As a student at King’s, you have ample opportunity to study abroad – be it as a part of your degree or an optional semester. As a BA Philosophy and Spanish student, I am taking a year out to study in a Spanish-speaking country. I spent my first semester studying at Universitat Pompeu Fabra (UPF) in Barcelona. Specialised in communications and social sciences, the university offers a myriad of courses to complement nearly every degree. Something important to consider when choosing UPF as your host institution is that a large portion of the classes are taught in Catalan – thus a good competency of English and Spanish is required to make the most out of the other subjects offered. Unless, of course, you speak Catalan, in which case this university is perfect for you.
A unique opportunity when studying abroad is the option to take classes outside of your primary field of study. For example, despite being a philosophy student, I was able to take classes on art history and religious studies and really explore my personal interests (although, fellow philosophy students will understand that pretty much anything can be deemed philosophical, so it all links in some way or another). Furthermore, studying outside of the UK means that syllabi are far less UK-centric, allowing for a much more diverse approach to your studies. For example, classes in Spain are – expectedly – much more focused on Spain. Understanding how your studies vary from country to country is a vital part in grasping the extent of your field, not only from a language perspective but also culturally.
Studying aside, Barcelona is a beautiful city. Much like London, it’s incredibly multicultural, and if you don’t speak Spanish or Catalan you’ll have no issue finding English speakers (much to any Spanish language student’s dismay). It’s very easy to feel at home here due to its ‘big city feel’. You’ll find no shortage of big chain shops and restaurants, as well as other international students. That said, it’s also very culturally rich. Catalunya has a fascinating political history, and Barcelona itself – despite being such a big city – is surrounded by spectacular mountain ranges and historic monuments. If you, like myself, are a fan of art, Barcelona is undoubtedly the place to go. The streets are strewn with architectural marvels, the likes of which include Gaudí’s ‘Casa Batlló’, located on Barcelona’s main high-street Passeig de Gracia, as well as the exquisite Gothic Quarter, where I was lucky enough to live during my time there. Of course, the Sagrada Familia can be seen from anywhere in the city. Not to mention the countless museums housing world–renowned works of art, such as the Picasso Museum in the Gothic Quarter, or the Dalí museum just outside of Barcelona in Figueres.
However, what made Barcelona so unique to me is its proximity to nature for such a big city. As I mentioned, the surrounding area is largely mountainous, offering great free hiking routes such as Tibidabo (which is also home to a pretty cool theme park if you’re interested). I’d also advise taking every opportunity to explore Catalunya. UPF has an organisation called Voluntariat Lingüístic that offers subsidised trips around the region. Some of my favourites I attended include Ripoll, La Garrotxa national park, and Girona (where some of Game of Thrones was filmed!). It really is a gorgeous area of Spain, and much different to the traditional ideas of Spain as a very hot, brown country. Being from Devon, I do appreciate some greenery.
Overall, Barcelona is a big, expensive city and UPF is a big, demanding university. But if you’re up for a challenge, it’s more than worth it.
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