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Pre-departure Information

The Office of Student Life at Saint Louis University's Madrid campus welcomes you to Spain. As educators in the Jesuit tradition — committed to the education of the "whole" person, mind, heart, body and spirit — the Student Life staff provides information and opportunities to help you achieve your goals.

Students walking around the main campus

Over the years, we have seen many non-Spanish students come and go. Most students sign up for a program like this with similar goals: experience a new culture, learn the language, make Spanish friends, and travel around Europe.

Below, we offer suggestions for preparing for your time here in Madrid. If you have any questions after reading this, please email us at

  • Keep an open mind ... For you to enjoy Spain's distinct culture, you need to be flexible with what you encounter. Don't be surprised if, in the early days, you feel a little disoriented with the differences between "home" and here. For example, you'll find that the tastes and textures of Spanish food are different. A typical Spanish diet is very healthy: fresh ingredients with well-known nutritional value, with lots of seafood, chicken, lean meats and vegetables.
  • Expect to take your academics seriously ... We understand that besides going to class, you will want to travel and go out, but remember that you are enrolled in an academic program at a real university. And your grades are real, too. About 75% of the student body on the Madrid Campus comprises permanent students pursuing their college degrees, and our courses conform to the same academic standards as those at the Saint Louis Campus. Often, students who come from very competitive universities find our courses to be quite challenging.
  • Be self-disciplined, in study habits and in social habits ... Madrid's social life is attractive for foreign students. Prepare to enjoy it responsibly. If you would like help managing your time, our two on-campus licensed counselors can offer advice and support (and their services are always free to students).
  • Commit yourself to meeting new people ... Madrid Campus students represent more than 48 countries. Try to interact with everyone, not just the people you already know. And, start well. Year after year, we find that the students who most enjoy their study abroad experience are those who got off to a great start by participating in all of the Welcome activities and then follow it up by taking advantage of trips, activities and programs sponsored by Student Life.
  • Realize that stereotypes may impact how Spaniards react to you ... Especially in social situations, remember that there are cultural cues you may not understand. You may also be communicating something unintentionally. Just be aware that there are differences and stereotypes that cause miscommunication. You represent more than just yourself: you represent your family, your country, and your culture. Some stereotypes: all U.S. American girls are blonde, all U.S. Americans travel in groups, wear baseball hats, wear spring-summer clothes in winter, are partiers, are really loud, only eat hamburgers and pizza, etc.
  • Check your email. That is how you will get SLU-Madrid Safety updates.
  • Download the SLU app for quick emergency updates and information.
  • Provide parents/guardians/families with your contact information in Spain, and keep them informed on an ongoing basis, especially when you plan to travel outside of Madrid.
  • Purchase a Spanish SIN card or cell phone. Do not rely only on Wi-Fi.
  • Be aware of local conditions and customs that may present health or safety risks when making daily choices and decisions. Promptly express any health or safety concerns to the Student Life staff or your host family.
  • Remain sensible and vigilant about your surroundings. It is not a good idea to draw attention to yourself. (This usually only becomes a problem when someone consumes too much alcohol.)
  • When going out at night, always have a cell phone available and charged. Share a taxi when returning home late at night. Madrid can be dangerous in the wee hours of the morning, especially if tiredness or alcohol has dulled your level of alertness.
  • Behave in a manner that respects the rights and well-being of others and encourage others to behave similarly.
  • Follow policies and suggestions for keeping Student Life staff informed of your whereabouts and well-being.
  • Stay away from large crowds, including at popular tourist destinations.
  • Exercise heightened vigilance and caution when visiting public access areas, especially those heavily frequented by tourists.
  • Stay away from political gatherings and rallies.
  • Follow the instructions of local authorities in an emergency.
  • Stay at hotels with identifiable security measures in place.
  • Monitor local media.
Medical Information
  • All SLU-Madrid Campus students registered for at least one credit are covered by the Multi Sanitas Health Insurance, which covers visits to the doctor at no cost. The plan does not cover the cost of medicines.
  • Always carry your Sanitas card, which will be given to you by the Student Life staff as soon as you arrive in Madrid. If you will be studying at SLU-Madrid Campus for more than one year, remember to pick up a new card at the Office of Student Life at the beginning of each academic year.
  • If you become ill, the Student Life staff can help you find a general practitioner who speaks English, or you can check our medical information webpage.
  • In Spain, all medicine (prescription and over-the-counter) is sold only in pharmacies and is relatively inexpensive. Although the ingredients are generally the same, brand names are different. If you develop a persistent cough or cold, you should see a doctor rather than guess the appropriate medication yourself.
  • If you take a prescription drug regularly, bring enough for the full semester with a letter from your doctor, in your carry-on luggage if possible. Do not plan to send or receive medicine through the mail. They will not be allowed through Spanish customs.
  • Students with any medical precondition (physical or mental) will be responsible for following the guidelines provided by their physicians in their home countries and for seeking adequate resources to continue treatment while they study in Madrid. You may use your Sanitas Medical Insurance, which is included in the tuition price. You may contact Dr. Borrás, a general practitioner in Sanitas, who can refer you to any specialist within Sanitas at For psychiatric or psychological treatment you may contact SLU-Madrid Counseling Center at

Students with Severe Medical Conditions

While SLU-Madrid will make every effort to support students with severe medical conditions so that they may successfully complete their academic work, at times, such medical conditions are so severe that they negatively affect both the student as well as other members of the campus community.

Students with such conditions may study at SLU-Madrid and access services such as Housing as long as the medical condition does not affect the coexistence of the student among the SLU-Madrid community members to the extent of being disturbing and disruptive. Examples of these disturbing/disruptive behaviors include, but are not limited to poor social interaction with host family/roommates, or social interaction that is aggressive, hostile, threatening, or disturbing to others; behavior suggesting the presence of a medical and/or mental illness that is causing significant disruption/distress to the student's family/roommates, such as depression (e.g., self-injurious behavior, suicide threats/attempts, isolating oneself in the room while at home, etc.), anxiety disorders (e.g., becoming hostile or excessively anxious when family members/roommates do not follow rigid routines, etc.), eating disorders (e.g., excessive weight loss, binge eating, vomiting frequently, or unusual requests regarding food and menus, etc.), and substance abuse, among others.

When the presence of such behaviors is detected, the Office of Student Life, in coordination with the University Counseling Center and the Dean's Office, will determine an appropriate course of action, including, but not limited to continuing academic studies while receiving appropriate treatment for the medical condition; leaving the homestay; taking a leave of absence; or withdrawing from SLU-Madrid.

Housing (and Additional Security) Reminders
  • If you will be staying at a student residence or with a host family arranged by the University, a bed, a table, a lamp, bed linens, towels and a pillow will be provided.
  • When not in use, lock all valuables (jewelry, cameras, money, etc.) in a suitcase. The University is not responsible for items that are lost or stolen.
  • Pack smart. Travel light. You, your host family, the airlines and the University will be much happier. For a semester's stay, you really don't need two or three big suitcases of clothes.
  • Housing arranged by the University is closed during Winter Break and Holy Week Break. Please take a careful look at the Academic Calendar to make sure you know these dates. During these periods, most students take the opportunity to travel; however, for those staying in Madrid alternative housing (at the student's expense) can be arranged in a nearby hotel.

Most foreign citizens from outside the European Union must have a valid passport for travel to Spain and the rest of Europe. Check local regulations on how to obtain a passport in your country.

  • U.S. citizens may apply for a passport at the nearest post office. Check out this guide on how to apply for a U.S. passport.
  • International students from member countries inside the European Union or from Schengen member countries do not need a passport to enter Spain. However, you will still want to bring one with you to facilitate other travel, e.g. mandatory academic trips or optional trips organized by the University.
  • Fall semester applicants should apply early because passport delivery can be slow due to the heavy summer travel volume. 
  • Always keep a photo of your passport on your phone, and be sure to print a copy or two to keep in a safe place, just in case. Except when traveling, leave your original passport at your Madrid address.
Student Visas

Once you have been accepted to Saint Louis University — Madrid Campus, you are responsible for obtaining your student visa. A visa is a stamp in your passport that allows you to study in Spain for a period of more than three consecutive months. Make sure you get a Multiple Entries Visa to travel around and get back into Spain.

A Long Stay Visa, 90-days, allows you to study in Spain longer than one semester. You will need to apply for a Spanish Residency Card. The Residency Card allows you to remain in Spain all year. All permanent students must do the application for the Residency Card within 30 days of entering Spain. This deadline is a Spanish Law requirement. Therefore, you must bring your passport and boarding pass to the SLU-Madrid Student Life Office the first week.

  • Contact the Embassy or Consulate General of Spain under whose jurisdiction your permanent or temporary (university) address falls to request a Student Visa Application Form, a list of all the documentation you need to present, and more detailed information about the application process. Follow your local embassy/consulate's instructions closely. Visa requirements, procedures, and processing times vary from one embassy/consulate to another.
  • Following receipt of your confirmation materials and required payments, the Admissions office on the Madrid Campus will send you an official University letter that you will need to present to the corresponding embassy/consulate. This document is critical. Without it, you will not be able to obtain your visa. You should begin the visa application process as soon as you receive this University document. Do not wait until the last minute! Consulates can take over two months to process student visas.
  • For visiting students: If you are certain that you will be spending only one semester in Spain, then you should apply for a short-stay (180 days or corta estancia), non-renewable student visa. If you choose this option you cannot extend your stay another semester. Therefore, if there is even a remote possibility that you will be staying for the entire academic year, apply for a long-stay (90 days larga estancia) visa. After you arrive in Madrid, the Office of Student Life will help you obtain the Residency Card. This will allow you to stay in Spain legally for the entire year. If you are a visiting student you should inform your admissions counselor at the time of confirmation that you plan to spend two semesters in Madrid. This way the University can prepare the correct documents for you. You will also have to do everything that has been explained in the second paragraph of this section.
  • Address your visa-related questions directly to your designated Spanish embassy or consulate. You may also visit the Embassy of Spain general website at for more information. Although Madrid Campus admission counselors want to be helpful, they are not able to assist you in obtaining a visa.
Flying to Madrid

Luggage restrictions vary with each airline and are subject to change. Check your airline's website for information. Most airlines allow only one checked bag and one carry-on on international flights, and they will charge you considerably if you have excess baggage. Keep in mind that there are many things that you can easily get in Spain, such as shampoo, toothpaste, soap, a hairdryer or an alarm clock.

  • You will be responsible for arranging transportation to your housing accommodation once you arrive at the airport. For those who are not familiar with Madrid, we strongly recommend you use a taxi rather than the metro. It's much easier when you are jetlagged in a new city. You should go directly to your housing assignment on move-in day instead of going to campus.
  • There is a fixed rate for taxi service from the airport to the city of 30 Euros. Taxis in Madrid are white with a diagonal red stripe. The taxi stand in the airport is just outside the waiting area. Also keep in mind that taxi drivers in Madrid are not allowed to apply a luggage surcharge. It is recommended that you let the taxi driver know that you will need a receipt (Necesito un recibo, por favor.) This will allow you to have the taxi driver's license number in case you leave anything in the vehicle or you wish to file a complaint. We do not recommend using the metro because bulky luggage will make it difficult to use the escalators.
Mail and Packages
  • We strongly recommend students bring all electronic items with their luggage to avoid duty charges and because you will need a Spanish fiscal number that nobody will be happy to share with you. Do not have packages sent over unless it is absolutely necessary.
  • Upon arrival in Spain, packages with declared values will be assessed customs fees, 21% value-added taxes and 20 euros per day if is retained in customs; which can be very expensive. Make sure to indicate "for personal use without commercial value" on the declaration form.
  • Do not ship medications. They will not clear customs.
  • All students are invited to have any packages — that is, anything that requires a signature, or anything larger than a letter — sent to yourself at that same University address. There is always someone to sign for it at the University, and we will call to let you know that a package has arrived for you.

ATT: [Student Name]
Saint Louis University — Madrid Campus
Avenida del Valle, 34
28003 Madrid - Spain

  • All other students should have mail sent to the address at which they reside in Madrid.
  • If you are having packets or important documents sent to you from the U.S., we encourage you to use a courier service (e.g. UPS or FedEx), even though it is more expensive than the regular U.S. mail. Their services are faster and more reliable, and shipments can be tracked. U.S. Postal Service Express mail promises five to seven days for delivery to Spain, but that doesn't mean to your door. It goes into the regular Spanish mail system and there is no way to track its progress. Some students have waited for months to receive packets sent by their families through regular mail. A full description of the contents must accompany the package. For information on how customs fees are assessed, please visit the English version of Correos, the Spain's Post Office.
Communicating from Spain
  • Students usually purchase SIM cards and cell phones since they are cheaper to purchase than they think. We strongly recommend you purchase a SIM card while in Spain. There are cheap data rates you can purchase. You should not rely only on Wi-Fi and risk not being able to phone out during your stay.
  • Once in Spain, the easiest way to communicate with family and friends back home is through email, Facetime, WhatsApp video, Zoom or Skype. On campus, each student has internet access through the University's computer labs, and wireless throughout the buildings. University host family assignments offer wireless internet access as well.
  • Students staying with host families will only be able to receive incoming calls on the family's phone.
Laptop Computers

You are encouraged to bring your laptop to Spain. However, you need t keep a few things in mind:

  • You will have to bring the laptop on the plane with you as carry-on baggage, and you may have to open it and turn it on when you go through airport security.
  • Please take time to read carefully the Computer Policies at the computer labs.

Voltage: Most desktop and portable computers are able to support a voltage of 220V. This is the voltage in Spain. For confirmation of this, you should consult an approved vendor.

Don't forget to buy a plug adapter for your portable computer's battery charger before you come.

  • Before you leave the U.S., exchange $150-$200 to Euros in order to have some cash on hand for your first few days in Madrid. Contact your local bank for details on how to exchange currency.
  • Normally, banks will need two to three days to obtain the Euros for you. Upon arrival in Madrid, you will also be able to exchange your money in the airport, but the commission will probably be higher.
  • Obtain a debit card or credit card with a PIN. Withdrawing money from ATMs in Spain is the easiest and cheapest way to get money from the U.S., and ATMs provide the best exchange on the day of the transaction. Be sure to call your bank before you leave the U.S. to authorize overseas withdrawals. Remember that this is the best way to obtain Euros once you are in Spain. Exchanging dollars in Spain has become increasingly difficult and expensive.
  • Always keep your money and debit/credit cards in a safe place and do not share your PIN with anyone. Sadly, most of the fraud that takes place at the Madrid Campus is because students share their PIN with friends.
  • Do not bring Traveler's Checks or AMEX. They are not widely honored and can be very difficult to use.
Academic and Cultural Trips
  • University-sponsored trips must be paid for in Madrid. Trips can be paid for in U.S. dollars, euros, credit cards, or personal checks. Please, note that trip fees are non-refundable.
  • The University reserves the right to change the dates or destination of trips due to scheduling conflicts.
Important Email Addresses
Madrid Campus Emergency Contacts
  • During business hours (9 a.m.-6 p.m. Madrid time): (+34) 91 554 5858
    After-hours Health and Safety emergency number: (+34) 638 763 758
    Counseling crisis number: (+34) 609 269 323
  • Health & safety emergencies are:
    • Sickness, injury, health crisis of a student that requires urgent medical treatment and/or hospitalization, or death.
    • A criminal act, including sexual assault, involving one or more students.
    • An act of terrorism that poses a safety threat to students.
    • A natural disaster, civil unrest, act of war, or any other event which causes or threatens the health and safety of students.
    • For life-threatening emergencies: European Union Emergency Line 112.
  • In case of a national emergency in Spain, you will be contacted via email.
  • U.S. Government Safety updates will be linked to the Madrid Campus homepage.
Tips for Packing

Madrid has the highest number of cloudless days of all European capitals. The weather between September and May is cool to brisk (30º to 50ºF/0º to 10ºC).

The rainy seasons are usually November/December and March/April. June through August tends to be hot and dry (70º to 105ºF/22º to 40ºC).

Do Bring

  • Clothing for evenings out (young people dress up more in Madrid).
  • Good walking shoes.
  • Warm pajamas and slippers (buildings turn off the heat at night, and it can get chilly). Also walking barefoot in the house is not appropriate.
  • A full supply of any prescription medicine you will need during your stay in Madrid (along with a copy of the prescription).
  • Spare pair of glasses or contacts.
  • Winter clothes (down coat, scarf, gloves, sweaters, jackets). Remember that it can be cool until May.
  • Lighter clothes for warmer weather. It can be hot until mid-October.
  • Swimsuit.
  • Your friends' addresses and an address book to add new ones.

You Might Want to Bring

  • Umbrella (it does rain on occasion).
  • First-aid kit.
  • Fanny pack/money belt (much safer than carrying money in your backpack or bag).
  • Sewing kit (scissors, thread, needles, safety pins, buttons).
  • Small calculator (not graphing).
  • Gift for host family or roommate (great ice-breaker).
  • Customs information from your country to know what you are allowed to bring back.
  • International Student ID Card (ISIC).

Do Not Bring

  • Expensive jewelry or other "tempting" valuables.
  • Pets (believe it or not, a few students have tried).
  • More than what is necessary (remember: you'll want to buy some things when you travel).
Budgeting: Typical Student Items


  • On Campus Cafeteria: 3-7 euros
  • Nearby cafeteria (lunch or dinner): 10-15 euros
  • Sandwich at nearby shop: 4-6 euros
  • Restaurant: 10-40 euros
  • Tapas/snacks: 20 euros


  • Movie: 9 euros
  • Theater: 50 euros
  • Bullfight: 15 euros
  • Real Madrid's soccer game: 30-150 euros
  • Flamenco show: 35-75 euros
  • Weekends (drinks, food, club, cab home): 25-40 euros


  • Day trips: 45-60 euros
  • Weekend trips in Spain: 350 euros
  • Europe: 400-700 euros
  • Monthly phone expenses: 80 euros


  • Monthly Expenses: 80 euros


  • Around 250-350 euros, or more (depending on the courses and their books).

If an expense is incurred more or less often than monthly, convert it to a monthly amount when calculating the monthly budget amount. For instance, an auto expense that is billed every six months would be converted to monthly by dividing the six-month premium by six. Print this document to calculate your monthly budget.