Essential Apps While Studying Abroad


Every night in Madrid is something different. Last night, a few students from the program and I decided to have a relaxed night at a pub in our neighborhood instead of going into the center of town and having a more “active” Saturday night out. It was there that we met a group of Americans from Colorado who were visiting Madrid after having studied abroad here in 2009. While we bonded over certain things that made our study abroad experiences common despite our age difference, they made sure to point out “how easy we have it” as students in 2015.

While this is a message millenials hear all too often, it resonated with me last night. The group at the bar mentioned that they used to have to send Skype messages to each other before they left their host families to set a meeting time; once they’d leave their houses, it was basically a free-for-all. With Instant messaging and mobile data having been essential to our study abroad experience—from giving us navigation in a new city to making meetups seamless—I’ve realized how lucky we are to be studying abroad in this time.

With this in mind, I’ve decided to dedicate this blog post to highlighting some mobile apps that have been vital for me in Madrid so far. While these apps vary in purpose, they’ve been extremely useful in different aspects of the study abroad experience, from the commute to the touristy photographs.

WhatsApp (FREE)
This list starts off with an app that many may be familiar with. Boasting 900 million active users and reportedly accounting for up to seventy five percent of mobile instant messaging traffic, WhatsApp is a must-have for communicating abroad. This app is great for messaging across mobile operaitng systems, as it is often faster and more organized than SMS and includes a bunch of handy features like the ability to send your location to a group or send a voice message instead of writing in text.

Another similar app is Facebook Messenger. While both of these apps are owned by Facebook and have similar functions, they operate independently of each other. It’s really a question of what your friend group is using more at the time, as I’ve found myself in multiple group chats in both apps.
Download WhatsApp on iOS
Download WhatsApp for Android

Facebook (FREE)
I won’t spend too much time talking about why you need to have the Facebook app because I feel like most of us know the inherent value in Facebook. What I will say is that Facebook has been very useful for planning group outings amongst friends so far while in Madrid. Through Facebook Groups, we’ve coordinated many of our nights out and gotten reminders about events that some of us might’ve otherwise forgotten. Facebook is also great for keeping in touch with friends and family who are back home! Make sure to upload the ocassional pic to remind the fam back home that you’re doing more than getting to know the bars in Puerta del Sol.
Download Facebook for iOS here and Android here.

CityMapper (FREE)
This is by far the app I’ve recommended the most while abroad. CityMapper gives you directions to just about anywhere in Madrid (and other major cities across the world) while presenting them in a simple, user-friendly interface. It gives you various options for getting to your final destination arranged by travel time and has made getting around Madrid incredibly easy. I prefer it over traditional navigation apps like Apple’s Maps or Google Maps because of the way it presents your trip information to you (in segments based on where you have to get on/off metros or buses, rather than the aforementioned apps that give you a standard route that you usually have to follow). CityMapper has been indispensable and I cannot recommend it enough.
Download CityMapper on iOS and Android.

Spotify (FREE*)
A theme in this post that you may have noticed is that there’s a lot of moving from place to place in Madrid. With commutes ranging anywhere between half an hour to an hour, having music to listen to comes in quite handy. Spotify has become my go-to music source,

02/11/2015 - Medford/Somerville, MA - A student poses for a portrait during the February 11th Career Fair in the Gantcher Center. (Evan Sayles for Tufts University Photo)

Ramiro Sarabia, Tufts in Madrid, Fall 2015

replacing options like streaming off SoundCloud or downloading music directly because of Spotify’s convenient offline playback feature. Spotify Premium not only allows you to save just about any song for offline playback, but it also comes with zero advertisements and custom playlists based on your music taste. University students can even get Spotify Premium for fifty percent off the regular price here.

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