Case Studies is an ongoing series on Scholar Escolar where foreigners who have taken the graduate school plunge in Spain share their experiences. Today’s case study focuses on Jake, from the US, who did a Master’s degree in International Relations in Madrid. 

Name: Jake

Country of Origin: USA

Time in Spain: 4 years

Degree Program, University and Length:

Master in International Relations, Universidad CEU San Pablo, Madrid (one year)

Academic Background: B.A. History

Professional Background: Experience with state government, non-profits, personal sales

What made you decide to go to graduate school in Spain? 

I wanted to study international relations in an international place. I had already been in Spain before as a language assistant, but I wanted to come back and do something different. I had always had a focus on international relations and felt like I would enjoy the experience.

Cost was definitely a factor as well, as I probably saved anywhere from $12,000-30,000 from doing a Master’s degree in Spain as opposed to in the States. Doing a one year program was attractive as well. I enjoy studying but didn’t want to commit to a two or three year program.

Why did you pick that particular program?

The program was highly ranked in Spain and pretty well recognized. I also noticed that they were only admitting about 30 students per year, so I knew I wasn’t going to just be lost in the crowd. I also really liked the class schedule, which offered classes in history, economy, and diplomacy. The professors teaching in the program were renowned in their field and I felt like I could learn a lot.

What was the application process like?

The process, excuse my language, was a complete shit-show. After paying my deposit, they forgot that I had paid it, and I had to provide evidence that I had already submitted everything. I think I sent my passport, resume, CV, etc. to the same email address 5 times. However, once I got past that hurdle, everything was easy.

What language were the classes in?

English and Spanish. I’d say about 55% Spanish and 45% English. Most professors would let you write your essays in English if you wanted.

How much was tuition? What about cost of living?

Tuition, after making the initial deposit, was €8,000 ($9,500). I was living on a major budget, so I ended up living on about€550 a month. I worked during the mornings and after classes to make ends meet. I would never repeat that again. You can find a more detailed price breakdown here.

Would you recommend your program?

Definitely, I feel like I got a great education, learned a lot, and made some lifelong friends. There were students from 9 different countries in our class which always made for interesting discussions.

What are you doing now?

Now I am working in Spain for an educational company as an editor, writer, translator, recruiter (among other things). However, I will be moving onto a federal government position in the next year.

Any final words of wisdom or caution?

Be prepared for the application process. Like other bureaucratic things in this lovely country, it’s pretty hectic and crazy. I nearly pulled my hair out after sending things in for the billionth time.  I probably wouldn’t have chosen this program if I wasn’t familiar with Spain but I think outsiders could adjust easily.

Maybe this doesn’t fall into wisdom/caution, but it is a question I get asked a lot. The program’s work load was both easy and difficult at the same time. Our assignments themselves were quite easy (I wrote 2 book reports, something I hadn’t done since I was 12) and one class’ final project was a play. The difficult part was having 9 subjects in one semester. Plus you’re only likely to see a professor 7-8 times during the semester, which makes communication difficult at times.

The application process was insanely difficult because of how disorganized they were. I had to remind them multiple times who I was, that I had paid my deposit, etc. It was a great experience and I made some life long friends out of it. I would consider the classes easier than USA university courses. Saving money was a huge deal, I spent about 1/8th of what I would have spent in the States.

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Thanks Jake! If you would like to know more about this degree program or his experiences, you can find Jake at his blog

 If you have gone to graduate school in Spain (or know somebody who did) and would like to have your story included in the Case Studies series, let me know! Previous contributors have included a Master’s degree in Secondary School Education and Business Administration.

(Photo: Jake)

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