Lexie Castaneda

SMU-in-Costa Rica, Summer 2015
SMU-in-Madrid, Summer 2016
IFSA-Butler: Queen Mary University of London, Fall 2016

Political Science and Spanish majors; History and Law & Legal Reasoning minors

Graduating Spring 2018


“My favorite abroad moment actually took place in Munich at Oktoberfest. It was our first weekend of our time abroad, and we had just gotten to the festival. My 3 best friends from SMU who were also studying abroad had come to Oktoberfest with me, and we all decided to go on this one huge rollercoaster. When we were at the peak of the roller coaster, right before we went flying down the big drop, I could see what felt like all of Germany from up there, and right then I felt how big the world is, and I suddenly was so grateful that I had just embarked on what I knew would be a life-altering journey and it felt like the entire world and my entire future were stretching out in front of me, full of possibility. It was one of the happiest moments of my life. The best part though is that they had the exact same roller coaster set up at Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park, where we spent our last Saturday night in London. For continuity’s sake, we knew we had to ride it again, and when I was at that peak that time, it fully hit me what a different (and better) person I had become during my time abroad, and I knew then that those changes were permanent, and that as sad as I was to leave, I was ready to go back into what felt like my “real world”, now equipped with an entirely different perspective on things.”

-Lexie Castaneda

Lexie is a peer adviser for 2016-17 and will be our senior peer adviser for 2017-18. She has studied abroad three times, and has a lot to say about each one!

Her first study abroad was in Costa Rica during Summer 2015 where she took: SPAN 2402 and Spanish Culture


“My favorite part of my Costa Rica study abroad experience was the places I traveled on weekends. There is only one free weekend on the trip usually, and my entire group went to Herradura for the weekend and stayed at the Marriott. It was so nice to spend a weekend by the beach after being in the city for the past 5 weeks, and we loved hanging out in the pool and took advantage of their insanely beautiful spa.”

Lexie’s second trip abroad was to Madrid in summer 2016. There she took Intro to Spanish Literature and History of Spain, which counted for her Ways of Knowing.


Some of her favorite spots from her trip to Madrid:

  • Ibiza: “I actually really recommend doing if you have an interest in doing a more fun weekend trip. Ibiza is a very expensive place so it was good to only go for a weekend because we did not have to spend a ton of money. I would recommend staying in Playa d’en Bossa rather than any other part of the island because we tried to stay in a different part of the island to save money but all the money we saved on the hotel we ended up spending taking taxis to and from the other part of the island. There are a ton of websites that have the schedule of concerts in Ibiza so definitely pick your favorite DJs and make an effort to go see them if you can afford it because it was an AMAZING experience.”
  • Seville: “A good idea for a more low key type weekend. Walking around the city is just stunning, and I would recommend taking a river cruise or having dinner by the river one night.”
  • “As for Madrid, the obvious places to go are Parque Retiro and the Prado Museum, and I loved both of those. If the program doesn’t take you to the palace, that’s another must see. My favorite place to have lunch was in the Gran Via area, and we loved the restaurants Ochenta Grados as well as Lateral. For a nicer evening, Botín is the oldest restaurant in the world and it also serves great food.”

Finally, her latest study abroad adventure was to London’s Queen Mary University for a full semester. At Queen Mary University, she took Comparative European Politics, War and Security in World Politics, Global Governance, and History of the US from 1900-1945.

Key places to put on your itinerary for London:

  • British Museum: “There is so much to do in London that it’s impossible to do it all, but my absolute favorite museum was the British Library. They have some amazing little pieces of history there, from the original Magna Carta to Jane Austen’s writing desk to some of DaVinci’s sketches.”
  • Take a River Cruise: “Another thing we loved was taking a river cruise down the Thames to the Tower of London, which is one of my favorite museums in the world, and then getting back on the cruise and going down to Greenwich and doing the Greenwich Observatory. There’s a great little pub a few blocks from the Observatory called The King’s Arms that has a really nice vibe too. Ice skating at the Tower of London was really cool too.”
  • Tate Modern: “If you’re into art, the Tate Modern is a must-see as well.
  • Winter Wonderland: “During Christmas, the Winter Wonderland festival at Hyde Park is a great time and definitely something to check out.”
  • Run in Mile End Park and Victoria Park: “If you are going to Queen Mary, you’ll be staying in Mile End, which is not the nicest area, but I would run along the canal and through Victoria Park in the mornings and that area is an unexpected oasis in the middle of the city.”
  • Camden: “My favorite area in London was Camden because I am a total foodie, and my friends and I loved having lunch at the food stalls in Camden Market–the pad thai stand is to die for–and we also discovered a restaurant called Burrito Gonzalez that we absolutely love, and their nachos are the closest thing to actual Mexican food you will find in London.”
  • Brick Lane: “To try authentic Indian food, Brick Lane has a slew of affordable Indian restaurants.”
  • Shoreditch: “I also spent a lot of time in Shoreditch, particularly in Spitalfield’s Market. It’s a great place to go for lunch and there are some really fun, trendy brunch places such as Duck and Waffle in that area.”
  • The SkyGarden: Another cool thing we did–that was expensive but worth it–was to have breakfast at the SkyGarden. You’ll really never be bored in London but those were some of my go-to places!”

While Lexie was abroad, she also took the train to Paris; traveled to Dublin, the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland, Amsterdam, Prague, and Berlin; and took a program trip to the Lake District in England.

Check out her blog, Mustangs on the Move, to get tips on making the most of your time while you’re abroad!


You can check each of Lexie’s programs to Costa Rica, Madrid, and London on our website.


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