Information for Accepted Students - What You Need to Know Before Going Abroad

Program Dates: JUNE 3- JULY 16, 2017


ARRIVAL: Plan to arrive in Barajas Airport (Madrid, Spain) on Sunday, June 3rd no later than 5 p.m. This means you need to depart the U.S. no later than Saturday, June 2nd as you lose a day en route.


DEPARTURE: Program ends on Monday, July 16th in Madrid. Program activities end after 7 p.m. on Sunday, July 15th and students may depart the program that evening, but may not miss scheduled activities to do so. Regardless, all students must check out of the hotel in Madrid by 11 a.m. on Monday, but not later. The program will provide bus transportation to the airport at least three different times during Sunday morning. Students may also remain in Madrid/Europe after the program ends at their own expense to travel or sightsee. Click here for internet travel sites

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Required Orientation Sessions

Orientation Sessions

Students participating in the Valencia Program for Summer 2017, are required to attend at least 3 orientation sessions. It is highly recommended, however, that students attend as many as possible.

The tentative dates and times for these sessions are listed here. Please check back for possible changes in location, time or date.

    5:15-6:30 PM  

Topics: Welcome & Administrative Issues.

  5:15-6:30 PM  

Financing Study Abroad, Courses, Travel. Guest Speaker, Nancy Guthrie (LAS Study Abroad)

Financial Aid and U-Bill Questions. Guest Speaker, Tiffany Ahrenhotz (Office of Financial Aid)

    5:15-6:30 PM  

Topics: Family Home Stays and Health Issues

    5:15-6:30 PM  

Topics: Safety and Security

    5:00-6:15 PM  

Student Panel - Open forum with veteran participants




A valid passport is required for entry into Spain

It is very important that students obtain a U.S. Passport (or from your home country) as soon as possible (allow 6-8 weeks). You can download the official U.S. passport application at the U.S. State Department's Passport Services web site or request one at one of your local U.S. Post Offices. It is recommended that students apply for a passport while their application is being considered.



Spanish Visa


In most cases, U.S. students participating in the Valencia program DO NOT need a Visa. However, for students who plan to stay in Spain and/or the rest of Europe longer than 90 days, or students from certain countries, a visa is required. A visa might be required if you are an international student, too. Information on whether you need a visa, and the visa application and instructions can be obtained by contacting the Consulate General of Spain in Chicago.

Students are responsible for inquiring about all entry requirements for other countries they plan to visit before or after this program. It is important for students to understand that they may be denied entry into, or be deported from, a country for which they have not obtained the required documentation.



Madrid Meeting Point


Students are expected to arrive in Madrid by 5 p.m. or ealier on the day the program starts. Program Directors will meet students at a designated meeting point in the Madrid Barajas airport. The location of the meeting point will be discussed in the orientations. Click here for a map of the airport and the expected meeting point.



Preparing to Go

Setting up a Budget


(Adapted from "Student Handbook" from the ISU Study Abroad Center)
Visa (if needed)
International Student ID Card
Travelers Checks
Foreign Currency to Purchase
Exchange fees / ATM transaction fees
Eurail Pass(es)
Local Transportation
Local Transportation in Europe
Medications to Take
Eye glasses / contacts
Food not covered (while traveling, in airports, bus or train stations,out at night with friends, etc.)
Drink not covered (while traveling, in airports, bus or train stations, out at night with friends, etc.)
Travel not covered
Accomodations not covered
Entertainment not covered (movies, museums, site-seeing, etc.)
Personal purchases
Gifts for friends and family
Phone Calling Card
Money for Calls
Stamps, envelopes, postcards



The Euro
Exchange rates vary depending on when and where you convert your money. To see daily exchange rates go to Generally banks offer the best rates but with a service commission. Listed prices often will appear quoted both in Euros and Spanish Pesetas. Euro bills are issued in denominations of €5, €10, €20, €50, €100, €500, €1.000. Coins (centimos) are in denominations of 1, 2, 5, 10, 50, €1, €2.


When you arrive
It is a good idea to either have some currency on hand once you arrive, or withdraw some from an ATM machine as soon as you arrive in Madrid's aiport--there are several ATM machines. There are a number of locations inside the Madrid Barajas airport to exchange American dollars or traveler's checks. Near the hotel and other locations in Madrid and around Spain, you will always find a number of ATM machines where you can withdraw money in the local currency (be sure you understand the quanitities you are withdrawing so that you do not withdraw too much).


ATM Cards
An excellent and convenient option is an ATM card or debit card. Most bank cards are accepted at most all ATMs around Spain. Check with your bank before departing to be sure that your card will be accepted. You do not want to wait until you get there to learn that you will not be able to use your ATM card. Be sure you have memorized your 4-digit PIN code before arriving in Madrid. If you remember your code by a 4-letter acronym, it is best to memorize the numbers instead since the number pads in Spain are labeled differently from those in the U.S. It is important that students become aware of the possible fees charged by their home institution.


Credit Cards
Credit Cards are widely accepted in Spain. This is especially true with Visa and Mastercard and, to a lesser degree, American Express. Visa and Mastercard credit cards are also good ways to withdraw money from ATM machines since they are almost universally accepted. Check with your credit card company before departing to determine the fees you may be charged for foreign withdrawals and also to make sure you spending limit is sufficiently high to use the card for ATM cash withdrawals and purchases. Be sure you have memorized your 4-digit PIN code before arriving in Madrid. If you remember your code by a 4-letter acronym, it is best to memorize the numbers instead since the number pads in Spain are labeled differently from those in the U.S. Click on the links to find the locations of ATM accpeting Visa or Mastercard.


Traveler's Checks
It is not recommended that students take traveler's checks. While it is true that traveler's checks can easily be replaced if lost or stolen, and many banks accept traveler's checks in US dollar denominations, there are several disadvantages: great difficulty finding a bank to exchange the checks, being charged a fee to cash traveler's checks, or receiving a less favorable exchange rate. Also, most stores and restaurants no longer accept traveler's checks. Cashing travellers checks regularly at banks (for a $2-$5 fee) or hotels (for lower exchange rates than banks but with no fee) will be an expensive nuisance. At the same time, it is not wise to carry much cash around in cities. For credit card purchases in larger stores, VlSA and Mastercharge will be much more accepted. Personal checks are not accepted anywhere.


Exchange Rates
Exchange rates vary from day to day and from source to source. When you are ready to withdraw money, shop around and ask your fellow students. Some ATMs charge a fee, while many others do not. Others give you no fees for a very low exchange rate. Generally, established banks will give the best deal. Ask your fellow students where they are exchanging. Sometimes they have found a good and trustworthy location. Exchange Rates


Value Added Tax
Value Added Tax (VAT of IVA) is a personal use tax of about 12-18% which is refundable if you buy any one single item that costs more than 100 euros. However, instead of VAT refunds, stores could offer a 10% discount on items purchased.


Service charges are usually included in hotel and restaurant bills but it is customary to leave 50 centimos, 1 euro per person in a restaurant and a little at a bar. A 50 centimo tip is average for a taxi ride. Other service people expect at least 50 centimos per person for services. When luggage is brought to your room, tip 1 euro.



(Adapted from ISU's "Student Handbook")

YOU ARE ALLOWED TO BRING ONLY ONE PIECE OF LUGGAGE REGARDLESS OF THE AIRLINE'S ALLOWANCES. Above all else, pack lightly. You'll be lifting your bag out of the trunk of the car, through the airport, off the luggage carousel, to the train station, to the bus stop, onto the bus, off the bus, back a few kilometers because you missed your stop, up six flights of stairs, and onto the dresser. Not to mention that many older cities in Europe have cobblestone streets which make it difficult to transport luggage. If you can't carry your luggage around the block three times, you're taking too much. You'll need room for those great souvenirs when you return. Choose luggage that's sturdy, on wheels (2" diameter or larger to navigate curbs and cobblestones), and portable (even into a bathroom stall). If on the move, use a backpack instead, especially one with an internal frame, padded belt and shoulder straps, and side pockets. Find out your airline's luggage limits (dimensions and weight) and if there is a fee for oversized or overweight baggage. On international flights, generally, your bag weight cannot exceed 50 pounds! If it does, you will be charged for the excess weight. What do I pack?

Remember, most things you need can be easily purchased in Spain so you need not fill your luggage unnecessarily! (See packing list below)


Don't forget:
A day pack or fanny pack to hold maps, phrase books, guidebooks, water bottles, sunglasses, etc. A neck wallet or money belt is especially important if you're traveling by train or staying in hostels. Keep most of your money hidden under your clothes. The extra-cautious will keep passport, airline tickets, and most of their money in the money belt, about $50-100 in a neck wallet, and about $5-10 in their jeans pocket.

Important Documents:
Don't forget your passport, traveler's checks, ATM and/ or credit cards, and adequate ID. Also check that you have any of the following that might apply to you: a hosteling membership card; driver's license; travel Insurance forms; and/or rail or bus pass. It's a good idea to make photocopies to leave at home with family or friends.


Pack enough underwear for 7-10 days.
If it's an extended trip, pick one color scheme and stick with it. Black travels very well.
Plan on bad weather; specifically, plan on colder and wetter weather than you'd expect, or, in the tropics, hotter than you'd expect. Ask yourself: what would I put over/under this outfit if it gets cold/starts to rain?

If you are traveling, it's always a good idea to bring a warm jacket or wool sweater, a jacket, sturdy shoes and thick socks. Flip flops or waterproof sandals are must haves for grubby hostel showers while you are on the road.You may also want to add one outfit and a nicer pair of shoes if you have the room. If you plan to visit any religious or cultural sites, remember that you'll need something besides tank tops and shorts to be respectful.


Toothbrushes, towels, cold water soap, deodorant, razors, tampons, and condoms are readily available in Spain, but may be difficult to find in remote places such as the mountains or the countryside. Contact lenses, on the other hand, may be expensive and difficult to find, so bring enough extra pairs and solution for your entire trip. Also bring your glasses and a copy of your prescription in case you need emergency replacements.


First Aid:
In Spain, most anything you might need can be purchased. However, if there are a few products you would like to bring with you don'f forget the basics: bandages, pain reliever, decongestant, motion sickness remedy, diarrhea or upset stomach medication (Pepto Bismol or Imodium), an antihistamine, sunscreen. If you have prescribed medication, BE SURE TO BRING THE WRITTEN PRESCRIPTION.


Film and developing in Europe can be expensive, so consider bringing along enough film for your entire trip and developing it at home. Less serious photographers may want to bring disposable cameras rather than an expensive permanent one. Despite disclaimers, airport security X rays can fog film, so buy a lead lined pouch at a camera store or ask security to hand inspect it. Always pack film in your carry on luggage, since higher intensity X rays are used on checked luggage.

Other Items:
For safety purposes, you should bring a money belt and small padlock. Basic outdoors equipment (plastic water bottle, sunglasses, sunscreen, hat) may prove useful. Other things you're liable to forget: an umbrella; sealable plastic bags (for damp clothes, soap, food, shampoo, and other spillables) an alarm clock; safety pins; rubber bands; a flashlight; earplugs; and a small calculator.

What you carry needn't be expensive, but ask yourself: Will I be carrying my luggage a lot (big backpack), or am I staying in one place for a long time (suitcase)? Could my luggage withstand a lot of rough treatment? Are the straps and handles strong enough? Will the zippers hold? Does all my luggage lock (to discourage theft)? If not, buy a lock or locking strap. Does any of my luggage have wheels? Wheels smaller than 2" diameter are bound to snap off at the first cobblestone or curb. A suitcase with big wheels or a sturdy folding luggage cart with big wheels can really help the suitcase traveler. Label your luggage outside and inside, in case the tag is torn off. Avoid making your luggage stand out or look new, as this may attract thieves.


Luggage Rule of thumb: pack your bags a few days before departure, then do two things: 1) walk a few times around the block with the bag. If you have no problem, you have chosen the right suitcase. On the other hand, if it is difficult after a few minutes, re-pack or consider a smaller bag; 2) pack your bag, then take out at least half: you will purchase items during your time abroad, and you will not wear some of the items you have packed. Eliminate extra weight and non-needed items from the beginning!

If you plan to cover most of your itinerary by foot, a sturdy kame backpack is unbeatable. Toting a suitcase is fine if you plan to live in one or two cities and explore from there, but a very bad idea if you're going to be moving around. A daypack (a small backpack or courier bag) is another must.


Other packing tips
Take nothing you'd be sorry to lose (except your camera), as it is easier to lose things while traveling than in everyday life. A tiny flashlight is optional but really comes in handy. Earplugs, waterbottle (with water!), gum, and snack food can keep you sane on a plane or train trip. Planes are noisy and dry, and you'll dehydrate if you're in one for very long. The gum will help relieve ear pressure. You probably already know (or have heard) about airline food, or you might get hungry between meals or miss a meal. Phone numbers, e-mail and regular addresses come in handy. If you're rerouted to Denver because of weather and then grounded because of ice, it would be really nice to have Aunt Helen's number with you (even if you haven't seen her in years!). After all your grandma has done for you, shouldn't you send her a postcard?


Electricity and appliances
Appliances such as hairdryers run on a certain voltage of electrical current. In Europe, electricity is 220/240 volts AC, enough to fry any 110V North American appliance. An appliance designed for 110 voltage cannot run on 220 without a converter (or may run for a while and then burn up). In addition, plug-in (outlet) types vary the world over and require an adapter. If you must take an appliance, be sure to take the proper converter and adapters. Buy an adapter (which changes the shape of the plug; around US$7) and a converter (which changes the voltage; US$20). If your appliance is dual voltage, you can switch it to 220V and just use an adapter. You can purchase converters and adapters at most electronics and travel stores. If you will be abroad for a while, consider buying the necessary appliances abroad. Better yet, consider living without your appliances altogether. Spain's electriciy runs on a 220 voltage system.


Packing valuables
Do not bring valuables unless absolutely necessary.
Do not carry all difficult-to-replace items (passport, cash, credit cards, etc.) in one place and never pack them in luggage that goes in the baggage hold of the plane. Photocopy valuable documents such as passport, visa, credit cards, travelers' checks, etc. and keep copies separate from the originals, for ease of replacing them if lost or stolen. Pack prescription medications in your carry on, in case your checked luggage is lost, but be sure to bring along the prescription.


How to pack

  • Stuff socks and underwear in plastic bags and then stuff the bags in shoes.
  • Roll your clothes to take up less space.
  • Pack largest items first (clothes, shoes, toiletry bag), then tuck smaller items in between.
  • Bring toiletries in plastic bottles, not glass (lighter and unbreakable).
  • Carry toiletries in a plastic bag in case they leak.
  • Consider buying toiletries abroad unless your trip is short or you need certain kinds (e.g., plastic applicator tampons, specific brand of contact lens solution)


Just about anything you might need can be purchased in Spain. Below are a few helpful hints, but you are urged to pack lightly since you will likely purchase a number of items.

Essentials (carried on your person while traveling):

credit cards
travelers' checks
photocopies of above essentials, stored separately


Culturally appropriate clothing (check about restrictions in religious sites, discos, conservative regions) comfortable walking shoes, already broken in sandals and/or shoes to wear with nice outfit one nice outfit (for going out or special occasion) clothing (washable, little or no ironing, matches everything) socks (white ones may "mark" you as American) raincoat/rain poncho or waterproof windbreaker heavy wool sweater/down vest underwear swim suit pajamas (decent, as bathrooms may be down the hall) sun hat coat that will take you through several seasons if needed.



glasses and contact lens equipment (consider disposable lenses, especially if you're going somewhere with poor water quality — like camping)
extra pair of glasses or contacts
cosmetics (if necessary)
soap and soap dish
small towel
comb or brush
manicure items
small, unbreakable mirror
hair equipment
condoms (may be unavailable or difficult to obtain)


Supplies for the Road

water bottle
safety pins
zip-lock plastic bags (for wet or leaking items)



A day pack or small bag to hold maps, a guidebook, a water bottle, etc.
A neck wallet or money belt
reading material for traveling
adapter/converter for voltage
Flashlight (small)
battery-operated alarm clock
camera/video camera
film (lots, if using VCR — videotape formats are not universal, meaning the one you buy in England may not be compatible with a camera bought in the U.S.)
address book
a good guide book
phrase book or dictionary
nylon shopping bag (in case you need more luggage space)
compact umbrella
combination locks for luggage
a few photos of family and friends
something to remind you of home (e.g., favorite music)


For Backpacking and Extensive Travel:

hand sanitizer
laundry soap
sink stopper
clothes line with suction cups
shower shoes
cable lock to lock luggage to bedframe
Swiss army knife
instant coffee/tea and creamers
chocolate or energy bars
dried and instant foods


Basic Health Items

medication in original containers (to prove what it is)
copy of glasses or contact lens prescription
bandaids and antibacterial cream (Neosporin)



It will be mostly hot and sometimes humid in Spain during the summer. It is unlikely you will encounter rainy or cold weather except for when you travel to the north of Spain or in Europe. In summer it is especially hot in Seville and Majorca as well as the Costa del Sol (southern Spain). The Costa Brava and Atlantic coast temperatures are in the 70s except in San Sebastian and other northern Coast cities such as Oviedo, Santander or Santiago de Compostela. Although it will be warm in Valencia, bring a sweater or sweatshirt in case of rain or a cold spell.


In early summer, take sweaters and wraps for the evening. A light raincoat will be useful, especially in the north. Rainwear is essential on the Atlantic coast. Bring comfortable walking shoes for excursions and travel--and hiking boots for the mountains. Informal dress should be worn over bathing suits and can be worn any wear except informal restaurants. Weather in the mountains can turn cold at any time depending on the altitude. Ski resorts will require appropriate dress.


Business Hours
Shops have morning (9.30 to 1.30 pm) and after noon (4.30 to 8 pm or later) schedules, with a break at midday for lunch and siesta. Shops are usually closed on Saturdays and Sundays. Major department stores are open six days a week from 10 am-9 pm. Banking hours are generally from 8.30 to 1.45 pm.


Valencia has many cinemas, some showing subtitled foreign films in their original language. To see films in English, look under the V.O. (original version) listing in the local press. Most of the big cinemas are within walking distance or available via public transportation.


Customs Regulations
You can take most personal effects without any problems. See the Chicago Consulate page for information.


Public Holidays January 1 (New Year's Day)
January 6 (Feast of Epiphany)
March 19 (Feast of St. Joseph)
Good Friday, Easter Monday
May 1 (May Day)
June 10 (Corpus Christi)
June 29 (Feast of St. Peter and St. Paul)
July 25 (Feast of St. James)
August 15 (Feast of the Assumption)
October 12 (Spain's National Day)
November 1 (All Saint's Day)
December 8 (Immaculate Conception)
December 25 (Christmas).


Medical Assistance
In the event of serious illness, the nearest major hospital will provide care in their 24-hour emergency medical rooms. Be sure to find out before leaving home whether your medical insurance provides coverage while travelling and specifically in Spain. Carry evidence of your medical insurance with you at all times.Visitors to Spain are not currently subject to any health requirements. However, check with your travel agent before departure in case inoculation certificates are needed.


Newspapers & Magazines
The Spanish daily papers El Mundo, El País, ABC, La Vanguardia are the most widely circulated. In the field of entertainment and culture, the Guía del Ocio, is a weekly guide to everything happening in Madrid. On Thursday, El País, and on Friday, Diaro 16 and El Mundo, publish weekend supplements which provide complete listings of activities, art shows, entertainment, exhibitions, movie and restaurants and TV schedules. Leading international newspapers and magazines are available in the major cities. Other regional English-language papers and magazines for visitors are published in Spain. You can also purchase the international editions of Newsweek and Time at many newstands.


Postal Service
The main post office (Correos) in any city provide facilities or sending telex and telefaxes as well as 24-hour telegram services. They also have facilities for sending money orders. Generally, personal mail will be sent directly to the home or residencia where you will be staying. You can purchase stamps (sellos) at either the post office or at tabacerías (tobacco and candy stores identified by the letter T on a tobacco leaf on the outside of the shop). UPS and Federal Express also now have some offices in Spain, and there are also small shops similar to Mailboxes, etc. that specialize in postal services.


Radio & Television
In addition to two nationwide TV channels, TVE 1 and 2, in Madrid there are many private television networks- Antena 3, Cuatro, Tele 5, Sexta, La 7, etc. and Canal Plus, among others. Programming is in nearly always in Spanish except for the autonomous channels in Valencia, which transmit in Valenciano. Better hotels have satellite transmitted programming. There are more than 80 FM stations and a half dozen AM stations. Some radion channels transmit in English and cater to a UK audience living in the Valencian region.


International telephone calls can be made from coin-operated public telephones (teléfono). These booths are equipped with instructions in English. You will need 5, 25, 50 or 100 pesetas coins. Be aware that with the popularity of cell phones, public phone booths are harder to find.Credit-card operated telephones are also available at all major locutorios--an establishment in many neighborhoods that provide both internet access and phones for international calling.Cities and larger towns have locutorios open all day and inresort areas, you'll find operator-assisted long-distance telephone installations and private shops where you can make long-distance calls and pay the owner the amount shown on the metre. If possible, call between 10 pm and 8 am when the rates are cheaper.


Spain is1 hour ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). The Canary Island coincide with GMT. Thus, Spain is 7 hours ahead of Iowa CST time and 6 hours ahead of EST.


Weights & Measures
Spain uses the metric system. 1 quart plus three tablespoons equals 1 litre and 1 litre is approximately 1.76 pints; 1 kilogram equals approximately 2.2 pounds; one metre is about a yard; one kilometre is equal to 5/8 mile.


The electrical voltage is 220 volts. Appliances which work on 110 volts (U.S. standard) will require a transformer. Some hotels may have special sockets in their rooms for using 100-volt shavers and hair dryers. Flat-pronged American plugs require round-pronged converters to fit Spanish sockets. It is recommended that students either buy dependable voltage converters or purchase small appliances with higher wattage in Spain (hairdryers, curling irons, electric shavers). Converters are now sold in many large department stores and electronics stores. In general, most major electrical items such as computers will allow for both 110 and 220 voltage, and only require a plug adapter (but not an electricity converter).

About the Program

What makes the ISU on the Mediterranean program the largest study abroad program at Iowa State? Is it the quality academic experience provided by world-class professors or living with a Spanish host family and perfecting your language skills? This link details why the ISU on the Mediterranean program is one of the best. Click here for upcoming upcoming information sessions.

How To Apply

The deadline for applications is March 1 (or the first working day after) and you can apply immediately through ISUAbroad, the Iowa State portal for all program information and applications. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis but early application is recommended since the program fills quickly! Click below to accesss ISUAbroad and get started today! For questions, contact one of the directors.

For Accepted Students

For students already accepted into the program, this page contains information on upcoming orientation sessions and their contents, how to get a passport or student visa, when to arrive for the program and where the meeting point it, how to set up a budget, and helpful hints for packing and traveling. Follow us on...

Program Dates

This Google Calendar link will provide you with the expected dates for class days, planned excursions, optional activities, biology and business field work, and other program activities. Calendar

Why Study on this Program

International experience is more important than ever. Become not only bilingual and bicultural, but achieve a level of global understanding related to Europe and the world not available in the U.S. that will make you marketable for the best jobs!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) and Helpful Links

Check our FAQs for commonly-asked questions. If you want to know about travel to or around Spain and Europe, learn more about Spanish culture, or about different program amenities, check out the Helpful Links, too.