University: Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona
Study type: semester abroad
I took part in the pre-established program at Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona in September 2010 and had a wonderful few months there. Check jibin123.com to see Semester Abroad In University of California San Diego.
Barcelona is a city you just have to live in if you have the opportunity.
I arrived a few days before the official start of the semester and was greeted with a wonderful, warm 30°. We then took a taxi to temporary accommodation until my apartment became available with a Spanish couple. Barcelona has that certain flair that takes some getting used to, but is definitely worth it.
As soon as I arrived I went straight to the beach; In high season this is littered with “cerveza, agua, fanta, colaaa” sellers and nice little Thai women who want to sell their massages to men, but you get used to it very quickly and become a master at shaking your head.
The first day of the unit was extremely relaxed. A nice introduction with the first information sheets and getting to know the new fellow students. I, like (unfortunately) many others, had a few overlapping problems in my courses and was unfortunately unable to take one of the courses I wanted. Here I can only recommend choosing one or two alternative courses in advance and taking any learning agreements you may need with you as a prophylactic, because unfortunately you only find out about this problem in advance.
The classes themselves are relatively small (about 30 students) and everything is very personal and harmonious (compared to German public universities). The professors are sometimes very entertaining and it can also happen that towards the end of the semester you go out for a few “cervezas or cava” together. This is a side of studying that at first almost shocked me, but in the end it brought me quite a bit of experience.
In my semester, around 2/3 of the students came from the United States, which initially cost me a lot of effort to give presentations to “native speakers”, but that was one of the best things that could have happened to me. Not only did I improve my (absolutely non-existent) Spanish, but also my English. In my department, a lot of presentations are given and essays are written. If you make an effort, you will be rewarded with good and fair grades. With the mid-term exams you can assess your grade very well and work on it accordingly.
So much for the university area.
The city of Barcelona itself is just a dream. I was lucky enough to live with a German woman who had been living there for 5 years and her Spanish boyfriend. Since I didn’t speak a word of Spanish, the first few weeks were a bit difficult for me because you don’t get very far with English. Although I also attended a Spanish course from the university, I definitely cannot recommend it. On the one hand, it is super expensive (yet you have to buy the book again separately) and the level is very low and progress is slow. It is better to get together with a few people on site and look for a language course in small groups yourself. Notices for this are hanging all around the universities and in the city center.
To live it is an absolute dream. After the last lecture, we went directly to the beach every day, in the evenings we met for tapas in fantastic restaurants that I can only warmly recommend (e.g. tripadvisor.com).
The clubs by the sea are nice, crowded but very expensive. On Thursdays, the Sutton is recommended and you should definitely have seen the Xampaneria. In general, Barcelona has something to offer for every day. Every day there are new streets with cute cafes and bars that are worth a visit. I was lucky and lived right in the pedestrian zone at Plaza Catalunya. From here you can reach almost everything. Nevertheless, I would definitely recommend everyone to live near the yellow metro line, because both the one campus (St. Pau) and the other in the Eixample district are on this line (Barceloneta, the beach too, by the way).
The metro system in Barcelona is a dream compared to Germany and also absolutely affordable, but you should definitely pay attention to your belongings!!! You really have to emphasize this explicitly!! Keep eyes open!! Especially on the subway. I couldn’t imagine such petty crime at all, but unfortunately it’s the sad reality. It is stolen like crazy. So I never recommend taking big papers with you or expensive cameras or cell phones. I took an old cell phone with me for my time in Barcelona and that was enough. It’s all quite unusual at first, but you quickly become aware of it. Over time you know who and what to look out for and learn to deal with it very quickly.
All in all it was a fantastic time and I learned so much, a new culture, the Spanish cosiness (including siesta) and great people from all over the world. I definitely don’t want to miss this time and I’m looking forward to visiting my friends again soon.