On October 18th of this year, 2014, I arrived in Barcelona prepped for a year and a half of studying here in Spain. This brief informative blog post is meant to present the objective reasoning in my decision to study in Spain. Before, I’d been hitchhiking boats across oceans, and now I’m two oceans away from where I stopped all of that. I’m in Barcelona, the third most visited city in the most visited region in the world, Europe.
How I ended up considering a Spanish University
I fell in love with a girl. It just so happens that she won a scholarship to study in Spain, and had been accepted to the University of Barcelona. That is the short version. Some of you know that I’m a vagabond most of the time, hitchhiking and camping everywhere I go. But that has been put on hold. I didn’t have to put it on hold. I could have come to Spain, stayed three months, then gone outside of the Schengen Area for three months before returning to Barcelona for another 3-month stint. That’s the legality of moving around this region.
I decided instead to look into my options.
Why I chose the Universitat de Barcelona
There was still time to apply to masters degree programs when I made my choice. My girl was going to Barcelona, so naturally I wanted to as well. In retrospect, and for anyone considering studying in Spain, there are a few considerations that I might recommend:
- There are English-oriented programs in countries like Norway, Sweden, Germany and France that are next to free
- If you have a diploma from a French university, and if you have two years of residency, you can apply for French citizenship
- There are Erasmus-Mundos programs given to foreigners for full-ride and half-ride scholarships to enroll in specific European programs
Why didn’t I follow any of these considerations:
- I didn’t want an English-language program. If I was going to spend a whole year or more in another country, I wanted to learn a new language. Studying in Catalonia means all or half of your program may be in Catalan, the language of this part of Spain.
- Lots of programs in France are free. However, the internationally-recognized programs and universities are often private, and expensive. If I’m going to study, I want to milk the system to its maximum, which means enrolling where your diploma will be a strong credential. Plus, committing to two years of residency to get the French citizenship is not on my radar.
- Erasmus-Mundos programs are your best option. I came too late to the application process. One program interested me, but it was theory-based.
So, why the University of Barcelona? First, because the Universitat de Barcelona is ranked among the top 200 universities in the world. Second, it is considered among the top universities in Spain. Third, it is the university where my girlfriend would go (yup, this matters). Third, it’s the university where I found the most appropriate program.
The program of study that I decided to follow
While I was still in Peru, I looked into a number of programs on the university website: International Relations (too governmental), Comparative Literature (too heady) and others. I come from a international studies background, which was a lot of theory and papers. I wanted to study something practical this time. I like websites. I made this one and a few others. I found a program that’s shared between the Universitat de Barcelona (UB) and Universitat de Pompeu Fabra (UPF) called Digital Content Management. The fact that it was a shared diploma between these universities was a bonus, since the UPF is also among the top in the country, buoyed by their economics department in the same way that the UB is by their medicine school. If you’re wondering why I care about the reputation of a school, it’s because I recognize that we live in a world where that shit matters, not because I think people who go to such schools are better than anyone else.
How is studying in Spain a good idea for an American?
I studied in France for a year during college. In fact, I have a B.A. in French. This means that no matter how well I speak French, and regardless of if I lose some of it in the future, my documentation tells curious parties that I know French, officially. I don’t care, but the system does and I know it. So I play the game.
Official certification of Spanish is far more useful in the USA than French. Studying in Spain would give me something awesome: a Spanish diploma. Sure, you could just study the language and then take the DELE exam, but why not kill two birds with one stone: study something applicable and get credentials in a foreign language at the same time. I traveled for years in Latin America and speak Spanish better than most students who study it in academia. But I don’t have the documents to prove it. Now I will!
How much does it cost to study in Spain?
It is more expensive to study in Spain than in other European countries, but then again it depends. As I said before, there are free programs in other European countries, many of them in English. Germany, for example, has free or inexpensive education at reputable universities. But it is cheaper to live in Spain, even in Barcelona (which is one of the country’s most expensive cities). So, even though you can go to a free university in Paris, you’ll still have to pay that 600-euro apartment. In Barcelona, you can find a shared flat room for around 280 euros, sometimes less.
In Spain, the cost of education is calculated per credit hour. Most masters programs consist of 60 credits. For Europeans, the cost is around 43 euros per credit, while for non-EU students it costs double. I am paying 86 euros per credit, and my program is a year and a half, comprising 90 credits total. $7740 euros. The conclusion for an American is this: for a year and a half of master’s degree study, I’m spending 5-10 times less than I would in the United States.
Will you be able to afford to study in Spain? In Barcelona?
Spain is less expensive to live in than its European neighbors, and beer is dirt cheap (24 cents a can is the cheapest I’ve seen and drank). I have the money to pay the master’s program. My girlfriend and I share a room in a flat with two other roommates, so our expenses are even lower than the standard 250-280 euro/month. Bread’s cheap, Viu-Bicing is a pretty cool communal bicycle program, wine’s cheap, and cheese too. I have enough savings to afford the program. And I freelance online as a writer. In addition, I’m legally allowed to work for up to 20 hours per week through a convention with the UB. One of the great comforts that I have is that I’ll have a masters degree from a top university yet be totally free of debt.
Otherwise, you can take out loans for international studies. Here’s a cool article on that. You could ask family for help, you could crowd-fund, you could be an idiot and use credit cards. I don’t recommend any of that. In fact, if I couldn’t afford to study in Spain on my own, I wouldn’t.
I’m a poor student again, counting pennies far more than I ever did on the road. But it’s a means to an end. Master’s degree, a quick job perhaps, enough money to free myself from the concerns of health insurance, plane tickets, emergencies, debt… and then we’re Asia-bound once more.
Last considerations about Spain study stuff
I wrote a few other articles that will be of interest. One is about how to apply for the Spanish student visa. The other is about how to apply for the required NIE once you’re in Spain.
This blog will serve as a platform for writing other posts about Barcelona. I’m also hoping to start creating some travel comics. So come back. Also if you have useful comments for anyone interested in the topics of this article, please share them!