I was only 15 years old when my Dad sat both my brother and I down and broke the news that as a family, we would all be moving to China. I had lived in the same house in the same town my whole entire life, and I did not know what to think. Two years later, I was on a plane back to America with an invaluable experience and an itch to venture out into the unknown. Once I became a sophomore at the Virginia Military Institute, I became eligible to study abroad. I decided that since I had already been to Asia, I would try to conquer Europe. CEA was enormously helpful at every step of the application process. When I arrived in Spain I didn't not know to expect; I knew Asia, but not Europe. I had elected to be put into a house with eight other college students. I got along very well with my housemates (probably due to the personality tests that matched us up) and ended up travelling all over Europe with them. I studied at the Universidad de Nebrija, which was a small private school located inside the city. Classes were about 80 minutes long and they alternated between Monday/Wednesday and Tuesday/Thursday. There was no class on Fridays so that you could get an extra start to the weekend and have more time to explore all of Europe. I took international business classes (in English) along with a Spanish class and really enjoyed the teachers and the curricula. Here at the school, you were able to meet people from other programs and continue to build your network of abroad friendships.
The culture of Madrid is very slow paced. It is a great option for someone to break away from the stress of their regular college life and relax for a semester. It is fairly easy to get around Madrid, with the metro, cheap ubers, and reliable bus systems. The food options inside Madrid are relatively diverse, so you always have an option for something different to eat. Produce at the local grocery store is significantly cheaper than it is in the states, allowing you to have some freedom with your budget elsewhere. The local people are friendly and will do their best to communicate with you and help you on your language skills if you put in the effort. the Madrid airport is a major airport in Europe, making flights both in and out of Spain relatively cheap and travel around Europe fairly easy. The Spanish railway is a cheap and great option to visit places
CEA offered many opportunities to immerse yourself into the Spanish and Madrid culture. From meal excursions, to museum trips, to paid weekend excursions to Barcelona and Sevilla, I felt like I was provided with the best opportunities to see Spain and Madrid. The CEA staff were very friendly and would always responded to emails concerning recommendations or other questions.
I left this program feeling more confident in myself and my language capabilities. I am a more capable traveler, and I made some lifelong friends that I have made plans to visit over this past year. My favorite memory was riding a camel in Morocco one weekend, and then snowboarding down the Swiss Alps the next weekend. If you are looking for a semester to step back and take a breath while simultaneously becoming immersed in a whole new culture and lifestyle, look no further.