A semester abroad in Barcelona
1. Reasons for Barcelona
Barcelona is a culturally diverse, cosmopolitan and also very touristy city in northeastern Spain, right on the Mediterranean. In addition, with its seven universities, it is one of the largest student cities in Europe and offers students numerous inexpensive cultural and leisure opportunities for every taste. The autonomous community of Catalonia, with its capital Barcelona, is the second strongest economic region in Spain and is therefore largely spared from poverty and unemployment. This is also one of the reasons why Catalonia has always been pushing for independence from Spain.
If you want to improve your language skills, Barcelona is definitely a good place to go, as in most cases you can communicate in both English and Spanish and you will inevitably come into contact with the regional language Catalan.
Personally, the choice of Barcelona was very easy for me, as I had already got to know the city on a day trip with the school and was so enthusiastic that I definitely wanted to return.
2. Planning & organization
The idea of doing a semester abroad in Barcelona came up to me at the end of 2013 and after I decided to go to Universitat Autonoma at the beginning of 2014 , I was able to set the course for the semester in January. I received my confirmation at the end of March and was able to make further preparations , such as booking the outbound flight. Although the semester only started on September 4th, I flew to Barcelona two weeks earlier. On the one hand, to have enough time to look for an apartment , as it is very risky to decide on an apartment from home and, on the other hand, to take a Spanish language course, which I can recommend to everyone, because even with basic knowledge you can get along relatively well in everyday situations.
Since Spain is an EU country, I did not have to pay any additional costs for health insurance because these were covered by my statutory health insurance. All I had to do was state that I would be staying abroad for a longer period of time and that, in the event of treatment, I would advance the costs and submit the receipts to my health insurance company after the semester abroad was over.
3. University & course choice
As already mentioned, I chose the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona. The main campus of the UAB is located a little outside the city, but there are two small campuses for foreign students, which are located in the middle of the city center. While I only visited the San Pau campus, which is housed in a historic hospital, at the introductory event , I had all my courses on the Eixample campus , which is located in the district of the same name and is directly adjacent to the famous Passeig de Gracia boulevard .
You don’t have your courses and lectures in large lecture halls, but in small seminar rooms with course sizes of 20 to 30 people. This certainly promotes learning success and also enables constant exchange with the professors . Of course, the professors also expect you to collaborate, and collaboration is also included in the grade in some courses. Mainly, the students will, however, on the basis of presentations and group work evaluated, for example, case studies from the industry to treat. Exams must also be written, but these are not entirely decisive for the final grade, as is usually the case. At least that’s how it was in my courses, but my fellow students from other courses also told me something similar. Check jibin123 to see more reviews from current students.
I chose the International Marketing , International Finance, Stratetic Management of the Firm and Spanish Beginner courses . In the first two courses I was taught marketing strategies and financial markets in an international context, while Strategic Management of the Firm was mainly about the various strategic orientations of companies. In my fourth course, Spanish Beginner, the basic knowledge of Spanish was taught and tested at the end of the semester by an oral and a written exam.
Information on local contact persons is available at the introductory event at the beginning of the semester. Regarding the tuition fees, I can also say that they are in the four-digit range. Therefore, it is better to make sure beforehand that you can get a decent rate of Auslandsbafög .
In addition to the high costs, the only drawback at the UAB was that you don’t come into contact with Spanish students on the campus in the city center and so you usually use English to communicate. If you still want to improve your Spanish, you can come into contact with the locals at the city’s numerous student hotspots or try your hand at Spanish more often in everyday situations .
4. Living in Barcelona
The search for an apartment in Barcelona has proven to be relatively easy, as the living situation is generally pretty good and there are, above all, numerous shared apartments. It is best to take at least a few days to search on site and spend the night in a hostel, for example. This way you can avoid nasty surprises and possibly get to know your future roommates.
There are numerous pages on the Internet that offer available apartments and rooms, such as “easypiso” or “idealista”. You should definitely inspect the apartments in detail, as many offers on the Internet are better presented than they really are. For a room in or near the center you should plan at least 300 to 400 euros, but the standard in most apartments is not as high as in comparable apartments in this price range in Germany.
But it is also possible to get apartments at affordable prices in great locations . So my apartment was right across from the city park and only a 5 minute walk from the beach. You should also make sure that there is a metro station near the apartment, which is actually always the case due to the very well-developed metro network.
5. Practical from everyday life
Anyone with a credit card is well advised to take it with you, as you can make payments in almost any location without any problems and without incurring fees. However, if you only have an EC card, such as Maestro, that is not a problem, as most shops accept them. But you should make sure that you withdraw larger and larger amounts, as there is usually a fee of 5 euros for withdrawals with EC cards. Cash, debit cards and other valuables are better left at home when you don’t need them, as there are numerous cases of pickpocketing in Barcelona. Even if anything has been stolen from me or none of my friends, I advise you to always keep an eye on your valuables. But this does not only apply to Barcelona,
I can also recommend the purchase of a monthly or three-month ticket for the metro , as you can really get to all the important places and sights with it and thus save a lot of money with daily use. These tickets also entitle you to use the bus network, which is similarly well developed. In contrast to Germany, taxi driving is a lot cheaper and you can see almost more taxis on the streets than other cars.
Before you come to Barcelona, I recommend booking a one-week flat rate for the respective mobile phone contract abroad, so that you can, for example, fall back on maps from the start, which helps you a lot with orientation. In Barcelona, the best thing to do is to get a Spanish SIM card, for example from Orange. These are available from less than 10 euros with 1GB data volume and very affordable voice rates.
In addition, when looking for an apartment, I advise you to make sure that there is WiFi in the apartment, which should now be the case in most apartments. If you are registered with McFit in Germany and do not want to do without training in Barcelona, you also have the opportunity to train there, as a branch has recently opened there.
In general, the cost of living is comparable to those in Germany and the price level is not that different either.
6. Recreational opportunities
Thanks to its enormous diversity, Barcelona offers numerous leisure opportunities for students. The well-known sights such as the Sagrada Familia, Park Güell or Casa Batllo can easily be visited as a student even at times when they are not populated by tourists and you often get a student discount on admission. In addition, it is fun to stroll through the old town, across the Ramblas or Passeig de Gracia and take a look at the unique architecture in the breaks between the courses. Relaxation and refuge from the crowds can be found in the Parque de la Ciutadella city park. The visit of a real Catalan restaurant or a tapas bar are also among the things that you should definitely have done. You can also lie down on the city beach or swim in the Mediterranean, which is possible until November thanks to the warm climate .
Even sports enthusiasts will get their money , as there are numerous public soccer and basketball courts, volleyball courts on the beach and (outdoor) gyms to drive even sports. You can also visit the FC Barcelona complex in the Les Corts district. The club is one of the world’s best in all sports such as football, basketball and handball and a visit to the games is definitely worth it. Especially the Camp Nou, which is the largest stadium in Europe with almost 100,000 seats, should be visited and marveled at the football skills of Messi, Neymar and Co.
At the end of September, the big city festival “La Mercè” always takes place in Barcelona, which lasts five days and comes up with numerous cultural highlights.
Especially for students, the nightlife certainly plays a major role, which offers numerous student bars where you can indulge in a cool Estrella or two inexpensively, such as the 100 Montaditos right on Placa Catalunya or the Espit Chupitos, where you can take shots very peculiar way. But there is also no shortage of nightclubs in the city that offer something for every musical taste . I can especially recommend the Razzmatazz, where live concerts often take place, the Opium, which is located next to other clubs on the party mile on the beach promenade and the Blingbling, where you only meet students.
You also have the option of visiting the nearby city of Girona from Barcelona or taking a day trip to the Montserrat mountain, which is only an hour’s train ride away and with its Benedictine monastery is one of the landmarks of Catalonia.
I am very satisfied with the decision to do a semester abroad in Barcelona and I would definitely do it again. During the four months I made many new friends from all over the world, had numerous unforgettable experiences and learned for life.
The learning success at the University of Autonoma was really good thanks to the small courses, but if you can’t or don’t want to pay the high tuition fees, there is also the possibility of applying to one of the other universities via the ERASMUS program. In my opinion, the city of Barcelona is a perfect place to study , as you get to know students from different countries almost every day, it is easy to improve your language skills and thanks to the variety and the many leisure activities you can switch off very well.
If you are interested in a semester abroad in Barcelona and have any questions, please feel free to contact me. Hasta luego!