My Study Abroad Experience: The Most Challenging, Yet Most Rewarding Experience Thusfar. Past Review

By (PSYCHOLOGY., Lewis-Clark State College) for

ISA Study Abroad in Barcelona, Spain

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
See above mostly... but the reason that I would not choose this program again is because although Barcelona is amazing and it will always have a place in my heart, I feel that what I was looking for out of my experience could have been found in another city. Better personal relationships with the locals, a smaller city, less nightlife all would have suited me better. My cultural view is much broader now, not just about Spaniards, but about all cultures because I realize how you can't judge a book by its cover. I gained more than I ever thought possible and reminiscing about my time abroad is SO bittersweet. I cannot wait to go back.

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 0-2 weeks

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

The workload was much lighter than I have experienced in college in US, which was a pleasant surprise to allow time for travel and experiencing all that Barcelona had to offer. Assignments were similar to American ones, but it seemed the professor expectations were lower than in the States (which was great for our grades!). The Spanish program was great, I learned more in those weeks in class than I did in 5 years in my American Spanish classes. I really enjoyed two out of the three classes that I took (9 out of the 12 credits) but I absolutely despised the other class, due to lack of organization, seemingly pointless assignments and a huge language barrier.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

The ISA office was great, it was accessible, the people were friendly and it was a great place to go for homework or just to hang out. The faculty was great on our excursions, we all loved them. When I first got to Spain, I was having a very difficult time adjusting and being away from my family and fiance and I wanted to bail and go home. The staff was supportive and gave me a little push to stay and I am so glad I did. I was disappointed to hear that they let the two favorite faculty amongst go however.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

My neighborhood was amazing, I loved living in the Gothic district, I thought it was perfect. The living situation was hard to adjust to as far as space, bathroom time, hot water, late dinner hour, etc. Honestly, it was difficult living in a small room with a complete stranger, in an apartment full of complete strangers, but I am glad I did. Their style of living was very different from ours, family dynamics are very different. There were always [strange] strangers in and out of our place and that was odd. My host family in particular consisted of house mom, her 40ish year old son, 20ish year old grandson, his girlfriend, random relative, and sometimes her great grand daughter. My roommate and I did not feel like it was very much of a "home" but it was kind of cozy and the food was good. My house mom spoke no English and a lot of times spoke in Catalan, which was frustrating.

* Food:

I had no dietary restrictions and my host mom did an ok job of keeping the selection interesting. For the first couple of weeks the food was good and new and exciting. After a while it got a little routine. Needless to say I never went hungry (even if I had to go out for a midnight snack).

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

I have mixed feelings about the culture of Barcelona. I absolutely adore the artistic culture of architecture and art and food and the feel of the city. The way I feel about the people is a different story. Many were rude towards American's (or rude in general) and they were just negative about the country as well. They don't consider themselves to be part of Spain, since they are Catalan. I know that other students felt that way as well, however I was one of the people that did not study in Barcelona to party. I enjoyed going out occasionally, but did not spend 3-5 nights in the clubs and personally, if I had to do it again I would study in Southern Spain, like Sevilla. Sevilla is gorgeous and has a real "southern hospitality", and still a stimulating night life.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

* Safety:

I had two brushes with healthcare while in Spain, once I needed a shot and it was very easy, a nurse just met me at the ISA office and gave it to me and charged a small fee-- painless. The second was with Spanish EMT's. While waiting to see the Pope, I randomly passed out in a large crowd and was escorted to an ambulance. The EMTs were very nice but their English was not great, I didn't end up needing to be taken to the hospital or anything but they were very nice and sympathetic. Safety was pretty good. I did not want to be out alone at night (pretty much goes without saying....) but being in a group of 2 or 3 was perfectly acceptable. The only time that I felt I was maybe unsafe was the day of the general strike when tensions in the whole city were very high. We did not know whether any animosity would be directed at American's so we pretty much stayed indoors all day. Men in Spain are very forward (and very obnoxious) but rarely are they more an annoying and rude. Only once was I VERY offended when a random stranger grabbed my hair by the scalp and pulled just because he likes blondes. Pick pocketing is prevalent so you need to be wary but not paranoid (i never had anything stolen), but the Student Handbook does a good job explaining all that.

If you could do it all over again would you choose the same program? No

Finances

* 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)

Language

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

I practiced the language with my host family because they did not speak English and my room mate. Sometimes friends and I would speak in Spanish, but not super often. Everyday interactions were good practice as well. Not many people did (or were willing to) speak English.

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

A Look Back

* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? I think that study abroad is something that EVERYONE should do. Now that being said, it is of utmost importance to find a program that fits your needs, lifestyle and personality. The best advice I can give is to stick it out. There will be times when you are having the time of your life and times when you want to give up and run crying home to mommy. But the truth is, nothing in your life will compare to saying that you lived abroad, it is something that I would not change for the world. Know what you want out of the experience (i.e. to learn and travel, to party, to gain independence. More likely than not everyone wants to do all of these to some degree, but really read in to the vibe and feel of the city you want to go to... and listen! Read between the lines. Enjoy your experience and above all don't give up. I learned so much about myself while I was away, like that I live to travel abroad, but it is not something that I want to do in my future without my loved ones

Individual Course Reviews

Course Name/Rating:

Intermediate Spanish

Course Department:
Instructor: Montse Gal
Instruction Language: Spanish
Comments: This class was great, the variety of assignments was helpful and engaging. It was challenging but not overwhelming. I learned so much from the Spanish program, much more than I had in my numerous years in Spanish classes. I think that American professors can learn something from their methods of teaching!
Credit Transfer Issues: No.
Course Name/Rating:

History of Barcelona

Course Department:
Instructor: Lucia Conte
Instruction Language: English
Comments: I loved this course. It was great to learn about the great city that I lived in. Lucia was amazing: funny, informative, accessible, caring, and understanding. This class had great field trips.
Credit Transfer Issues: No, I got it approved before leaving
Course Name/Rating:

Geography and Societies in Modern Spain

Course Department:
Instructor:
Instruction Language: English
Comments: This course was terrible. The instructor had no idea how to communicate with her students and none of us felt like we learned anything. The course was pointless, all we did was watch movies that were not informational and she would show up late and not come to class without notice. All we did as students was complain about this class, constantly. There was nothing about it that made it worth my time.
Credit Transfer Issues: I don't think so.