“I have the most evil memories of Spain, but I have very few bad memories of Spaniards.” - George Orwell

The Spanish are famous for being warm and welcoming. They’ll greet you with a couple kisses on the cheek, something that can feel weird for Britons.

There are tonnes of British people living in Spain, too. Even though Spain isn’t that far away, it’s quite different from the UK in terms of culture and going there is a great cross-cultural experience, even if just for a summer abroad.

Whether you're an undergraduate, postgraduate, doctoral candidate, or international student, here's how you can study abroad in Spain, improve your language skills, and get used to life on Spanish campuses.

If you're still asking yourself “why study abroad?”, this article should help you get ready!

The Language Level Required for Becoming a Student in Spain

In Spain, they speak Spanish. This means you’ll need to work hard in your Spanish lessons or maybe even consider doing intensive Spanish courses before you go. Since language and culture are closely related, you may want to go abroad to learn more about Spain, too.

Which are the best films for learning Spanish?
Watching films in Spanish is a great way to learn the language. (Source: igorovsyannykov)

Language study is one of the main reasons students decide to study abroad. The lessons at university in Spain will be in Spanish and you’ll need to be able to follow along just like any Spanish student.

You’ll need at least an A2 or B1 to get you started as you’ll soon start learning quickly once you’re immersed in the culture. It might be worthwhile spending some time with a host family in Spain over the summer to help you brush up.

Of course, if you attend an international university, you'll find that you can get lessons in English. However, this mightn't help you improve your language skills.

There’s the Instituto Cervantes in London, Manchester, and Leeds that could help. This will help you from the second you arrive in your new university. There’s already plenty of things that could stress you out so make sure the language isn’t one of them.

A language test may be required for certain universities. It’s a good idea to be prepared. Of course, if you go to Barcelona, for example, Catalan is spoken. In some universities, both languages are official.

What Is the Standard of Living Like in Spain?

The average salary in Spain is €1,718 whereas in the UK €2,102.

That said, the gap between the highest and lowest salaries tends to be bigger. Unsurprisingly, Madrid has some of the highest salaries alongside País Vasco and Navarre.

If you want to prepare for your time abroad, you should go with a similar budget to that of a student in the UK.

Of course, you can always to a paid internship or get scholarships for your language courses or international education. You can get a lot more out of your year abroad if you can focus on your studies. That said, if you do have to work, employers do love a candidate with multicultural and international experience, even if it was just one semester abroad.

In addition to the Erasmus grant, there are also study abroad scholarships to help you with paying for your education abroad.

In Spain, you don’t need to be that formal with your teachers at university and you can probably call them by their first name. You might be surprised at just how relaxed everything is. No need to use “sir” or “miss” or the formalities that most British people use when speaking. You can speak to your fellow students in a similar way to your teachers.

Of course, there is a cultural difference across the country, too. Generally, you can be more informal in the south of Spain than in the north. Life in Seville and Granada is generally more relaxed than the bigger cities like Madrid and Barcelona, for one.

Adapting to Spanish Food

Studying in Spain is a great way to get to know the food. Get ready for paella and tapas! Spanish food is based on a Mediterranean diet and you’ll find a lot of olive oil, garlic, herbs, spices, fish, and seafood.

What do they eat in Spain?
Spain is home to plenty of great food. (Source: Eisenmenger)

Like in the UK, each region has its own specialities and you can enjoy food such as:

  • Tapas
  • Paella
  • Cocido
  • Gazpacho
  • Chorizo
  • Tortilla (Spanish omelette)
  • Cochinillo asado (roast pork)
  • Churros
  • Natillas
  • Leche frita

Spanish food is quite fatty since a lot of things are cooked in olive oil. That said, they don’t use butter in cooking as much as we do.

Everything Happens Later in Spain

Dinner in Spain takes place a few hours later than it does in the UK. Lunch is around 2 in the afternoon and dinner is around 9 or 10. Of course, your timetable at university will have this in mind, too. Lessons start around 9 in the morning and your lunch break can end as late as 4 in the afternoon.

Some shops also shut during the afternoon. You can still get stuff as late as 10 in the evening. Of course, between 2 and 5, you might be shocked to see so many shops closed.

Also, be wary of the word “mañana” in Spain. It means both “morning” and “tomorrow” and seems to be interchangeable with “later”, “next week”, or just “never”.

Can’t find something in a shop?

It might be there “mañana”... People in Spain aren’t as bothered about timekeeping as we are in the UK and timetables and schedules can sometimes seem arbitrary.

It seems that bullfighting is the only thing that’ll start on time. Of course, we’re exaggerating, but you do need to get used to not expecting things to take place at the exact time they say. It can be tricky at first, but soon you’ll find it much more relaxing.

Living in Spain: Football

You’ll soon see just how much Spaniards like to laugh and have fun, but not when it comes to football as that’s serious business. Football is a religion in Spain and a lot of the country follows either Real Madrid or Barcelona. Weekends are dominated by sport.

It’s a great way to get involved in local life.

Accommodation in Spain

Studying abroad is an opportunity to live a real student lifestyle. You can expect to pay between €200 and €400 per month for a room. You can also get accommodation at university for around €300 per month with both food and board included. Of course, these costs will vary depending on what type of accommodation you get and where it is in the city. However, you’ll probably have more money for going out than you would in the UK.

The Weather in Spain

Studying in Spain is a great opportunity to enjoy some good weather. Most of Spain has a Mediterranean climate. This means it’s warm and dry between May and October and there’s little rain.

What is the weather like in Spain?
The weather is one of the reasons why Spain is so popular for students. (Source: cocoparisienne)

Of course, Spain’s a big country and in the south, it’s much hotter and the air’s harder to breathe. Cities near mountains can suffer from a lot of cold wind in the winter. That said, whether you’re in Madrid, Barcelona, Murcia, or Valencia, when it rains in Spain, it rains!

How Much Do Spanish Universities Cost?

Tuition fees in Spain are different in each region but in general, they’re all quite similar. You won’t pay exactly the same in Valladolid as you would in Salamanca.

A degree can cost around €900 per academic year while a master’s degree can cost €1,500 in a public university.

Private universities can charge as much as they like and you can pay between €8,000 and €20,000 for a master’s degree. Academia in Spain is quite similar to the system in the UK and the cost is quite comparable to a lot of other places in the world.

You can get a grant or bursary as part of an exchange programme. For example, the Erasmus grant could help you. You can also get a job in a bar or restaurant to help make ends meet. You won’t need a work visa, either.

Getting Your Spanish Degree Recognised

You can get a degree in almost any subject in Spain.

How do you get your Spanish degree recognised?
No matter where you live or study, you'll need to adapt to the local culture. (Source: 12019)

You can study in both the UK and Spain as part of a degree course. Thanks to the bachelor's master's doctorate system, your degree will be valid and recognised.

When it comes to master’s degrees or PhDs, you’ll need to enrol directly with the Spanish university. You’ll need a certain number of ECTS credits in order to get onto a master’s degree for example.

So are you ready to start preparing to study in Spain?

If you need more information about enrollment, when the deadline is, or life as an exchange student, consider getting in touch with the study abroad office at your university in the UK. You'll be able to speak to an advisor and learn more about education abroad. Otherwise, contact the alumni of your course who've done the same. It doesn't matter whether you're studying economics, humanities, foreign languages, science, or the arts, everyone can benefit from international study!

Whether you do a gap year or a whole year abroad, you won't need a student visa, either!

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