendida, Matadero, etc. offer exciting opportunities to explore more of the city’s identities, contemporary interests, and current conversations regarding a variety of cultural and political topics.  An especially well-communicated city through its world-class system of buses, trains, and metros, Madrid offers convenient access to the varied microcosms that each barrio (neighborhood) represent, serving as a testament to the city's thriving and multicultural communities: an exploration of Malasaña and Chueca, a walk through barrio Salamanca, or a meal at a terrace in Lavapiés or Legazpi, for example, showcase the immense variety that exists between areas, proving Madrid’s multifaceted, robust, and complex identities. An exceptionally green and arboreous city, Madrid is also a metropolis that offers natural escapades from the day-to-day through its many parks and public spaces, such as El Retiro, Casa de Campo, Parque del Oeste, Madrid Río, or the Botanical Gardens, amongst many others.

The more time you devote to exploring the local environment, the more varied and enhancing your experience will be. If you make a conscious attempt to get to know Madrid, and Spain as a whole, while studying at the Center you will be richly rewarded.