Studying in Spain: everything you need to know

Federica

Updated on Dec 16 • 7 minute read

So, you’re relocating to Spain! Whether you’re going to study abroad on Erasmus at a world-class university or take on an innovative internship as part of your degree, you’re going to quickly find that it will be the best decision you’ve ever made!

As you begin to start planning your big move and checking off those items on your “relocation checklist,” you’ll quickly discover that you probably have a lot of questions, and you may not know exactly what to expect.

How much should you budget to study in Spain? What is the estimated cost of living? What are the universities like, including their grading systems and student culture? And finally, how’s that epic nightlife that you’re always hearing about?

This guide will answer all of those questions and more, as well as provide you with a few practical tips for Spain to help you get started!

How much will it cost to study in Spain?

Before you get too invested in searching for housing, packing your bags and booking your flights, it’s best to understand the financial aspects of studying in Spain, so that you can budget accordingly for your relocation to the area.

Along with its moderate pricing, you can also expect a large number of courses to be offered in the English language. So, if you’re not a fluent Spanish speaker (yet), you will still have plenty of classes from which to choose. It’s not going to be difficult to understand why so many students have decided to head to sunny Spain for their semester or year abroad!

For example, in the neighborhoods around Madrid, you can find the following world-renowned institutions:

  • Universidad Complutense de Madrid - founded in 1293 and one of the oldest universities in the world
  • Universidad Rey Juan Carlos (URJC) - a leading research university
  • Universidad Carlos III de Madrid - known for its achievements in business and economics
  • Universidad Autónoma de Madrid - situated in a self-sustained area that helps enable responsibility for learning
  • Politécnica de Madrid - the leading technical school in the country

Tuition fees

The tuition fees vary by university but, when compared to other countries, are considered quite moderate. Also, each region’s government actually sets the tuition fees for the universities in that area.

To give you an estimate, at a public university, you can expect to pay:

  • Bachelor’s degree - €700 and €1,400 annually
  • Master’s degree - €1,300 and €1,500 annually

At a private university, you can expect to pay:

  • Bachelor’s degree - €5,000 and €12,000 annually
  • Master’s or Ph.D. degrees - €1,300 and €2,100 annually

The tricky part is that Master’s and Ph.D. degrees at private universities are actually calculated on a per-credit basis, with each credit ranging in price between 22 and 35 euros. So, you’ll want to be sure to get the specifics of your courses when you’re trying to make a financial guess regarding these types of degrees.

Living costs

Well, you may have heard the saying that everything is based on location, location, location, and that’s 100% the case. For example, if you’re going to be based in Barcelona, you’re going to spend a lot more than you would in Granada.

Of course, your total costs will all add up, but for a relatively moderate housing rate and a medium-sized budget for regular necessities, it’s safe to say that a student can live in Spain for approximately €900 to €1,200 each month. But, let’s break that amount down so that you can better understand what your monthly expenses are likely to be.

Housing

When searching for student housing in Spain at a decent price, you can expect rental prices on the low end to start off at about €330 monthly, and increase all the way up to over €1,000 each month, if you're living in a large city in the middle of the action or super-close to the university.

Let’s use a convenient area in a nice neighborhood in Barcelona as an example:

  • Rent for a private room - €350-500 monthly
  • Rent for a one-bedroom flat - €650-850 monthly
  • Rent for a two- or three-bedroom flat - €900-1200 monthly

Of course, when you’re looking at larger flats, that monthly rental rate will be split amongst its occupants. Sharing space with a few new friends can greatly cut down on your expenses. Not only can you split the finances, but you can also share other responsibilities, such as cooking and cleaning. Plus, when you’re in unfamiliar surroundings, it’s nice to have an instant friend or two.

Above all else, before you sign any papers for your accommodation, you have to be absolutely sure that you understand your rental agreement. This can help you avoid unexpected fees, and better know what to expect when it’s time to move out. Always check whether or not utilities are included, such as water, electricity and Wi-Fi. If they aren’t, you’ll need to factor those into your housing budget as well.

Food

Food in Spain is not usually expensive, unless you’re dining at a high-end restaurant for a special occasion. Some restaurants, especially those in the university areas, may even offer discounts for students. Plus, the cafeterias on campus typically offer healthy meals at a lower cost, too.

You can actually save a lot of money by eating at home. If you have roommates, it can be fun to take turns cooking, or you can even have a special Friday-night meal and invite your friends over.

When shopping, check the local markets, as well as discount grocery stores like Aldi or Lidl. You can really stretch your budget this way!

Transportation

The public transportation in Spain can definitely get you from Point A to Point B, even with seven-days-a-week, 24-hour options. The convenient part is that tickets can be used for any of the methods of transportation that are offered, including trams, trains, buses and the metro. You can purchase single tickets, a 10-ticket pack and a monthly pass.

And of course, it is Europe, and with the nice weather in Spain, a lot of its residents like to cycle. You can purchase a bike at a secondhand store and then sell it back to another incoming student, or you can rent a bike at a number of stations throughout the country, such as from Lime.

How does the Spanish higher education system work?

Spain is an obvious choice for incoming international students because the country places such a big emphasis on education and learning. In fact, there are 76 public universities in Spain, with 25 private options and other schools that are dedicated to creative pursuits, music and more.

Be sure to do thorough research when you’re selecting the courses for your time abroad. Of course, most will be taught in Spanish, but there are always English courses available, especially at the larger universities.

Lectures and seminars

The Spanish learning system puts a lot of the decision-making process in the hands of the university. Therefore, they utilize several different methods for providing information to students.

  • Lectures - A professor guides the presentation.
  • Seminars - Students carry the presentation.
  • Cooperative Work - Students will work together to learn.
  • Project-Based Learning - Projects are assigned, which will provide real-world experience.
  • Activity Learning - In-class activities help the understanding of complicated research.
  • Exams - Regular exams will help to gauge the learning comprehension of the course.

Grading system

In Spain, grades are based on the below system:

  • 9-10 - Outstanding
  • 7-8.9 - Notable
  • 5-6.9 - Good
  • 3-4.9 - Insufficient
  • 0-2.9 - Very Deficient

Course accreditation

The Spanish higher education system includes three typical cycles for their learning process:

  1. Bachelor’s degree
  2. Master’s degree
  3. Ph.D. degree

Each course must meet the strict approval issued by the Spanish Accreditation System, as it is responsible for the approval or rejection of all individual study programs throughout the country.

What is the student culture like in Spain?

With such a steady influx of internationals entering Spain all throughout the year, its culture is open and accepting, with friendly residents, a high student population and a wonderful network for expats.

Additionally, not having to overcome a big language barrier is a huge plus. English is the second most-spoken language in Spain, behind Spanish, of course. However, it would be smart to pick up a little Spanish before your move. While most expats and students in larger cities will speak English, you may not find it so common in other areas. Luckily, there are lots of apps for learning Spanish on your smartphone.

Student Associations that will make your life easier

These organizations can offer a lot of support to new international students on Erasmus. They can turn a time of confusion and overwhelming feelings into a period of getting to know people, learning more about your new home and experiencing the events offered by your university.

Associations will set up a full calendar of events, as well as an introduction week. You’ll be invited to everything from weekend parties to educational meetings about your courses.

A few of the most popular student associations in Spain include:

  • ISN - International Student Association
  • ESN - Erasmus Student Network
  • AEGEE - Association des États Généraux des Étudiants de l'Europe

Where to party in Spain: the exciting nightlife

When you've decided to move abroad, you’ve surely checked into the nightlife scene in Spain, and have probably been very pleasantly surprised. You’ll find a thrilling mix of high-energy dance clubs, laid-back bars and cozy local hangouts. Some of the best nightclubs include:

Barcelona

  • Opium Barcelona
  • Salo Apolo
  • La Terrazza

Madrid

  • Kapital
  • Club 54
  • Mondo Disko

Now, also keep in mind that you’re going to want to explore as much of Spain as you can in your free time. Even though about six hours separate Madrid and Barcelona, it’s certainly worth the trip when you’re living in one to visit the other, as well as a number of spots in between.

The great news is that students and other qualifying young people receive a full 20% off on rail passes, so there’s no excuse not to get out there and see the breathtaking Spanish countryside, as well as a bustling metropolis or two.

So by now, you should know what to expect when you opt to study abroad in Spain for your exchange semester or year. The Spanish education system will provide an excellent backdrop for your Erasmus, and you’ll find that the opportunities right at your fingertips will be limitless.

Who knows, you may even decide that you want to stick around. We know a great place to find secure, affordable housing ¡Buena Suerte!

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