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Located smack dab in the center of Spain, the Spanish capital is an exciting and lively city that is home to museums with spectacular art collections, a legendary nightlife, delightful parks, and of course the world famous futbol team (er, I mean soccer) Real Madrid. While Madrid may not be traditionally considered on par with the cosmopolitan level of London or Paris, it still remains a highly international destination with an estimated population of around one million immigrants. Despite the economic crisis that has plagued Spain in recent years, Madrid continues to be the top choice for job and internship seekers in the country. Many multinational corporations have opened offices in Madrid, transforming the city into an important hub of business, finance, and culture.
At first glance, the capital of Spain may not seem like the ideal location for an internship. Spain has been experiencing a serious economic recession since 2008, leading many Spaniards to look for jobs abroad. Many people tend to overlook Madrid, opting for Barcelona instead, seduced by its proximity to the beach and the extravagant Gaudi architecture. However, Madrid does have its advantages--it is Spain's business and commercial center, the seat of the national government, and home to noteworthy cultural institutions. The following is a list of some of the most popular internship fields in Madrid (but by no means exhaustive!):
There really is no "best time" to look for an internship in Madrid. Internships are available year-round, therefore you can start your search right away. It may be slightly easier looking for an internship that doesn't fall during the summer months; in theory, you will not have as much competition from Spanish students (who try to secure internships for their summer break) if you apply for an internship during the fall, winter, or spring months. Summers in Madrid are also very dry and arid, so if you are not a fan of the heat, you may want to avoid the city during this time of year.
It is possible to search for an internship on your own through the traditional job search listings and expat forums online. However, if you have never been to Spain before and if you do not have an advanced level of Spanish, it may be a good idea to use an internship placement agency. Companies such as Adelante and EPA will guide you through the application process and place you in a company that matches your interests. These kinds of programs typically require you to take Spanish language classes and will usually take care of housing and airport pickup. They will also help you through the visa process which can be lengthy and time consuming.
Internships vary in duration--some may last only a month, others may last six months, and there are even some that may last a full year. The longer the internship lasts, the more experience you will get (and the better it looks on your resume!). It is up to you to decide for how long you want to commit to an internship, but you should be prepared to be available for a minimum of at least two to three months.
One of the advantages of living in Madrid is that it is definitely cheaper than other European countries. That being said, the cost of rent (and pretty much everything else) has risen in recent years due to the economic crisis. Your internship will probably be unpaid, which means you will have to rely on personal savings to get by. The average cost of living in Madrid is around 1000 Euros (about 1300 USD). This estimate includes rent, utilities, transportation, groceries, and personal leisure. If you want to make some extra money on the side, it is very easy to work under the table giving private English classes.
Etiquette: The locals of Madrid, known as Madrilenos, are generally friendly and welcoming to foreigners. As a whole, Spain has a more relaxed work environment than in the United States, yet there is still some formality. When meeting new colleagues for the first time, you may find yourself giving two kisses on each cheek or you may simply shake their hands. Let your colleagues initiate the greeting and then follow suit. It is also typical to greet all your colleagues in the morning with a "Hola" or "Buenos dias" and to make small talk, especially about the weather or the last soccer game.
Depending on the company, the dress code may be formal or casual--if it is formal, stick to skirts, pantsuits, and dresses with sturdy high-heeled shoes for the girls and suits and ties for the guys. In general, people tend to wear darker colors. Pay attention to what your coworkers wear and dress accordingly. When it comes to business meetings, do not be surprised if the meeting starts about fifteen minutes late and if the first few minutes are devoted solely to small talk. The Spanish like to ease into things, interrupt each other frequently, and usually veer off topic from the meeting's agenda. It is completely normal! And while Spain is famous for the mid-day siesta, not all companies observe this. Some companies do close around 2 PM and then reopen at 5 PM, while others will remain open. If your company does close for siesta, you will be allowed to go home and eat lunch.
Most internships in Spain are unpaid, which means you will not receive the same benefits as a paid employee--no health benefits, no paid days off, etc. Finding a job with an actual salary can be difficult because you must have a work permit to legally work and live in Spain (unless you have an EU passport). Few companies will sponsor your visa, simply because the process is such a bureaucratic nightmare full of paperwork and confusion.
Madrid is a dynamic city full of energy, history, and character. Getting to learn about your professional field of interest in such an exciting location is an incredible way to start your career (and a terrific resume booster!). Get ready for the adventure of a lifetime!
Amelie Milet is from Rye, New York and first studied abroad in the fall of 2008 in Malaga, Spain. After college, she returned to Spain and lived in Madrid for two years. She loves to travel and you can read about her adventures abroad on her blog at Amelie Says Hola and can also follow her @AmelieSaysHola.
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