Medieval remnants, world-renowned artists, and distinctive cuisine put Spain close to the top of many a wanderer’s travel list. From the romantic architecture of Segovia to the art of Salvador Dalí, Spain is one visually-pleasing destination.
For overseas students taking the time to study abroad in Spain, there’s much opportunity to explore this Western European country more closely. Signature tapas plates, lively flamenco shows, and traditional events like the Running of the Bulls await curious students eager to immerse themselves in Spanish culture.
Whether your major is Spanish language and literature or marketing and communications, Spain hosts an abundance opportunities for all students to expand their education, both academically and culturally.
Where to Go
From the quirky architecture of Antoni Gaudí to the turquoise Mediterranean waters of the beach, every inch of Barcelona seems postcard-worthy. For overseas students, the capital of Catalonia provides an inspirational backdrop for a study abroad experience. Students of the arts will thrive in this cultural urban hub, while international relations and political science majors can flesh out their studies in an independent-minded region of Spain.
The country’s capital, Madrid, is abundant with an array of industries and historically-significant sites. As such, study abroad students will find their need for both educational opportunities and cultural experiences aptly met. Many majors will find relevant coursework while studying overseas in this centrally-located city, with business, engineering, and liberal arts being some of the top programs.
Tucked away into the Andalusia region of Spain, Seville’s landscape is filled with Moorish architecture and Gothic cathedrals rather than glassy skyscrapers. It’s easy to get swept up by Spanish history and culture in this southern city. For those studying Spanish language and literature, history, and even business, Seville could be your home for a semester or two.
Planning Your Trip
Before you whip out your Spanish phrase book and start booking a weekend in Ibiza, there are a few details that need to be fine-tuned for your study abroad experience in Spain.
How to Choose a Study Abroad Program in Spain
Spain is one of those countries where each region is very different from the next in terms of lifestyle, activities, and even language. In Barcelona, you may overhear locals speaking Catalan and spend your spare moments lounging on the beach, while Madrid will have you touring museums and practicing your Spanish. When selecting a study abroad program, be mindful of how your interests and studies line up with what’s available in your target destination.
Study abroad programs will usually place participants in student flats, dorms, or homestays. When you stay with fellow international students, you automatically get a crew to go out with on Friday nights and you’ll be able to share your experience with others who are taking the same path.
Of course, if you’re looking to fully immerse yourself in Spanish culture, a homestay will be the optimal choice. You’ll acquire insider tips on cooking traditional Spanish dishes, hone in on your Spanish speaking skills, and observe your host family’s way of life.
For U.S. citizens, you can study abroad in Spain without a visa for programs under three months (or 90 days) in length. If you’ll be staying longer than this time frame, then a student visa is required. To get one, you’ll have to submit an application along with supporting materials, usually, a letter stating that you were accepted into a study abroad program, round-trip plane tickets, and health insurance documents.
Social Life & Student Culture
In Spain, international students can enjoy a relaxed lifestyle. Evenings may find your social circle out for some tapas before embarking on evening activities, like taking in the light and water show at Barcelona’s Magic Fountain of Montjuïc. In less urban areas, Sundays are reserved for relaxation, with many businesses closing early or taking the day off. As such, students will typically recharge for the week ahead, too.
Don’t let the siesta and quiet Sundays mislead you -- a lively cultural experience awaits you in Spain. On days off, you can embark on excursions to all corners of the country. Tour an authentic sword factory in medieval Toledo, catch the running of the bulls in Pamplona, or visit the Salvador Dalí museum in Figueres. With so much to discover, you’ll hardly have a moment to lounge beachfront in a coastal town (though you could probably make room in your itinerary).
Health & Safety
All things considered, Spain doesn’t pose many threats to student health and safety. The CDC simply asks that all travelers be current with their routine vaccinations, and advises a few additional vaccines depending on the nature of your trip.
In terms of safety, the Department of State has issued a stronger travel advisory for Spain, citing the possibility of terrorist activity as its reason. Additionally, Spain is notorious for pickpockets, especially in bustling areas like Las Ramblas in Barcelona. With a little extra caution, you’ll be okay.
Costs & Funding
Studying abroad in Spain doesn’t have to decimate your bank account. The following information will help you budget accordingly and fund your trip.
Typical Program Cost
A summer session in Spain can range from $3,000 to $6,000 in tuition, depending on whether your program lasts a few weeks or the entire season. Semester-long programs pick up where summer leaves off, reaching up to $8,000 in fees. For study abroad experiences that are a year in length, students will pay around $15,000. Keep in mind, this includes essentials like housing, class tuition, and insurance.
Getting together the finances for such a massive experience isn’t as daunting as it may seem. Below are a few tips for earning some extra cash to support your study overseas experience:
- Turn to your untapped talents: If you’ve maxed out your hours at work, you might have to take on some odd jobs. Babysitting and house cleaning are always reliable, but maybe it’s time you profit off of your talents. Try turning your design skills into an Etsy shop or your musical skills into a performance gig. Plus, you’d be surprised how these things can continue to grow after you’ve reached your study abroad goals.
- Look for hometown opportunities: At your university, students are studying abroad every semester, making scholarships and more traditional forms of financial aid incredibly competitive to acquire. However, your hometown may not be filled with aspiring international students. Explore community organizations, especially ones you frequented growing up, to see if they have any scholarship opportunities for local college students.
- Offer a customized souvenir in exchange for sponsorship: Similar to tip number one, your creative abilities have the potential to earn you some type of sponsorship for study abroad. Offer to paint La Sagrada Familia or write a quirky short story featuring your sponsor in exchange for a small donation. Your relatives and close friends will appreciate the personal gift, and the modest donations will quickly add up for you.
Students aspiring to spend a semester in Spain should explore the following scholarship opportunities and more to fund their study abroad trip:
- Barcelona Study Abroad Experience (SAE): In addition to listing external scholarship programs on their website, Barcelona SAE offers a variety of their own. Opportunities available are based on need, merit, career aspirations, and more.
- Spanish Studies Abroad: With programs in Barcelona, Seville, and Alicante, this organization provides scholarships according to merit, diversity, and returning students.
- Sol Education Abroad: Sol’s Spain study abroad program is based in Granada, and students can use their website to apply for internal scholarships as well as discover external ones. To apply for a Sol scholarship, students will need to be in good academic standing and provide excellent letters of recommendation.
Can I work in Spain with a student visa?
On a student visa, you can work up to 20 hours in Spain with a work authorization requested by the company you'd like to work for. The company will have to request this authorization from the Oficina de Extranjería (Foreigner's Office). It can take from 3 weeks to 3 months to process your application depending on the province, so it's best to apply as early as possible!
Is it expensive to live in Spain?
While larger cities like Madrid and Barcelona can be on the more expensive side, the cost of living in Spain is lower than in most European countries. A room in a shared apartment in a city center like Madrid can range from about €250-€600 euros ($270 - $650 USD).
Is it safe to live in Spain?
Spain is a very safe country. But, just like the rest of Europe, Spain is notorious for pickpockets. It's important to not carry your passport around and always keep an eye on your phone!
How long does it take to get a Spain student visa?
Processing your visa application takes the consulate about 4 weeks. The most lengthy part of the process is collecting all of the documents and securing an appointment. For some consulates it is very difficult to secure an appointment, so it is best to plan ahead.
The documents needed to apply for a student visa are:
- National visa application form + photocopy
- Original passport + photocopy
- One recent passport sized photo (to be attached to the form)
- Copy of the acceptance letter from the Spanish University (in Spanish or with Spanish translation)
- Evidence of funds (could be a statement from the University describing housing or a notarized letter from your parents assuming financial responsibility)
- Proof of health insurance
- Medical certificate (only need for stays longer than 180 days)
- Express mail envelope with pre-paid stamps addressed to yourself with which the consulate may return your passport with the visa
How much does it cost to study in Spain?
Spain has 76 universities, and prices vary considerably depending on the institution and whether it's public or private. The average cost of studying abroad in Spain through a third-party provider is around $11,000 for a semester. Prices can be considerably lower if you are prepared to enroll directly at a Spanish university. Public universities can cost as little as $1,000 and private institutions can cost $7,000 and up.
Can international students stay in Spain after graduation?
Students studying in Spain who hold an EU passport will have a relatively simple time obtaining a work permit in order to stay in Spain. For students from other countries, the process is a bit more complicated. Before you can apply for the work visa, you would need to find a job that will hire you and can show the government that there were no suitable local candidates for that position. They can then sponsor you for a work and residence permit, after which point you can apply for a work visa.