Catalonia: Beautiful Beaches, Great People, Wonderful Experience Past Review

By (Civil Engineering, Louisiana Tech University) for

Academic Studies Abroad: Study Abroad in Barcelona, Spain

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
My study abroad experience was definitely worthwhile. This was the first time I had traveled to a foreign country not knowing anyone. I learned a lot about myself and how I react to different people, situations, and cultures. This can be very beneficial, knowing how you interact with people, in business and other social situations. I have been traveling abroad for 6 years now and this was the trip that made me realized the importance and joy of researching the city/country before traveling. I plan on doing this whenever I travel now. It is so much easier to enjoy when you get to your destination. Seeing other cultures, helped me realize parts about the American culture that I wouldn't have otherwise thought about.

Review Photos

Academic Studies Abroad: Barcelona - Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona Photo Academic Studies Abroad: Barcelona - Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona Photo Academic Studies Abroad: Barcelona - Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona Photo Academic Studies Abroad: Barcelona - Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona Photo Academic Studies Abroad: Barcelona - Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona Photo

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 1 month - 6 months

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

I loved my professors. In my Spanish classes back in America, the teacher always said that he/she would speak English in class but always ended up speaking English. Well, this Spanish teach actually stuck to speaking Spanish. So if there was a word that I didn't know, it would be described in Spanish until I understood what it meant. This helped me start to think in Spanish. The only problem with me not truly picking up the language was the time period I was in the country. I learned a lot while I was there but I am still not fluent. I think if I were there for a year, I would truly be able to speak the language. As for my International Business class, I loved it. Our professor was actually an international business man, so he had real world stories to go along with what he was teaching. He even got a few of his fellow business men and women in Europe to come and share their stories of how they got started in business. The class did require work but it wasn't impossible to do and have fun at the same time.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

I loved my host country administrator. My group of ASA students got a package deal; we had a married couple as our administrators (one was American and the other was actually from the Catalonian region of Spain (the region that Barcelona is located in). ASA was a small program. I liked that when we went on excursions we were not a huge group that takes forever to do anything (we were a group of only 10, including both administrators). In other words, traveling as a group was easier. I've been on trips with groups from 42 to 28 people and that is even difficult; I couldn't imagine some of the other groups of 200. My expectations were exceeded. The administrators were so nice and helpful - very knowledgeable. And I loved the small group size. Everything was less complicated and it made traveling enjoyable instead of a hassle.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

I loved the idea of staying with a local. I just wanted to live with a family and not an older woman with grown kids. I also would have liked if she knew a little bit of English. I felt like we were just living in her space and that she didn't really care that we were there to learn about her and her country. She did make some pretty good food but there is more to living with someone than food. Everyone else in my group had more of a family type host family. I think me and one of the other girls who lived with me were the only ones that had a host "mother" basically. I felt pretty safe in the neighbor hood I was in. There was an elementary school just a block away. The metro was only about 4 to 5 blocks away. Also, there was a dog park, a cafe, and a library 4 blocks from the apartment. The apartment felt like a good bit away from the University but everyone else traveled just about as much as I did. The nightlife was not too difficult to get to by metro and when returning, the taxi wasn't too expensive with a full car. The only problem I had was my host "family" situation. I feel like because I didn't know any Spanish, my host "mother" took a lot of her problems out on me (because I couldn't say anything back to her). I was still fed, had my clothes washed, took showers, got clean sheets, etc. It was just a little awkward sometimes. I personally just wanted a family to live with to really understand the Spanish home dynamic. It would have been nice to have a host "mother" who knew some English too. But I am the outliers in the group because everyone else had a family who knew some English. I guess I just pulled the short straw on that one.

* Food:

The food everywhere was fantastic. I would definitely recommend seafood while in Barcelona. If you see Bikini on the menu, it is referring to a sandwich that is basically grilled cheese with ham... and they are awesome. The rabbit is good too. If it is something local, try it. Unless you are allergic to it, it wont hurt you. Be adventurous and you may be surprised. I didn't think I would like muscles or snails or octopus but they were all good. I would definitely recommend eating dinner on the beach at sunset one day; the weather is awesome in the summer at that time and the food and drinks were amazing...not to mention the view. Try to stay away from American restaurants while you are there. Yes, you can try it to see the difference, but for the most part it is going to be extremely expensive and probably not what you expected. If you stick to local foods, you will not be disappointed.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

There was a big celebration in June (the Feast of Sant Joan). This was like a 4th of July celebration for us. There are fireworks and big bonfires. The beach is the place to go for this celebration. There is a lot of drinking and a lot of firecrackers. I decided to stay in that night because of the large crowds and the craziness that I heard goes on. I however say kids with firecrackers on the street the whole week before and heard fireworks from about the time the sun went down until midnight. I just don't like large intoxicated crowds with fire, so I decided to stay in. But of the people that went out that night, I heard they had fun. Just remember to be safe, especially because you are in a foreign country. The excursions that ASA chose were amazing. Bilbao is amazing. The culture, the drinks, the food, the architecture, and people, everything is amazing about Bilbao and the Basque region of Spain. The Guggenheim museum was amazing and the tour of the city was awesome. Our tour guide even bought us a round of the local drink txakoli. Bilbao is not a place to be missed. Another weekend excursion we went on was to Costa Brava. I spent my 21st birthday in one of the most beautiful places I think I have ever been. The beach was absolutely beautiful. We visited and winery on the way and had a private tasting. We also visited the Salvador Dali museum and then we visited the house that he lived in up until he died. While we were there. Me and a few other people rented kayaks and when out in the clear blue calm waters. There were lots of rocks around to explore. It was a very fun private feeling experience. We all hopped out in one area and took a little swim in the cool waters. I literally couldn't see anyone but the people I was with. Besides our weekend excursions, we had day excursions and sometimes just afternoon excursions to places or neighborhoods in Barcelona. One day we even went to a local cooking class and learned to cook traditional Spanish food in Spanish. We went to a festival in Sitges where groups arrange flower petals into designs on the coble stone street. Crowds of people line up to see the beautiful designs and eggs dance on fountains. One day we also visited Montserrat. There were many weddings going on here while we visited the beautiful monastery. After viewing the chapel, we hiked up the mountain for a breathtaking view. The hike was well worth it. Pamplona running of the bulls is during the summer. While I was there, many of my fellow classmates went to Pamplona and ran with the bulls or just watched. It isn't too far by train from Barcelona but it was during the week and I didn't want to miss class and didn't want to go by myself. Everyone who I heard went had fun and recommended wearing enclosed walking shoes because of the glass and trash. All I say to people who want to do this is it is very dangerous and be safe. People did die the year that I was in Spain, so don't think that you're invincible.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

* Safety:

I didn't have any health issues while in Spain. I think I got into pretty good shape walking everywhere, actually. None of the food made me sick. Also, I didn't have to get any vaccinations before I went.

If you could do it all over again would you choose the same program? Yes


* Money: How easily were you able to live on a student's budget?

(1 = not very easy/$200+ on food & personal expenses/week, 2.5 = $100/week, 5 = very easily/minimal cost)


* Did your program have a foreign language component? Yes
Language acquisition improvement?

I lived with a Spanish woman who did not speak any English. This made some communication difficult but forced me to use what I knew and improve my vocabulary. Even though I cannot speak much Spanish (in a grammatically correct way) now, I understand a lot more when I hear it because of the amount of Spanish I was exposed to while in the program. Pretty much the only time I used English was with my fellow ASA students. Sometimes we even spoke in Spanish to one another so that we could get some practice in.

If applicable, to what degree did your living situation aid your language acquisition?

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
  • Apartment
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • International Students
  • Host Family

A Look Back

* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? Don't be afraid to try new things. Be safe and remember you are in a foreign country. Enjoy the time you have there and don't sleep the day away, you can do all of that you want when you get back. Someone who is willing to learn will definitely benefit from this program. Someone who wants to experience a different culture and be immersed in it, will benefit from this ASA program. I heard from most of the other people in the program, that they were just living in apartments with fellow programmers. I feel like ASA really gives you a true view of the city you are living in, not just the "tourist" version.