Ruth - Universitat Pompeu Fabra

B International Studies
Semester 1, 2019
Exchange in Barcelona was a dream come true, and an exciting, thrilling, amazing experience that I'll cherish for life!

Academic experience

While on exchange I undertook various classes relevant to international politics, social science & humanities. I was passionate about the classes I was enrolled in, and learnt quite a lot in theory and experience. The administrative system however was quite different to what I've experienced for my whole life studying in Australia. I'd been aware of the Spanish stereotype, the extremely laid-back, slow paced work ethic. This did prove challenging to me when dealing with bureaucratic processes in university and living arrangements. It can take a while for things to get done because of the different time values. My host university were pretty equipped and clear about the enrolment and registration processes though. They will inform you via email in the lead-up to your study period.

Personal experience

The personal experience was by far the highlight of my exchange semester. I made amazing friends who I'll cherish for life, and we shared so many exciting moments and new adventures together. I also took every chance I could to explore Europe and beyond, and I visited Serbia, London, Morocco, Israel, Berlin, Portugal, as well as endless trips in Spain, and a few road trips to France! I loved the freedom and independence of living abroad and travelling a lot.


I lived off campus - there weren't really 'on-campus' accommodation options that I knew of, however you could contact an agent and find student accommodation nearby. My living situation was probably one of the biggest challenges throughout my whole experience. I had to move a few times, and I never really had a home that I was fully satisfied with. The rental market in Barcelona is very competitive, and I learnt the hard way that you can't always trust what people tell you. If I could do it again, I'd wait till I was in the city to find a place to live, so I could get a sense of the area, the building, the flatmates, all of that stuff, and then sign a contract (this is the case for pretty much any reliable rental). Most of the flats available to International Students are run by agencies, who charge quite exorbitant prices for a room in a share flat. Unfortunately, I didn't find any way around this. In hind sight, I should have just accepted it and settled in to a comfortable home for the duration of my exchange, instead of seeking cheaper accommodation and moving multiple times.


I'm guilty of not keeping a detailed diary of my spendings. However, I can list a few useful prices:

- Rent = about 500-600 euro per month, that's for a double sized, external room. Internal single rooms go for around 350-450 euros.

- Transport = 3 month unlimited youth pass was 90euros, or a T-10 ticket was 10 euros. If you live near the centre, walking is easy to get to most places. 

- Food = it really depends. It's definitely worth seeking out larger supermarkets, where produce is cheaper/ equal to Australia. You can eat out on a budget with 'street food' (5-10 euros) but if you want to go to nice restaurants, expect to pay 20-30 euros. 

- Drinks = The best perk of Barcelona is the CHEAP beer and Sangria (and every drink, for that matter). You can buy beers in the street for 1 euro, sometimes even cheaper in the shop. In a bar it might cost 3-5 euros, depending on where you go!


As I mentioned, the rental situation was my biggest challenge. It wasn't easy to overcome, and tedious and frustrating at times when I was constantly searching for a new place to live. I definitely learnt acceptance and resilience through this journey, and not to trust someone's word (Make sure it's written in the contract!!!)

Professional Development

I think I developed a lot of great skills over the course of this journey, such as; resilience, intercultural communication, people skills, cultural knowledge, problem solving abilities, better knowledge of international administrative/bureaucratic systems, confidence and independence!


There are too many highlights to choose just 1. What comes to mind are the road trips up to Costa Brava with some of my best friends from exchange. And the endless afternoons spent in the park in the sun, soaking in the culture around, enjoying picnics and taking things slow - the Spanish way!

Top tips

It's the most amazing time and I'd highly recommend it. Barcelona is one of the most exciting cities in Europe and you'll never run out of things to do. UPF is great as it's tri-lingual, offering courses in Spanish, English, and Catalan. On that note, remember that Barcelona is in Catalunya and although they all know Spanish there, the city is very cosmopolitan and might not advance your foreign language skills as much as another Spanish city could.