Your Guide to the Ultimate Barcelona Study Abroad Experience

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College Study Abroad

Barcelona reigns in Spain as one of Europe’s most happening cities. That according to QS Best Student Cities 2023; not to mention anyone who’s ever been there! 

Of course, you don’t need us to tell you that. Your sights are already set on this beautiful seaside city. And we get it. Barcelona is a world-class gem, especially when experienced through a stellar study abroad program. 

In this ultimate guide, we offer insight into exactly why choosing to study abroad in Barcelona is such a good idea – and how to go about it. 

Ready to get inspired? Let’s dive in! 

barcelona ebook

Why Study Abroad in Barcelona 

Barcelona is one of the most beautiful and popular cities in Europe. Nestled between the sea and the mountains, the city occupies a stunning spot in the region of Catalonia in northeastern Spain.  

Barcelona strikes the perfect balance between old-world and cosmopolitan charm, combining a rich history with eclectic architecture and a modern aesthetic. 

Like you, people from around the world are drawn here. But why is it such a good spot for studying abroad? That, after all, is exactly what you need to know now.  

So, we asked some of our fabulous CIEE Barcelona staff what they most appreciate about the Barcelona study abroad experience. Here’s a peek at what some have to say: 

  • You get to learn from local faculty at some of the most important Spanish universities.” True story. CIEE partner schools include Universitat de Barcelona, ESCI-UPF School of International Studies, Universitat de Vic – Central University of Catalonia, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia. A pretty amazing list, if we do say so ourselves. 
  • Your academic experience is immersive, no matter the program you pick. Also, spot on. Depending on your program, you can expect direct enrollment courses or CIEE courses taught by local faculty. Or, if you go the internship route, you get hands-on experience at a local company. In short, no matter your program, you dive right in alongside locals. 
  • You get to experience the real Barcelona.” Studying abroad is very different from taking a vacation. The latter gives you a bird’s-eye view of what Barcelona is like. But living and learning here, well, you’re immersed in it. And our students frequently connect with local students from our partner institutions to discover the city’s hidden gems only a local would know to visit. 
  • You will learn so much more than academics.” All CIEE courses include out-of-classroom experiences to enhance classroom learning. Think guided tours of the Picasso Museum, day trips to the Dali Theatre Museum in Figueres, hikes in the Collserola Natural Park, visits to Roman ruins, and more.  
  • Your Spanish language skills will get significantly better. Studying abroad in Barcelona gives you endless opportunities to improve your Spanish. And this is true for Spanish speakers of any skill level. We promise you that. 
study abroad students hiking in barcelona

How to Study Abroad in Barcelona 

Now that your heart is set on studying abroad in Barcelona, it’s time to get your brain on board so you can make it happen. And really, the process is easier than you may think.

Follow our six-step process to get started: 

  1. Find your why. Is your focus on improving your Spanish-language skills? Are you an architecture student eager to play in Barcelona’s FabLab? Or do you really want to take on an international internship? Establish your core goal first. 
  2. Determine your availability. You may have a lot of flexibility in your schedule, or maybe you don’t. No worries – we offer programs that are as short as 20 days, as long as 18 weeks, and a lot of others in between. 
  3. Choose a program that fits. Check out our many Barcelona programs and find the one that best fits your goals and timeframe. 
  4. Make sure you’re eligible. Different programs have different requirements, such as GPA, language skills, etc. Match your skills to the program. 
  5. Budget for it. Our fees go a long way and typically cover tuition, tours, excursions, orientation, on-site support, airport meet-and-greet, and more. We also offer millions of dollars in scholarships and grants each year based on financial need and merit. Your college’s study abroad advisor may also know of other avenues of financial support. Be sure to check with them. 
  6. Book it! Need we say more? 
study abroad host family in barcelona at dinner

Study Abroad in Barcelona Tips  

Before you set off for your Barcelona adventure of a lifetime, the following key tips will help you get the most out of your experience. They’re what we tell all of our Spanish students. 

Know some Spanish.  

Many of our students are proficient in the language, but not all. If you are in the latter group, don’t worry. But we do recommend learning some basic Spanish before you arrive. This will help make your Spanish immersion experience more fun and more authentic from the very start. 

Use your Spanish.  

If your Spanish is newly acquired, use it. If your Spanish is rusty, use it. Don’t be afraid, just do your best. You’ll be surprised at how good your Spanish will be by the end of your stay. 

Take the tours.  

This may be your once-in-a-lifetime chance to see Basilica de la Sagrada Familia, the Picasso Museum, or the Mediterranean Sea. Don’t miss out! 

Keep a journal.  

Handwritten. Vlog. Blog. However you want to capture your daily experiences, do it. It’s the best way to keep track of the memories you won’t want to forget. 

Bring comfortable shoes.  

You are going to walk a lot. We offer more tips on packing below, but this one is worth mentioning twice! Trust us on this. 

study abroad students in barcleona during the summer on a walk

Think long-term.  

Do you know former participants have returned to Spain to work in a company where they previously interned in? It happens a lot! So, think long-term. Make connections. Build your network. And be open to whatever this life-changing opportunity brings. 

Meet the locals.  

Whether through a co-curricular club, local volunteer opportunity, becoming a regular at a nearby café, or all of it, immerse yourself in the community.  

Embrace the unexpected.  

If you wanted to stick to life at home, then you’d stay there. Instead, you’re choosing to study abroad to experience the way other cultures do life. So let yourself live like a local and embrace the new! 

Barcelona Study Abroad Packing List  

We’d be remiss not to offer you advice on packing. Bring the right stuff and you’ll enjoy Barcelona that much more.  

  • Winter gear: Coastal Barcelona can get quite chilly and cloudy in wintertime, especially in the evenings and early mornings. You’ll want warm layers such as sweaters, long-sleeve shirts, thermals, a coat or jacket, as well as a scarf, gloves, and a hat. 
  • Spring gear: Spring in Barcelona is generally mild but can get warm during the day, so pack light layers such as t-shirts, shorts, and dresses. 
  • Summer gear: Lightweight clothing such as t-shirts, shorts, and dresses are perfect for Barcelona’s hot summer days. Pack breathable, light-colored clothes suitable for the heat. And don’t forget your swimsuit and beach towel. 
  • Fall gear: The weather in fall can vary quite a bit, so it's important to have layers. Pack items like a light jacket, sweater, long-sleeve shirts, and pants. 
  • All-season gear: No matter the season, you’ll want comfortable walking shoes, as well as sunglasses, sunscreen, a rain jacket, and an umbrella.
  • Absolutely do-not-forget gear: This includes your passport (plus a photocopy just in case), visa, a second form of valid ID (e.g., driver’s license or government-issued ID), proof of health insurance, euros or cash to exchange into euros, a credit card accepted in Spain, any prescription medications you take, and prescription eyewear. We recommend packing these in your carry-on, and checking twice. 
student bike tour in barcelona

Barcelona is calling! 

We hope this guide sets you up for an amazing Barcelona study abroad experience. Ready to get started? Discover all that CIEE Barcelona has to offer today!