It's always a pleasure to share our blog with the most suitable people to discuss this topic. Valeria Barquet is a Marketing graduate from the University of Navarra in Spain.
Valeria is an international student from Ecuador who has been in Spain since 2018 and now lives in Madrid.
In this article, she contacted a fellow Ecuadorian expat studying in Barcelona.* *This article has been reviewed by our editorial board and has been approved for publication in accordance to the editorial policies.
Moving to a new city is always challenging, whether for your Bachelor, Master, or maybe an Erasmus. Leaving home for a new country is a challenging but rewarding experience.
If you are planning to study in Spain, we want to make the process as smooth as possible. A new experience will always come with surprises, but getting advice from people who have done it before can always help.
Today we are specifically talking about Barcelona, and our interviewee’s name is Camila. She has been living in Barcelona for almost a year and shared with us ten things she wished she had known before moving.
So, stay with us, and we hope this article helps you in your process of studying in Barcelona.
Table of Contents▼▶
1. Prioritize your study over the city
Camila is a 25-year-old Ecuadorian studying for her Masters’s Degree in Design and Art Direction at Elisava, a design school in the city center of Barcelona.
Camila advises anyone out there to always prioritize the program of their studies over the city. Barcelona is an amazing European metropolis, but she says she wouldn’t enjoy the same if she didn’t like her studies.
So, even though all those pictures on Pinterest or Instagram in Barcelona look amazing, research the studies you want to make and ask yourself if the university offers the main things you were looking for.
In relation to the idea above, Camila recommends researching absolutely everything. What does she mean by this? Before she came to Barcelona, her only concern was her studies.
She had researched the university and its program. Still, she never really read about living in Barcelona, the costs of daily life, the ways of transportation to school, or the neighborhood she would live in.
For example, the pickpockets really surprised her when she began studying in Barcelona. Even though the city is pretty safe to walk alone, she was very surprised to hear about multiple pickpockets or street theft cases.
So, even though you are coming to study, go beyond and ask questions to people who have already experienced what you are about to do.
3. Don’t leave the accommodation for the end
Once you know where your university is located, look for accommodation immediately. Madrid and Barcelona are very popular cities to study in, the education is good, life is relaxed, and there are activities at any time of the year. Still, accommodation can be a little hard to find.
Knowing that finding a place to live in Barcelona can be a complex or long process, we have created articles on the best renting platforms and neighborhoods, so you can decide where to stay in Barcelona. I will link the below:
Tips for finding accommodation when studying in Barcelona:
Ask your university: Universities have residencies and alliances with coliving companies.
Read our article: Check out our article on renting platforms in Barcelona; it will give you lots of insights on where to look and what to avoid.
Ask people you know: You can get really lucky! A friend or a family member may know someone with a free room.
That is exactly what happened to Camila, she didn’t want to stay at a university residency as it is more recommended for first-year students, and she needed to learn how to start looking for an apartment on other platforms. After asking around, a friend of her mom’s had a free studio in the neighborhood of Gracia, and she could rent it during her studies.
4. Governmental processes should be a priority as soon as you land
Anyone that comes to study in Spain needs to go through governmental processes. It doesn’t matter if you are from the United States or a European nation; if you stay more than six months in Spain, you must do some administrative processes.
Camila that because she had an Italian passport (EU member), she didn’t have to go through governmental processes (that’s why she advises doing a full research!). She learned about it when the university asked her for some documents in her first week.
That put her in a rush, having to make appointments last minute and running from one office to another to get her documents right.
Students start arriving around the first weeks of September, so administrative offices get packed with people trying to sort out their documents. Arrive one or two weeks earlier to start any process ahead of time and avoid getting in the mess of late September.
5. Basic Spanish is needed!
Catalan is an official language in Barcelona, but you as a student don’t need to learn as long as you attend private universities. Some public institutions do have some classes in Catalan, so check your whole program if you plan to attend one of these.
Spanish is no problem for Camila, but she has met international people who didn’t know not speaking Spanish would be an issue.
Even if you learn it from Duolingo lessons, a basic understanding of the vocabulary for social and daily situations will improve your experience in Barcelona.
6. Get yourself some roommates
If you find it hard to make friends or socialize at university, consider living where you can meet new people.
Choosing to live with roommates is like playing luck roulette; sometimes it will go amazing, and other times you will have to stand some people for a few months.
However, if you prefer having someone to chat with during the week outside the university context, we recommend looking for a place with roommates.
When I moved to Madrid, I chose a coliving space versus a studio because I knew I wanted company during my first months in a new city. My experience with Homiii (renting company in Madrid) was fantastic, and I met great people.
Camila chose a studio over a shared apartment because she prefers having a more quiet and peaceful environment at home.
So, ask yourself what you would prefer, weigh the options and start your apartment hunting
7. Make sure that you check your budget before you come
Barcelona is the most expensive city in Spain, followed by Madrid, so be sure to create a budget before you travel.
Camila didn’t know what to expect on daily living expenses and traveled without considering the real prices in Barcelona.
So, attention! To live comfortably in Barcelona, you need around €800 - €1,000 monthly, considering rent, food, transport, and social life. You will have to add what your university program will cost you, and then you will have a full budget.
I liked using Wise whenever I needed additional financing from my parents. It is a platform that doesn’t charge high fees for currency exchange and is very easy to use.
8. Be careful with pickpockets!
Something Camila didn’t expect at all was the pickpocketers. Yes, Barcelona is a safe city, but like any big metropolis, there is the risk of getting robbed.
I don’t mean to alarm anyone; there is no violence in the street, but it can happen that if you are too distracted on public transport or famous streets, you might get home without your phone or your wallet.
Whenever you are in the metro, bus, or frequented street by tourists, procure your belonging where you can see them. Additionally, don’t place your wallet or phone in the front pocket of your bags or purses.
Be ready to enjoy random experiences and walk the city! Not all of the things you have to know before you come to Barcelona are a warning; you should also know that the Catalan capital is so diverse that you will see funny scenes from time to time.
For example, one of the most random experiences that Camila has seen during her months in Barcelona was a man singing karaoke in the middle of the street!
It was a Monday morning, and this person had his karaoke machine on him, having a party of one that transmitted joy to people around him.
Besides that, if you come from Latin America or North America, you know that walking from one place to another is not very usual. However, something you should do before you study in Barcelona is that you will probably find yourself walking everywhere!
Walking is one of the best ways to know a city, and I am sure you will enjoy it!
Okay, we have reviewed nine things you should know before studying in Barcelona! I hope their results are helpful, and if you have any doubts, contact us!
We at Sensational Spain want you to have the best experience possible, so if you need any help moving to Spain, let us know!
If you are still unsure that Barcelona is your city, check out our article and podcast about studying in Madrid; having a view of both cities will help you decide. I will link the article below, and you can find our podcast on the homepage!
Jimena Bolívar is a seasoned travel writer with a unique passion for Spanish Food & Recipes. With a background in business and marketing, she brings a strategic and innovative approach to her writing, making her the perfect guide for those looking to truly experience the Authentic Spain. Jimena is also a Mother of 4, and is a huge fan of knitting her own clothes.