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Making Memories in Madrid

Students from the Discovery program reflect on a semester exploring Spain.
Spanish countryside viewed through a series of three arches.

Students discover the timeless allure of Madrid's majestic archways, where history and beauty intertwine effortlessly. Site visits and field trips are an integral part of the study abroad academic experience.

Syracuse University's Discovery program gives first-semester students the opportunity to study abroad as soon as they start their college career. Through the Syracuse Abroad center in Madrid, Spain, students are given a platform for personal growth and self-discovery while exploring a diverse culture and fulfilling first-year requirements.

We caught up with Adam Baltaxe ’25, an international relations and Spanish language, literature and culture major, Kayla Pierce ’27, a forensic science and psychology major and Rylee Smith ’26, an environmental engineering major, to discuss their time in the Discovery program.

Adam Baltaxe ’25

Why did you decide to study abroad your first semester with the Discovery program?

I chose Madrid because it was the perfect way to get some international experience while also developing my second language.

Adam Baltaxe standing and smiling in Park Güell in Barcelona, Spain.

Adam Baltaxe ’25 stands at a viewpoint above Park Güell in Barcelona, Spain.

What courses and academic experiences did you enjoy or find most interesting?

I really loved my courses in Spain, but what really made my academic experience amazing were the class trips around the country. Córdoba, Toledo, Cuenca and Valencia were unbelievable, and the experiences were so enthralling that I barely even noticed I was learning. I loved how they mixed an educational experience with giving us our own freedom, resulting in a perfect balance of fun and school.

What aspects of the cultural immersion did you most enjoy or appreciate?

I enjoyed the activities like olive oil tasting and the cooking class because the country’s gastronomy was an aspect of the Spanish culture that I was unfamiliar with. Also, I wasn’t much of a cook before Spain, but practicing these new recipes in this brand-new place converted me, and I now love to try new recipes from around the world. I highly recommend these experiences to all students going abroad, not just people who like to cook, because you might find yourself just like me.

Adam Baltaxe standing and smiling with a friend at a football game in Barcelona, Spain.

Baltaxe (left) with fellow Discovery student Mark Nzasi ’25 at El Clásico at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, Spain.

Did your Discovery experience affect what courses you took or activities you became involved in during your years on campus?

My Discovery experience had an immense impact on what I became involved in on campus. Most obviously, the use of Spanish that I developed in Madrid influenced so much of what I’ve done at Syracuse. I’m now a dual major in Spanish, on a Latin dance troupe, and I helped revive the University’s only Spanish language club, which I’m now secretary of. I’m very active in the Spanish-speaking community on campus. I had no idea this was a road I wanted to go down, but Discovery opened my eyes to that. I even went abroad again!

How do you feel Discovery prepared you to succeed in college and beyond?

Discovery helped me mature more in three months than any amount of schooling in the U.S. could have. It gave me an important perspective on domestic and international issues and showed me that I could be truly independent. I constantly use the skills that I developed during Discovery in my everyday life and still talk to friends I met while I was there. Thanks to Discovery, I have a much better idea of what I want to do with my life, and for that I will be forever grateful.

Kayla Pierce ’27

Kayl Pierce In on an excursion to Valencia, Spain sitting and laughing with friends.

Kayla Pierce ’27 (middle) with fellow Discovery students Rosalia Lora Avila ’27 (left) and Michael Procino ’27 on an excursion to Valencia, Spain. They’re sitting in front of La Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias, a science museum.

Did you have any concerns about participating in Discovery? If so, how did you resolve them?

I was worried about not making friends, especially in such a small program. My worries turned out to be unfounded, as the people I was with were amazing. They all encouraged me and helped me to push past my anxiety. It only takes a small effort to reach out, and now I have friends for life.

Rylee Smith ’26

What did you appreciate most about your Discovery experience?

I appreciated the opportunities to travel with the University, which was really helpful when I was bored on the weekends and wanted to explore more of Madrid and Spain.

Rylee Smith sitting wit friends on a trip to Cuenca, Spain.

Rylee Smith ’26 (third from left) and friends on a trip to Cuenca, Spain, which is most known for its “hanging houses”—houses near the ravine of the Huécar river.

​​What courses and academic experiences did you enjoy or find most interesting?

My favorite classes abroad were Arts of Spain and ECS 101. In Arts of Spain, we were taught about art during lecture and got to actually see that art in the museums in Madrid. This was an amazing experience, and I’m so glad I took the class—it was extremely enriching. ECS 101 was also enjoyable. We learned basic coding and our professor was very funny. He would bring us snacks every class and we loved getting to know everyone in the classroom better.

What aspects of the cultural immersion did you most enjoy or appreciate?

I appreciated how many locals in Spain are patient and understanding, especially regarding language barriers. Everyone I met was friendly. I also really enjoyed the layout of Madrid—the city is gorgeous, walkable and safe.

Also of Interest

Student studying abroad in Florence , Italy.

Discovery Programs

Begin your college career abroad at a Syracuse Center in Florence, Italy; Madrid, Spain; or Strasbourg, France.

Explore our Discovery programs
Students studying abroad in Madrid, Spain

First-Semester Study Abroad in Madrid

Centered in the diverse and dynamic city of Madrid, Syracuse Abroad’s program is designed for you to explore Spanish culture and its influence and impact on the world.

Experience Madrid