Vassar - Wesleyan en Madrid

Health & Safety

A Word of Caution about Health

Healthy habits (proper rest and eating) help to prevent illness and minimize stress and thereby facilitate a positive and rewarding cross-cultural experience. One of the temptations of life in European cities for American students is the lower drinking age and the regular presence of alcohol in social situations of all kinds. Moderate drinking among young Spaniards is normal and acceptable, but drinking to excess is regarded as socially inept and immature (perhaps tolerated to a certain extent in 14 or 16 year-olds, as is the case with the relatively new phenomenon of the botellón, but not in 20 year-olds). In addition, substance abuse is your passport to tragedy. It dulls the senses and thereby seriously impedes the ability to cope with the challenges of an unfamiliar environment. It can contribute to culture shock which, as mentioned, is easily overcome with proper rest and with the help of friends and the program staff. It can also lead to behavior that is disruptive to the program and to the student’s own well-being. In such circumstances the program participant may be sent home; this decision rests with the Director.

Medical Attention

Students in urgent need of medical attention should call the Director or program staff immediately. Students needing medical attention must pay for the service out of pocket and submit the receipts with insurance forms in the United States for reimbursement. Ask the doctor to provide a written diagnosis, as this will facilitate your insurance claim in the US. English-speaking doctors are available at the following clinics:

  • British American Medical Unit
    Conde de Aranda, 1
    Office hours: Mon – Fri: 9:00 am - 8:00 pm; Sat: 10:00 am- 1:00 pm
    Procedure for appointment: Request appointment with either Dr. Rafael Lozano, or Dr. Luis Rodríguez, or Dr. Marcos Broschi—all three are internists—who will see you and, if necessary, will refer you to a specialist. Say that you are an American student and show your student card. The current cost of an appointment is about 80+ €.
    Tel: 91 435 18 23
  • International Medical Assistance
    Paseo de la Castellana, 170 (Clínica Madrid)
    Office hours: Monday-Friday, 8:00 am - 2:00 pm
    Procedure for appointments: Say that you are an American student and show your passport. The current cost of an appointment is about 60 €.
    Tel: 91 359 60 63; Fax: 91 359 61 43

The following doctor belongs to the “International Medical Assistance” unit and may be contacted for house calls:

  • Dra. Muñoz
    Private practice: Pº de la Castellana, 203-8º
    Tel: 91 315 01 05; 91 559 60 63

The following clinic also offers house calls:

  • Interclinic
    Claudio Coello, 117 Bajo Dcha
    Tel (non-emergency): 91 576 99 01/02
    Medical House Calls: Urgencias Domicilio (call any time day or night).
    Typical fee for a house call: Daytime (8am-10pm) 70 €; Night 70 €; Weekends and holidays 90 €.
    Tel (emergency): 90 223 39 02


  • Dra. Claire Jasinski
    Tel: 91 445 03 95
  • Dra. Margarita Loewe – Unidad Médica
    Tel: 91 435 18 23
  • For further information, call the HELP line:
    Tel: 91 559 13 93

Unwanted Pregnancy and Sexually-transmitted Diseases:

  • Centro Joven de Anticoncepción y Sexualidad
    San Vicente Ferrer, 86 (Malasaña). Metro: San Bernardo."
    Tel: 91 531 66 55 or 91 531 03 00
    This youth-oriented health service focuses on the prevention of undesired and/or unplanned pregnancy and the prevention of sexually-transmitted diseases, with a special emphasis on HIV/AIDS. They have doctors and psychologists that speak English and offer a safe and comfortable environment. Free service.

More detailed information on medical services is available in the Program office. In case of an emergency, please feel free to call the Director or any member of the staff. For additional information aimed specifically at American students studying in Spain (on health and safety, but also accommodation, money, race and religion, culture, travel, and helpful hints), go to the APUNE (Association of American University Programs in Spain) website at:

Students with Special Medical Needs

Mobility International USA (MIUSA) is an organization dedicated to facilitating an international experience for students with special medical needs. Before leaving home, such students should consult this organization’s website at:

Important Safety Precautions

Any unfamiliar environment presents risks for the traveler. This is certainly true in European cities, which have experienced a rise in petty crime in recent years. It is therefore very important for your peace of mind that you understand the risks inherent in daily life in Madrid.

The following measures should help to ensure your safety and minimize the likelihood of a negative experience. We strongly urge you to abide by them:

Before you depart:

- scan (2 copies) all of your personal documents (passport, visa, identification cards, insurance cards, credit and debit cards); keep the images in a safe location, at home in the US and in Spain, readily available in case of theft.

While in Madrid:

- Keep the program staff apprised of your whereabouts. When you travel, be sure that someone knows where you are and how to reach you.
- Be wary of pickpockets (carteristas) in crowded areas frequented by tourists (discotheques, subways, buses, small streets or plazas in downtown areas).
- Carry only as much money and as many bank or credit cards as you absolutely need, in an inside coat or shirt or pants pocket; in a small purse zipped closed and well-controlled; or in a money belt (not in a large bag or purse that you carry on your back or to your side).
- Leave unnecessary valuables, cash, and credit, bank, and ID cards at home (in Spain).
- Carry a notarized photocopy of your passport at all times while in Madrid. The actual passport is necessary for any official business (at border-crossings, in the event of a police check, in banks when you need to change currency or withdraw money, or, sometimes, when you want to use a credit card) and when traveling outside of Madrid. Report a lost or stolen passport to the local police immediately, since a police report is necessary for obtaining a new passport.
- Carry your program ID card with emergency contact numbers at all times and keep a hand-written copy of your name and cell phone in your wallet. A stolen purse or wallet with this information inside is often returned to the program office or turned into the police. If you include your cell phone information in your wallet you may find yourself getting a call within days of a theft or loss explaining where you can pick up your wallet and all its precious contents (minus the cash).
- Learn from locals what behavior might put you at risk. Be alert to your surroundings and the people with whom you have contact. Be wary of people who seem overly friendly or interested in you. Be cautious with new acquaintances – do not give out your address or phone number and do not provide personal information regarding other students. Report unusual activity near your classes or home to the program staff.
- Avoid drawing unnecessary attention to yourself. Be discreet in your dress or conduct. Speak Spanish as much as possible and try to associate with Spaniards in small groups.
- Do not hitchhike, even if the locals do.

In times of political conflict involving the United States, these additional security precautions are advisable:

- Stay apprised of the current political situation by listening daily to the television or radio.
- Be inconspicuous in dress and demeanor. Avoid American logos and name brands on clothing and belongings. Avoid large or noisy groups. Do not flash money or bring out documents (especially your passport) in public places. Keep small bills in your pockets to pay for purchases.
- Stay clear of political demonstrations. If you see a situation developing, resist the temptation to satisfy your curiosity or join the crowd. Walk away. Do not agree to newspaper or other media interviews regarding political conflicts.
- Make a personal communication plan with your family and decide on methods of contact should an emergency arise.
- In the event of an emergency, advisories may be made to the general public through the media. In this situation, stay in contact with the on-site staff, who can then be in contact with authorities locally and at home, as well as with parents.
- In large cities or popular tourist destinations, avoid potential targets for terrorist activities, especially places frequented by Americans: bars, discos, fast-food restaurants associated with the US, branches of US banks, American Express, US consulates and embassies.
- Keep away from areas known to have concentrations of residents aligned with interests unfriendly to the US and its allies. Always consult with the program staff before making travel plans.

Important Advice If Your Wallet Is Stolen

Place the contents of your wallet on a photocopy machine and copy both sides of every document you find inside it (driver’s license, student ID, credit cards, etc.). You will know what you had in your wallet and all of the account numbers and phone numbers to call and cancel. Keep the photocopies in a safe place.

We have all heard horror stories about the kind of fraud known as identity theft, in which charges are rapidly run up in our name because a thief has managed to obtain our name, address, SS#, credit, etc. Unfortunately I (the original author of the source of this information, who happens to be an attorney) have firsthand knowledge, because my wallet was stolen last month and within a week the thieve(s) ordered an expensive monthly cell phone package, applied for a VISA credit card, had a credit line approved to buy a Gateway computer, received a PIN number from DMV to change my driving record information online, and more.

But here’s some critical information to limit the damage in case this happens to you or someone you know. As everyone always advises, cancel your credit cards immediately, but the key is having the toll free numbers and your card numbers handy so you know whom to call. Keep those where you can find them easily. File a police report immediately in the jurisdiction where it was stolen. This proves to credit providers you were diligent and is a first step toward an investigation (if there ever is one).

But here is what is perhaps most important (I never thought to do this): Call the three national credit reporting organizations immediately to place a fraud alert on your name and SS#. I had never heard of doing that until advised by a bank that called to tell me an application for credit was made over the Internet in my name. The alert means any company that checks your credit knows your information was stolen and they have to contact you by phone to authorize new credit. By the time I was advised to do this, almost 2 weeks after the theft, all the damage had been done.

There are records of all the credit checks initiated by the thieves’ purchases, none of which I knew about before placing the alert. Since then, no additional fraud has been committed, and the thieves threw my wallet away this weekend (someone turned it in). It seems to have stopped them in their tracks.

The numbers are:

  • Equifax: 1-800-525-6285
  • Experian (formerly TRW): 1-888-397-3742
  • Trans Union: 1-800-680-7289
  • Social Security Administration (fraud line): 1-800-269-0271