Lily Scotcher, 2012-2013 at Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Spain (Edith Baer grant recipient)

Studying Hispanic Studies at King’s College London meant I had the opportunity to spend my third year abroad in either Spain or Latin America and I opted for Barcelona as I liked the fact that it was still a large city like London, although slightly smaller and it also has a beach. I found it easy to adapt to Barcelona since it is a large cosmopolitan city like London, although slightly smaller. I was awarded the Edith Baer award to enrich my experience on my year abroad and I mostly put this towards travel within the region I was living in and the rest of Spain.

UPF has a trimester based system which meant that you took different modules for each of the three trimesters so you were able to cover a great deal of topics throughout the year. One of the perks of studying abroad is that you are allowed me to take modules out of your usual discipline and I really enjoyed studying geography modules as I have always had a great interest for that subject. The work load at UPF was less than what I had previously experienced at King’s and unlike at King’s, our modules were graded by continuous assessment which keeps you on your toes throughout the semester and then you also have an exam at the end of the trimester. Having three trimesters rather than the usual two semesters which I was used to at King’s meant that you took a lot more classes throughout the year and you were constantly buying new study materials so the Edith Baer award funded my text books and course packs.

Socially, Barcelona is a great place to study. The Erasmus Student Network at UPF held two weeks’ worth of Erasmus events prior to classes starting which was a great way to meet other students. You had to pay an initial fee to sign up which was quite steep and put many people off but I would definitely recommend signing up. The first event I went to was called ‘Speed Friending’ which was like speed dating but you met lots of different people and were able to chat for three minutes and you covered a lot of people in the room in a short space of time. The first two people I met there were French and American and they were two of my closest friends in Spain until the very end which shows the events were a great way to meet people from all over the world and that was something I really appreciated about studying abroad, the opportunity to integrate yourself with people from so many different places and the Latin American’s I met through ESN were also great for my language skills.

While I was studying in Barcelona I really wanted to see as much of Cataluña as possible so on the weekends I would often dedicate a day to seeing either more of Barcelona, i.e. hiking up to Mount Tibidabo or visiting another town in Cataluña; I visited Montserrat which I would definitely recommend as the views are incredible and the monastery is very beautiful. I also went to Sitges which is a lovely beach town for my first carnival experience, all the dancers and floats were very colourful and the atmosphere within the community kept everyone going till the early hours. Dressing up is a huge part of the carnival tradition so we wore masks and head bands and bright colours.

Something I would recommend if you are going to Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona is Voluntariat Linguistic as they frequently hold weekend trips to other places in Cataluña and they will give you a free informative tour. With Voluntariat Linguistic I went to Girona, a beautiful city.

With the award I was also able to travel outside of Cataluña which was particularly interesting since I became very accustomed to the Catalonian customs so it was interesting to compare this to a more Spanish way of life. Having visited Spain many times before I had never visited Andalucía so this was a must and it was somewhere I was very excited to visit. I opted to go to Granada and one of my friends in Barcelona was also very interested so we booked flights and accommodation and spent a long weekend there at the end of March after our exams. Granada was very beautiful and it was interesting to see the Arabic influences on the country. We visited La Alhambra which was very impressive. The best thing about Granada, in my opinion, was the food. If you order a drink in a bar then you get a huge plate of tapas for free which made our weekend particularly cheap when it came to lunch.

I also visited Valencia for a long weekend and it was interesting to visit another region where they have another regional language, in this case Valenciano. The city of Valencia was is up of the old part of the city and then the new modern area with the science and art museum. It was particularly interesting to see this contrast as the new part and the old part are completely separate.

I would recommend travelling during your year abroad so that you can see more of the country that you are studying in rather than just the city you are in as you will gain a much wider insight into the culture. I can appreciate the wealth of traditions and customs in Spain a lot more after having seen different regions during my time abroad. Overall, studying abroad was an invaluable experience and I would really recommend it.

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