18th May 2024
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Spotlight: Moving to Spain – a guide for international students

Moving to Spain to study is truly a life-changing adventure where you can also pursue a high-quality tertiary education. Spain is a popular choice for international students seeking both undergraduate and postgraduate programs. A huge draw for prospective students is that the tuition fees are among the lowest in Europe.

Spain, and especially the vibrant cities of Madrid and Barcelona, are well known for sunny weather, a laidback lifestyle, and delicious food. We’ve put together a handy guide to prepare you should you choose to study abroad in Spain.

Student Life in Spain

The life of a student in Spain is an experience like no other. Spain has a very welcoming culture, people are open, talkative and friendly. There is a huge international student population which makes it incredibly easy to find new connections and a community while broadening your experience of other nationalities and backgrounds. While studying in Spain, there’s so much more to see than the inside of your school’s campus. Spain’s nightlife and rich culture mean that the streets come alive with people and are lined with tapas bars and taverns so you’ll never be stuck for things to do in the evenings.

Geneva Business School, Barcelona.

Living Costs

Generally, Spain is very affordable therefore reducing the financial pressure on students. However, the cost of living in Spain’s major cities such as Barcelona and Madrid, by comparison, have a higher living cost than in most other Spanish cities. Spain’s southern region of Andalusia is known for being extremely affordable – and the sun is always shining!

In Spain’s largest cities there are plenty of options when it comes to public transportation, such as city bikes, buses, and trains. In cities such as Barcelona, you have the Bicing public bicycle scheme which costs around 50 euros per year. Barcelona, Bilbao, Madrid, Seville and Valencia all have a metro system where you can choose to pay per journey or purchase a monthly pass.

The metro and bus are usually around one euro per trip and walking is always a good option with so many world-famous landmarks and so much to see on the streets!

When it comes to eating out you can expect to pay around 12 to 15 euros per dish. When bar hopping, you’ll find that most small dishes (called tapas) are priced between 4 to 7 euros. Sharing food is commonplace in Spain so a few dishes shared can make a meal out very affordable and you can try more of the broad variety of delicious tapas on offer.

If you prefer to cook at home you’ll find a large range of supermarkets, the cheapest being Lidl, Mercadona, Dia, and Aldi. Here you can buy everything for a cosy home-cooked meal. Milk costs around 1-2 euros, tomatoes cost about 2,90 euros per kilo, Iberian ham between 3-7 euros per 100gm, and for 1kg rice you pay around 1,20 – 1,99 euros. Throughout Spain you’ll also have access to online delivery applications such as Glovo and Uber Eats for convenient and tasty food that can be home-delivered to busy students too.

Geneva Business School, Barcelona.

Getting a Visa

You may need to apply for a visa depending on your citizenship and whether or not you are an EU citizen.

If you are an EU citizen, of course, the process is much easier. As an EU citizen, all you’ll need is a valid European Union identification card or passport.

If you are a non-EU/EFTA member then you must apply for a visa. The best way to do that is at the Spanish Consulate or Embassy in your home country or a website like SpainVisa. Here is a list of the type of documents you’ll be asked to supply to start the process, but always be sure to double-check with the local authorities in your country as these can vary from country to country.

  • 2 completed Schengen Visa application forms
  • ID Card (could be driver’s license or national ID card if applicable)
  • Current student ID
  • 2 recent passport photos (one for each application form)
  • Letter of acceptance from the Spanish University or School
  • Health insurance
  • Proof of sufficient funds to cover stay (bank statements)
  • Passport (valid until the end of your stay)

During the enrollment process at Geneva Business School, their helpful Student Services Officers can help with any questions you might have. The School offers a great service to all new students, from pre-onboarding sessions to meet-and-greet sessions with the Student Council, so you can ask as many questions as you like to people who have already completed the process.

Geneva Business School, Barcelona.

Finding Accommodation

Finding affordable accommodation for a student can be hard, and Spain is no exception. Barcelona and Madrid are both the most expensive cities in the country for student housing.  There are many different housing options available, such as student halls of residence, studio apartments, a room in a shared flat, or living with a Spanish host family which is a great way to meet locals and practise your Spanish.

Depending on which housing option you go for you can expect to pay between 360 up to 1000 euros a month. A good rule of thumb is that the earlier you address this, the better options you will find. As soon as you have completed your admissions process and received your conditional acceptance letter, we recommend that you start house hunting! At Geneva Business School the local teams are always happy to help new students with this often time-consuming task.

Learning the Local Language

By moving to Spain you’ll have the opportunity to immerse yourself in the Spanish language. As a part of a full-time program, you can select Spanish as a course to supplement your chosen area of specialisation. Many higher education institutions will also offer their degree programs in English, to elevate your education for the global market. Geneva Business School offers all of its programs 100% in English.

If you choose to study in Barcelona and are keen to integrate into the local community, learning basic Catalan is appreciated by the locals. However, it’s not essential, and most locals also speak Castilian Spanish. Many expats get away with speaking English in Barcelona as it’s incredibly international and diverse. 

Geneva Business School, Barcelona.

Endless Things to Do

You came to Spain to get a degree and study but that doesn’t mean you can’t go out and have fun, right? Whether you want to go to a tapas bar with friends and have a drink, visit a museum, or head to a club, you can find an activity that suits all tastes and preferences for your leisure time.

If you are more interested in daytime activities then there is no better place than Spain. There are so many water activities such as snorkelling, surfing, and swimming, and outdoor activities like visiting national parks, hiking, outdoor sports, and group activities.

Culture buffs can explore Spain’s many monuments, museums, gardens, and art galleries. In Madrid, one of the most well-known places to see is the majestic Prado Museum, and wander in the expansive and lush El Retiro Park.

Prado Museum, Madrid.
Prado Museum, Madrid. (MuseuDelPrado.es)

In Barcelona, the Sagrada Familia is one of the biggest tourist attractions in Spain. Antoni Gaudi’s architectural masterpieces are dotted around the city making for a never-ending source of wonder and backdrop to your walks around town. Definitely, Spain is rich in unique places to slow down and enjoy your days.

Sagrada Familia, Barcelona
The Sagrada Familia, Barcelona. (Air Picture TAVISA / Barcelona.cat)

For smooth and seamless integration into the Geneva Business School student community, the Student Services team and Student Council organise fun Welcome Week activities at the beginning of each semester for new students to get to know each other. Additionally, the School arranges day trips to other capital cities, beach clean-ups, volleyball tournaments, hiking trips, and much more, making for a well-rounded study abroad experience.

Start Your Journey This Year

Interested to learn more about studying abroad this year? Study in Barcelona or Madrid and get a 21st-century business education in English while immersing yourself in a new culture, city, and lifestyle. Applications are still open for September and Spain is now open for most nationalities. Geneva Business School can help you find the program that suits you best and make the transition to a new city smooth and exciting. Get in touch with our helpful and knowledgeable Admissions team who like to answer all the questions you may have. Email: admissions@gbsge.com

This is a Spotlight feature in collaboration with Geneva Business School.


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