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Overseas university spotlight: St. Louis University Madrid (Spain)

St. Louis University (SLU) Madrid was founded in 1967 as the first European branch campus of a U.S. university.


The word 'branch' is key; it considers itself one university with two campuses.


Located in a quiet residential neighborhood near two other universities north of the city centre, the SLU Madrid campus also offers the added benefit of tuition that's half the cost of the main campus.


Nowadays, SLU Madrid is home to 1,200 students and 18 possible degrees.


Here are some of the highlights from my visit!


Courtyard at SLU Madrid
Courtyard at SLU Madrid

City of Madrid


Nestled in the heart of Spain, Madrid welcomes visitors with its vibrant streets, rich history and dynamic cultural scene.


As the capital city, Madrid is a melting pot of tradition and modernity, where centuries-old landmarks stand tall alongside contemporary art galleries and trendy cafes.


Aerial view of sprawling Madrid
Aerial view of sprawling Madrid

It's also where many demonstrations take place, such as farmers protesting EU policies below.


Protesters claim that policies dictated by the European Union aimed at protecting the environment make their produce uncompetitive in comparison to imports outside of the EU.
They claim that EU policies aimed at protecting the environment make their produce uncompetitive in comparison to imports outside of the EU

With 3.4 million people, Madrid is one of Europe's most populous cities.


It's full of galleries, museums, cultural performances and more.


Plaza de Colón
Plaza de Colón
Fernán Gómez Centro Cultural de la Villa
Fernán Gómez Centro Cultural de la Villa

It's also considered Europe's sunniest capital city, despite my photos during winter!


Plaza de Colón

Yes, it's true that Spaniards don't eat dinner until 9 or 10 p.m., but with the longest life expectancy in Europe, perhaps there's something to the Spanish way of life.


Street art

As the centre of international business for Spain, Madrid does have a faster pace to it than its rival, Barcelona.


Plaza del Callao
Plaza del Callao

But because it's located physically in the centre of Spain, it makes it super easy to visit all the other amazing destinations in the country for weekend trips or longer stays.


Green space
Green space

Campus and academics


Like its main campus, SLU Madrid is a Jesuit university focused on education of the 'whole person' -- promoting academic excellence, service and self-reflection.


SLU Madrid entry

There are lots of opportunities to participate in community service, such as a program where students make bocadillo sandwiches, bring them to the homeless and spend time chatting with them.


Exterior of buildings

Students are viewed as learners, and faculty are viewed as facilitators (collaborative inquiry).


They're taught several ways of thinking and how to care and respect others, achieved through seminars, non-academic requirements and lots of reflective papers (i.e., how did this class help me grow).


Courtyard area
Courtyard area

For example, in the Ignite First-Year Seminar, students learn from faculty who teach something they're passionate about outside of their main discipline (i.e., an English professor teaching music).


For Reflection in Action, students participate in internships; every Monday they get an email from Career Services about opportunities.


And for Collaborative Inquiry, students practice real-world problem-solving and take a class unrelated to their major (i.e., a business student taking engineering).


SLU Madrid neighborhood
SLU Madrid neighborhood

Here, the student experience is halfway between the completely on-campus U.S. college experience and a very independent off-campus experience at a European university.


The campus is small but mighty; the average class size is 16, and the student to faculty ratio is 12-to-1.


Teaching building
Teaching building

In 2023, SLU welcomed 200 new freshmen to its diverse student body of 65+ nationalities.


American and Spanish students do still dominate the population (43 percent and 14 percent, respectively).


Uniquely, 20 percent of students have two or more nationalities.


Teaching building

It's also worth mentioning that half of the study body is made up of students on a study abroad semester.


One degree student highlighted that students are 'accidentally divided' because degree students and study abroad students -- mostly because study abroad students travel a lot on weekends to make the most of their time.


They are, however, in class together and all participate in the same clubs.


Exterior of buildings

In terms of its actual degrees, SLU Madrid was ranked number one for Health Law, number eight for international relations and number 17 for international business (U.S. News and World Report, 2023).


Nursing is the most selective, and students spend two years in Madrid and then two years at the main campus in St. Louis (which is also the case for engineering).


Dummies for nursing students
Dummies for nursing students
Dummies for nursing students

In all programs, professors use Madrid as the classroom; for example, the marketing professor takes students on a shopping trip to analyze product placement on shelves, etc.


View from roof
View from roof

SLU Madrid students can choose to live in the Yugo residences (most expensive), with a host family (second most expensive) or in a private apartment (least expensive).


Padre Rubio Hall

Ready to apply?


SLU Madrid is test-optional with an acceptance rate of 67 percent.


Exterior of buildings

The application for this particular campus is separate from the main campus, so students interested in both would need to make two applications.


Computer lab
Computer lab

And unlike most universities in Europe, students can apply undecided.


With a Liberal Arts curriculum, students can figure out what they're really interested in as they go.


Science labs
Science labs
Science labs

Although the tuition is much lower at SLU Madrid than the main campus, 77 percent of enrolled students were still awarded a merit-based scholarship.


Exterior of buildings

Two students demonstrating outstanding merit and leadership will gain a full scholarship, and others may receive between seven to 40 percent off.


View from roof

Below are some of the other facilities on campus.


Classroom
Classroom
Library
Library
Library
Library
Art studio
Art studio

There is also a cafeteria and U.S.-style student services, with a 24-hour emergency and counseling line.


View from art studio
View from art studio

Around the corner is the hospital where students go if need be, and with Sanitas private health insurance, students are always met with an English-speaking doctor.


Hospital around the corner
Hospital around the corner

Summary: St. Louis University Madrid


Students who choose to study at SLU Madrid get an American education with a global focus, set in an incredibly dynamic European capital.


Its liberal arts curriculum graduates students with well-rounded profiles, and it comes with tuition that's half that of its main campus.


Students are well-looked after, with much more student support and student services than many European institutions.


And in many majors, students can choose to spend two years in Madrid and return to the U.S. for the remaining two.


Back in St. Louis, the Billiken is the mascot of the campus, a symbol of good luck that represents happiness and the way things ought to be -- and for the Billikeños of SLU Madrid, life is pretty good, too.


Residents of Madrid are known as Madrileños, so the mascot at SLU Madid is the Billikeño.
Residents of Madrid are known as Madrileños, so the mascot at SLU Madid is the Billikeño.

 

Interested in applying for college or grad school abroad?


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G'day! My name is Sara, and I'm the founder of College Apps Abroad and a Certified Educational Planner (CEP), one of only 40 CEP's in California and 300 worldwide. I have more than 10 years of experience working in international recruitment and admissions, and I've studied and lived overseas myself in the UK, Ireland, Australia and Brazil for almost a decade. I've also worked for some of the world's top institutions, including The University of Edinburgh, the University of New South Wales (UNSW) and The University of Western Australia (UWA)!

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