Exchange in Barcelona

Field of study in Wageningen: Business and Consumer studies
Study period exchange: 04/02/2019 until 04/07/2019
Country (exchange): Spain
City (exchange): Barcelona
University (exchange): Universitat de Barcelona
Faculty (exchange): Faculty of Economics and Business

2. Motivation for exchange

Why did you choose to go on study exchange?

I have always been interested in discovering new countries and new cultures. I have travelled during the summer holidays for some years now, but Erasmus seemed like a perfect opportunity to discover countries and cultures in a completely different way, as you get the opportunity to live like a local. 

What is the reason you chose for this country/university?

I followed a Spanish language course at the WUR. I really wanted to improve my Spanish, so therefore I wanted to go to Spain. Furthermore, Spain appeals to me in a lot of aspects; because of the food, climate and the nice locals. When looking at the exchange opportunities, Barcelona directly caught my attention. It’s a vibrating and international city. You can also travel easily to other regions of Spain.

3. Accessibility to reach destination

Do you have any tips to reach your exchange destination?

The plane is the most obvious option. You can reach the country from almost every airport of The Netherlands. You can also take the train to Barcelona.

4. University and studying

Could you provide some general information about the followed courses?

How is the study formalized?

I chose courses from the third and fourth year of the bachelor program (a bachelor in Spain is four years). Therefore, the educational level was relatively high. My teachers uploaded all the required study material online, I only had to buy one book for a course. However, I didn’t have to prepare anything for the lectures and the discussed topics were not hard to follow overall. Therefore, the workload is not that high. However, a low workload doesn’t mean that the exams are easy.

You can choose to do a continuous or single evaluation in every course. Single evaluation means that your final exam counts for 100%. I chose to do the continuous evaluation, which means your final course grade is based on the results of the partial exams/ essays/ presentation and a final exam.

What is the culture of the university?

First of all, you don’t have to be in class right on time. Lecturers usually arrive ‘late’ (15 to 20 minutes), which wasn’t a very big problem to me because my lessons would otherwise start at 8am four days a week. Secondly, the main language of the university is Catalan. Therefore, it is useful if you have a basic level of Spanish/ Catalan if you want to ask for directions in the university or want to print something. Not everybody speaks English.
What I really enjoyed is that you have a kind of secondary school/ high school experience. My classes were with thirty people max, which means they were very interactive. Moreover, you study a topic for five months instead of eight weeks, which to me means I was better able to apply and remember detailed knowledge. Additionally, the lecturers are very approachable. You follow the classes with a relatively low number of people, which means the teachers know who you are and they have the time to answer your questions or help you in class.
Regarding the engagement with local students; it really depends on the courses you follow. If you follow a course in Catalan or Spanish, you are more involved with them obviously. I followed one course, International Business Management, which was mandatory for the local International Business students. Therefore, you can get more involved with them.

What does the university offer the student additionally?

My faculty was divided in three buildings right next to each other. Every building has its’ own cafeteria. The main building has two libraries. There is a cash machine in the first building as well. Moreover, there are copy shops in every building. The faculty is located next to the Diagonal, one of the most important roads in Barcelona. This means cafes or lunchrooms are nearby as well. The sportscentre is within a 15 minute walk from my faculty.

5. Housing-travelling-living

What are the possibilities for housing?

It is not possible to live on campus. You could search for a room via Facebook, Uniplaces, Spot a Home or via contacts in Barcelona. There is also an ESN (International Erasmus group) WhatsappGroup in which you can ask whether someone knows whether there is a room available.

Barcelona is divided into multiple neighbourhoods (Gracia, Eixample, Gothic, etc.). Rooms for students are available in every neighbourhood, so it is possible to live close to the university, beach, city centre, etc. You can decide to live on your own, in a shared apartment or with a ‘host mom/dad’.

What is the culture of the country like?

Overall, you can say that the Spanish population is far more relaxed and ‘laidback’ than the Dutch one. There is (overall) no rush to be in time and flexibility is key. It is also quite normal that people strike every two weeks. Students strike for better student loans or people that work in public transport strike for better working conditions. Consequences could be that there is no access to the school or that public transport runs irregularly. However, people respect these consequences and don’t make a really big deal out of it.

Moreover, Spanish people are very nice. They are very social and take time to understand you if you are not so fluent in Spanish/ Catalan.

Could you give a general price indication of the place of residence compared to living in Wageningen?

It is possible to rent a room for a relatively low price (300-400 euros). This depends on the size of the room and the location. Relatively big rooms, rooms with a balcony or at a ‘good’ location are more expensive (between 500 and 600 Euro).

Could you give some information about public transport infrastructure?

Public Transport is very well organized in Barcelona. The metro line is very well developed: it is highly likely there is a metro stop within two or three minutes from your current location. Metros run every two-three minutes during the day, in the evening every five – six minutes, but don’t run in the night (except Saturday going on Sunday night). The night bus is an alternative for this, or a taxi. There are a lot of taxis in the city and it is not expensive. Moreover, buses drive as well and there is a bus stop on every corner of the street. They are, most of the time, in time.

Public Transport is not expensive. You can buy a ten tracks card for 10 euros, but I would recommend to buy a 90 days unlimited card for 105 euros. The only big disadvantage is that it is a paper card, which means it is very vulnerable. However, if the print fades you can request a new one at the service counter at every metro stop. You can not get a new one if you lose it.

My faculty is at the edge of the city, so for me it took 25-30 minutes to travel there. There are multiple buses going to the university. You can also take the L3 metro line.  (Or take another line and switch at a station which has L3). However, because I had to start at the university at eight in the morning, the bus and metro could be really crowded. Sometimes I had to wait for the next one. Moreover, I was kicked out of the bus two times because the bus was blocked by striking students. So, I would suggest to take the metro if students or workers are striking (this is usually announced by the university/ information boards at the metro station). 

6. Free time

What are must-sees in the area? 

I would really recommend to join ESN when you want to go on a weekend trip. ESN organizes a lot of trips to other villages/ cities during the weekends (especially when there is a festivity in a particular city). I went on an organized ESN trip to Bilbao & Sant Sebastian and day trips to Valencia and Sitges. Erasmus Barcelona also organizes trips: during Eastern break I went to on a six day organized trip to Andalucia (south of Spain) and I went to Girona.

You can also travel to beach places near Barcelona (Tarragona, Tossa del Mar, Cadaquès, etc.) Buses depart from Estacio del Nord or you can take the train. You have to buy a separate ticket for these journeys, which could be relatively expensive (6,25 Euro per hour drive).

What does not appear in the travel guide, but is worth a visit?

In Barcelona itself: Montjuïc, Parc the Ciutadella, and the Bunkers of Carmel. Around Barcelona: Montserrat and nature parks are really nice to take a hike. You can also join Erasmus Barcelona, as they organize some trips around Barcelona to see waterfalls, volcanos, etcetera.

Furthermore, Google Maps is your best friend. Obviously if you need to look for directions, but you can also scroll through it to find a nice parc, brunch place or a ‘worthy Instagram photo’ spot.

Do you have general tips and tricks about leisure time?

I really enjoyed to just take a stroll through the city without a destination. You can discover so many amazing places in this way (street art, ice cream places or secondary clothing markets). You could also find me at the beach during May and June.

There are many good places for eating out (whether it is for brunch/ dinner), that the list will be endless. Personally I really liked Billy’s Brunch & Hammocks Juice Station & the Juice House for breakfast, Loft del Born & Santa Tapa for dinner and Timesburg Gold for burgers. For icecreams/ desserts: Brunch and Cake, Dino, Toppen.

In general, the food in Barcelona is amazing, so you won’t be disappointed so quickly (unless you eat around las Ramblas). For the pro- Instagrammers; take a nice picture in of the hammocks in Hammocks Juice Station.

There are also some food festivals from time to time; Indian dishes served by Musala73 taste really good.

I am not a kind of person who likes to regularly eat out or eat out at a fancy place, so the recommendations I just gave are for a quick bite and are relatively inexpensive.

Regarding going out/ clubbing, I would, again, really recommend to join ESN. You get free access to the night club Apollo on Thursday night with your ESN card. Razzmattaz and Otto Zutz are also some nice clubs for going out, because they have multiple floors at which different music is played. Also keep an eye on Facebook and Instagram, as you could get free access to some clubs if you know ‘the magic password’/ are on a guestlist.

If you like watching football games and drinking beer: George Payne is the place to be.

7. Challenges & best moment abroad

What was a challenge you have experienced?

Being dependent on public transport. I don’t like to be dependent on anything or anyone and I was determined to buy a bike the first day I would be in Barcelona, but bicycle lanes are not as safe as in Holland. So, I have had some frustrating times when I was kicked out of the bus because the road was blocked or when I was squeezed like a sardine in a can in the metro. But on the other hand, it is part of living a local life and it isn’t a very big problem when you arrive 10 minutes later because you had to wait for another bus.

What was your best memory abroad?

The people I have met. I met so many nice and caring people from all over the world and I became really close friends with a few of them. The people who are there for Erasmus are very open and spontaneous, because everybody is willing to meet new people.

In terms of ‘personal development’: I became more confident and spontaneous. Because there was room is class for interaction and discussion, I was less reluctant to share my opinion within and outside of class. Moreover, Erasmus really boosts your spontaneity. I went out with a group of complete strangers, went to a concert on my own, and I booked a short trip to Italy with a girl I met two days before.

8. Contact details

Would you ask more questions?

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