Frequently Asked Questions
Still have lingering questions? Looking for more information on housing or payment options? Check through our frequently asked questions.
Our alumni love us! We are happy to have provided great experiences for over a thousand students over the last 26 years. Many ALBA students referred their peers to the program after their return home, quite a few have completed a second term or an internship with us and many report that their experience and letters of recommendation from their ALBA professors were instrumental in getting a job before and after graduation.
ALBA Study Abroad in Barcelona, in principle, follows a “quarter” calendar with three eleven-week terms and a summer session (Fall term, Winter term, Spring term, and a five-week Summer Intensive 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 about semester school students? Yes, ALBA does cater to semester school students and many semester school students have attended the ALBA program over the last 25 years (U of Michigan, Vanderbilt, UC Berkley, to name a few). In fact, the ALBA program has the added benefit to semester school students in that they can get a full semester of transferable credits in just 11 weeks, leaving more time for an internship or a longer spring or summer break to work and/or travel.
Are full-year programs available to maximize my Spanish language fluency and cultural and international experience? Yes, absolutely. ALBA can customize a full-year program, with preferential pricing, that provides both classes and an internship in your field. Let us know what you need and have in mind!
Please check our application guidelines for more information.
Application deadlines are roughly four weeks prior to the start of a term, although if you are also applying for financial aid we ask that you apply at least eight to 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.
Program Fees Include:
- Portland State University enrollment (UW students will be enrolled at UW), transcripts, and other required campus fees.
- Tuition. Small-group classes with excellent professors from some of Spain’s finest universities.
- Comprehensive medical insurance. Except for UW Students, who hire their own insurance.
- 24-hour emergency assistance service.
- Up to 22 Quarter credits or 15 Semester credits.
- Airport transfer to accommodation on the day of arrival if within the days and time frame of suggested arrival.
- Orientation lunch and various Barcelona city tours.
- Cooking classes at ALBA kitchen with a local chef.
- All class field trips and entrances to cultural institutions.
- At least four ALBA-sponsored full-day excursions out of Barcelona.
Program Fees DO NOT Include:
- Flight or other transportation to and from, or around (Metro and Bus), Barcelona.
- Food or personal expenses or travel expenses beyond ALBA-sponsored events.
- Housing accommodation. If students wish to live in some of the ALBA-sponsored accommodation options, they must inform ALBA and the housing fees, at least 60 days before the start of the term.
- Class textbooks, and reading materials.
What other features of the ALBA Study Abroad program in Barcelona are unique or of particular interest in comparison to other study abroad programs in Barcelona?
Small and Personalized. First and foremost, we are a relatively small study abroad program with an average enrollment of 25 students and a cap of forty students per term. This means that class sizes can be as small as two and no larger than 12 students except for specific subjects typically involving a large element of visual arts presentation in which a lecture format is appropriate. Other classes are seminar-style in format which results in a much more effective learning experience. A smaller class also allows ALBA students to become acquainted with each other and so promotes future contacts among our alumni.
Experienced local staff and faculty. ALBA’s staff and support and faculty consist of an international team of local professionals living in Barcelona with extensive experience in study abroad, the Office of International Affairs at Portland State University (Portland, Oregon), local professors from Barcelona universities with long academic and study-abroad experience, and full time on-site Director. The on-site Directors are a married American couple, with three children all born in Spain, who have lived in Barcelona (Catalunya) and have run the ALBA program since 2003. The Director, staff and faculty are uniquely able to provide ALBA students a wide range of interesting field trips, day excursions and extracurricular activities as well as travel advice and assistance (and frequently to their visiting friends and families) in and beyond Barcelona’s city limits. The ALBA team can attend closely, “24/7” if need be, to students’ concerns, which most larger programs with high enrollment (100 to 400 students per term) cannot provide outside of regular “office” hours or due to a rigid and possibly off-site administrative structure.
Value. For 26 years ALBA has maintained competitive tuition, fees and housing compared to the costs of other study abroad programs. Fees include all required textbooks (on a loan basis), faculty-led field trip entrances, ALBA sponsored day excursions and all readers and other reference works, magazines, newspapers and guides in the ALBA library. More often than not the overall cost of the ALBA program is less than other study abroad programs and is usually well below private universities and other public institutions. In many cases we can match a student’s tuition and housing at their home institution or get quite close to it.
Local medical support and services 24/7. ALBA fees include supplementary travel and medical insurance ($50,000 coverage with $100 deductible), together with 24-hour access to an English-speaking doctor with years of experience treating American students.
ALBA follows the North American and Spanish practice for post secondary institutions in doing our absolute best to make reasonable accommodations in order to provide students with disabilities an equal opportunity to participate in courses, programs, and activities’. It is the student’s duty to duly advise ALBA well ahead of time of any disabilities that need to be accommodated. There may be specific conditions that we cannot accommodate. Ask us for more information.
ALBA classes are held at our own facilities located at Portal de L’Angel 42, which is in the Barrio Gótico in the absolute center of the city. We provide ALBA students with excellent facilities including a study room, a wi-fi lounge and wireless connection throughout the ALBA room and 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 professors from one of the local universities that come to the ALBA facilities to teach our classes in English, excepting Spanish language which is taught solely in Spanish.
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 three-day weekend for independent travel. Additionally, being Spain there are usually one or two long holiday weekends during which students can travel farther afield for up to four days. More extensive travel is commonly undertaken after the end of a term, or sometimes before a term starts.
VERY IMPORTANT: Students are allowed to travel to wherever they choose, however, we do require students to let us know where they will be traveling to. As well, we ask that students acknowledge any travel advisories that they receive from ALBA and/or the U.S. or any other government entity.
Yes, all students attending ALBA have health insurance, active between the official arrival and leaving dates.
Students attending ALBA will be enrolled at Portland State University for the duration of the program (all except UW students). They will be covered by PSU Study Abroad Insurance (Gallagher).
University of Washington students are required to purchase UW Student Abroad Insurance (CISI).
All students will have to call the insurance company before receiving medical attention, It is their responsibility to study the policy, know their insurance number and understand how to proceed when medical assistance is required.
ALBA Courses. ALBA’s elective courses normally carrying five quarter credits (3.3-4 semester credits) and are upper-division classes within the four major program categories of Liberal Arts, Economics & Global Business, Spanish Language & Culture, and Political Science & History. In the ‘Our Programs’ section you can see what courses we are offering each term for Fall, Winter, Spring and Summer, so far, as well as a list of ‘courses‘ we offer throughout the year. ALBA classes are taught in English. The exception is Spanish (or Catalan) language, which is not a required course, but highly encouraged and carry six quarter credits (four to five semester credits). Most students take Spanish and two other elective classes for a total of sixteen quarter credits (10-12 semester credits) per term.
What is required? Eligibility for the ALBA program is essentially:
>18 years of age.
>In good standing at your home institution
>2.5 GPA minimum or a professor letter of recommendation
>Sophomore, junior, or senior standing when the program begins.
>No previous Spanish language courses nor Spanish language required.
The ALBA Study Abroad Program in Barcelona is sponsored and accredited through Portland State University (PSU), now Oregon’s largest university.
Unless you are a PSU Student or a student at the University of Washington, you will be automatically enrolled at PSU for the duration of the program. After you complete the program and grades have been processed (usually less than a month after finals) you will be able to request for your grades to be transferred to your home institution.
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 get confirmation from your home institution advisor this will happen and that those credits will be applied toward your degree requirements if that’s what you need. Many students attend the ALBA program for language and cultural reasons and/or take elective classes for which they don’t need credit, just the experience of living and studying abroad in Barcelona.
The weekly class schedule is between the hours of 8am to as late as 8pm, Monday through Thursday. Students are expected to attend class. Students are allowed two unexcused absences from each class before their grade is effected. There is a 1/3 reduction in the overall grade of the class for every unexcused absence after the second unexcused absence. Travel plans made prior to the start of the program, resulting in an absence from a class(es), is not counted as excused.
A) Portland State University or University of Washington students
You’ll receive your unofficial grade report via email after all coursework has been submitted. You’ll then have 2 weeks to approve or contest your grades before they’re sent to your university for final processing.
B) Students from all other Universities
If you are not a student at PSU or UW then you will be automatically enrolled at Portland State University for the duration of the program. You are likely to receive credit for the courses taken at ALBA through PSU, and must request PSU for a transcript so you can transfer your credits back to your home institution.
How do I request a transcript?
- You’ll receive your unofficial grade report via email after all coursework has been submitted. You’ll then have 2 weeks to approve or contest your grades before they’re sent to PSU for final processing.
- When your coursework has been reviewed, grades will be sent to PSU for processing.
- Once we have sent your grades to PSU, we will send you an email with your PSU ID number, together with instructions on how to gain access to your PSU Banweb account (portal).
- It can take 4-8 weeks (from the end of the ALBA term) for your grades to be entered by the Registrar. We advise you to check PSU Banweb frequently until your grades become available.
- When your grades become available, you must request your official transcript from PSU to your home institution via PSU Banweb.
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.
Please check our dedicated housing and accommodation page for detailed information.
Yes, students are allowed to find and establish their own accommodation, be it a shared apartment with other ALBA students, homestay, or other. The housing portion of the program will be deducted from the balance payment invoice.
We do not recommend that students find their own accommodation unless they have a trustworthy recommendation. This is based on our many years of experience and seeing the multiple problems that can arise with that, which can complicate the students’ experience and become costly. ALBA does not deal with accommodation outside of the ALBA accommodation in any way, at any time. It is very important for students that choose to find their own accommodation to know that they are on their own with that entire process from the search for accommodation, to contracting and paying for the accommodation, dealing with the conditions of the accommodation, to the move-out and refund of the security deposit after they’ve left the accommodation.
Important details to keep in mind when you choose to find your own accommodation:
- The Euro is stronger than the dollar. Meaning that $2,100, which is what ALBA charges for housing for the term, is equal to approximately €1,800. And there is a 21% VAT tax added on to most everything. Meaning that €1,800 is really €2,178, which is equivalent to approximately $2,500. Don’t let the numbers fool you.
- Rent for most apartments will not include utilities or Internet, which you might get charged anywhere from €50-€100 per student, per month. And it is common practice for agencies and landlords to have one Internet router for use between two or more apartments, which makes the wi-fi signal not very good. Make sure you clarify that with the owner and/or agency.
- Agencies and owners will require a sizeable deposit up front that you will more than likely not fully recover after they charge you for ‘extra cleaning’ and other items they will say you damaged or broke. ALBA will not advocate or intervene with that.
- There will always be agency fees if you go through an agency. Agency fees can be anywhere from €200 total for the group up to €250 per student.
- ALBA will not follow-up with agencies or look at/verify apartment conditions for apartments you are interested in. It is very important that you and your parents understand that.
- ALBA will not help you with apartment issues/emergencies nor if you get locked out of your apartment, which can be a problem in the middle of the night. That is the duty of the agency or landlord you contract with. You need to verify with the property manager that there is a 24-hour emergency number you can call if necessary AND that someone is actually going to come to assist in a timely manner. It is important that you and your parents understand that.
- Verify that the apartment you are interested in has insurance that will cover theft if someone should break in to your place while you’re away and steal items or damage the property. If that is not part of the rental, then we strongly suggest that you contract some form of renters insurance in the U.S. that takes effect before you move into the place.
We do our best to let you know as soon as possible. But as there are always changes with enrollment and housing preferences, we usually do not announce housing assignments until three or four weeks before the beginning of the term.
Yes! ALBA is proud to offer federal financial aid via our primary institutional partner and School of Record, Portland State University. For instructions on how to apply for aid, please click here.
You’ll need to submit the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) to find out.
The FAFSA instructions will guide you through the process. As you complete the form you’ll determine, for example, whether you need to provide parent information, who counts as a member of your household, and whether you need to report assets. Your information will be used to calculate an Expected Family Contribution (EFC), which is an index that schools use to determine your financial aid eligibility. At the end of the FAFSA form, it will ask you which colleges or universities you want it sent to. You will want to have it sent to every school you’re considering attending next year, including PSU. PSU’s Federal School Code is 003216.
PSU will subtract your EFC, adjusted for length of the ALBA program, from a Cost of Attendance calculated specifically for that program. The difference will be your federally defined ‘need.’ PSU can then award the financial aid for which you qualify based on that level of need.
- Federal Pell Grant: Never needs to be paid back, and awarded to students who have the lowest Expected Family Contributions.
- Federal Direct Loan: Subsidized (need-based) and unsubsidized (non-need-based) low-interest federal loans. Dependent freshmen can borrow up to $5,500 per year; loan amounts increase during the sophomore and junior years, and independent students can borrow higher amounts. Several repayment plans are available.
- Federal Direct Parent PLUS Loan: This is a loan that credit-worthy parents can apply for to help pay the cost of education for their dependent undergraduate children. Parents can apply for these loans at www.studentloans.gov. PSU will receive and process applications for eligible applicants. The funds will come to PSU to pay toward the students’ charges. Parents may apply for up to the student’s Cost of Attendance minus the financial aid that the student will receive.
Whether or not you will need to request a student visa before leaving the United States depends solely on how long you plan on staying in the European Union.
Studying at ALBA for only one term
You do not need a Visa.
United States citizens entering the European Schoengen Area (Spain included) are allowed to visit the region for up to 90 consecutive days without presenting a visa. Nevertheless, upon entrance you will be required to prove that you have no intention of staying any longer. To do so, you must buy a round ticket with a return flight heading back to the US no later than 90 days since you first set foot in the Schoengen Area.
Studying at ALBA for several consecutive terms
You will definitely need a visa.
Acquiring a visa to study in Spain is a simple process. It will require some patience and preparation, but the reward of studying abroad and getting to know Europe at a different pace is well worth the effort.
If this is your case, please follow the link below and read the instructions we have put together to help you with your application. In case you have any question, please contact us.
Locate your Spanish Consulate
Visit the Official Spanish Foreign Affairs Website to locate the institution that is closest and most convenient for you.
Schedule an appointment
Once on your chosen consulate’s website, immediately request an appointment, as they do tend to get booked. It is important that the date selected is not before 90 days from the beginning of the program.
Study the requirements specific to your consulate
Each consulate has a specific list of documents as well as an application form that you must fill out and present on the day of your appointment. Study them carefully and work to gather them as soon as possible (ALBA will provide you some of the required documents).
Attend your appointment
Be there on time with all the necessary documents. Dress nicely to give a good impression. After your interview, you will be required to leave your passport at the consulate so they can apply the visa to your passport. You will be told at your appointment whether or not you will have to return to pick up your passport after the visa application is over.
Check your status
You will be given a link that you must check regularly to see the status of your visa application. It can take up to four weeks to receive news of their verdict.
Once you know the result of your application contact us.
The approximate cost of your visa application is $160. Although, there may be some other costs if you are required legal translations of your documents
Still have questions?
Excellent! We love those.
Leave us a message and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible.