To me it’s a bit funny that I’m going to share the expectations I had coming into this trip because I really wasn’t expecting to study abroad at all in the first place. However, I am so glad that I did because this opportunity allows me to set different types of goals for myself that I maybe wouldn’t otherwise if I were just at home living my life normally.
Although I have studied abroad before, those programs were each a bit different, and while I learned things and gained so much from those experiences, now, here in Barcelona, I am actually studying abroad in the true meaning of the phrase.
Obviously I knew that UPF would be different than Pitt, but in which ways I wasn’t sure. Working for a Spanish firm over the summer I knew that operations run a bit more slowly and with less urgency than in the states, and they may be a bit less organized as well, so I expected to be a bit confused at times or without enough information. However, at the beginning of the semester this happened to me a lot, also due to the fact that Spanish is a high context language. Therefore, people don’t feel the need to go into much detail and assume that you know the context behind the situation.
My first day of classes at UPF I was quite lost (literally) because I didn’t know where any of my classes were or where to find them. It took me a solid four weeks to finally figure out where my economics seminar was located and when it was being held. For my Finanzas II class, we have seminar each Thursday and we have a worksheet to do for it. Each week I always completed the seminar worksheets for class, but I had no idea that they were due for an online submission. At this point I then had four missing assignments. I was quite stressed and nervous because I had been missing so much in both of these courses. However, because I was honest and open with my professors throughout this whole confusing process, they were very understanding. Everything is fine now and I should still be able to achieve good marks.
In terms of the grading system, I knew it would be a bit different from how grades are broken down at Pitt, but here it is totally different. Most classes the final exam is worth 60% of the final grade, the midterm 20%, and the rest a “continuous evaluation,” which encompasses attendance and small projects. Not having periodic assignments besides those for my finance class is quite strange for me, and it makes it a bit harder to have the motivation to keep up with studying the material.
What also makes it a challenge is that there are no books for any of my classes, which I did not expect at all. At Pitt it’s becoming more popular to try and use other means of material, but the majority of my classes I always have to buy a book or at least an online book. At UPF I’m taking four classes and not one of them has any materials, only what the professors make.
Even though some of my expectations and thoughts about studying in Barcelona weren’t that accurate, I still think I have done a pretty good job of adjusting to the different culture in the educational environment.