While Spain may bring to mind classic images of flamenco dancing, bullfights and siestas, it also has much more to offer. From Moorish castles to cutting-edge architecture, Spain is a modern country that celebrates its rich and diverse history. Its panorama of mountains and beaches, colorful culture and hospitality attracts students and visitors from all over the world.



Languages Spoken:

Basque, Catalan, Galician, Spanish

Education System

HIGHER EDUCATION OVERVIEW

Knowing and understanding how higher education is structured in Spain will help you integrate into Spanish academic life. It will likely be different from your home university, and it is important that you try to adapt to the Spanish academic system, not try to adapt the Spanish academic system to meet your needs.

Spanish students follow a prescribed plan of study for each degree, called a plan de estudios. Spanish students being specializing in certain subjects in secondary school. In university, students will begin taking coursework specific to their degree in their first year of study, and are usually not permitted to take courses outside of their degree. For example, a student studying Chemistry will only take Chemistry courses for the duration of their degree. General education or estudios generales courses do not exist in the Spanish academic system, and even elective courses within a specific degree may be limited. “Minors” also do not exist in Spain, but many students will take courses in a specific concentration of their degree.

THE BOLOGNA PROCESS

Spain is a member country of the European Higher Education Association (EHEA), and many ISEP members in Spain are changing their university structures to follow the guidelines set out by the Bologna Process. As a result of these changes, students will encounter two different undergraduate degrees, the “old” undergraduate degree of licenciado and and the “new” undergraduate degree of grado.

STUDYING AT A SPANISH UNIVERSITY

Courses
As an ISEP participant, you will be able to take courses from different faculties and at different levels. However, to avoid scheduling issues, ISEP strongly recommends that you take courses in one carrera or degree if at all possible. Spanish students in the same year of the same degree will likely take the majority of their classes together, similar to a cohort, and their classes will normally be located close together. Typically, the layout of Spanish universities is decentralized and faculties can be located throughout the city. If you enroll in courses in different degrees or faculties, you may find that you have to cross town to go from one class to another.

Students studying Spanish language/literature at their home university should limit themselves to one literature or linguistics courses while studying in Spain. Literature and linguistics courses designed for native speakers are very advanced and will require substantial studying, reading and writing outside of class, in addition to an understanding of literary or linguistics theories. Suitable "topics" courses to fulfill requirements for a Spanish major can also usually be found in the history, political science or social science/humanities departments. 

Registration
In most cases registration is done upon arrival in Spain. As an international student you may be allowed to try out several courses from various faculties at the beginning of your exchange. Be sure to verify with your host coordinator the final deadline for registration. Follow registration instructions closely, to ensure that you complete all forms and meet all deadlines. ISEP recommends arriving to Spain with at least 10 potential courses selected. 

Course Load
Most Spanish students take 30 ECTS (European Credit Transfer System) per semester, which normally equates to five or six classes a semester. The minimum number of credits for a full-time course load is 24 ECTS. You must check with your home coordinator about the minimum number of credits you need to take while in Spain.

As a part of the new grado degrees, many courses have tutorials, lab sessions, or practicas as a part of the class. Class attendance is important, as materials covered in class make up a large portion of the exam. Attendance may be taken regularly, but if it is not, resist the urge to skip classes - exams will be difficult without regular class attendance.

Study Habits and Learning Styles
Your professors will expect you to take thorough notes on the lectures. In the Spanish university system, learning from lectures is emphasized over learning from a textbook. Note-taking and following lectures may be a big adjustment. If necessary, you can ask to borrow notes from a classmate for some of the first lectures. Many Spanish students take great pride in their notes and often rewrite them to have them neatly organized.

Learning is done more independently than you might be accustomed. You are expected to do substantive reading and studying outside of class. Aside from the assigned reading and class work, the professor may also suggest a supplementary list of books pertaining to the course topic.

Interaction with Professors
Spanish professors often do not deal directly with students. If you have questions or problems, it is up to you to arrange a meeting with the professor either before or after class or by setting up an appointment. Office hours may also be available for consultation.

You may be assigned a professor or other staff member to serve as your Academic Tutor while in Spain. You should consult with this person with any questions regarding registration, courses etc. You may always contact your ISEP Coordinator if you are unsure who you should consult.

Exams and Grading System
Depending on the type of classes you take, you will generally have tests and papers with a final exam at the end of the course. Form and organization are important in presenting written work. Check with a Spanish student about correct form so that your assignments will be properly presented. Make sure that your grammar and sentence structure are correct; have a native speaker check it over if necessary.

Final exams are typically given at the end of the semester and will include materials covered in class throughout the semester. It is important to keep up with your coursework, as it's difficult to "cram" a semester's worth of studying into the period before the exam. The format for written and oral exams may vary from class to class.

It will be important for you to check with both your home and host ISEP coordinators to ensure that your grades will be recorded in Spain and the credit transferred to your home institution. Although your host coordinator in Spain will help you in this matter, it will be your responsibility to make sure your grades are recorded. Note that failed courses typically do not appear on the Spanish transcript. 

If you choose to depart the program early, it is your responsibility to make any alternative or early final exam arrangements in writing with your professors in Spain. ISEP cannot guarantee an early departure and students must make arrangements, upon arrival, on a case by case basis with their individual professors. Students should note that the fall semester in Spain typically runs into January or early February to accomodate the exam period. 

Grades are given on a 10-point scale:
• 9 or 10 is considered excellent (sobresaliente)
• 7 or 8 is good (notable)
• 6 or 5 is average (aprobado),
• below five is failing (suspenso).

Matricula de Honor, is the highest grade awarded in the Spanish system, and is generally given to the student with the highest score in a class. Spanish professors are difficult graders, and rarely award grades of excellent; most students receive grades between six and eight.

Transcripts 

Transcripts will be sent directly to ISEP Global to forward to your home institution. Be sure to check with your host coordinator to make sure there are no outstanding issues that would delay the processing of your transcript.

Visa and Residency

ALL students studying in Spain for more than 90 days must obtain a student visa prior to departing for Spain. You cannot obtain your student visa once in Spain, and must apply in your country of permanent residence. The student visa application process can take four months or more to complete, and students should begin the application process IMMEDIATELY after accepting their ISEP program. This includes submitting the online ISEP visa form for Spain on time to avoid delays. 

European Union and European Economic Community passport-holders and most students studying in Spain for less than 90 days (summer programs) DO NOT need to obtain a visa before arrival. 

Click here for ISEP's Application Guidelines for the Spanish Student Visa. Please carefully review this document in its entirety before beginning the visa application process! 

IMPORTANT NOTE: There is a unique visa process for ISEP students applying through the Consulate of Spain in New York City. Students who attend a university in the NYC jurisdiction should contact ISEP Student Services Coordinator Rosie Nelson (rnelson@isep.org) as soon as they Accept their ISEP placement. Students who hold permanent residence in the NYC jurisdiction but attend a university in a different state are REQUIRED to apply through the Consulate with jurisdiction over the location of their home university.  

Page Updated September 24, 2019

Culture

CULTURAL ADJUSTMENT
Learning to live in a new culture is something every study abroad student experiences. Not every student experiences culture shock, but if you do, know that it is entirely normal. Part of preparing to live abroad in a new country is learning about the culture. It is easy to compare things as better or worse in your home country. Try to avoid making judgements, and instead acknowledge that things are different. Many former ISEP participants have written about their time abroad in our blog.

COMMUNICATION

Greetings
Typically, Spanish friends, greet each other and say goodbye with a kiss on each cheek. A handshake is appropriate for professional introductions.

Space and distance
Spaniards are less conscious of personal space than you may be accustomed to. They stand and speak in close proximity. The farther south in Spain you are, the truer this is.

Time
Punctuality is important, but not paramount. In Spanish culture it is important to take time to enjoy meals, coffee, and conversation and not rush them. You won’t find people eating breakfast on the run, and at mid-day meals certain businesses will shut down.

FOOD, MEALTIMES AND THE SIESTA
The Spanish diet is rich in diversity. Pork products such as jamon serrano, jamon iberico and many other forms of the meat are very popular. Depending on the region you live in, fresh seafood may be widely available at a very reasonable price. Spain boasts a wonderful gastronomic reputation, and there are a wide variety of regional dishes to be explored. Vegetarians may have a slightly more difficult time finding strictly vegetarian dishes, but it is possible. It is considered inappropriate to bring food, drink or chewing gum into the classroom in Spain.

In Spain, breakfast is very light, normally a coffee or tea with toast or pastries. Around 11am, many people eat a light snack to keep them going until lunch, the main meal of the day.

Lunch is normally eaten around two or three o’clock in the afternoon and may consist of multiple platos, or courses. Although the nine to five business schedule affects typical mealtimes, some family members will still return home for the mid-day meal, and take a nap, or siesta after lunch. The siesta is an important reminder that Spaniards value rest and relaxation.

Tapas provide a late afternoon/early evening snack. Many people go for tapas with friends and share a few plates of different appetizers. Dinner is a lighter fare, and is served later, generally around nine or ten o’clock.

WHAT IS SPANISH CULTURE?
Many things may come to mind when you think of Spanish culture. However, it is important to realize that Spain is an incredibly diverse country, with strong local, regional and national identities. When you arrive to your host city, take advantage of local and regional festivals to learn about Spanish culture.

Regionalism
Spain has multiple co-official languages and dialects spoken in addition to Castilian Spanish. Take advantage of your time and explore the customs, cuisine and traditions of each Autonomous Community of Spain. The typical popular images of Spain, the flamenco dancer or the bullfighter, come from Andalucía. However, this isn't an accurate representation of the entire country - no more than thinking that a common stereotype from your country represents your entire culture.

Bullfights
It can be hard for a foreigner in Spain to understand, much less appreciate, a bullfight. To some it seems a cruel and senseless sport in which an animal is killed for the entertainment of a bloodthirsty crowd. However, it is not really a sport; it is more of a spectacle, a life-and-death play performed in the Plaza de Toros of most Spanish cities. Some feel that if you visit Spain and fail to see a bullfight, you have missed an important part of Spanish culture, while others find it abusive to animals. The debate about bullfighting is allve and well.

Family
Spaniards usually live at home until they get married, so many of your Spanish friends will still be living at home. People generally don't move far from the town or city where they grow up and typically stay close to an extended family network throughout their whole life.

UNIVERSITY CULTURE
Clubs and activities that create a "campus community" are not very prevalent on a Spanish university campus, if they exist at all. In order to make friends and develop a community of your own, open your mind to Spanish life and enjoy the way your classmates do things. You can learn a lot from your friends outside the classroom.

Typically, Spanish students live at home and commute to university. Out-of-town students live in shared apartments, student pensions or a Residencia Estudiantil or Colegio Mayor (student residence hall), located off the premises of the university. It is common for students to use public transportation between the university and home. Public transportation in Spain tends to be very good.

OTHER CONSIDERATIONS
Prepare yourself to be asked about and challenged about your political beliefs. Spaniards like to talk politics and it can get heated, but try not to take it personally. You may be asked questions about politicians, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the death penalty, and gun control among other things. If you don't want to talk about these issues, simply politely decline to talk about them. Instead try talking about American movies or music – both are quite popular in Spain.

Some American women have acquired a reputation for a free-and-easy lifestyle and you may find people expecting more than you might want to give. Firmly say no to any invitation you don't want to accept and do not give out your personal contact information freely

Gender roles Occasionally, some women may receive appreciative whistles and comments from men, known as piropos. Usually, these signs of appreciation are harmless and are best ignored. Dressing more conservatively is a practical way of minimizing unsolicited comments.

Daily Life

CULTURAL ADJUSTMENT
Learning to live in a new culture is something every study abroad student experiences. Not every student experiences culture shock, but if you do, know that it is entirely normal. Part of preparing to live abroad in a new country is learning about the culture. It is easy to compare things as better or worse in your home country. Try to avoid making judgements, and instead acknowledge that things are different. Many former ISEP participants have written about their time abroad in our blog.

COMMUNICATION

Greetings
Typically, Spanish friends, greet each other and say goodbye with a kiss on each cheek. A handshake is appropriate for professional introductions.

Space and distance
Spaniards are less conscious of personal space than you may be accustomed to. They stand and speak in close proximity. The farther south in Spain you are, the truer this is.

Time
Punctuality is important, but not paramount. In Spanish culture it is important to take time to enjoy meals, coffee, and conversation and not rush them. You won’t find people eating breakfast on the run, and at mid-day meals certain businesses will shut down.

FOOD, MEALTIMES AND THE SIESTA
The Spanish diet is rich in diversity. Pork products such as jamon serrano, jamon iberico and many other forms of the meat are very popular. Depending on the region you live in, fresh seafood may be widely available at a very reasonable price. Spain boasts a wonderful gastronomic reputation, and there are a wide variety of regional dishes to be explored. Vegetarians may have a slightly more difficult time finding strictly vegetarian dishes, but it is possible. It is considered inappropriate to bring food, drink or chewing gum into the classroom in Spain.

In Spain, breakfast is very light, normally a coffee or tea with toast or pastries. Around 11am, many people eat a light snack to keep them going until lunch, the main meal of the day.

Lunch is normally eaten around two or three o’clock in the afternoon and may consist of multiple platos, or courses. Although the nine to five business schedule affects typical mealtimes, some family members will still return home for the mid-day meal, and take a nap, or siesta after lunch. The siesta is an important reminder that Spaniards value rest and relaxation.

Tapas provide a late afternoon/early evening snack. Many people go for tapas with friends and share a few plates of different appetizers. Dinner is a lighter fare, and is served later, generally around nine or ten o’clock.

WHAT IS SPANISH CULTURE?
Many things may come to mind when you think of Spanish culture. However, it is important to realize that Spain is an incredibly diverse country, with strong local, regional and national identities. When you arrive to your host city, take advantage of local and regional festivals to learn about Spanish culture.

Regionalism
Spain has multiple co-official languages and dialects spoken in addition to Castilian Spanish. Take advantage of your time and explore the customs, cuisine and traditions of each Autonomous Community of Spain. The typical popular images of Spain, the flamenco dancer or the bullfighter, come from Andalucía. However, this isn't an accurate representation of the entire country - no more than thinking that a common stereotype from your country represents your entire culture.

Bullfights
It can be hard for a foreigner in Spain to understand, much less appreciate, a bullfight. To some it seems a cruel and senseless sport in which an animal is killed for the entertainment of a bloodthirsty crowd. However, it is not really a sport; it is more of a spectacle, a life-and-death play performed in the Plaza de Toros of most Spanish cities. Some feel that if you visit Spain and fail to see a bullfight, you have missed an important part of Spanish culture, while others find it abusive to animals. The debate about bullfighting is allve and well.

Family
Spaniards usually live at home until they get married, so many of your Spanish friends will still be living at home. People generally don't move far from the town or city where they grow up and typically stay close to an extended family network throughout their whole life.

UNIVERSITY CULTURE
Clubs and activities that create a "campus community" are not very prevalent on a Spanish university campus, if they exist at all. In order to make friends and develop a community of your own, open your mind to Spanish life and enjoy the way your classmates do things. You can learn a lot from your friends outside the classroom.

Typically, Spanish students live at home and commute to university. Out-of-town students live in shared apartments, student pensions or a Residencia Estudiantil or Colegio Mayor (student residence hall), located off the premises of the university. It is common for students to use public transportation between the university and home. Public transportation in Spain tends to be very good.

OTHER CONSIDERATIONS
Prepare yourself to be asked about and challenged about your political beliefs. Spaniards like to talk politics and it can get heated, but try not to take it personally. You may be asked questions about politicians, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the death penalty, and gun control among other things. If you don't want to talk about these issues, simply politely decline to talk about them. Instead try talking about American movies or music – both are quite popular in Spain.

Some American women have acquired a reputation for a free-and-easy lifestyle and you may find people expecting more than you might want to give. Firmly say no to any invitation you don't want to accept and do not give out your personal contact information freely

Gender roles Occasionally, some women may receive appreciative whistles and comments from men, known as piropos. Usually, these signs of appreciation are harmless and are best ignored. Dressing more conservatively is a practical way of minimizing unsolicited comments.

Health and Safety

Your health and safety is our number one priority. Please read and reference the Health and Safety section of the ISEP website for general information regarding health and safety abroad. 

Detailed information about Spain can be found here. Please pay special attention to the Safety and Security, Local Laws and Special Circumstances and Health sections. 

Note: Information sourced on this page is provided by the U.S. Department of State. Non-U.S nationals should disregard the Embassies and Consulates and Entry, Exit and Visa Requirements sections. 

- Please review the CDC's Health Information for individuals studying abroad in Spain.

 

-If you’re planning to bring your prescription or over-the-counter medicine on your trip, you need to make sure your medicine is travel-ready. More information can be found here, and please contact your Program Manager and Host ISEP Coordinator with any additional questions. 

Currency

MONEY MATTERS

Currency
The Euro is the official currency of Spain and the common currency of the European Union. You may still see certain prices referencing the old currency, the peseta, but payment is always in Euros. To check the most current conversion rate between your currency and the Euro, check www.xe.com

Spanish banks are usually open from 9am to 2pm. Most restaurants, hotels, and gas stations throughout Spain accept major credit cards. ATM cards can be used for cash withdrawals in any of the ATMs available throughout Spain provided that the logo on the back of the card matches the logo on the ATM machine. Note that only four-digit PINs are accepted at Spanish ATMs. Many Spaniards do not carry large sums of money with them as a precaution against theft from pickpockets.

Bank Accounts
Foreigners can open bank accounts in Spain with few problems. Upon arrival in Spain, you will apply for a residency permit as a part of your visa process. After obtaining this permit, you may go to a bank to establish your new account.

As in many other aspects of Spanish life, bureaucracy is hard at work in the banking system. If you choose to do your banking in person you usually have to stand in more than one line: one to request your bank transaction, one to receive the money. Occasionally, you will also stand in line for a bank official's signature.

Cost of Living
Like in all countries, the cost of living will vary by the city you live in. Larger cities such as Madrid and Barcelona can prove expensive, but reasonable student housing can be found. Eating out frequently may be tempting, but remember that you are paying in one of the strongest currencies in the world, the Euro! It may be helpful to keep a cheat sheet of conversions with you, and remember conversions may fluctuate.

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