Traveling for One Day in Granada

Granada is one of my favorite cities, and  I absolutely loved visiting it during my study abroad semester in Murcia. I went during a long weekend, and it was quite relaxing to walk around and discover Granada at a slower pace.

If you are a foreign exchange student, you probably would like to take advantage of all the travel opportunities you can outside of class. Though, you will notice that you might be a bit strapped for time, and you are limited to discovering new places on the weekends. This series, I hope, will help study abroad students make successful day trips. Therefore, they can see the most they can of a new city, but keeping note of the limited time frame.

Of course, you do not need to do all of what I have listed below in a single day. If you have more time than a day trip available, then definitely stretch out the itinerary I have below — or, even add a few new items to the list!

Here we go!

Arrival in Granada & Visiting the Alhambra, about 9/10 am
I would recommend eating a quick breakfast before arrival, in order to get to the Alhambra as soon as possible. If you can’t eat on the bus/train, I would recommend stopping by Dulcimena Coffee & Go. It is close to the Alhambra, about a 10-minute walk away, which makes it easy to arrive to the palace after a quick bite to eat. Plus, it helps that the coffee is delicious (with plant-based milk options!) and organic pastries. After a quick breakfast, it is time to head to the Alhambra.

If you have not ever heard of the Alhambra before, it was originally a Moorish citadel built in the 8th-century, later to be renovated in the 13th and 14th centuries into the palace you see today. The palace is wholly magnificent, and one of the greatest tourist destinations throughout Europe. I definitely could not take the Alhambra off my list of must-see places when visiting Granada, it’s one of those places you must-see. Also: I would recommend to buy your tickets in advance if you are able, so you can skip the long line and go straight in after breakfast.

Tip: Don’t skip over the Alhambra or the Generalife (the gardens) too quickly. While you can get through the palace in less than an hour, stop for a moment and take in the absolute beauty of this palace. When I visited, it took about 2 hours to make my way through. Even on a cloudy/drizzly day, the Alhambra was still breathtaking, and I could have easily spent my entire day wandering the halls of this magnificent palace.

Heading Towards the Albaicín & Lunch Break, about 12:30/1 pm
Depending on when you are complete with the tour of the Alhambra, you can make your way towards the Albaicín. After touring the Alhambra, you may feel tired due to all the walking. Unfortunately, you will still have to walk a bit to get to where I recommend you to relax and get a bite to eat, but trust me, it is well worth it. Because afterwards, you will be close to the Albaicín. So, if you need a quick break or something to eat, do stop by the restaurant (if arriving after 12:30, when they open!) Restaurante Marroqui Marrakech.

O-M-G! How I felt about Marroqui Marrakech when my friend and I discovered them. We stayed in Granada for three days, and this restaurant was pretty convenient, since it was right next to our hostel. Plus, with a big craving for falafel, we walked in with only the mission to soothe our falafel cravings, and let me tell you, it was the best falafel we have ever had. Also, the atmosphere of this restaurant is so relaxing. After having such a positive experience the first time around, we returned to eat here every day we were here. Seriously.

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Interior of the restaurant: this place was so relaxing with limited lighting and comfy seating.

After a bite to eat, head uphill (I know, it is hard!) to walk around the Albaicín. If you aren’t entirely familiar with the Albaicín, it is an old neighborhood which built on a hill, most notably across from the Alhambra. Do you remember looking out the windows of the Alhambra to look at everything below, and you saw a neighborhood with all white buildings and very winding streets?

You’re heading there!

Ideally, you’ll make it up to the Mirador de San Cristobal, a lookout at the top of the hill. This lookout provides a view over the entire city, but also a wonderful view of the Alhambra. If you are ever wondering where people take selfies in front of the Alhambra, it is here.

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View from the Mirador looking on at the Alhambra: I could stand here forever, probably.

Final Stop: Alcaiceria (Markets of Granada) and Cathedral, about 3:30/4pm

Now, time to begin walking down the winding roads of the Albaicín and start heading towards the marketplace,  Alcaiceria. To arrive to the markets, the walk will be about 20 minutes/2 km. Trust me, your feet will probably hurt by this point (mine do just writing about it). This walk, on the other hand, will be mostly downhill, which makes it feel like it is not a 20-minute walk at all.

Once you get to the markets, do realize that a lot of the shops here offer similar items. Everything is fairly priced, and if you are looking at something long enough, the shop owners will even offer a lower price. At these shops, I primarily bought small trinkets such as magnets or key-chains. I didn’t want to spend a ton of euros (but whoops, still did), and also, I wanted simple gifts to bring back to family and friends, without taking up a huge amount of space in my luggage. Also, I had to buy one of the scarves.

Nearby the markets is the Cathedral of Granada. It does cost a few euros to enter, which I avoided at the end of my trip from spending too much money at the markets. However, it is only 3.5 euros for students and 5 euros for adults. It is also free on Sunday during certain hours. Entering the cathedral  gives you access to a free audio tour, which is helpful for understanding everything you will see inside.

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Exterior of the Cathedral of Granada: I regret not paying the 3.5 euros to tour the inside.

If you’re like me and spent too much money at the stops before, or if you are just simply running out of time, then just looking at the exterior of the Cathedral is sufficient. After you are finished wandering through the markets and looking at the Cathedral, it should be around 6/6:30pm. You can stop by a cafe quickly to grab a quick snack before heading to public transport to return home.

If you only have one day to travel, I hope this guide provides you with a good itinerary to discover the city of Granada. While it personally would not be enough time for me, it is possible to see the”must-see” monuments in a day.

For those who have been to Granada, where are your must-see places in this city? And for those who have yet to go, what are you most anticipating?

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?

3 Undergraduate Degrees in Spain Offered in English

After studying in Murcia for a semester, I was already half-way through my undergraduate degree in the U.S., and this is when I  realized that studying in a European university was affordable.

Back in high school, I asked the college prep advisers for advice on attending a university abroad. They responded  that it was “near impossible” to do and also warned me that it would be too expensive. There was not much encouragement or discourse on studying abroad in another country from my high school, and I think a lot of U.S. students around my age experienced a similar lack of encouragement.

Little did I know, studying in another country would have been much less expensive than studying in the U.S. and it definitely was possible to do.

For those that are interested in completing their undergraduate degree abroad, you should take the leap! Thankfully, more and more U.S. students are deciding to do undergrad in Europe, due to more affordable education choices. (And I hope that means college prep advisers are now encouraging this route)

Also: They are also not only degrees in English literature! There are many subjects you can choose to study; anything from humanities to social sciences to sciences/technology.

If you are interested in studying in Spain, in this post I will be writing about a few universities that offer some of their degrees in English.

Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Degree in Business Administration and Economics

At UCM, they offer an undergraduate degree in Business Administration and Economics with a group in English.
In Spain, they divide the students studying the same subject into grupos (groups), so courses will not be overpopulated and in certain degrees, to differentiate the course based on what language it is taught in. Degrees that offer a group in English are called grados bilingües (bilingual degrees). One of the groups for Business Administration and English at UCM imparts 100% in English.
UCM is one of the oldest universities in the world, and consistently ranks as one of the top universities in Spain. The university enrolls over 86,000 students, and also has agreements with over 900 universities abroad, which boasts a large international student community.
For more information on this degree, or the other bilingual degrees offered at UCM, refer to this website.

Universidad de Murcia, Degree in Primary (Elementary) Education

One group for the degree in primary education at Universidad de Murcia offers more than 60% of the required courses in English. This would be great option for you if you are looking for the comfort of taking the majority of your classes in English, but also being open to the option to improve your Spanish. This degree also provides you with student teaching opportunities.
UM is the main public university in the city of Murcia, where 38,000 students are enrolled in courses. This makes it the most populated university in the region of Murcia, as well. Each semester, the university welcomes an average of 500 international students. Universidad de Murcia is the third oldest university in Spain, and if you are a lover for history, this is the place to be.
The university also offers another bilingual degree in Business Administration and Economics. For more information on these degrees, look at their degrees in English webpage.

Universidad de Navarra, Degree in Journalism

Groups for the journalism degree at Universidad de Navarra offer at least 50% of the required courses in English, as well as an option to study abroad for a semester or a full year in an English-speaking university to gain more practical journalism experience in the English language. A Spanish private university, the costs of attending the Universidad de Navarra will be higher than you see at the public universities; yet, you have the option to use U.S. federal aid to fund your degree.
Universidad de Navarra is located in southeastern Pamplona. It is ranked as the best private university in Spain. There are more than 11,000 students attending at all degree levels, and about 10% of them are fellow international students.
There are plenty of bilingual degree opportunities at Universidad de Navarra, at bachelors and masters levels. Most of the degrees with English options come from the departments of Communications and Business.

There are a couple of the universities in Spain which offer undergraduate degrees fully or partially in English. Did you know that there were so many options to choose from, most importantly from a variety of disciplines?

If you are currently enrolled in a bilingual degree in Spain, I would love to hear more about your program in the comments section below. If you would like to complete your degree in Spain, do share the programs that have interested you.

If you like this post, and want to hear about more degree options fully or partially in English that are available in Spain, let me know in the comments below! I would love to continue making posts informing students of the number degree options available.

 

 

 

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.

Why You Should Study Abroad in Spain

I would recommend studying abroad anywhere, as I believe that going abroad gives you a unique set of opportunities that you can not receive staying at home. Yet, here are 7 reasons why you should specifically plan to study abroad in Spain!

  1. Learn a second language.

When living and studying in Spain, you will be introduced to the Spanish language like never before. You will be hearing Spanish everywhere you go, and finally, you will have opportunities to speak the language beyond the classroom. Just think, you will have the chance to hold real conversations in Spanish. It does wonders for building Spanish fluency.

2. Or even, pick up a third language.

You might even be introduced Catalan, Valencian, or Galician (depending where you chose to study.)Studying abroad in an autonomous community with a co-official language will allow you to be exposed to a new language, likely one that you may not have otherwise been able to learn at home.

3. Uncover Spain’s incredible history, just by walking around town.

Spain’s history is long, traveling the way back to pre-historic times. By far the best part about being in Spain, though, is seeing this history come alive right before your eyes. Throughout history, Spain has been influenced by many cultures. Anywhere you go in the country, it is fascinating to see how history comes together, and you can see this by examining the architecture and historic town centers.

4. Expose yourself to the complexity of “Spanish culture.”

A common misconception is that Spain has a singular culture. Everywhere you go in Spain, you will experience another interesting way of life. Expose yourself to every aspect of Spanish culture in the regions they prosper. Go to a flamenco show in Andalusia, experience the running of the bulls in Pamplona, and enjoy a paella in Valencia.

5. Enjoy the delicious food.

No matter where you are, you have to try the “staple foods,” tortilla española and patatas bravas. Arguably the best part about Spanish food, however, is trying the unique dishes of each region. Discover the tastes of each region, such as Galician seafood or Valencian paella.

6. And sip on the best coffee.

Nothing beats café con leche from a local café (alongside a tostada and fresh orange juice) to start your morning.

7. Explore the rest of Europe, and beyond.

Spain puts you in the perfect spot to travel to other countries in Europe, and possibly even beyond. Continue learning more about world by traveling outside of Spain, exposing yourself to new cultures. Traveling is an essential part of studying abroad. And being in Spain, which is not only a great starting point, but can also be quite affordable to do as well.

Lastly, I have a bonus reason. I would say that studying abroad in general, whether you are in Spain or elsewhere, will allow you to become more aware of the world around you. Study abroad gives you the opportunity to travel to a new place, and if you make the most of your time abroad, then you will exposed to a new way of life, language, traditions, and more. In the end, you will have a more expanded worldview, and this is beneficial in our increasingly globalized world.

To be fair, the reasons should go to Spain are endless, yet I had to stop myself at 7 reasons or this would go on forever. To my readers who have been to Spain, what are your 7 reasons one should go to Spain? Feel free to add on in the comments below, I would love to hear your reasons, too!