Vassar - Wesleyan en Madrid

La Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (UC3M)

Our program in Spain is located on the campus of the Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (UC3M), in the suburb of Getafe. Founded in 1989, the Carlos III is a relatively small university (14,000 students) with an outstanding faculty and exceptional facilities. VWM participants are enrolled as regular UC3M students and they enjoy all of the privileges afforded to their Spanish counterparts.

The UC3M is one of five major universities in the Madrid metropolitan area, the other four being the Universidad Complutense (to the west of Madrid), the Universidad Autónoma (to the north), the Universidad de Alcalá de Henares (to the east), and the Universidad Juan Carlos I (like the Carlos III, to the south).  Representatives from Vassar College and Wesleyan University have chosen the UC3M for its many advantages relative to other campuses near Madrid and in other parts of Spain. These advantages include:

  • a distinguished, young and energetic faculty eager to help their students;
  • a wide range of courses;
  • modern and attractive facilities (classrooms, offices);
  • access to computers and internet facilities;
  • sports facilities and the intramural athletic program;
  • a wide range of extracurricular activities and classes (music, dance, theater, athletics) organized through the El Espacio del estudiante and through the Erasmus [1] student organization
  • a well-organized and efficient administration eager to help our students make the most of their experience.

The VWM web site has links that should help students plan their academic program and take advantage of activities organized by the Espacio del estudiante and by the ERASMUS group. This web page is also used throughout the semester to advertise program-sponsored cultural events. Students are advised to consult it regularly at:

The UC3M web site may be accessed directly at:

The resources available at both of these sites are extremely important and will help students succeed in achieving their goals of cultural assimilation and language acquisition.

Given the ways in which the American and European university experiences differ, we caution against using U.S. criteria for judging the Spanish experience. The differences are striking and extend from the particular rhythms of daily life to the general conceptualization of the academic experience. Regarding the former, note that Spanish students rarely “go away to college”, but continue as a rule to live instead with their families. Commuting is normal in Spain and it often takes as long as an hour. The image of students reading (the newspaper, a novel, class notes) on the morning subway routes is common, something made possible by the excellent public transportation system in Madrid. As for the academic differences, Spanish students are admitted to a specific facultad (college) within the university to study a particular field, and they have much less flexibility than American students in terms of the courses they take. They make friends within the cohort of students pursuing the same degree, and often maintain these lasting friendships all their lives.

The notion of a “small, private, liberal arts college” is uniquely American. By contrast, the experience of Spanish students is much less segregated from society as a whole. Your assumptions regarding the organization of space, the patterns of daily life, and the transmission of information will certainly be challenged. We address this aspect of your experience below, but let us state here that we understand that you have come to Spain to experience this kind of cultural difference, with a willingness to judge the culture on its own terms and with an eagerness to adapt.

[1]The Erasmus Student Network (ESN) is a student organization that embraces all of Europe. Its goal is to support and develop student exchange. It is composed of over 130 local sections working in Higher Education Institutes (Universities, Polytechnics, University Colleges etc.) organized on a local, national and international level. Its network is in contact with almost 60,000 globally-minded students. The aims of ESN are to promote the social and personal integration of exchange students. The local ESN-sections offer help, guidance and other valuable information to the exchange students hosted by their university. Newcomers find their way in the new environment more easily and they can utilize their time in the best way possible to get as much out of their exchange as possible. ESN also represents the needs and expectations of exchange students on the local, national and international level. Provision of relevant information about academic exchange programs and student mobility is one of the aims of ESN as well. Visit the ESN web site at: