Meet Maria at IE University in Spain!
Name: Maria Sanchez Abril
University: IE University
Degree: Dual Degree in Business Administration and Law
Current Year of Study: 1st Year
How did you choose your university destination and course of study?
For my university destination I looked into so many places to study. I looked into the US, the UK, Spain, and even a university which allowed students to do each year in a different country. I finally chose to stay in Spain and study here, and was not afraid of giving up the international university experience as I realised that I could always do an exchange year. It seemed that was right for me at that moment as I did not want to rush and do something I may not have been prepared for. IE has always been what I wanted and what I worked for, so getting the opportunity to study there really helped me with my decision.
How I chose to study Business and Law was not as easy. I was always sure about the business route. It has been a dream of mine to be able to build my own company someday and it’s something I am passionate about. I see law as an extra bonus and something which is always going to be useful, especially in the business world. Being able to manage and know the law in first person is a resource that works to your advantage. I decided to do a dual degree because with only an extra year (5 years instead of 4), I will be able to broaden my future into two different fields which will allow me to have more opportunities.
What have been the highlights of your academic programme so far?
The highlights of my academic programme so far have been being able to meet people from all around the world and being able to make great friends, learning so many things (not only academically), and being able to have all the opportunities I have had to broaden my curriculum.
What do you enjoy most about living in Madrid?
I love living in Madrid. The social scene is just wonderful. Whatever you are looking to do, you will be able to. Madrid is also full of university students so there are so many things for us here. Living your university years in Madrid will never get boring.
How supportive is your university to international students and, in particular, during the pandemic?
IE is a very international university. 75% of students are international students from all over the world. I can confirm this as I have seen this in my own class. All degrees are taught in English, so this further allows for international students to study at IE as we all share a common language. Most students have a very diverse background, and even if they are from Spain, they have lived in different places or have attended international schools.
There are many clubs for each country that you can join and meet people from your country. You will meet people from all over the world by just attending class and being with your classmates, but they give you extra opportunities if you want to take them.
I have found IE to be very supportive during the pandemic with international students as they have implemented TVs and speakers in all classrooms so that any student that may have to go back to their country (for any reason) and take classes remotely can do this without any problem and without having this interfere with their education.
What have been 3 of the main challenges you have faced during your time at university?
The main challenge for me was definitely the first days. You know no one at first and it can get hard, but it’s really important to remember that everyone is going through the same thing and I can assure you it will get easier. I entered a week later than the rest of the class and felt as if I had missed a crucial part of the year. I really did not and I am now able to look back and see it from another perspective. You will meet people and you will be fine, you just need to give it a little bit of time and you will feel at home.
It was also a challenge deciding whether I made the right decision or not with the choice of study. At first, I did not like my degree, I even thought about changing it. This can actually be more normal than you would expect it to be. Once again, it’s a matter of time. You need to really give it a chance and give it some time. If you give it a chance and still don’t like it, you can always change it.
The third main challenge would be time. You suddenly have so much to do and the schedule can get hard. I had to stop dancing because I had no time to do this at the same time I had to study and do all the homework. It is a matter of organising your time and deciding when to do each thing. You can definitely keep doing things and find time for things you are passionate about, and you always have the weekends to have fun and enjoy life.
What activities are you involved in outside of your academic programme?
Outside of my academic programme I am participating in a Lab. The Labs are opportunities IE gives students in many fields to work on something you like. I am in the Marketing Lab where many companies came and presented their problems and we are now working on solving them. These are real problems they are facing and need help with.
How easy is it to find accommodation? Can you describe your living arrangements?
Personally, I live with my family in an apartment as we are from Madrid. Despite this, I have friends who have had to look for accommodation and I know IE makes this very easy for students. They have an agreement with some residences and most students who need accommodation end up going and staying there for their first year. These residences are located in some of the best zones of Madrid and, from the ones I have been to and seen, they are very modern and nice.
You have several options to choose from for your bedroom, there are common areas where you can hang out and invite friends to, and a dining room for you to eat. The rooms I have seen are not very big, but are fully equipped with a bed, study table and chair, bathroom, and little kitchen space, but this depends from residence to residence and the room you choose to get.
Do you think your university experience is preparing you well for the working word and do they offer support with finding jobs and internships?
From my point of view, IE University is doing a really good job in preparing us for the working world. Professors are not only teaching us, but most of them also work in companies so they show and teach us how to work in a professional way. We take mandatory courses designed to help us in the future, like showing us how to speak in public, how to give a good presentation, and preparing our CV so that we can be seen as valuable in a company. There are also many opportunities where companies come looking for talent or where business people give master classes and courses.
I cannot give a great insight on the internships they give us as I am still not allowed to do any due to being a first year student. Besides that, I do know they have a very big list of businesses which they work with to give the most opportunities possible to students.
What opportunities have you had to travel and explore during weekends and vacations?
This year I have had the opportunity to travel to the ‘Feria de Abril’ in Sevilla. It was my first time there and I had such a great time. This is a typical and cultural thing they do every year in Sevilla and something I 100% recommend going to. I have also been able to visit all the places around Madrid. Madrid being in the centre of Spain allows for quick access to any part of Spain, so you can visit any place any day.
What are the top 3 pieces of advice you would offer an international student thinking of coming to IE and Madrid/Spain to study?
Firstly, I would recommend not being afraid. IE and Madrid are very international places where you will be welcomed with no problem. If you are thinking about it, do not hesitate. All the people I have talked to love living in Madrid. It will give you so many good opportunities you will not regret the decision.
I would then recommend you get involved in many things. This may seem obvious at first, but the more activities you do the more fun you will have. Whether they are inside or outside university, just get involved. This will then lead you to the fun parts. Doing things in university will help you meet people and this will lead you to making plans outside of university, where you will have so much fun.
The last piece of advice I would offer is do something you love. You are going to spend 4 or 5 years studying and dedicating most of your time to what you choose, so what is better than doing something you love to do. It can be hard to choose at first, but once you know it, you know it. But also remember that your first choice does not have to be your final choice, you can always change your degree if it is not something you truly like.