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Life in Madrid



You must arrive in Madrid on the arrival date indicated in the program calendar. Students will spend the first night in a hotel in Madrid before departing for the orientation trip. This four-day trip to a specific region of Spain is essential to the program and concludes with an onsite orientation meeting at the International Institute, host to the Madrid program. Throughout the orientation you will meet local faculty and staff and get a thorough introduction to the program. the city of Madrid, and the country as a whole, together with language review, art history and culture classes, and site visits.

NOTE:If you choose to arrive early or stay on after the end of the program, you are responsible for arranging your own temporary housing. You will be provided with suggestions for affordable temporary accommodations during orientation on the Stanford campus.

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Accommodations and Meals

The homestay program in Madrid gives students the rewarding opportunity to integrate into a Spanish home and gain firsthand insights into Spanish life. All families are carefully chosen by the center staff and continually re-evaluated throughout the year. The staff looks for families who enjoy the company of students and who are truly willing to incorporate students into their home as one more member of the family. At the same time, students should remember that they are with the family to observe and understand the cultural differences rather than to impose their own cultural norms.

As the program’s goal is to attain the highest level of integration possible into the life and culture of Spain, only Spanish is spoken in the home. To help further facilitate students’ integration into family life, all meals are shared with the family unless otherwise indicated. In Spain, food is an essential part of culture. As such, students are encouraged to not only be open-minded, but also “open mouthed”.

Despite the fact that the Spanish society is becoming increasingly Europeanized, Americanized, and globalized, there are some predominant Spanish customs that are considered an essential part of the experience. While it is true that fewer and fewer families are able to maintain the traditional Spanish schedule due to the incorporation of women in the work place and new industrial dynamics, Spaniards are generally against (and resist) the European schedule, preferring what most consider to be “quality of life”. Lunch is usually taken between 2 and 4 pm and most stores are closed between 2 and 5 pm. Consequently, the housing plan includes full room and board with three meals per day, seven days a week. It is considered a cultural privilege to live in such a context at the height of the 21st Century. To make such a schedule realistic for students, the program provides monthly metro/bus passes and classes are suspended between 1:30 and 4:00 so that students may comfortably return home for lunch. Additionally, students are given a weekly meal supplement so that they may try Spanish cuisine at local restaurants in addition to the family’s culinary choices. This is a typical social practice for young Spaniards coming from the middle class.

Living with a Spanish family requires a great deal of respect and more than simple tolerance: cultural understanding. The success, richness, and satisfaction of a students experience depends upon his or her flexibility, open-mindedness and willingness to experiment different ways of doing things.

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Meeting People

Madrid offers more things to do than you could exhaust in a few quarters studying abroad. You are encouraged to explore the city in depth, from its streets and houses to its shops and museums.

Talking with people in a neighborhood café, reading local newspapers, and “getting lost” for a day to explore new surroundings puts you in contact with the city life that locals know. Host families and staff can help you find activities that are of interest and through which you can make Spanish friends.

The more effort you devote to exploring the local environment, the more enriching the experience overall. While opportunities to travel throughout other parts of the Iberian Peninsula exist, if you make a conscious attempt to get to know Madrid and its people while studying at the center, you will be richly rewarded for your efforts.


City Life

Situated 650 meters above sea level, Madrid is Europe’s highest capital and third largest city (after London and Berlin). Wide 18th and 19th century boulevards in parts of the city contrast with the narrow and winding streets of the city’s historic center.  Today, Madrid is the financial and political center of Spanish life, home to the Cortes (Parliament), Senate, and Royal Family.

A variety of world-renowned museums, including the Prado, Thyssen-Bornemisza, and Reina Sofía, serve as a testament to the city's thriving and varied cultural community and multicultural past.  Madrid is also known for its lively and colorful fiestas which are held at celebration times throughout the year, not to mention its exciting night life.

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