Differences Between American and Spanish Universities

Today, I am going to discuss the common distinctions between the American and Spanish university systems, so you can feel better prepared for your first day of classes in Spain.

Grading scale

The grading scale is very different. In Spain, your grades can range on a scale from 1-10. “1” being the worst grade, and “10” being the best. Anything beyond a “5” is passing.

Before starting classes, the study abroad coordinator  told us that Spanish professors tend to give harsher grades than we would expect. It is true, even though I passed all my classes, a lot of my final grades seemed low.

When we see a “6” or “7” as our final grade as Americans, we automatically view them as low grades. I know that when I saw these grades, I looked at them as the equivalent of Cs or Ds. They are more so Bs.

To receive a “10” or even a “9” in Spain is quite hard, and they are rarely given out to students. In one of my classes, no one received these grades. To receive such grades, that would mean you have had to retain 90%-100% of the material lectured. It is possible, but not all that common.

Examinations

Which brings me to my next point, examinations. In American universities, classes typically do not weigh the whole course grade on a single exam. The grade is typically split up among 2-3 exams, essays, work outside of class, presentations, and attendance. A lot goes into making the grade in an American university, which is why the grading scale is so different, as well.

In Spain, attendance was not a requirement for most of my classes. Also, a lot of the grade is centered on one exam, which is taken at the end of the course. One of my exams was worth 100% of the final grade, and the least an exam was weighted when I studied in Spain was 60% (but that was because the other 40% was a final essay).

Course structure

You will also see a difference in how the course is structured. A lot of the courses are lecture-based, and attendance is not mandatory. If you look at your course documents, there is typically a bibliography for non-attendees, so they can study the material taught in class.

While lectures are not uncommon in lower level classes in American universities, attendance is still considered mandatory. Also, lecture-based courses are commonplace at any grade level.

Also, this is not to say you will not have discussion in your classes. I know for my literature classes, on Fridays, half of the class was lecture but the rest of the time was tiny group discussion on interpreting and analyzing poems.

Huelgas

Your classes will probably be cancelled at least once because of a huelga (strike). I know, we have strikes at American universities too. But one major difference: I have never had a class completely cancelled as a result of them. They are also way less common in the United States, or maybe that is just my small-town college, haha.

I remember walking into class on the day of a strike, and nobody was there besides other international students. Basically, everyone who had no idea what was happening. The professor walked in and told us to go home, since nobody else would come to class.

 

For those who have been to a Spanish university, what do you think is the biggest difference between American and Spanish universities? And for those interested in attending a college in Spain, what distinction are you most nervous for?

Masters Programs in Spain Where You Can Use or Defer Your Federal Student Aid

For U.S. students, federal student loan debt is a real problem. And unfortunately, we have a lot of it.

I did not even truly consider completing my undergraduate degree abroad to avoid massive tuition fees until after nearly completing my degree, since my high school never encouraged completing your degree in another country — and that is the case for a lot of other U.S. students around my age. Fortunately, if you want to continue your education past your undergraduate degree, you can still take advantage of the many affordable options for completing your masters (or beyond) U.S.

In this post, I will be writing about the five universities that all you to use federal student aid and/or allow you to use in-school deferment in Spain. I will also provide  basic information about the university, in order for you to see if the university is a good fit for you. If you need any additional information about the masters programs I mentioned in this post, I have tried to put all the programs’ webpages below for you to learn more.

Defer Only Universities 
If a university only allows you to do in-school deferment that means that they will not allow you to take out U.S.  federal student loans to fund your degree. Though, if you have previously taken out student loans, you do not have to start paying them back while attending university abroad. You receive in-school deferment, as you had during your four years of undergrad.

ESADE (Escuela Superior de Administracion y Direccion De Empresas), sponsored by Ramon Llull University, in Sant Cugat, Barcelona
ESADE is a private business school with a full-time and part-time master’s of business administration degree. They also have the multi-national MBA, which allows you to attend several universities throughout the world. Both programs are taught in English, though continuing to learn a language such as Spanish, German, or French is needed. These programs are equally great for those interested in global business. For more information on types of programs available, check out their website at: Programs at ESADE.

UPV (Universitat Politècnica de Valencia), in Valencia
Since this is a polytechnic university, there tends to be a focus on science and technology programs. In terms of master’s degrees, although dominated by these fields, there are also options for those interested in art and business. There are some programs available in English, but the majority are offered in Spanish. For more information on the programs offered: Master’s Programs at UPV.

Universidad Jaume I, in Castelló de la Plana, Valencia

They focus on science and technology programs, but there seems to be an extensive amount of programs in humanities and social sciences as well. They are a strong research university. Most courses appear to be in Spanish, though some are offered in English. For more information on the available programs, take a look at Master’s Programs at UJ1.

Financial Aid Eligible Universities 
In this category, you are eligible to take out U.S. federal student loans to fund your education. You also receive in-school deferment, so you do not have to worry about paying back loans while completing your degree.

IESE Business School, of Universidad de Navarra, in Barcelona and Madrid
IESE specifically offers post-graduate degrees relating to business. If you are interested in global business, their masters programs have often ranked among the top 10 in the world. They have campuses in Barcelona and Madrid, as well as other campuses for study abroad opportunities throughout the world. The programs are in English. You can find out more about the programs they offer at IESE Business School.

Universidad de Navarra, in Pamplona
“A private university with an international focus” is how the Universidad de Navarra describes themselves. At the Pamplona campus, there are many departments (called “faculties” in Spain) offering masters degrees, which makes finding a masters program perfect for you. A few programs offered in English, though the majority are in Spanish. For more information on the masters degrees offered, check out Master’s Programs at UN.

Although there are limited universities in Spain that are eligible for financial aid or in-school deferment, there are plenty of degree options available, in both English and Spanish and in many departments. There are options for everyone.

If you are interested in (or currently) studying a master’s degree in Spain, please let me know in the comments below. I would really love to hear your stories and experiences.