Hey everyone! My name is Brianna Gorman and I am a senior at the University of Florida. I studied abroad last summer in Barcelona with CISabroad, and spent 3 weeks after my program traveling around Europe. Today I’m going to give you some travel tips for summer abroad in Barcelona. I’ll tell you all about my experiences- the food, my apartment in the city, the classes, troubles I ran into, etc.
FLIGHT AND PASSPORT
The most obvious first step in studying abroad is purchasing a passport and booking a flight. You need to get your passport as soon as possible- it can take up to 8 weeks for the government to send all your documents back to you. Once you have your passport, you have to book a flight! The sooner, the cheaper, usually. I didn’t buy my ticket until about a month and a half before my trip, and it was 1600 US dollars round trip. On the other hand, I just bought a ticket to Europe for a post- graduation trip, and it was 300 dollars less. Great websites, besides the usual Delta or United Airlines websites include: studentuniverse.com, onetravel.com and cheapoair.com. There are others out there of course; these are just some of the ones I know about.
APARTMENTS AND OTHER LIVING SITUATIONS
There are different types of living situations you can choose with CISabroad. Depending on the city and program, you can choose to live in a dorm, an apartment, or a homestay. They didn’t offer dorms on my program, but they did offer apartments and homestays. In all honesty, living in a dorm didn’t seem too pleasing to me, but living in an apartment sounded great. I lived with 5 other girls in a 5-bedroom apartment, so I got a room to myself. It was furnished with a desk, dresser, chair, and came with sheets and bedding. CIS sets up living arrangements with outside renters so, at least for my situation, everything was set to go when I got there. They also provided pots and pans and other utensils in the kitchen, towels, and a fully furnished living room. A housekeeper would come one or two times a week and clean for us, which was also nice. Some people on my program chose to live in a homestay. Homestays are great because you get to learn the language, eat great food cooked by your homestay parents, and they do your laundry for you. It’s definitely a more intimate environment, but it is also very beneficial if you truly want to immerse yourself in the language and culture.
TRAVELING WITHIN THE CITY
I can’t speak for other countries and cities, but for Barcelona, traveling around the city was very easy. Public transportation was great- there’s the metro, city buses, cabs, bike rentals, everything. Walking isn’t bad either! City buses always confuse me, but I loved taking the metro. It was about 42 euros for a 50/30 card- a card that allows for 50 journeys within 30 days. That was a great choice, especially for commuting to and from school or to different sightseeing destinations. Of course there are different options for different needs. For a few days in Barcelona, the cab drivers went on a strike so we couldn’t take cabs anywhere. You don’t really hear of that happening in the United States, so I thought it was a funny story. I loved walking too. I really felt like a native when I walked around. I made sure to stop in the paneria for bread every day, maybe get a pastry, and peruse the shops. I didn’t feel so rushed there, which was really nice.
Mostly everyone on my program took two classes a day for four weeks. We would be in class from Monday through Thursday, and then go on a planned excursion on the weekend or do our own traveling. I liked that the classes were small. My Spanish class only had four people in it, and my other class, the role of futbol in Spain, had about 14. Having a low number of people in Spanish classes or any language class is great because you get more one on one time with your professor. Also know that the professors understand you’re studying abroad. They do take their absence policies seriously, but they want you to have fun and gain as much experience as you can while abroad so they will work with your travel plans.
TRAVELING WITHIN EUROPE
Traveling is SUPER cheap once you’re in Europe. Lots of students on weekends will fly to Paris, Europe for Harry Potter sightseeing, really anywhere you want. Ryanair is a great airline to fly with, very cheap. I never flew when I was in Europe, I traveled mostly by train, but I did hear that they will add on hefty fees for baggage checks. Seriously- you can bring a backpack with weekend clothes (and you’ll have to fit your wallet/ purse/ etc) inside of it, or else the fees will be even more expensive than the plane ticket itself.
I traveled for three weeks after my program ended. I flew out of Barcelona, so we kind of had to do a loop around Europe to make it back to Barcelona. By train, I traveled to Paris, France; Munich, Germany; Salzburg, Austria; and Venice, Italy. The trek from Venice back to Barcelona was very long- a 26 hour trip and 6 train changes. I would definitely recommend planning where you might want to go and getting your return ticket from a different airport so you don’t make that same mistake. You can easily purchase multi-city tickets; I just did for my trip this summer! Traveling by train is the best choice. My grandmother and I got the Eurail Global Pass, and you can choose what kind of pass you want. We got a 10 day pass within 30 days. You can travel any 10 days within a 30-day period.
HOW CAN I AFFORD IT?
Let me start by saying that going abroad and traveling while you’re young is worth it, even if you have to borrow money. With that, there are plenty of scholarships you can apply for, through your school and through public sites. You can also use financial aid if you are eligible to receive it the semester you are going. Personally, I used my financial aid, and it gave me extra money to travel around afterwards. Of course, you can take out as little or as much as you need, so if you don’t need to take it all out, try not to. I applied for a study abroad scholarship through my study abroad office, but was unfortunately denied. Getting a scholarship for programs in Europe, especially Barcelona, is pretty difficult because so many people go there. If you go to less popular places in Africa or Asia, you might have a better chance. If money is an issue, and you can get scholarships to go abroad to the less popular places, I would 100% take the offer. Of course, if your dream is to go for a semester, you can certainly find ways to do it.
HOW DO I KNOW IT’S THE RIGHT PROGRAM FOR ME
I think that any program you decide to go on will be the time of your life. CIS can help find a program that fits your class needs, your living desires, and the type of city you want to be in. If you want to go to a country in which your family lives, they will create a different program cost so that you won’t be paying for housing any longer. If you only need to take one class, you can work around that as well. CISabroad wants you to have the best possible time. You can definitely find cities that have your classes to build upon your major, but you’ll have more variety of places to choose from if you decide to work on your minor abroad or general education credits. I was able to finish my Spanish minor while I was in Barcelona, which was great!
If you want to get in touch with Brianna, please contact the CISabroad office today or chat with us online!