Intern Abroad

Living in Madrid

July 19th, 2022 | by
  • Data Science M.Sc.
  • Spain, Madrid
  • March 2022 – June 2022


My experiences:

Spending some time in Spain as always been on my mind, so I was really happy to finally realize it. I spent about four months in Spain and in the following I will share my experiences about living in Madrid, finding and organizing an internship and my overall personal experience.

I lived in Chueca, which (together with neighboring Malasaña) is a major destination for gastronomy and night life. On the one hand, it is great because it has a lot going on and represents diversity and LGBTIQ-friendliness. It has a central location both for walking to many parts of central Madrid as well as convenient public transport connections. On the other hand, it is expensive and did not really have a neighborhood-like feeling because it is very crowded and to my impression is really anonymous. It offers many fancy restaurants and shopping opportunities, which did not correspond too much to my preferred price segment and atmosphere though.

My favorite neighborhood is Lavapiés which is more multicultural and offers more affordable options for going out. However, accommodation there is also scarce and my recommendation for a flat would be to also consider other areas which are well connected with public transport and which have their own local atmosphere without an abundance of tourists.

As activities, I can recommend hiking and climbing in the nearby mountains. The villages of Cercedilla, El Escorial and Manzanares El Real can be reached with public transport and offer great hiking. For climbing, I was lucky to join a group of climbers of the alpine club of the Autonomous University and could profit from the good atmosphere and the carpooling within that group.

Apart from the outdoor activities and all the museums and interesting places inside Madrid, I also want to recommend doing day trips by train to the cities Toledo, Segovía and Ávila.

Finding and organizing the internship was not so easy because the planning horizons of the companies that I talked to were not clear. For example, I found a company which would have employed me, but in the end there was a shortage of projects in my desired time period. In general, the insecurity due to the pandemic situation made many companies reduce their internship activities. Moreover, I wanted to avoid a pure home office position, which ruled out some start-ups/IT-companies which do not even have office spaces anymore.

Apart from using job platforms, I eventually found my company by browsing through Madrid’s universities, their spin-offs and cooperating research and development institutes. In particular, these are more used to employ interns because in many study programs in Spain there are obligatory internships which seem to have additional funding.

However, in my case, I was the first person to come from abroad and that is why the amount of questions, uncertainties and organizational issues was relatively high. Neither to me nor to my contact person at the institution was clear at the beginning whether I would need to get a NIE (foreigner identification number) or a social security number. As my host institution could pay me a small salary, I eventually tried to obtain a NIE. This turned out very difficult because there were no appointments available at the foreign affairs office and police in Madrid. For several weeks, I checked the corresponding web page daily and could not get an appointment. Even though, I felt to have understood the system (that new appointments are entered into the system on Mondays around 12PM, still the demand by other and technical obstacles where high). In the end, I decided to travel more than 100km to the neighboring province of Ávila (as mentioned above it is a pleasant day out though) and managed to get an appointment and my document there. From then on, the procedures went relatively smoothly (apart from smaller struggles setting up a bank account).

The work itself started smoothly and I felt well-prepared from my studies and previous work experiences.  The team met on two days per week in the office, the remaining days I mostly worked from my room.

I worked on data analyses and machine learning model improvements that the team had always had in mind, but could not find the time themselves for. Therefore, my work was on the one hand useful and providing insights to the time, but on the other hand always a bit separated from what the colleagues were doing. Moreover, my actual supervisor was very busy and partly away, so I was somehow not sure who to ask certain things and who decides the next steps, but I recommend to just not hesitate and ask in the group chat etc.

A peculiarity for me was that some colleagues did not have breakfast at home and that the culture of long coffee breaks (including breakfast) is imported. My colleagues worked rather long hours, but still did not let them stress too much and I appreciated to have a good and social atmosphere.

My overall experience was positive, however, it was more difficult than expected to get socially involved. This is the disadvantage of a big city and that people in my case are having their routines and private lives. In my case, sports and university associations were the solutions to get to know people. In total, I leave Madrid with some positive memories and rich in experiences, however looking forward to environments with more close people and friends.

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