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Study Abroad and Domestic Study Away

ISEP at Universidad Complutense de Madrid


With the history dating back to the 13th century, Universidad Complutense de Madrid is one of the oldest and best-known universities in the world. UCM is consistently ranked as one of the top universities in Spain and is well known in the areas of Philosophy, Fine Arts, Law, and Humanities. The university is located in the Moncloa neighborhood of Madrid and is easily accessible by bus and metro.

This program is best for a student that is independent.  A student must be comfortable with advocating for themselves on campus and comfortable with the local language to thrive in this location. Please be aware that there may not be the same access to internet or amenities to which you may be accustomed.  Student services and especially class registration may not be at all similar to what is done at the College and may be difficult for some students to adjust.

Learn more about Universidad Complutense de Madrid here!  Read the ISEP Country Handbook to learn more about visa requirements, educational system, and culture.

Program Type




Languages of Instruction

Spanish - A minimum of 6 semesters of university-level Spanish or the equivalent

Program Dates

Academic Year: October to June

Fall 2018: October to February

Spring 2019: February to June

All dates are tentative and may change.  ISEP will alert all accepted students of final dates.


To be eligible to participate in this program, students must meet the following requirements:

  • Good academic and judicial standing during time of application AND time of participation in program
  • Undergraduates must have completed at least two semesters of study at Lake Forest College AND have junior status or higher before participation. 
  • At least 18 years of age by the program’s departure date. 
  • Be able to stay at the host program for the duration of the semester, including through the exam and travel periods
  • Minimum GPA of 3.5  
  • Language Notes: A minimum of 6 semesters of university-level Spanish or the equivalent must be completed prior to the program. Students must have an advanced level of Spanish and previous experience in a Spanish-language country is preferred.
  • Students must submit ISEP language proficiency report in application, even if native speaker

Don’t meet the language requirement? Need to brush up on your language skills before enrolling in regular university courses in Spanish? Consider enrolling in the ISEP Direct Bridge Program before your ISEP Exchange. Students may participate in this program at an additional cost to gain the necessary language skills before their ISEP Exchange programs. Click the link above for more info! 

ISEP Exchange chance of placement for US students is generally Very Limited.


While the campuses accommodate a city-sized student population, the setting is very pleasant with broad, attractive open spaces that separate classrooms and residence halls. Buses and two subway lines connect the campuses with downtown Madrid. 

Europe’s highest capital city at 646 meters above sea level, Madrid is the capital of Spain. The main north-south artery, Paseo de la Castellana connects the city’s two main train stations, Chamartin and Atocha. The oldest quarters of the city are squeezed in between Paseo del Prado (where you’ll find the city’s great art galleries) and the Palacio Real. The Barrio southeast of Puerta del Sol leads to the working-class district of Lavapies, filled with restaurants, bars, and cafes.


The Universidad Complutense de Madrid, founded in 1293, has a great historical past and has already celebrated its seventh centenary. Complutense is a public institution; campus buildings include institutes, private centers, hospitals, offices, sports facilities and computer centers. 

Complutense is strong in Law, Philology, Geography, History, Archeology, philosophy, and fine arts. Other suitable fields are Education, Economics, Literature and Political Science. Co-op programs in connection with the Institute of Educational Science are also open to ISEP students. Since the faculties operate independently and are not located together in the same area of the city, it is advisable to choose courses from only one or two faculties. 

Students generally enroll in 30 ECTS per semester (five to six courses) and spend 20 hours a week in class to earn 4 Lake Forest credits. Semesters are 20 weeks in length.  



1.Click on the Course Information link. 
2. Click the Curso (Academic Year) and you will get a list of degree programs offered. Then click on a degree program and you will be directed to the website for that degree program. 
3. To the right, you will see several icons. Click on the Calendar icon for a list of courses, and the year of the degree they correspond to. 
4. Click on a course you are interested in for a detailed course description including information on scheduling. 

Due to the Bologna process, two different types of undergraduate degrees may be offered Grado or Licenciatura. As the Licenciatura degree is being phased out, pay close attention to which courses are still being offered. Courses that are not offered will generally say Solo Repetidores or Sin Docencia. Do not list these courses. 

Language Course: Spanish language courses are offered in addition to regular classes during the academic year and semester for all levels, for an additional fee.


First-year courses are oversubscribed and, therefore, closed to ISEP participants. Enrollment in Fine Arts and Computer Sciences is limited. The Faculty of Medicine is closed to ISEP participants.



As an ISEP participant, you will be able to take courses from different faculties and at different levels. However, to avoid scheduling issues, ISEP strongly recommends that you take courses in one carrera or degree if at all possible. Spanish students in the same year of the same degree will likely take the majority of their classes together, similar to a cohort, and their classes will normally be located close together. Typically, the layout of Spanish universities is decentralized and faculties can be located throughout the city. If you enroll in courses in different degrees or faculties, you may find that you have to cross town to go from one class to another.

For tips on finding courses in Spain see: Tips for Finding Courses in Spain

In most cases registration is done upon arrival in Spain. As an international student, you may be allowed to try out several courses from various faculties at the beginning of your exchange. Be sure to verify with your host coordinator the final deadline for registration. Follow registration instructions closely, to ensure that you complete all forms and meet all deadlines.

Course Load
Most Spanish students take 30 ECTS (European Credit Transfer System) per semester, which normally equates to five or six classes a semester. You will need to check with your home coordiantor about the minimum number of credits you need to take while in Spain.

As a part of the new grado degrees, many courses have tutorials, lab sessions, or practicas as a part of the class. Class attendance is important, as materials covered in class make up a large portion of the exam. Attendance may be taken regularly, but if it is not, resist the urge to skip classes, exams will be difficult without regular class attendance.

Study Habits and Learning Styles
Your professors will expect you to take thorough notes on the lectures. In the Spanish university system, learning from lectures is emphasized over learning from a textbook. Note-taking and following lectures may be a big adjustment. You will find that after a few weeks it all becomes much easier. If necessary, you can ask to borrow notes from a classmate for some of the first lectures. Many Spanish students take great pride in their notes and often rewrite them to have them neatly organized.

Learning is done more independently than you might be accustomed. You are expected to do substantive reading and studying outside of class. Aside from the assigned reading and class work, the professor may also suggest a supplementary list of books pertaining to the course topic.

You should have access to computers at the university to complete your assignments. Commonly, each faculty or center has its own computer lab for student use. During busier times of the year, it is likely that you will need to reserve a computer ahead of time.

Interaction with Professors
Spanish professors often do not deal directly with students. If you have questions or problems, it is up to you to arrange a meeting with the professor either before or after class or by setting up an appointment. Office hours may also be available for consultation.

You may be assigned a professor or other staff member to serve as your Academic Tutor while in Spain. You should consult with this person with any questions regarding registration, courses etc. You may always contact your ISEP Coordinator if you are unsure who you should consult.

Exams and Grading System
Depending on the type of classes you take, you will generally have tests and papers with a final exam at the end of the course. Form and organization are important in presenting written work. Check with a Spanish student about correct form so that your assignments will be properly presented. Make sure that your grammar and sentence structure are correct; have a native speaker check it over if necessary.

Final exams are typically given at the end of the semester and will include materials covered in class throughout the semester. It is important to keep up with your coursework, as it’s difficult to “cram” a semester’s worth of studying into the period before the exam. The format for written and oral exams may vary from class to class.

It will be important for you to check with both your home and host ISEP coordinators to ensure that your grades will be recorded in Spain and the credit transferred to your home institution. Although your host coordinator in Spain will help you in this matter, it will be your responsibility to make sure your grades are recorded. Be forewarned that if you choose to depart the program early, it is your responsibility to make any special arrangements in writing with your professors.


Grades are given on a 10-point scale:
• 9 or 10 is considered excellent (sobresaliente) 
• 7 or 8 is good (notable) 
• 6 or 5 is average (aprobado), 
• below five is failing (suspenso). 

Matricula de Honor is the highest grade awarded in the Spanish system and is generally given to the student with the highest score in a class. Spanish professors are difficult graders, and rarely award grades of excellent; most students receive grades between six and eight.


Please review country handbook for more information on the education system, grades, class hours, and classroom etiquette.

Course Approvals

Check to see if your department has pre-approved courses here. If not, don’t worry. You can work with your advisor.

Experiential Opportunities

Volunteer opportunities are available through the UCM Solidarios program. Students with advanced Spanish skills may be able to participate in unpaid internships. These may be credit bearing at an additional cost. For more information about these programs, contact your ISEP Coordinator upon arrival.

Student Life

The Office of International Relations will organize a mandatory orientation for ISEP students that will cover university life, life in Madrid, campus facilities and campus life.

Students can participate in several clubs, including the Erasmus Student Network’s chapter at UCM. The Erasmus Student Network organizes low-cost excursions throughout Spain and activities in Madrid. Students can also participate in a number of cultural activities and sports through the university, for more information click here.

Sports facilities include 61 clubs, among them football, handball, volleyball, tennis, basketball, judo, and gymnastics.

Housing and Meals

Students will be housed in a residence hall and receive a meal plan. 

Financial Information

For all approved programs for guaranteed financial aid transferability, students pay their Lake Forest College tuition plus a program fee. The program fee for a semester with the ISEP Exchange program includes orientation, on-site director, college fees, housing and a stipend to cover the equivalent of 19/meals per week.

Here is an estimated budget for the Fall 2018/Spring 2019 semester:

Budget Item


Lake Forest College Tuition


Program fee (estimated)

Note: Spring may have added cost



Total Expected Billed by Lake Forest College


ISEP Fee due on Stage 2 Application



ISEP-required health and repatriation insurance ($85/mo estimated)

Note: Some countries require national insurance. Check ISEP


Additional Meals


Estimated Airfare

*Students placed on ISEP Exchange may be eligible for up to $750 airfare award 


Estimated Personal Expenses (passport, visas, immunizations, textbooks, supplies, personal expenses, additional national insurance, if required, travel insurance, additional travel etc.)


Total Out-of-Pocket Expenses






Tuition rates and program fees are subject to change each year, but this information was up-to-date as of February 2018. We will notify applicants, and update this page if the program fee or other estimates change.

Keep in mind that you may spend more or less in certain areas like personal expenses, travel, meals, or airfare, depending on exchange rates and your own spending habits. Classroom or lab fees are not included in this estimate and will depend on your course registration choices.  

Don’t forget to apply for scholarships! A great listing can be found here.  

Do check your student account on My.Lakeforest for your aid awards, as much of this will go with you. If you want to compare your program to the cost of being on campus, those numbers can be found here: https://www.lakeforest.edu/admissions/tuition/fees.php

You can discuss with Financial Aid your specific aid package and your expected family contribution.