Our program in Spain is located on the campus of the Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (UC3M), in the Madrid suburb of Getafe (20 minutes by commuter train from the city center). Founded in 1989, the Carlos III is a relatively small university (14,000 students) with an outstanding faculty and exceptional facilities. VWM participants are enrolled as regular UC3M students and they enjoy all of the privileges afforded to their Spanish counterparts.
Representatives from Vassar College and Wesleyan University chose the UC3M for its many advantages relative to other campuses near Madrid and in other parts of Spain. These advantages include:
- a distinguished, young and energetic faculty eager to help their students;
- manageable size;
- a wide range of direct-enrollment courses in social sciences and humanities;
- modern and attractive facilities (classrooms, offices);
- access to computers and internet facilities;
- sports facilities and the intramural athletic program;
- a wide range of extracurricular activities and classes (music, dance, theater, athletics) organized through the El Espacio del estudiante and through the Erasmus student organization;
- a well-organized and efficient administration eager to help our students make the most of their experience.
Students at the UC3M also take advantage of activities organized by the Espacio del estudiante, a university-organized center of student services and activities. Another series of activities available to our VWM students are those organized by the Erasmus group. Erasmus is a European program that promotes university student mobility within UE members, and sends thousands of students in exchange situation every year. Both Espacio de Estudiantes and Erasmus are excellent resources that will help students succeed in achieving their goals of cultural assimilation and language acquisition.
A Word about College Life in Spain
Given how the American and European university experiences differ, we caution against using U.S. criteria for judging the Spanish experience. The differences are striking and extend from the particular rhythms of daily life to the general conceptualization of the academic experience. The notion of a “small, private, liberal arts college” is uniquely American. Spanish students rarely “go away to college”, but continue as a rule to live instead with their families. Commuting is normal in Spain and it often takes as long as an hour. The image of students reading (the newspaper, a novel, class notes) on the morning subway routes is common, something made possible by the excellent public transportation system in Madrid. As for the academic differences, Spanish students are admitted to a specific facultad (college) within the university to study a particular field. Throughout their college degree they follow a more or less fixed program of instruction, as mandated by their facultad, with few “electives,” and they do so often with the same cohort of peers who are pursuing the same degree. This is the key reason there is no need for early pre-registration. They tend to make friends within this cohort and often maintain these lasting friendships all their lives.