An important aspect of studying away is the opportunity for you to learn more about your chosen host country and how identities may be understood and perceived within this new context. We encouraged you to begin researching some of the challenges and opportunities you may encounter, and plan ahead by identifying people and resources that can help you make the most of your experience away. The information below offers brief descriptions of identity-based topics in Madrid, and Spain more broadly, as well as access to people, resources, and programs you can connect with before and after you get there.
Even though Madrid is the largest city in Spain, it remains as one of the cheapest cities in Western Europe. The average cost of living in Spain is 18 percent lower than in the US. You can expect to spend around $200 on transit throughout the semester. Groceries are about 118.27 percent lower in Madrid than in NYC. Likewise, the cost of airfare and immigration will come out to be around $1,500. These numbers will vary depending on your spending patterns.
The governmental law prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in several sectors including education, employment, and access and accommodations. The government not only provides programmatic services and increased access to information for those with disabilities but also effectively enforces applicable laws. Spain’s sidewalks, public transport, and public buildings generally have accommodations for people with disabilities. Nonetheless, because of Spain’s hillsides and mountainous terrain, people with mobility impairments may find getting around challenging.
While the incidence of sexual assault is statistically low, some attacks do occur. Similarly, violence against tourists, women, in particular, are also scarce, with petty theft being the most common. Under the law, women enjoy the same rights as men. However, some women have reported sexual harassment in the form of cat-calling by men during their daily routine. Spain is generally a safe place for women to visit alone but there are areas in the center (around Gran Via, Sol, and La Latina) that are particularly busy and have a history of higher rates of harassment.
Same-sex marriage was legalized in 2005, making Spain the third country to do so. Spaniards took little time adopting the new law, with over 4,000 same-sex couples marrying in the first year alone. Spain is widely considered a progressive country that protects gay and minority rights. Although the country is predominantly Catholic, the influence of conservative groups on social policy is not as strong as in other heavily Catholic European nations. LGBTQ+ students should feel comfortable being open about their sexuality. There are vibrant gay scenes across Spain, particularly in Barcelona, Madrid, Valencia, and Ibiza.
Race & Ethnicity
The government under President Zapatero has focused on integrating Spain’s over 4 million immigrants, many arriving from Eastern Europe, Russia and North Africa. Even though government policy may be aimed at restitution, the attitude on the ground may present a somewhat different story for students from ethnically diverse backgrounds. For example, some Latinx students have reported feeling isolated due to their use of the Spanish language. Well-publicized incidents repeatedly occur where Spanish soccer fans are known to dress in blackface, throw bananas at players of African and Hispanic descent and jeer them by calling them monkeys and other epithets. Although examples of racist behavior in Spain are common, positive experiences of US travelers of color to the country also abound.
Religion & Spirituality
In an attempt to embrace all cultures and faiths, laws on Religious Freedom is reported to ban crucifixes and religious symbols in public areas around the country. More than two-thirds of Spaniards consider themselves Catholic, though fewer consider themselves religious and fewer still attend mass regularly. Following Catholicism, Islam is the second most popular religion in Spain, with Muslims numbering approximately one million. As the Moors conquered and settled southern Spain until 1492, the country is home to several Islamic heritage sites, such as the Alhambra in Granada, and has large mosques in Madrid, Barcelona, and Granada. Fewer than one percent of Spaniards are Jewish, living mainly in Barcelona, Madrid, and Murcia.