I started my semester abroad at the UAB in Barcelona at the beginning of September 2011. I was already in Barcelona a week before to find a suitable apartment or room. I was already in contact with a French person via the Internet, but the landlord turned out to be a bit complicated, so I had to look for a new place to stay at short notice. To make matters worse, I had written my last exam in mid-August and had to finish several homework before I left. During this very stressful phase, I spent the evenings scouring the usual pages loquo.com or idialista.com for rooms. Incidentally, if a Companer @ is searched for in the ad, it is called a male or female. In the absence of this knowledge, I fell through the rags of some rooms. In the end I got a room in a shared apartment just three blocks from the Sagrada Familia. The room was tiny, had a view of the light shaft, but at € 350 it was relatively cheap and reasonably quiet. In the first week of university there were already many parties to visit. My schedule was anything but packed with 12 hours a week, so there was enough time to spend the nights in Barcelona unsafe and to go to the beach in the free hours. In my opinion, one of the biggest advantages was the nice weather, we had a very warm autumn in which it rarely rained a little. I spent a lot of the time with fellow students on the beach or exploring the city. In my opinion, there is still enough time for the latter in late autumn, when it is not so warm anyway. Regarding the university, I can say that we were well looked after as pre-established students (ie there are only foreign students on the small campus). In all queries about course selection or the like, you received an answer very quickly (rather unusual for Spanish conditions). I have to disappoint anyone who hopes to learn Spanish at university.
All courses in the Pre-Established Program were in English, except for the Spanish courses. Most of the fellow students are also Americans, so if something gets better, it’s your English. The level of difficulty of the courses is below that of the German universities, I would say. Many lecturers are very relaxed, especially when it comes to absenteeism and presentations. As a student from Germany, however, one sometimes wonders when the Americans give their presentation in (no joke) slippers, pajamas and ski jackets.
I had a total of three courses at UAB. There are two campuses where the courses take place. One is located not far from the Girona station, only 2 blocks from Passeig de Gracia, the other at the St. Pau Hospital. I didn’t have any courses at the latter, as it was more about the cultural studies subjects.
Courses I have taken: Entrepreneurship with Otilia Driga, Politics, War and Globalization with Toni Raja and Spanish A2 with Francesc Navarro.
I was really lucky with my choice of course. Entrepreneurship is definitely interesting, and is always underpinned with practical examples. Driga comes from practical experience, which you can tell from time to time (both in a positive and in a negative sense.) As an exam, you have to develop a business model for your own startup during the semester.
Politics, War and Globalization is an all-round political history, really nothing new for most Germans, but definitely recommendable. Toni (the lecturers are usually called by their first names) is an amusing contemporary (if you like black humor) and a walking encyclopedia. You can ask him pretty much anything on any topic and get a very precise answer back. The exams take place at irregular intervals during the semester. The advantage is that there is little risk of completely ruining the course, as you receive your services almost monthly in black and white.
The Spanish course with Francesc was my personal highlight. As mentioned before, we only spoke English in the other courses. The language course clearly focused on conversations in Spanish. That helped me a lot personally, because you lose the fear of making mistakes. And anyone who has ever sat in a language course with 8 Americans will feel like the linguistic genius in front of the Lord after a week at the latest, as apparently little value is placed on pronunciation and thinking in the USA. Francesc was a very good lecturer, talked to us again and again about our experiences in BCN and, for example, gave us tips on where to get good food and where not. Apart from the many oral exercises, you had to do a few homework, the usual, writing short texts, learning vocabulary, etc.
In conclusion, I can say that Barcelona is an amazing city to either love or hate. Much is different, it is very noisy, there are a lot of tourists, the housing situation is rather poor and the nightlife is expensive. However, there are also many positive sides: the beach, the trips that you can do on the long weekends (Friday is no university), the beer and coffee, which almost never cost more than one euro, the chupitos (schnapps bar), the museums, the parks, etc. etc.
I had never been to Barcelona before, but I enjoyed my time there – but I also know people who were different.
A little tip at the end: women should rather leave their expensive jewelry at home, wallets and expensive smartphones are also often stolen from handbags (even in clubs, for example on the dance floor). Personally, nothing was stolen from me, but as a man you shouldn’t wander through the Ramblas alone (and possibly drunk) at night. In addition, 90% of the people who speak to you in the evening (apart from the salespeople) whether you have a cigarette or something similar for them are pickpockets who try to take advantage of your naivete. So watch out, then nothing will be stolen from you. Just adapt to the Spaniards!