Christian Buechel is an honors supply chain management major who has been dreaming of a trip to Spain since he first stepped foot on campus. His semester in Madrid introduced him to new food, new classes, and especially – new places: his travels took him to Belgium, the Netherlands, Morocco, England, Portugal and Italy.
I do not even know where to start. I have been planning this experience in Spain since my first day at the University of Arkansas. It is actually one of the defining components of my choice to attend the university and I could not be happier. Madrid has been everything I could have hoped for and more. The atmosphere is incredible, the people are magnificent, and the city is always alive. From day one, I knew this was going to be the best four and a half months of my life and boy was I correct.
Now that I have fully adjusted, Spain isn’t too different than the U.S. in my opinion. Sure, you eat later meals and walk/take public transportation everywhere. But overall, students live the same way and it will eventually feel like your second home. Still, my first few days were a whirlwind of change. My favorite story was my first adventure to the store to buy groceries. I was used to the Walmart policy of “take as many plastic bags as you can handle.” In Spain, you have to pay for each one. I was not aware of that the first week and I’m sure the cashier knew I was new here.
In addition to my time in Spain, I have visited a wide range of other countries. In all, I have seen Portugal, Belgium, the Netherlands, England, Morocco, and will be going to Italy soon. Each place has its charm and I encourage traveling as much as you possibly can. It will be tiring, it will be expensive. By nature, I am a frugal person, but when am I ever going to be able to do this in my life again? Live it up. If you asked me to name one place you HAVE to go to, it would be Lisbon, Portugal. The people are incredibly nice, the pastries are to die for, and the sights are breathtaking. Go there. Just do it. Traveling has been the best part of my experience, but one cannot forget that you are here to study as well. Sometimes I feel that I am on a 24/7 vacation. Finals will wake me up from that dream soon enough.
Here’s what you can expect:
Studying at the Universidad Carlos III de Madrid has been quite different than in the U.S. The first thing I learned is that I needed to be flexible. Like realllly flexible. At Arkansas we are extremely privileged with organization and amazing enrollment systems. Signing up for classes was a stressful experience for everyone, including myself, because I could only take three classes here for my major. But in the end, it all worked out with a bit of flexibility and some luck. I chose to take three marketing courses with one in Spanish. If you are proficient enough, take a class in Spanish. And if you aren’t, then you will be afterwards.
As for actually taking the classes, I quickly discovered many differences. I wouldn’t say it is harder, just not what I was used to through my schooling in the U.S. Currently, with three weeks of classes left, I have no grades in any of my courses yet. All three of them are based solely upon projects and final examinations. So come finals time, I am going to have to buckle down, which might be hard with trips to Italy and San Sebastian planned beforehand!
Still, some parts are just the same. The professors are accommodating and willing to help you out in any way they can. For me, the most salient thing is the difference in business lexicon. It has been helpful to learn Spanish business terminology, and being able to overcome a language barrier has been extremely gratifying. I would recommend study abroad above any other collegiate experience.
I have five weeks left from the time I am writing this. I am excited for my last two trips, dreading taking finals, and eager to share my experience with everyone I know when I return. But one thing I would outline for anyone coming is to expect a roller coaster of a ride. I absolutely love Spain and would not change anything about my time here. However, four and a half months is a long time. I had those days here and there where I missed family, friends, and life in Fayetteville. But what I am doing here is something I will never get to do again in my life so I always try to embrace every moment. I always tried to keep that in mind!
First thing I will do when I return: Go straight from the airport to my Wuelita’s house for some homemade Mexican food. The Spaniards are not Mexican. Do not expect delicious tacos. They will only disappoint you.