I am participating in the Summer 2018 UA in Spain program. The program is faculty-led and we are centered in Madrid, Spain, where we take classes during the week at a local university. However, one of my favorite things about this program is our ability to travel outside of Spain on the weekends. On nearly every weekend, we as a program have taken either day trips or overnight trips to other parts of Spain. We also got two “free” weekends where we were able to leave Madrid alone and plan our own weekends. Overall, the flexibility to not only learn Madrid but also about the rest of Spain and nearby Europe really made this program a special experience for me.

With the program, we visited three cities in June.

Above: Toledo, Spain

Above: Segovia, Spain

Above: Salamanca, Spain

All three trips meant long hours on the bus! We had packed lunches from our residence hall, which made the days much more affordable. It was really fun getting out of Madrid for the day and exploring more of the country.

In July, we as a program also took two overnight trips, one into northern Spain for four days (three nights), and one into southern Spain for two days (one night). These trips may have been my favorite, as we traveled quick a bit further (6+ hours on the bus!) and got to see totally different parts of the country.

Above: Cangas de Onís, Spain

Above: Picos de Europa, Spain

Above: Córdoba, Spain

During my two free weekends, I took trips to two new countries: Portugal and Switzerland. Planning these trips on my own and with friends was a little bit trickier – it made me appreciate that all of the other trips I had been on had been coordinated by the program! For Portugal, I took an overnight train from Madrid to Lisbon. I then stayed in an Airbnb for two nights, giving me two days to explore the city and the surrounding downs and beaches. Lisbon was beautiful and it was fun to explore a new place!

Above: Alfama District, Lisbon, Portugal

During my second free weekend, I planned a really quick trip to Zürich, Switzerland. I flew out of Madrid on a Friday night, stayed in an Airbnb for two nights so I could explore all day Saturday, and then flew back on Sunday morning. It went by very quickly but was such a refreshing break from Madrid! The most essential part to this trip was doing grocery shopping in Madrid beforehand – Zürich is one of the most expensive cities in the world, and I cut down costs significantly by living off of snacks and protein bars purchased before the trip!

Above: Zürich, Switzerland

Overall, I recommend exploring as much as you possibly can during your time abroad, especially if you find yourself in Europe. While it is really important in my opinion to grow and love your host city, make sure to also take advantage of all of the marvelous places nearby that are worth traveling to as well. Buses and trains (and some cheap flights) make exploring Europe easy. Don’t miss out!