If you read my last blog post, you know that one of the main reasons that I stayed in Spain is to study abroad. It has been the most enriching experience of my life and I recommend it to pretty much anyone who is looking to expand their horizons.
In this post, I’ll be explaining everything you need to know about Studying Abroad in Spain– how to get started, what to expect, and some pros and cons of it all.
If you’re interested in finding out about Study Abroad, keep reading!
How to Get Started
I may be biased, but if you ever get the opportunity to study abroad, I say “go for it!” I would encourage you to go to any country that intrigues you, but I can only speak from my own experience, so I will focus on Spain– however, I am sure that most things carry over to other countries as well. First things first, let’s talk about how to get started:
1) Research. This is the most important step when deciding to study abroad. Researching different countries, schools, and programs is important to find out if said country is a good fit for you. It is also very important to be up to date on the political climate, social and major cultural differences, and safety for Americans in that country. My advice would be to make a ranking of the top 5 countries/cities that you would like to study abroad at in order to plan accordingly.
2) Plan. If you are in college, talk to your Academic Advisor or the Study Abroad Department at your school. They are going to give you much more insight about when to go, where to go, and how to do it based off of your personal case. For example, if you are a Sophomore in college and you need to take a course that is only offered every two years, it might be wise for you to finish out your Sophomore year and study abroad Junior year.
3) Financial Aid. I wouldn’t want you to discount studying abroad just because of the price. Do your research! Most of the time, it is substantially cheaper to study in a foreign university than it is in America (like pretty much anything else). Also, in many cases, some of your school scholarships and grants can help cover Study Abroad fees. It’s definitely worth looking into if you’re interested.
4) Get prepared. If you are going to be studying in another country, chances are there will be another language involved. If you know you are going to move to China for 6 months in one year, start taking some Mandarin classes or watching Youtube videos to brush up on the languages. If you are studying through a program, it is probable that your academic courses abroad will be in English and language courses will be included in your load. But it is never a bad thing to be too prepared.
University in Spain is quite different than an American University. The school itself is a place to take classes and study. That is all. There are rarely events on campus. Don’t expect to go to class all day, go to lunch in the caf with all of your friends, and then catch a rival football game in the evening. Most of the time, you study in cohorts—which means you have the same exact class schedule as a group of other students in your major. Classes are usually all in the morning or all in the afternoon. If you have morning classes, you go to class from about 9am to 2pm and if you’re in the afternoon group, you go from 4pm to 9pm. The campus itself is a place to go to class and study. Maybe there will be a small “bar” to grab a bite to eat, but nothing compared to the grandiose food courts often found in American universities.
Reasons to Study Abroad in Spain:
1) Instant comradery: Since you are in cohorts, these class groups tend to get very close. It isn’t strange to get invited to drinks or tapas from a group of classmates or even to meet up to study together. Spanish people are very ‘people-centered’, so it is natural for them to reach out. They also tend to be very open and take you under their wing and show you a good time, if you so wish.
2) Useful language skills: Spanish is the second most important language in the world, behind English. Since you’ve got English covered, why not learn another language? There is no better way of learning a language than by pure immersion. You would be surprised how much one’s level of Spanish can improve by just constantly being around it.
3) Exposure to different cultures: Spain has such a rich culture. If you study in cities such as Madrid, Barcelona, or Salamanca, there will be people from all over the world studying and living there. In my cohort at my university in Spain, there was one American (me), two Germans, one Japanese, 3 Chinese, 2 Cubans, 1 Brit, and a bunch of Spanish people. The multicultural environment was so enriching. The only common language we had amongst each other was Spanish, so we were all united somehow. We shared different foods and cultural celebrations. Other cities in Spain also have international students, but tend to be a bit more traditional.. Spanish culture is a whole blog post in and of itself, but getting to know it will expand your horizons in ways you never knew possible.
4) Proximity to other major cities: Spain is in a great location where you can travel to every major European city within just a few hours. There are a number of major international airports so reaching any destination is considerably cheap and easy. London, Oporto, Morocco, Milan, Amsterdam, Zurich, Berlin are all just a couple of hours away by plane.
5) Beefs up your resume: employers LOVE to see international experience on a resume. It indicates that you are globally minded and can bring fresh new perspectives to the workplace.
Studying abroad is NOT for you if:
1) You don’t really want to go. I am a firm believer that we should do what we want. If you don’t want to do something that is optional, don’t do it. If you go into something with a bad attitude, it will make your experience a bitter one. A very wise coach of mine used to say, “your attitude dictates your actions, and your actions dictate the outcome.” In other words, if you go into it with a closed mind or not wanting to go, you probably won’t have a good time and are better off continuing your degree at home.
2) You don’t like learning new things. I know this is a bit outplayed, but what you put into the experience is what you will get out of it. If you go in with a good attitude, willing to learn, willing to mess up, and open to new situations, you will get much more out of your experience than someone who goes in timidly or with a bad attitude.
3) You don’t want to go outside of your comfort zone. Soooo, it is going to be hard. Learning a new place, a new language, making new friends, trying new foods– it is all uncomfortable. I know. I remember going through a stage where I was afraid to speak Spanish because, although I could understand most of what people were saying to me, I would mess up—I would confuse words, conjugate verbs wrong, use the wrong expression… IT IS OKAY TO MESS UP! You will never learn if you don’t mess up. That goes for many things beyond languages.
To me, studying abroad is an amazing experience that has very few cons in comparison to all of the pros it comes with. That being said, it is not an easy thing, and you should make sure to speak with an advisor at your school to make sure your credits transfer correctly and taking the right courses.
If you have any specific questions, feel free to send me a direct message here or you can DM me on Instagram @SpainInColor