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What it’s Really Like to Be a Student in Barcelona

by Greta Banks
UAB in Barcelona

For me, the months leading up to my study abroad experience were filled with grand expectations of traveling to a new country every weekend, relaxing on beautiful Barcelona beaches, and making memories with new friends. As I got closer to my departure date, however, I realized there was a huge aspect of my study abroad experience that was missing from these mental pictures: the “study” part.

I knew from every other study abroad student that I had ever spoken to or followed on Instagram that I was about to have the best four months of my life, but I knew almost nothing about what to expect from my school, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB). I knew the basics from my program info, and I was able to learn some more by visiting the website for my future university, but I still couldn’t picture it. Now that I’m halfway through my semester at UAB, here is a bit of what I have learned:

UAB is a large university, with a fairly traditional campus where more than 26,000 undergraduates attend regular classes. However, that campus is actually outside of the city. UAB has two other campuses inside Barcelona, dedicated to their study abroad program.

Students come from all over the world to study in Barcelona, and with UAB, they do – right in the center of it!

One campus, Sant Pau, is just a 15-minute walk from La Sagrada Família, one of Barcelona’s – and Gaudí’s – greatest masterpieces. The other, Eixample, is about four blocks from Plaça Catalunya, one of Barcelona’s main squares and shopping centers.

Sagrada Familia in Barrcelona, Spain

Classes at UAB are small; most of my classes have between 20 and 25 people in them.

The language classes, however, are even smaller, because they are broken up so specifically by ability level. My Spanish class has four people in it – myself included! While that may sound awkward or intimidating, it really isn’t. In fact, it is my favorite class, mainly because of its size. Since it is so small, we have far more opportunities to ask questions and practice our speaking skills. I am constantly engaged while I am sitting in this class, and there’s no time to get bored even though it is a three-and-a-half-hour class.

Study abroad classes are also all taught in English. Despite this, most of your professors and many of your classmates won’t be American. Most professors are Spanish, but they also speak fluent English, Catalan, and sometimes German, French, Italian, and more. There are also other study abroad students from Brazil, Belgium, Germany, China, and many other countries where English is not the primary language. So, while you will have the ease of learning in your own language, you will still be surrounded by many others. You’ll also get to spend every day in class with students from around the world. I’ve even been able to go to my classmates from Germany and Belgium for advice on where to go when I visit their countries.

Classes are also tailored to fit study abroad students.

Since there are students from various countries and cultures, professors tend to use a variety of teaching styles. Most of my classes consist of some lecturing and assigned readings, as is typical of classes I am used to at home. However, this is only a small part of it. In my management class, we do a lot of outdoor activities used in actual management training programs. In my economics classes, we frequently model real world issues and situations. In my Spanish class, we take field trips into local markets and barrios, and next week, as part of our food and restaurant unit, we are going to brunch during our class time.

While you are here to attend class, your professors know that you are also here to experience life in a different country. Attendance and classwork are important, but the professors at UAB are nice, and will try to help you out in any way they can. My professors all made sure to thoroughly explain how attendance affects our grade, and they also all gave me my midterm and finals dates during the first week to ensure that we had plenty of time to plan any travels around them. I have even have a professor with a standing offer to take students to the airport after class so they won’t have to skip class to take metro. They are also welcome to giving you any advice or recommendations about the city, like where to find good tapas, or where to visit on the weekend.

Though I was most excited to see the world while I was abroad, I do have to say that I am thoroughly enjoying my time as a student at UAB, and I will genuinely miss my professors and new classmates when I return home at the end of the semester.

This post about being a student in Barcelona was contributed by Margaret (Greta) Banks, who is spending her study abroad experience with AIFS in Barcelona, Spain.

What it's Really Like to be a Student in Barcelona | AIFS Study Abroad
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