FAQs About the ALBA Program in Barcelona
Is this a full-year study abroad program in Barcelona?
ALBA follows a "quarter" calendar with three eleven-week terms (and a four-week summer session). However, courses are not sequential and you can therefore attend for a single term at any time, or for any two or all three terms of a regular academic year.
What courses do you offer, and is anything required?
ALBA's elective courses - normally carrying three semester (equals five quarter) credits - are primarily in the areas of Humanities and Social Sciences (see the following "Courses" section), and are usually taught in English. The exception is Spanish (or Catalan) language, which is a required course carrying four semester credits (six quarter credits). Most students take Spanish and two electives for a total of ten semester (equals sixteen quarter) credits per term, which amounts to thirty semester or forty-eight quarter credits for an academic year.
Is there a minimum Spanish language requirement?
No. Since almost all our elective courses are taught in English (using textbooks that are assigned for courses at English-speaking universities around the world), you can be an absolute beginner in Spanish and still participate in the study-abroad experience. Having said that, for those who are more fluent, it may be possible to offer certain additional electives in Spanish.
Are you based at a local university in Barcelona?
ALBA classes are normally held at our own facilities located in Plaza Urquinaona, just a a few three blocks from the Plaza Catalunya which is the center of the city. We provide ALBA students with excellent facilities including a library and study room, a wi-fi lounge and wireless connection throughout the ALBA room, spacious classrooms with good natural light. Being located in the center of the two main universities in town, University of Barcelona and the University of Pompeu Fabra affords ALBA students better opportunities to mix with Spanish and other international students. Our faculty are usually professors from the local universities - ALBA maintains contacts with several institutions - and for 2009-10 we anticipate making additional facilities available to our students at one or more of these other schools.
How does credit for ALBA Study Abroad courses transfer to my home school?
The ALBA Study Abroad Programs in Barcelona is sponsored through Portland State University (PSU), now Oregon's largest university, and all ALBA faculty, facilities and courses are subject to approval by PSU (and PSU's own accrediting body). When you enroll with ALBA you are automatically enrolled at PSU and will receive a transcript from them when you complete the program. This virtually ensures that other schools will accept the credits - much as if you were enrolled for say, summer classes at PSU - although you should always make sure not only that this will happen, but also how those credits will be applied toward your degree requirements.
Do you offer financial aid for study abroad?
Yes. Federally-sponsored grants and loans that you may be receiving are normally transferable to the ALBA Program via a so-called "consortium agreement" which you would ask your home institution to send to ALBA as soon as you were admitted. In addition, ALBA often provides its own aid in the form of tuition reduction - roughly a third of students receive some aid in this form - depending on need and availability fo funds.
What kind of student housing in Barcelona is available?
The usual housing choices are either a shared apartment with another ALBA student, rooming with a Barcelona local or the option of a half-board homestay (breakfast and evening meal), but you can also choose to have breakfast-only ("B&B" option). Apartment accommodation - typically shared - does not include meals. In summer we also have student residencias - in effect student hostels with meal options - available.
What kind of activities would be available while I'm studying in Barcelona?
Apart from the almost limitless things to do on your own initiative in Barcelona - obtaining a Guia del Ocio (weekly "leisure guide") is a must, as is walking around as much as possible - ALBA's Program Coordinators - a young American couple who have operated a travel agency/travel service, Spanish Trails Tours and Events, organize a couple of group field trips outside Barcelona each term in addition to the initial airport pick-ups and orientation session (including lunch). They are also available 24/7 to help deal with any problems or issues that might arise unexpectedly.
Is it possible to travel on the Program?
Yes, but absence from scheduled classes is not encouraged any more than it would be at your home institution. ALBA rarely holds classes on Fridays leaving the long weekend for travel. Additionally, being Spain there are usually one or two long holiday weekends during which students can travel farther afield for a few days. More extensive travel is commonly undertaken after the end of a term, or sometimes before a term starts.
Are student visas for Barcelona, Spain necessary?
Assuming that you are a US citizen, not if you are attending the ALBA Program for a single term only, since our terms are less than ninety days in length. If you intend to stay continuously in Spain for more than ninety days, you will need a visa: a Student visa if you are continuing with ALBA, or a Tourist visa if you intend to simply travel afterwards. ALBA will provide the necessary documentation for the Student visa, but as with financial aid you should contact the nearest Spanish Consulate (www.spainemb.org/ingles/consulates) as soon as you are admitted.
I have heard that they don't speak Spanish in Barcelona?
Two-thirds of Barcelona's residents are native speakers of Catalan, while the rest are native Spanish (Castilian) speakers. However, the Catalans almost universally speak Spanish as well, so it has always been a non-issue for our students. On the contrary, although you will be studying Spanish and speaking it in your homestay, if that is your choice of housing, you will find that the public signs and other evidence of Catalanism is a fascinating lesson in biculturalism.
What other features of the ALBA Study Abroad Program are unique or of particular interest in comparison to other study abroad programs in Barcelona?
How early should I apply and what is required?
Application deadlines are roughly six weeks prior to the start of a term, although if you are also applying for financial aid we ask that you apply at least ten weeks prior. This is a later deadline than usual for such programs, not only because of our smaller size, but also because we have jettisoned the traditional letters of reference (they often delay the process and are almost always glowing; we ask instead for the name and contact address of your official academic adviser in cases where we are unsure). You will also note that we do not impose a minimum GPA requirement because we have found that these vary between institutions, between departments in the same institution, and between teachers and courses within the same department. All of these things are taken into consideration but not under any artificial criteria. Likewise, you are free to expand upon your interest in studying with us, but we do not require a separate essay of minimum length. Basically, good academic standing - a virtual certainty that you will complete your first degree without significant incidence of "non-passing" grades - and a desire to study abroad are the key elements for you to have a successful experience, and hence for ALBA to admit you to the program.