I completed the 2015/2016 winter semester as a semester abroad at the ‘ Universitat Autónoma de Barcelona ‘. I took the courses in International Economics and Understanding the European Economics, and attended a Spanish course every evening. According to AbbreviationFinder.org, UAB is the abbreviation of Universitat Autònoma De Barcelona.
Regarding the organization, I can only say that MicroEDU does pretty much everything, and it’s super easy. You simply send your documents to MicroEDU, who then forward them.
In general, I can already make it clear at the beginning of my experience report that there is certainly no better and more formative experience than going abroad for a semester, regardless of the country. The start of my studies was on September 9th, 2015, so I had two weeks before to get to know the country and its people. Spain is one of the main holiday destinations, and after spending almost half a year there, you understand why. Friendly and open people, a good climate and great food are just some of the noteworthy characteristics.
I spent my time there in a shared apartment that couldn’t have been more international. My roommates came from England, Italy, Belgium, Brazil, Taiwan and Mauritius. I was also able to apply my newly acquired knowledge of Spanish directly, as most of my roommates already had good to very good knowledge of Spanish. In addition, my social skills, my intercultural communication and my interpersonal skills were improved. For example, with simple, banal things such as breakfast or political and social discussions.
Even if the tuition fees weren’t exactly cheap and life in a metropolis like Barcelona isn’t exactly cheap, I have to say that the semester abroad was more than worth it for me, both academically and personally.
Living and accommodation, leisure activities and excursions
When it came to accommodation, I had the choice between a room in a shared apartment or a small room in a student dormitory. As already mentioned, I opted for the room in the shared apartment. UAB helped me find an apartment because they have over 100 apartments in and around Barcelona to choose from. In the end, the employee recommended the flat share to me. To find accommodation on site, couch surfing is a good idea for the first few days. Some fellow students have had very good experiences with it.
With a rent of € 385, the price was average. The condition and furnishings of the apartment were also satisfactory, but not very high quality and not necessarily clean. However, a beautiful large terrace with a sea view made up for the condition of the apartment. My roommates couldn’t have been more culturally different, of course. We had a lot of funny, but also somewhat serious moments together that didn’t necessarily result from typical flat share conflicts.
The apartment is located in the beautiful Gracia district. This part of the city is directly adjacent to “Downtown”, but it is a bit quieter and has a lot of Catalan flair. You can do something there every Friday or Saturday evening (and actually every other day of the week). Two beautiful cinemas, a large number of “plazas”, but also some inexpensive tapas bars are located in this area. I spent many wonderful evenings there with my roommates and new friends and met a lot of new people.
Public transport is excellent in Barcelona. It only took me a few minutes to get to the university campus in the city center, whether by metro or bus. However, I mostly opted for the walk through the beautiful alleys. The climate couldn’t be better, even in winter it was still pleasant and the sun shone practically all the time. After a while you learn to love the Spanish way of life, going out very late, coming home even later. I have to mention here that the semester abroad consisted of a lot of “partying” in a party metropolis that cannot be compared to a German city.
My studies at the UAB
I took three courses at UAB. On the one hand ‘International Economy’, ‘Understanding the European Economy’ and a Spanish course. In total, I acquired 24 ETCS.
All of my courses took place on the ‘L’Eixample’ campus in the middle of the city center. The majority of my fellow students came from the USA, Brazil or Belgium. Some German fellow students were also represented. Locals were searched in vain, however, as it was a pure “Study Abroad” project. Nevertheless, there was a very pleasant international and intercultural flair on campus. Mostly English was spoken and therefore only taught in English. As a result, I was of course able to improve my English a lot and learned a lot of new things from my fellow American students in terms of colloquial language.
In general, the professors were always very friendly and helpful.
The courses all took place in well-equipped rooms with insufficient space, however. The average course size at UAB is around 30 students. We sat in small seminar rooms, which enormously promoted contact with all other students and professors. Throughout all of my courses, we often worked in small groups and worked out something together in plenary sessions. This way of working is of course very different from the way of working at German universities. You can compare that study with lessons in a German school. Even the participation was part of the overall grade and therefore mandatory. At the beginning it was difficult to speak directly in English in class, but towards the end it got a lot easier.
In each of my courses, I had to do several small group projects and mostly submit them in writing. As a result, I have further developed my social intercultural skills and got to know many new aspects and problems that arise in connection between studying / working and different nationalities.
At the beginning of the course, some basic questions were clarified, such as “What is economy?” And “What does international economy mean?”. Then the gravity model as well as Old Trade Theory and New Trade Theory were thematically analyzed. In this context, the so-called opportunity costs were introduced, which I already knew from other courses in my studies and which I was able to repeat and deepen again. The so-called Absolute Advantage (‘a country has the best technology of producing a good’) and the Comparative Advantage (‘a country can produce a good or service at a lower opportunity cost than another’) were also clarified. Examples between Portugal and Brazil and Spain and Germany were used.
The next big topic was the Ricardian model. At the beginning we examined the origin of the model and then compared it with the gravity model.
With the Ricardian model, case studies were used and in these the Equilibrium in Autarchy and the Equilbrium in Trade were determined. We usually calculated the resulting relative supply and relative demand curves in groups and then discussed the advantages and disadvantages of trade with and among certain countries.
In addition to the two models already mentioned, the Heckscher-Ohlin model was also introduced and compared with the other two models and examined for differences, similarities and advantages / disadvantages. We then wrote a so-called midterm exam on this topic.
The second major topic of this course was the intra-industry trade. At the beginning, some theses of the renowned professor of economics Paul Krugmann were read and discussed. The reason for this was to understand what ecnomies of scale is and what economy of scale means. I was also able to build on what I had already learned. With the help of these theses, the Monopolistic Competition Model was developed. It was shown to what extent prices are proportional to the number of companies in the market.
Finally, the different trade policies, or rather the measures that exist to control and manage trade, were analyzed. The focus here was on tariffs, quotas and subsidies. For each of these measures, sample calculations were used and case studies were examined in order to highlight the difference. In the end, I then wrote a final exam, which, however, was not cumulative thematically.
Understanding the European Economy
The methodology of the Understanding the European Economy course was structured somewhat differently, because it consisted of frontal teaching and little group work. However, participation in the hours also counted towards the grade. I also wrote a midterm and a final exam. At the beginning of the course, the professor claimed, as can be read in the course description, that he dealt a lot with EU energy policy, but this was not so much the case, as the focus was somewhat adjusted to current events due to the refugee situation.
In the first lectures we dealt exclusively with the history of the formation of the European Union and, independently of the history of the EU, we repeatedly looked at and examined micro and macroeconomic phenomena. As a housework, we should then read and understand a 42-page constitution on European Union Politics, so that the lecture could build on it. We also devoted ourselves to the Allocation of Competences and the Principal of Governing, although I have to admit that I understood very little because I couldn’t find any connection points from my previous academic career and I had to delve into the matter, but also learned a lot of new knowledge as a result which was inevitably my intention in choosing this course. During the first half of the semester, in addition to the midterm exam, each student had to write an essay on the following task:
“The policy process of the EU shows both the characteristics of a federal state and an international organization with distinctive powers. Explain how, in this unique ‘institutional hybrid’ of supranationalism and intergovernmentalism, decisions are adopted and implemented. How and why has the EU expanded both geographically and in the scope of its competences since its ‘humble’ beginnings? How does fiscal federalism theory help us in understanding the pattern of delegation to the EU? ”
The second half of the course dealt with a wide variety of topics from the EU, such as the labor market and the development of the labor market in the EU, Solow’s Analysis, European currency integration and the OCA (Optimum Curreny Area). A term paper also had to be done on the topics mentioned and a final exam was written at the end.
Every evening I attended the Spanish class for two hours. I really liked this course because I was able to learn a lot and very well Spanish. The course size was very manageable with six fellow students, so that many interactions took place and it was possible to speak very often. Since I was the only German in this course, the exchange always took place in Spanish or English, which immensely expanded my language skills. Since the course was for beginners or simply advanced, very simple topics such as stereotypes, prejudices and general political events were dealt with.
Through constant tests and small presentations, I was able to learn Spanish very well and am now an advanced speaker.
Conclusion / conclusion
As I have already indicated, it remains to be said that I really enjoyed my semester abroad, not only because I was able to improve my English and Spanish. Among other things, I have learned to cope with and to live in a different culture and that is an invaluable and extremely valuable experience, personally, and therefore also professionally and academically. Confronting people of different nationalities gave me the opportunity to broaden my own horizons, and as trite as it sounds, I have come to appreciate different cultures as well as different academic approaches.
At this point I can only say that the stay abroad in Barcelona at the Universitat Autónoma de Barcelona has made me very satisfied, has developed personally and academically, and I would no longer be willing to miss this experience. I can therefore only recommend a semester abroad.