Rochelle - Universitat Pompeu Fabra

B. Arts / Social Science

Academic experience

I completed courses under my International Relations and Journalism Majors. Specifically I took courses, Theories of Democracy and Justice, Employment Policies and the Labour Market, Journalism specialized in culture and journalism specialized in International News, Strategies for Social Action, and a news agencies course where I got to write for a local news organization. I enjoyed that the courses were offered in English, even though the official languages of Barcelona are Catalan and Spanish. I also enjoyed that the classes were a mix of both domestic and international students. However, I did not like that we didn't get the opportunity to get to know the local students more (time was too short and cooperation was forced rather than enjoyed). I didn't like the casual academic system of the university, but I only think this because I am so used to the strict way UQ does things. I didn't face many challenges I think, the only challenge as I have said it that you don't get to know the local students enough, but rather stick to the circles of other students on exchange. Not to say this is a bad thing, I think it just limited my experience of learning Spanish and getting to know the culture a little bit more.

Personal experience

Of course, the friendships are a huge, actually the biggest stand out of my exchange experience. You are all in the same boat, living independently, away from home, so in this way you kind of become family for the 6 months you are there. I also really enjoyed the personal time to focus on myself, rather than crazily trying to balance the work, social, study life back at home in Australia. It was nice to actually have the time to social with friends, look after my body and have time to look more into where I am going with life. I was a little disappointed in myself with learning Spanish. I underestimated the strong influence of the Catalan language in Barcelona as well as how many people actually spoke English (due to it being such a big tourist hub) and for this reason it was difficult for me to fully immerse myself in learning the language. I was already a very independent person, but I think I really surprised myself with organizing my life around both study and pleasure (a.k.a travel). I am not going to lie, it is extremely difficult to study in a beautiful and lively city like Barcelona, but you manage.

Accommodation

I hadn't planned any long-term accommodation before leaving for Barcelona. Basically, I booked 5 days in a hostel for when I first got there and then during those first 5 days I just searched the web on many different accommodation sites. In the end, I found someone on Airbnb that was willing to host me for 6 months. It was really a nice flat, central to everything I needed, even walking distance to both my university campuses (one was a 5 minute walk and the other 30 minutes). Public transport was so close, but I never used it because Barcelona is very much a pedestrian city! My landlady that lived with me was nice, but a little odd at times, but I dealt with these odd situations well....even though the lady was 10 years older than me. We never had major disagreements, just minor ones. One of the worst things about living in Barcelona is that the flat situation with close neighbours is very different to Australia.

Rent: 370 euros a month
Food: 60 euros a week - I cooked most of my own food, I didn't go out much at all. 
Transport: approx. 10 euros per fortnight 
Entertainment: 20 euros per week, just lots of coffee dates with friends and the odd drink/dinner
Travel: I aimed to spend about 50 euros a day while travelling, but I always travelled by myself and couch surfed as much as I could to save costs. If you want to use a hostel it while travelling best to budget for 70-80 euros a day. 
Overall whilst I was on exchange I spent approx. $6000 (Australian Dollars), but that was living cheaply...I didn't go out every night like other exchange students.

Professional development and employability

Arc de Triomf, Barcelona
Arc de Triomf, Barcelona

I think just having the experience of living overseas, and being able to support yourself (entirely!!!! I had no financial support from my family, just from the university) is something that definitely improves your levels of employability. You become more mature, independent, culturally sensitive and open to new adventures and life changes.

Highlight

The highlight of my experience would have to be meeting the diverse amount of people and the life-long friendships you form. No matter how old you are or what nationality you are, those people you meet on your exchange, if that be a student, a roommate, a teacher, are those that have shaped you into the strong person you are today. I am extremely thankful for the memories you create with these people, and can only hope to visit them again and create more memories in the future.

Top tips

  • Talk to students who have been to the university you are going to. Navigating a different academic system can be so annoying and stressful. 
  • Bring a Powerboard
  • Travel insurance is key! 
  • Stay in touch with friends and family at home. 
  • Be totally open to new experiences and take risks
  • Don't be afraid to go somewhere that doesn't speak English, be willing to learn another language!
Rochelle - Universitat Pompeu Fabra