Success Abroad: Navigating the Spanish Classroom

After a month of classes, I maintain my previous blog post’s point that my courses are quite manageable. The lecture duration and material covered so far have been achievable with plenty of extra time to see the sights of Barcelona. In two of my courses; Understanding Spain through History & Art, and Arte en España, we have scheduled walking field trips to several museums and ancient city ruins. Thus far, my professors have been quality and strive to explain topics thoroughly even when language barriers become complicated. The dynamics of Spanish academic culture diverge from the US when it comes to outside work. To the happiness of many American students, there is a general lack of outside class work besides the occasional group project. Students complete all assignments in class and only have to worry about studying for exams outside of class.

All of this is not to say that anyone can come to Spain and automatically be successful. The majority of work I completed to be successful in Barcelona occurred back in the States. For months I deliberated, plotted, and devised my plan of attack for getting the most out of my short semester abroad. Mainly, I leveraged my analytical and focus strengths, to come up with detailed goals and possible routes to completion. I also feel that it’s pertinent that I mention I have nearly a decade of study of Spanish under my belt which has greatly helped me adjust to Spanish culture.

Above all, time management skills are needed to be successful when studying abroad. Note: don’t disregard its importance domestically as well. Although being abroad in Spain has great perks like cheap flights to hot destinations, a rich network of monuments and museums, and needless to say lavish nightclubs, no student would be able to enjoy these perks to the fullest whilst also failing their classes. Here’s my general advice to those who want to be successful in the Spanish academic environment.

  1. Make a friend in every class or at least get their contact info so that if you are late to class, sick, or lost because most maps in Barcelona are written in Catalan (personal experience), you can get the notes you missed.
  2. Be active in class. Everyone there is at different points of their academic career but at the end of the day, everyone is there to learn. This point is especially important in Spanish language classes, don’t be afraid to take risks.
  3. Lastly, splurge on the more expensive refundable Ryan Air ticket, you never know if your professor will change your exam time to 8 pm. This way, you won’t have to worry about rebooking or, heaven forbid, missing a class.

Adeline Jay

Barcelona City Hall located in the Gothic Quarter

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