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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 works to provide you with information and opportunities which will help you achieve your goals.

San Igancio Hall entrance

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 in mind: experience a new culture, learn the language, make Spanish friends, and travel around Europe.

In what follows, we would like to pass along some suggestions about how to prepare for your time here in Madrid. If you have any questions after reading this, please email us at studentlife-madrid@slu.edu.

Attitude
  • Keep an open mind... For you to enjoy the distinct culture which is Spain, 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 in a real university. And your grades are real too. About 75% of the student body on the Madrid Campus is made up of permanent students pursuing their college degrees, and our courses conform to the same academic standards as those at the Saint Louis Campus. Often students that come from very competitive universities find our courses to be quite challenging.
  • Be self-disciplined, in study habits and in social habits... Madrid social life is very attractive for foreign students. Be prepared to enjoy it in a responsible way. If you feel that you would like help in 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 over 48 countries. Try to interact with everyone, not just the people you already know. And, start off 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 that 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.
Safety
  • Check your slu.edu 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 on-going basis, especially when you make plans to travel outside of Madrid.
  • Purchase a Spanish SIN card or cell phone. DO NOT RELY ONLY ON WIFI.
  • 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 concern 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 is respectful of the rights and well-being of others and encourage others to behave in a similar manner.
  • 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 who are 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 on you 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 to find a general practitioner who speaks English, or you can check on 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 the 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 the adequate resources to continue any treatment while they study in Madrid. You may use their Sanitas Medical Insurance which is included in the tuition price. You may contact Dr. Borrás, general practitioner in Sanitas, who will be able to refer you to any specialist within Sanitas at dr.rvborras@gmail.com. For psychiatric or psychologist attention you may contact SLU-Madrid Counseling Center at wellness-madrid@slu.edu.
  • While SLU-Madrid will make every effort to support students with severe medical conditions so that they may be capable of successfully completing 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 continue to 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 Department 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 home stay; taking a leave of absence; or withdrawing from SLU-Madrid.
  • For specific information on COVID-19 please look it up on our COVID-19 Updates webpage.
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, leave all valuables (jewelry, cameras, money, etc.) locked 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.
Passports

Most foreign citizens from outside the European Union are required to have a valid passport for travel to Spain and the rest of Europe. Check your own 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 online for a complete guide on how to apply for 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 in order to facilitate other travel, e.g. mandatory academic trips or optional trips organized by the University.
  • Note to Fall Semester applicants: Because of the slow delivery of passports resulting from heavy travel in summer, you should apply early.
  • NB: Upon arrival in Madrid make two copies of your passport. Always carry one in your wallet and leave the other in a suitcase at your Madrid home. You may also want to scan a copy and email it to yourself. 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 be able 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 Campus the first week to the SLU-Madrid Student Life Office.

  • 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, your admissions 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 lastminute! 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. Keep in mind, though, that if you choose this option you will not be able to extend your stay another semester. Therefore, if there iseven a remote possibility that you will be staying for the entire academic year, you should 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 on the second paragraph of this section.
  • Address all your visa-related questions directly to your designated Spanish embassy or consulate. You may also visit the Embassy of Spain general web site at http://spainemb.org 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 out your airline 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, hairdryer or an alarm clock.

  • In any event, be sure to inform the Madrid Campus of your travel plans as soon as you know them so that your safe arrival can be verified. You may do this by visiting the SLU-Madrid Campus website and entering into Arrival Information, clicking on the link to the Arrival Form. You will then be able to fill out an electronic form and send it directly to the Office of Student Life.
  • Easily identifiable SLU-Madrid staff be at the International Arrival section of T4 of Madrid- Barajas airport from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Arrival Day to greet you. Students should go directly to their housing on move-in day instead of going to campus.
  • You will be responsible for arranging your own transportation to your housing accommodation once you arrive at the airport. For those who are not very familiar with Madrid, we strongly recommend you use the taxi rather than using the metro. 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 should for 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 the bulky luggage will make it very difficult for you going up and down electric scalators.
Mail & 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 it 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 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 the Spanish Post's website.
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 WIFI and 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 to keep a few things in mind:

  • You will have to bring the laptop on the plane with you as a "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.

Money
  • 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 US, 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 nor 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.A. Government Safety updates which 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... 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

Food

  • On Campus Cafeteria: 3.20-6.50 €
  • Nearby cafeteria (lunch or dinner): 10-15 €
  • Sandwich at nearby shop: 4-6 €
  • Restaurant: 10-40 €
  • Tapas/snacks: 20 €

Entertainment

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

Trips

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

Phone

  • Monthly Expenses: 80 €

Textbooks

  • Around 250-350 € or more (depends 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, auto expense that is billed every six months would be converted to monthly by dividing the six-month premium by six. Print this document where you can calculate your monthly budget.