University: Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona
Field of study: International Business Administration
Study type: semester abroad
To live in Spain one day – that was a big wish of mine for a long time. With my semester abroad at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, I fulfilled exactly this wish and enjoyed every day in the Catalan capital. After a study trip in 2015, I fell in love with this beautiful Mediterranean city so much that I had to come back! Check liuxers.com to see UR study abroad opportunities.
But before the adventure started, there was of course a lot to do. In addition to the organisation, which was easy with the help of the agency MicroEdu, it was important to decide on courses, look for an apartment, book the flight, pack, etc. I started with choosing a course and the UAB got you there not easy, because the selection is huge. The UAB has a special program for students from abroad, the Pre-Established Program. As a result, all courses take place exclusively with students from abroad and you are not taught on the large campus that is outside the city, but in two different buildings that are centrally located (one, Eixample, is located just a three-minute walk to Passeig de Gràcia station, the second, Sant Pau, is near the Sagrada Familia).
In addition, this program means that the courses are similar in size to those at the DHBW, i.e. a maximum of 30 people. Due to the internationality of the program, English is the language of the course, all subjects were held in English, you had to get used to the Spanish accent at first, but then communication was easy. If you would like to take a Spanish course in addition to everyday Spanish, you can do that too, and these are offered at different levels of difficulty.
Due to my course of study, I had to consider three specific criteria when choosing a course: HR and finance had to be covered and I had to achieve 20 ETCS. Since every course at the UAB is rated with 6 ETCS, at least four subjects had to be chosen. I made the following choice:
- International Finance
- Human Resource Management
- Business in Action – Local Companies in a Global World
- Managerial Skills for International Business
Each of the courses had a duration of two times 1.5 hours per week, resulting in twelve weekly hours, which take place from Monday to Thursday, on Fridays there are generally no classes. In both buildings there are rooms where you can work in addition to the lessons, in the first building there is a smaller computer room, in the second building there is a large library. These are also required regularly, because what I perceived as a big difference to the DHBW is the fact that many tasks had to be done outside of class, there was a lot of homework, and sometimes group projects and reports. It should also be mentioned that there are midterms, i.e. a second examination phase in the middle of the semester. Overall I can say that Ifound each of the above subjects interesting and would choose it again, but now a more detailed description.
International Finance at Cristina Vinyes (SA2008E):
This subject mainly dealt with exchange rates, how they are calculated in different ways and by different means, the economic implications and risks involved. Case studies on current topics made the importance of different currencies clear. The lessons themselves are very practical, usually a unit consisted of a short theoretical part, the joint calculation of some tasks and a revision, often supplemented by a small test.
Human Resources Management at Maydo Arderiu (SA2044E):
This subject surprised me the most in terms of content, since I actually had a clear idea of the content of HRM. The lecturer Maydo designs her lessons a bit differently than you are used to here and this made HRM a very interactive and varied event. The entire semester was characterized by one document, and over the three months everyone worked out a marketing plan for themselves. We worked on all the central elements of HRM, but they were always connected to us as individuals. This marketing plan contained, for example, a personal professional and private vision, values that are important to us and a life strategy. The initial skepticism quickly disappeared and I was able to learn a lot about myself, my private environment and my working world.
Business in Action: Local Companies in a Global World by Gabriel Izard (SA2043E):
As the name suggests, this subject was about getting to know and analyzing local, i.e. Spanish and Catalan, companies. On the one hand, case studies, which were processed in class and by means of homework, and on the other hand, visits to local companies, which we analyzed and compared using group work and presentations, helped. Through discussions, we put ourselves in the shoes of different stakeholders, compared the companies to US, German and Asian companies and discovered trends for different industries. The lessons were very interactive, the lecturer brought a wide range of knowledge and the local companies, including the car manufacturer Seat or the local beer brewery Damm, which exports worldwide, haveexciting and very informative guided tours prepared. This subject particularly showed me that Spanish companies are very adaptable and that the Spanish economy is doing everything it can to improve its current situation.
Managerial Skills for International Business at Maydo Arderiu (SA2041E):
As a “credit filler”, I was completely free to choose this course and, similar to HRM, Maydo also made managerial skills very varied. Theory was supplemented by indoor and outdoor activities, film sequences and practical examples from her career. The aim of this course was to introduce us to important management theories and to reinforce skills that make a good manager. This course is not only very varied in terms of methodology, but also in terms of content. In addition to motivation, leadership and teamwork, topics such as sales strategies or expatriates were also dealt with.
After the courses were chosen, I slowly started looking for an apartment. It quickly became clear that I would move in with three fellow students. It was important to us that we wanted to live relatively centrally, preferably in Barcelona’s old town or on the beach. Various sites offer short-term rentals, such as www.airbnb.com, www.spotahome.de or www.shbarcelona.de. We ended up going with the latter, a local agency that, while charging a relatively high agency fee, offers reliability and, more importantly, equal-sized rooms. For an apartment with four bedrooms, a large living room with a television, a modern kitchen with a dining table, a study room with a larger table and two bathrooms, we paid just under €490 per month.
Our apartment was in the El Raval district, which is often compared to Kreuzberg in Berlin, a district that is in transition and is home to many different cultures and nationalities. During the day life rages here, due to the proximity to the Rambla and the Liceu station, there are many tourists, especially from March, but at night it is advisable to be careful – although this aspect clearly applies to all of Barcelona and not just exclusively to El Raval. From our apartment we were in a few minutes on the Rambla, in ten minutes at the port, in six minutes at the nearest bus and metro station, in twenty minutes at the university and in ten minutes at Lidl.
We bought a youth trimester ticket for the metro, bus and train, for €105 we could travel as often as we needed for three months. Despite the big city, a lot can be reached on foot in Barcelona, bikes or e-scooters can be rented from €10 per day (rather €10 per hour for e-scooters) without any problems. Since we have also made two road trips by car, once along the Costa Brava with Girona as the final destination and once south with the destination Valencia, we had to rent a car for this. This went smoothly and even if you spontaneously need a car, you can rent one for the next day. Depending on the car, the age of the driver and the extent of insurance, the price varies, both times we were around €80 per day. Of course, there are also fuel costs and if you drive on the motorway, there are also toll costs. Depending on the route, these can be relatively high, so you should definitely take this into account and maybe research it beforehand.
But I was also able to learn a lot outside of the lectures, had exciting experiences and thoroughly enjoyed my three months in Barcelona. Barcelona offers a huge range of leisure activities, the culture of the Spaniards is something very special and due to the amount of free time we had enough time to travel in Spain, Portugal and Morocco. But now back to Barcelona.
If I had to name five things (not easy at all to limit myself to five points!) that I liked the most there and that I miss the most, it would be these:
Watch the sunset from the bunkers
The bunkers are a derelict complex on one of Barcelona’s hills and have become a real meeting point for students, as the view is breathtaking and the atmosphere is really great.
How the Spaniards party until it gets light again
In Spain, the clocks seem to tick a bit differently, dinner is usually not eaten until 9: 30 p.m., so the party doesn’t start until 1: 30 a.m. at the earliest. This can mean coming home at sunrise after dancing the night away to Spanish reggaeton. Barcelona not only has a lot to offer when it comes to clubs, there are also countless bars with impressive cocktail menus that invite you to turn night into day.
Bike ride along the beach and the port
As described above, renting a bike is lightning fast and the promenade is perfect for cycling.
Eat ice cream with a view of the Sagrada Familia
Next to the Sagrada Familia there are small parks and if you are lucky you can get a spot with a view of the beautiful, but still unfinished building.
Stroll through Barrio Gotico and El Born
These two districts belong to the old town of Barcelona and, in addition to beautiful architecture, small alleys and inviting restaurants, have small shops that not only sell souvenirs but much more. You just have to be careful: you’re guaranteed to get lost here, so just keep walking, at some point you’ll hopefully come out at the right end!
As mentioned before, we also used some of our weekends to explore Spain. In addition to the capital Madrid, which impressed us with its royal character, and our road trips to Girona and Valencia, we visited Seville, a city in southern Andalusia. All four places are beautiful and have their own special charm, but Seville in particular impressed me very much and is definitely worth a visit. Lisbon in Portugal and Fès in Morocco were also wonderful experiences, both cities very unusual and beautiful in their own way.
There are a few things to consider when making your choice. Barcelona is a very touristy city, which becomes particularly clear from mid-March, when the Rambla is full of tourists and you hear more German and English on the streets than Spanish or Catalan, the official language of Catalonia, which is widely spoken in Barcelona. As a result, the prices for local transport, restaurants and entrance fees are still average compared to Germany, but high compared to the rest of Spain. In addition, the many tourists also attract pickpockets, which is why you really have to watch out for your valuables at all times, but especially in public places and in the metro. The tuition fees in Barcelona, especially compared to Seville, are relatively high at around €2850 and the semester is also about 1.5 to 2 months shorter than in Seville.
Nevertheless, I would always choose Barcelona and am more than grateful for the wonderful time in one of the most beautiful cities in Europe.