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Living in Barcelona

"Sagrada Familia" a sacred family temple by Antoni GaudiThough living abroad is a rich and adventurous learning experience, Knox understands that the challenges of leaving your home and assimilating to a new way of life in a new country can be daunting.

The Knox Program in Barcelona supports you in "feeling at home away from home" with a thorough orientation program, the warmth and welcome of your Spanish host family, and the guidance of our on-site Resident Director and Assistant. This support encourages you to immerse yourself in the culture of Spain and gain the most from your study abroad adventure.

Upon arrival in Barcelona in the fall, you'll spend a few days getting to know the city and the other Knox Program participants through our orientation program. During orientation you'll be staying at a hotel in the old Gothic Quarter where you'll:

  • meet with the Resident Director to learn details about your new surroundings, the university, and your host family stay,
  • get acquainted with your professors,
  • learn to use the public transportation system,
  • enjoy a walking tour of the Barrio Gótico, and
  • visit the Universitat de Barcelona and the bank.

Then you’ll meet and join your new family -- your Spanish host family.

If you arrive in the Fall of the year, you'll also attend grammar review sessions that culminate with a placement test. (Students arriving for Winter/Spring terms will only receive a placement test.) You'll also attend other meetings designed to familiarize you with the practical and cultural facts of daily life, such as newspapers, political issues, cultural events, socializing, and shopping.

By the time classes start, you'll begin to feel comfortable getting around the city, getting to know your family, and using your language skills.

Host families
Our long experience in Spain has taught us that living with a Spanish family is the best housing arrangement for our students -- in fact, it’s one of the cornerstones of the program. The families have been carefully chosen, and many of them have been a part of the Knox Program in Barcelona for years. Others are more recent additions, but all have had experience serving as host families to American students.

Curious about how you'll be paired with your host family? Pre-departure, you'll fill out a housing questionnaire to identify requirements such as allergies to animals, special dietary restrictions, and smoking preference.

During your orientation in Barcelona, you'll meet with the Resident Director to look more specifically at the families in the program. You can learn details about each family such as where they live and who each member of the family is, and read comments from former program participants about what it was like to live with that family. You'll choose four families, and your Resident Director will do his or her best to match you with one of those families.

Almost invariably, the close relationship that students develop with their host family becomes one of the most valuable and cherished experiences of their stay in Barcelona. Read the comments of previous program participants to get an idea of what your host family experience might be like:

"My favorite part of the trip was living with a host family. The woman I lived with was so much fun, and she really helped me adjust to being in a foreign country where I didn't speak the language very well and I didn't know my way around. She suggested many places for me to go and even took me to some places herself. Living in Barcelona for two terms was one of the best experiences I've had in my lifetime."

-- Sarah Schantz, Psychology and Spanish major, Grand Rapids, Michigan

"My host mother, Pepita, told me a lot about Barcelona and her experience growing up there, and we often sat together in the evenings just to talk. By the end of my two terms in Barcelona, I felt like a part of the family and like the city was more of a home than a place I was visiting. I look forward to going back when I get the opportunity, and I know that I will have friends to visit when I do."

-- Rachel McRoberts, Spanish and Anthropology-Sociology major, Coralville, Iowa

Cultural Highlights
While in Barcelona you'll have countless opportunities to take in cultural events from soccer games to plays and concerts -- and for a reduced rate, because the program pays half the price of such events. See an art exhibit at one of Barcelona's many museums, take in a movie at the cinema, or hit the beach, the discos,...and, of course, the books. It's life, Barcelona style!

Spanish Holidays
In the fall, Barcelona celebrates the Festival de la Mercé, patron saint of Barcelona. Taking in wonders of the festival -- los gigantes, cabezudos, la sardana (Catalan dance), castellers (human towers), correfocs and bestias (fire devils) -- enjoying the live concerts in the town plazas and firework shows on the beach, gives an amazing introduction to the people of Barcelona and their traditional Catalan customs.

Take to the streets for Carnival in February, and join the people of Barcelona adorned with painted faces, masks, and costumes. In March, celebrate the Catalan holidays of San Jordi (Saint George) and el Día del Libro, when custom dictates that women receive roses and men receive books. And, during the Christian Holy Week, view the many religious processions parading down the streets in honor of Semana Santa (Holy Week).

Spanish and Catalan
Barcelona is the urban center for the Catalan culture in Spain. Like other autonomous regions of Spain, such as Galicia and the Basque Region, Catalonia has two official languages. In the streets of Barcelona, you will hear Catalan -- the language of contemporary artists like Dalí, Miró and Tapies -- as well as Spanish.

While Catalan may at first seem like a distraction, remember that the only monolinguals in Catalonia are Spanish speakers. The co-existence of the Catalan and Spanish languages highlights Barcelona as an important and successful model for bilingual cities around the world. Spain, Catalonia, and Barcelona embrace a global outlook, welcoming all -- so enjoy the experience of learning about their many peoples!

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