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. 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. Spanish students do not enroll in general education courses. “Minors” 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.

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.

Course Load
Most Spanish students take 30 ECTS (European Credit Transfer System) per semester, which normally equates to five or six classes a semester. You will need to 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. Be forewarned that if you choose to depart the program early, it is your responsibility to make any special arrangements in writing with your professors.

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.

Visa and Residency

STUDENT VISA/RESIDENCE PERMIT

You must obtain a student visa prior to departure, you cannot obtain your student visa in Spain. As soon as you accept placement, you should start the process for obtaining your visa. Some Spanish student visas cannot be extended or renewed, so be sure you are applying for the correct type!

IMPORTANT: You must apply for your visa in advance. Check with the consulate when they will accept your visa application. Most consulates require that you start your application and reserve your visa appoinment a minimum of four months in advance of departure. DO NOT WAIT TO START YOUR APPLICATION!

APPLYING FOR A SPANISH VISA IN THE UNITED STATES

There are multiple Spanish Consulates located throughout the United States. Usually you are required to apply at the consulate that has jurisdiction over your permanent residence, but some consulates may allow you to apply based on your school address. In most cases you will be required to appear in person at the consulate to apply for the visa. In exceptional cases, it may be possible to obtain the visa by mail or for a parent to present your application at the consulate. Consult the consulate website for details. Normal processing time varies by consulate and season. Do not wait until the last minute to complete your visa application, or you will not receive your visa in time to begin your program. You will likely be required to leave your passport at the consulate for processing.

Students who do not hold US Citizenship but have permanent residency in the United States should contact the consulate that governs their permanent address in the United States. You may have different visa requirements and should consult with the consulate to see where you should apply for a visa and how your requirements will differ.

Your local Spanish consulate is the official source of all visa information. If you have questions regarding the student visa application, you must contact your local Spanish consulate. ISEP cannot contact consulates on behalf of students.

Each consulate has slightly different paperwork requirements. On your consulate’s webpage you will find a checklist of needed documents, specific to your application. Follow the requirements given by your consulate exactly.

VISA APPOINTMENTS
Most consulates require advanced appointments that may be obtained online. You may have to pay a small fee to book your appointment and will receive confirmation that you have booked your appointment - you should print and bring to your visa appointment. It is important to book your appointment well in advance as appointments may fill especially during the busy summer months. If your appointment is too late to allow you to get your visa on time, check the scheduling website to see if there are new appointments made available, or if there are cancellations.

VISA APPLICATION COMPONENTS

Some of the documents you may be required to present include the items listed below. This is not an official list, and you must follow the requirements given by your consulate exactly:

  • A complete visa application and copies of the original
  • Photographs (size requirements should be listed on the website of each consulate)
  • Passport and copy (length of validity required after your program will vary). Your passport will need to have blank pages to affix the visa.
  • Personal Identification
  • Evidence of Immigration status (for non US citizens)
  • Letters of Acceptance demonstrating that you are a full time student and information regarding your program.
    • One is required from your host institution in Spain
    • One is required of ISEP (note: this letter will only be issued after ISEP has received a complete acceptance package including any applicable program deposits, complete health insurance coverage and the Spain Student Visa Information document. Submit your documents on time to avoid delays)
  • Proof of Economic Support (requirement varies by consulate) Your ISEP letter will address the ISEP benefits you will receive, but you must meet the minimum economic support guidelines established by your consulate.
  • Proof of Medical Insurance After you accept your placement and purchase your health insurance ISEP will issue you a letter from the medical insurance provider IEES stating the provided coverage levels, and the fact that there is no deductible associated with your policy (required by the Spanish government).
  • Medical Certificate from your physician (usually only required for stays over 180 days). Consult the specific requirements of your consulate. May require Apostille Seal of the Hague (see below).
  • Certificate of Absence of Police Record (only required for stays over 180 days).Most consulates will accept only an FBI Background Check or State level police check. Consult the specific requirements of your consulate, and follow them exactly. Requires Apostille Seal of Hague (see below). Please note that these checks can often take a significant time to process (3-4 months). It is advisable to request them at the time of application for your ISEP program to avoid delays.
    • FBI Background Check: This is a federally issued document. For information on how to request an FBI Background check consult this link . When requesting your FBI Background Check, you submit a request that the document include the FBI seal and the signature of a division official. You will need the signature and seal to obtain the Apostille Seal of the Hague from the US Department of State (see below).
    • State Level Background Check If your consulate accepts this background check you will need to obtain this check from the appropriate state-wide police body. Be sure to check with the office that will issue the Apostille Seal of the Hague if any additional seals, signatures, etc., will be needed in order to authenticate the document.
  • Payment of your Visa fees
  • Return envelope for passport and visa (usually Express Mail, UPS, FedEx etc. requirement will vary by consulate)

As with all important documents, you should make extra copies to keep for your own records.

Apostille Seal of the Hague
Some Spanish consulates may require that certain documents are authenticated with the Apostille Seal of The Hague. Please check with the consulate that serves your jurisdiction to see if this is required for your visa application. For an explanation of the authentication and the authorities scroll down to section III of the website referenced below. For officers of the individual states and other subdivisions that can issue such authentication please visit this link.

If you obtain an FBI Background Check as the Certificate of Absence of Police Record, you must obtain the Apostille Seal of the Hague from the US Department of State. Individual states cannot authenticate the FBI Background Check as it is a federal document.

ISEP Students Applying for Spanish Visas outside of the United States
ISEP will issue you a visa certification letter with information on your ISEP benefits and health insurance. This letter will be sent to your home ISEP coordinator after you have submitted a complete acceptance package including any applicable program deposits, and purchased health insurance coverage.

Check with your local Spanish consulates to see what your local requirements are for obtaining visas. You will likely need the aforementioned letter from ISEP, and your official acceptance letter from your host university. If you have questions regarding the student visa application, you must contact your local Spanish consulate. ISEP cannot contact consulates on behalf of students.

Apostille Seal of the Hague
If you are required to present a document for your application with the Apostille Seal of the Hague visit this site to find the appropriate authority. Scroll down and click on your country to find more information about who to contact in your country/state.

After Arriving: The NIE (ID Number for Foreigners)
Your visa will only be valid for a limited period of time (possibly shorter than your program). Your visa will normally be issued with an NIE number, and depending on the duration of your program and the length of your visa you may need to register with the local immigration office and/or police station to obtain your NIE ID card. You may need to bring original portions of your visa application, along with your visa to obtain this card. Consult with your ISEP Host Coordinator regarding this requirement. Your NIE number and/or ID card may also be required by your university for registration or banking purposes. The NIE will cover your entire stay in Spain.

A Note Regarding the Schengen Area:

Spain is a member of the Schengen area. Students should review the important regulations that dictate travel and visas within the Schengen area.

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

https://www.isepstudyabroad.org/guides-and-tips/health-safety

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.

{{articleTitle}}

More Topics in Visa and Residency