The International Student's Guide to Spain

This school year is coming to an end and for future international students that means, it's time to prepare everything for arriving to their host country in just a matter of months! If Spain is in your radar, today's your lucky day. I'm going to give you real life advice -from student to student. You can thank me later!

Having an experience abroad can be both exciting and terrifying at the same time. You're away from your home, your family, your friends and you're exposed to new ways of living, possibly new languages and definitely new people. However, if you organize yourself well, you can end up having the most fulfilling experience of your undergrad life.

Photo via  Matthew Kristall

If you are an international student in Spain, be prepared to meet people from all different parts of the world, to visit new places and to party... a lot. But also be prepared to spend endless hours on papers in a foreign language and having face to face meetings with the bureaucracy 24/7.

I decided to put together a list of things you have to do while studying abroad in Spain!


Papers, job, and other important things...

Come prepared and try to obtain your NIE within the first month of being in Spain to avoid stress later. My personal advice would be to get a part time job to have a bit of extra cash but you'll most likely need a NIE (Numero de Identificación de Extranjero) in order to work here. Although European residents have a much simpler process, it's not impossible for Americans, Canadians and Australians to add an extension to their student visas which would allow up to 25 hours extra of paid work as long as it's within the English teaching field. If you find an academy willing to vouch for you and go through this process with you--it can some times take up to 3 months-- my advice is to start as early as possible. 


I would advise you to get a part time job to have a little bit of extra cash, but you need a NIE (Numero de Identificación de Extranjero) in order to work here (which is different that a social security number that most employers legally require you to have). Another option is teaching English to kids or having conversational classes as a fast and easy way to earn money! This way you're your own boss, the cash is in hand, and lots of red tape is avoided. 


I would also advise you to find accommodation before the start of the school year. In Spain we don't normally live on campus so try to find a student flat near your faculty.


Getting your travel card each month is important (think NYC metro card). It'll allow you to travel through almost the whole city without going broke.


You can also get free into places such as museums or exhibitions with your student card, so you might as well go get it before the school year starts!


PS. Keep an eye out this fall for an LMDES launch where we'll be able to help you with all of these technical things if needed. 



Take advantage of the beautifully long summer to learn Spanish... or at least, try to learn the basics. I know, you would expect that in Spain, as an European country, people are familiar with English. I'm sorry to disappoint you but this will not be the case. You will encounter people who will refuse to even say a word in English and would expect you to do the same, because, at the end of the day, that's why you're coming, right? So get your books on right now! Vamos!


At college...

Attend all your classes! Your classmates will try to corrupt you, but don't fall into that trap! It's very easy to fall behind when you miss one or two classes, so make sure you go to most of them so that you can leave time to party without it affecting your grades.


According to my British friend, Eustace, Spanish classes are way smaller than the UK's and the Spanish educational system in college encourages more individual learning even though they don't necessarily grant you a tutor that'll help you.

Something that I did was to talk to the teachers I got along with and I'd advise you to do the same. It's honestly really helpful!


Download the application WhatsApp. The first thing you have to ask when you talk with people in your class is "¿Tenéis un grupo de WhatsApp?" And if they proceed to say yes, ask if they can let you join. Normally, instead of using Facebook groups, Spanish students prefer to use this application which is very practical and you can use it on the go. Having WhatsApp class group chat is very useful to get information or asking for things. (And hanging out, of course.)


Now, if you're in Madrid...

If you will live in Madrid or you're planning on visiting here's a few things that you need to add to your list:


  • Watch the Sun set on a beautiful, hot day at Templo de Debod

  • Spend a nice evening at Retiro Park

  • Go up to Circulo de Bellas Artes, you won't regret it.

  • For shopping...  Sol, Gran Vía and Goya are your new friends.


And last but not least... EXPLORE! Just because you have to live in a certain city during a certain period of time, doesn't mean you can't move!

Explore different cities if you have the opportunity to do so, the best place to go when you're in Spain to do sightseeing is undoubtedly Andalucía. Whether you go to Granada, Sevilla or Almería you'll like the amazing architecture, weather, food, and just overall vibes that this Autonomous Community has to offer.


Spain is definitely more relaxed than lots of other cities, so lay back and enjoy your stay!

Hannah Soraya is a Spanish born and raised college girl. She sings, plays the guitar, piano and also writes for Teen Diaries and From A Wild Flower. She dreads stability and willful ignorance and is interested in lots of different things that include intersectional feminism, ancestry and egyptology. While she'd spend the rest of her life learning and traveling, her actual goal is to empower young girls of color through her writing. Find her here