Where will I live?

You'll live with a local family, but you won't be alone. You'll have a roommate from our program, and if you know someone, you can request that person. Students are scattered all over the city, so if you look at a map, there's no way to tell, until about a month before the program starts, exactly where you'll be living. But you won't be far from a metro stop, which is how you will get to school.

What if I don't like the family?

You can request to be moved. It's as simple as that. But you want to consider WHY you want to be moved and whether you'll be jumping from the frying pan into the fire. You may be unhappy because the family doesn't do laundry the way you like, but if you like the food, you might want to reconsider your request. But if the family is unfriendly and makes you feel uncomfortable, that's a definite reason to request a move, and your request WILL be granted.

How do I wash my clothes?

You don't; your host family does. They wash your clothes once a week. But be prepared to have your clothes hung out to dry, because clothes dryers are very uncommon in Spain.

Will I have a key?

Yes. You'll be free to come and go as you please, although you absolutely have to show consideration for the family. You can't make noise if you come in late. Also, you will have your own key; you won't have to share one with a roommate. If your host family gives you a key to share, report that immediately to the school or to the program director.

Will I have a curfew?

No. But if you aren't going to be home for dinner, you need to let your host mother know early in the day. Also, if you foresee being gone all night, you need to inform your host family. People worry about you when you don't come home. Also, and you'll read this numerous times, while the program director doesn't keep tabs on you, you have to be in class and ALERT every morning at 9:00.

Can I request a special diet if I have dietary restrictions?

Yes. We can accommodate a vegetarian diet, as well as a vegan diet. We can also accommodate those who are gluten-free. But keep in mind that, outside the home, you will need to be more aware. Sometimes the whole study abroad group is treated to lunch, and it is your responsibility to remind the program director and work with that person to find a non-gluten and/or non-animal option that's comparable to what the other members of the group are permitted to order.

Can I have a private room?

Yes, but it will cost extra (the amount depends on the value of the dollar), and it may be that you won't be living with or near any other students.

Can I bring my laptop?

Yes, but don't take it outside your home. Stealing is a serious problem in Barcelona, and all it takes is an instant for a laptop to disappear. Most homes have wifi, but that's not a guarantee. If you don't have wifi, there are numerous points around the city that do, and the school has wifi.

Do I need an adapter or converter for my electric appliances?

You need a CONVERTER for your blowdryer, shaver, etc. (For some reason, it won't work for a straightener & will burn it out. You might want to do some research on that; it has something to do with electric vs. electronic devices, & that's worse than Greek to me.) It converts the 220 volts that come out of the Spanish walls into the 110 volts that your appliances expect. If you use only an adapter, it allows you to plug your appliance in, but it sends 220 volts into it. You don't want to see what happens when you shoot 220 volts into an appliance that expects only 110. Your laptop, however, can work with just an adapter. The black box on your laptop cord functions as a converter. You can, however, use your converter with it, to save yourself the trouble of buying both a converter and an adapter.

Can I use my cell phone in Barcelona?

I wouldn't recommend it. You can get a plan that will allow you to use it, but it's pretty expensive. If you have a phone that's unlocked, you can buy a Spanish sim card, but long distance will still cost you, although not nearly as much as using a U.S. phone to call the U.S. If you bring your own smartphone, you can use wifi to do Facetime or Skype. If you want to have a Spanish phone, that'll cost you about $25, which includes about $10 worth of phone calls. Several students last year bought an unlimited texting plan (Verizon, I think) for $30 that included texts to home & texts to others in Barcelona.

Is class attendance required?

You bet your life. You have to be in class from 9:00 to 1:00 Monday to Friday, and you have be be alert. You're allowed to miss 4 hours of class, which means an entire day. Most students use their "free" day to take a long weekend to another city. See the syllabus for the penalty for any absence over four hours.

What requirements are there besides class attendance?

  1. Two excursions per week
  2. A journal
  3. Grammar Power Points (to be completed before departure)

A guide will take you on two excursions per week. You are required to participate. See the syllabus for the penalty for non-participation.

You must keep a journal about your experiences in Barcelona and are required to write in it 3 times a week. Note that "journal" does not mean "diary." You are free to write whatever you like, but the program director will collect the journals and check them for the correct number of entries before returning them. Also, a journal is a really great way to share your experiences with your friends and family, because sometimes you forget something that happened and then remember when you are sharing your journal.

Students enrolled in Spanish 1001, 1002, and/or 2001 will have grammar Power Points that they must complete before departure. They will do these lessons and turn in assignments. The reason for the Power Points is that the study of Spanish in an American college is different from the study of Spanish in a Spanish language school. Here, students get lots of grammar and tests but very little opportunity to practice. In Barcelona, you'll get just a little grammar and a lot of opportunity to practice. The reason you have to do the Power Points is so that, if you continue with your study of Spanish, you'll know all the grammar you're expected to know. That is, if you take 2001 here, you will learn several tenses, but in Barcelona, you won't learn any new tenses, just practice in speaking in the present, preterit, and imperfect. If you continue your study of Spanish, your instructors will expect you to know material that all other 2001 students know. Doing the Power Points combined with studying in Barcelona puts you way ahead of the game, because you will be familiar with the grammar, and you will also speak much better than most of your classmates.

You will find no penalty for failing to keep a journal or do the Power Points. Those are course requirements, and while you don't get graded on them, if you don't do them, you get an F.

Am I guaranteed an A?

By no means.

Is it possible for me to pay all this money, spend a month in Barcelona, and receive an F?

Only if you don't do what you're supposed to do. If you miss no more than 4 hours, are alert in class, participate in all the excursions, keep a journal, and do the Power Points, you will pass.

How will I be graded?

Normally, there aren't any tests or quizzes. Sometimes the class takes a test to see if they should move up a level, but that has nothing to do with the grade. You're graded on a scale from 1-10 in seven areas: vocabulary, listening comprehension, reading comprehension, oral expression, written expression, pronunciation, and grammar. Your instructors assign those grades, and then the program director translates them into letter grades. The scale can be found on the syllabus.

I worry about my grades. If I really want an A, is there anything special I should do?

Let's face it: not everyone is good at language. Chances are that, if you are an A student, you'll get an A. There are actually more students who get an A in this program than there are who get an A in a regular class. There are several "secrets":

  1. Start with the right attitude. This isn't a party program, and if what you're looking forward to most is the nightlife and the beaches, you probably need to find another program. That's not to say that you can't go out or go to the beach, but learning Spanish and experiencing the culture have to be your number one priority.
  2. Relax. We Americans tend to be really nervous about speaking a foreign language, and when you're tense, it's that much worse. Relax, open your mouth, and talk. It may be really bad at first, but it'll get better. If you never open your mouth, there's no chance it'll get better.
  3. Do more than is required of you. That actually relates to #1. If you're there to learn the language and experience the culture, you'll be going to places other than the required excursions. You'll be looking for opportunities to speak Spanish outside the classroom. You won't be going to the beach every chance you get, and you won't be going home every afternoon to get on the internet.
  4. Let the program director get to know you. An instructor can be fair in his grading...or he can be merciful. If you don't stand out in any way, the program director has no option but to give you the grade that the 1-10 scale indicates. But if you have spent time together, if you have shared your experiences with her, then she may be merciful. On the other hand, if you DON'T have the right attitude, you may end up hanging yourself.