ISA in Barcelona - is there anything better?? Past Review

By (Journalism, University of Colorado - Boulder) for

ISA Study Abroad in Barcelona, Spain

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
I can't even begin to express just how worthwhile it was! If I could redo it 100 times I would! Although I did a lot of partying and had a lot of fun, I really felt like this improved my understanding of another culture and of life outside of the United States. Now anytime I see anything referencing Spain or hear the Spain Spanish accent, I get so excited. I feel like it's another piece of who I am now. This is something that I will never, ever forget.

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.

The classes weren't as difficult as my classes back at CU, but they were still challenging and enjoyable. They didn't overload me with work, so I still had plenty of time to enjoy my stay in Barcelona. My Spanish class was my favorite! My teacher was Gabriela from Venezuela and she was a wonderful teacher. I really enjoyed her class and felt that my Spanish improved GREATLY during my time in Barcelona, much thanks to her.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

The resident director and all of the ISA staff in the Barcelona office are amazing. You know that you can trust them with anything that you need, but they are also fun to joke with and I considered them new friends. Any kinds of questions I had (about Spanish, Spanish words, my classes, shipping things to Spain, travel ideas, etc, etc), they were always there to help. And since they gave me a a business card to keep in my wallet with like 5 cell phone numbers on it, I knew I could call them at any time of day if I ever had a problem. The ISA office was a great place to go after class to hang out and chat, exchange books or skype with my family back home. There were a lot of ISA students there at the 3 universities where ISA has programs- probably around 75 or 100 in total. But there were about 5 or 6 staff members, so there was plenty of help to go around. Overall, I really couldn't have asked for a better experience with the ISA staff and support.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

My senora was fanatastic. She was only 29 (and my roommate and I were each 20), so we all got along like gal pals. She had a sweet dog named Nero that was so much fun to have around. She made us delicious dinners every night- my favorite were the Tortilla Espanola and the Zuchinni Soup! The apartment was nicely decorated, clean, with plenty of room for all of us, and I felt really comfortable there. My ISA roommate was amazing. She has become the best friend I made in all of college. I can't believe what a good job ISA did of matching up roommates- it seemed like everyone had about the same experiences of great roommates as I did. The housing was all completely arranged by ISA. All I had to do was fill out a quick housing questionnaire with my likes/dislikes, eating and sleeping habits, and a little about myself. The neighborhood was totally safe, and the apartment was right next to the metro, which was perfect. It was about a 20 minute metro ride to class or to the city center, but I was fine with that. It's Europe, everyone takes public transport! Everything was supplied and I never had to worry about buying anything for my living situation there.

* Food:

I am a pseudo vegetarian: I eat chicken and seafood but NO beef, pork, etc. This was totally accommodated in my host family without ever having any issues. Spanish food does have a lot of pork and ham in it, but I never felt like I had a problem finding something to eat. And the food is delicious! My roommate and I would go out to 'beer & bravas' a couple times a week at a neighborhood bar in a beautiful plaza just around the corner from our homestay. There is a great Mexican restaurant in the city center called 'Margarita Blue.' But mostly I just ate at my homestay (the food was good and included in my program price!) or went to small neighborhood restaurants.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

I had the time of my life. Hands down, this is the best thing I did in college. My ISA program started with an excursion in Madrid, then on to El Escorial and Toledo. These first few days were amazing. It was a great time to get to know all of the people on my program. We were all newbies at this time and just wanted to make friends, so everyone was super friendly and we all went out to eat and drink in big groups. My other favorite excursion was the one to Sevilla. ISA planned great city tours, and then we all went out at night and had so much fun.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

* Safety:

I personally never had any issues while I was abroad. However, I knew several people that were pickpocketed. I think you really just have to be conscious of your things at all times, especially when in public transportation or in crowded areas. Overall, I think you just need to use common sense like any city: don't walk alone at night, avoid dark alleyways, don't flash a lot of money or expensive jewelry around and just always watch your things!

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?

My Spanish improved more than I imagined it could during my time with ISA in Barcelona. I lived with a host family (and another ISA student), so we spoke Spanish at home. We'd watch TV in Spanish, even things like Family Guy and Lost. My host mom could speak some English if we really needed to, but she encouraged us to speak Spanish as much as possible and would correct our mistakes when we wanted help. My Spanish classes at the UPF definitely helped improve my Spanish as well. My teacher was wonderful and helped to improve my confidence in my language skills. Lastly, the ISA staff were excellent with helping to improve language. We always spoke with them in Spanish (unless it was an emergency) and they began teaching us helpful Spanish words from our very first day in the country.

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
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
  • Americans

A Look Back

* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? Do it. I know it seems scary, you don't know what's going to happen, you might not make friends, you might get lost, you might not understand the language, etc. But I promise you, no matter where you go, you will love your time abroad. This is something you will carry with you for the rest of your life. I have traveled abroad quite a bit, but nothing compares to my study abroad experience with ISA. 'You regret the things you didn't do, not the ones you did.' This program is good for someone who wants to improve their Spanish, get to know another culture, but doesn't want to go TOO far out of their comfort zone. Barcelona is a beautiful city and is pretty touristy, so there's a lot of English spoken around. How the program goes is totally up to you. You can stay in your comfort zone and just hang out with other Americans, or put yourself out there and meet Spaniards and learn a lot about another culture. But the bottom line is that I don't think anyone could spend a semester in Barcelona with ISA and not enjoy it. :)