Tips and tricks
How to get your student visa
If you’re interested in coming to study in Spain, first you have to find out about the requirements for entering Spain as a student.
The requirements depend on the duration of your studies.
Short-term visa (3 months or under)
- You do not need a specific study visa but make sure you check whether you require a visa to enter Spain, depending on the country you are coming from.
Long-term visa (6-12 months)
- All non-European Union residents who wish to study for 6-12 months in Spain must obtain a visa at the Spanish embassy or consulate in their home country.
The requirements to apply for this visa are:
- A visa application form
- Passport valid for at least the entirety of the period the visa is being requested for.
- Official admission letter from the school, college or university where your studies will be carried out.
- Contents of the study programme, training or research you are going to pursue.
- Medical insurance covering medical expenses during your stay in Spain as well as medical evacuation or repatriation as a result of an accident or sudden illness.
- Financial proof that you can pay for the entire cost of the study, plus living costs and travel back to your home country.
- Medical certificate of good health
- If you are over 18, you will also be required to submit a criminal record certificate or equivalent issued by the authorities in your home country, which should be clear of any convictions for offences listed in Spanish law.
What to pack
Everyone has their own list of priorities when it comes to packing for a study abroad program lasting over 6 months.
We’ve drawn up a list of tips and suggestions to help you before you leave.
1. The first thing you should do is check how much weight the airline you are flying with will allow you to travel with so that you don’t have any issues when you check in your luggage at the airport. Most airlines allow bags weighing up to 23 kg on international flights and some may allow you to check in two pieces of luggage free of charge. Either way, you are best off checking before you travel to avoid having to pay extra.
2. Don’t forget to have all of your travel documents with you: your passport, visa, plane tickets, accommodation details (in this case Melon District) and documents from the school or university where you are going to study. Always keep a copy of each of these documents in a separate place to where you have the originals.
3. Broadly speaking, the weather in Barcelona is pleasant all year round. The average annual temperature is 17 ºC, with average lows and highs 14.7 and 20.1 ºC respectively. Unlike other European cities, the temperature doesn’t drop that low in winter in Barcelona, but we still recommend you pack a good coat. The weather tends to be extremely pleasant in spring and summer, so be sure to bring plenty of light clothing. There are lots of beaches where you can sunbathe in Barcelona and its surroundings, so don’t forget your swimming costume, sunglasses and sandals.
4. The mains supply in Spain is 220 V, with a frequency of 50 Hz. Most electrical appliances (laptops, digital cameras, hair straighteners, etc.) tend to be suitable for inputs of 100-240 V, but if yours aren’t, we recommend you bring a voltage converter to avoid ruining your devices. You may also have to bring a plug adaptor in order to plug your appliances in to the mains (depending on where you come from). These adaptors will be readily available in your home country and at most airports.
5. If you want to save space in your suitcase by not packing towels and sheets from home, at Melon District we offer bed packs (duvet cover and pillowcases), bath packs (bath and hand towels and a bath mat) and kitchen packs (knife, spoons, fork, glass, dishes and mug) that you can purchase on arrival. You can view the prices of the packs in the amenities section of our site.
6. Other things we recommend you pack are a small sewing kit and a first-aid kit with essential medicines (for headaches, stomach aches, creams for muscle problems, etc.).
Opening a bank account in Spain
You can open a bank account at any bank in Spain, regardless of your nationality or residency status. Each bank has different conditions, but one essential requirement in order to open your account is to show your passport or your residence card (if you have one).
Some universities have special agreements with certain banks, so we recommend you find out if there are any bank branches on your campus so as to be able to ask in person about any benefits you might be eligible for. What’s more, students aged under 26 can generally benefit from advantages and special deals on the commission charged by banks.
Below are three of the biggest banks in Spain and Barcelona:
Getting your NIE (Foreigner Identification Number)
Non European Union residents coming to study in Spain are required to apply for a student residence card (NIE). This card gives legally authorises you to live in Spain for the duration of your studies. The NIE is required in addition to the visa you get in order to enter Spain and must be applied for during your first 30 days in the country.
Documents required to apply for a NIE:
- Duly completed application form and a photocopy
- Valid passport: original and photocopy
- Photocopy of your student/researcher visa with an entry stamp from Spain or any other country in the Schengen Area
- Four recent passport-sized colour photographs, with a white background
- Certificate (original and photo) issued by the school or research centre where you will be based stating the duration of the course.
- Valid empadronamiento certificate
Once you have all of these documents, you must take them in person to the Comistaría de Policía police station (c/ Guadalajara, 1-3, on the corner of c/ Bosch, 08006 - Barcelona).
If you are a resident of an EU member state (Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and United Kingdom) or of Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway or Switzerland, you have the right to free movement and residence in Spain. However, if you are going to be in Spain for more than three months, you are still required to request a registration certificate and a Foreigner’s Identification Number (NIE).
Documents required to apply for a NIE:
- 2 copies of the registration form
- Valid passport or national identity card and a photocopy
This procedure can be carried out without an appointment at National Police stations.
Empadronamiento: what, where and how?
The empadronamiento is a municipal census of the city’s inhabitants. Anyone who lives in Barcelona is required to register, regardless of whether you are Spanish or foreign.
It is a very quick procedure and can be carried out at any Oficina de Atención al Ciudadano (Citizen Advice Office).
The documents you have to present are:
- An identity document belonging to the person registering (DNI, passport, identity card, residence card or other).
- An original document accrediting the address at which you are living in Barcelona (will be provided by Melon District to allow you to carry out the procedure).
Attend "Welcome Week" at your university
The first couple of days are the best time to get to know other students who are studying abroad (usually called Erasmus students).
Upon arrival, your university will give you all the basic information to make your abroad experience easier, but it is up to you to sign up for events. For example, ESN (Erasmus Student Network) organises a “Welcome Week” every semester, which includes a tour around the city, information about your University, and lots of other fun tips! You won’t want to miss it!
In Barcelona there are two official languages, Spanish and Catalan. In some universities, professors (depending on the percentage of foreign students) speak Catalan. It is used very frequently all around the city, so if you really want to learn a little more than the basics, the City Hall of Barcelona provides FREE Catalan classes.
To enroll, you can log on their website (www.cpnl.cat), where the application process is explained to you step by step. If you would rather learn on your own, you can find Catalan courses for all levels at www.parla.cat, it’s simple and free!
During your stay
Don’t miss any event in Barcelona
To know about the events that are in Barcelona, besides the ones organized by Melon District you can follow our blog or become a fan in our Facebook page, where we frequently publish information that might interest you.
Moreover there is the website “Guia del ocio” (Barcelona’s leisure guide) which also gives you all the information of theater, concerts, movies, etc. that will take place in the city.
Sign in the ESN erasmus network
Erasmus Student Network (ESN) is an international non-profit organization founded in 1990 by exchange students, which helps them to get integrate to the country of destination.
They have presence in 343 institutions of 33 countries, including the universities UAB, UB, UPC and UPF of Barcelona, with whom they work to improve the students’ experience and organize them social integration activities.
This network complements the activities organized by international relations departments of the universities. If you want to know more about this network we suggest you to join the Facebook group according to your university or visit their website.
Practice your spanish or other language
There are more ways to keep practicing what you learn in class each day without paying for it. One of them is the language exchange groups organized by the public libraries of Barcelona where you can join for free.
* Ask the closest library about the schedules and groups for each language.
Look after your belongings
Barcelona is a safe city; nevertheless, you should always be on the alert for pickpockets who take advantage of distracted students and travelers. The following tips will help you to prevent theft:
- If you’ve chosen a medium / long stay and you have an expensive phone, you have to be REALLY careful with it, especially in crowded places such as the metro, concerts and events in general.
- When traveling by subway, you should always have your purse in front of you and closed.
- If you are carrying a laptop case, please don’t leave it on the floor. It would be safer to carry it on your chest instead of your back, so you can see it all the time.
- When getting on the metro, if you feel people are pushing you, look after your pockets / purse.
- If you are on the beach and you want to go in the water, leave your belongings with a friend.
- If you are in a nightclub, it is not recommended to leave your belongings on a couch/sofa etc.
If you lose something on the subway or on the bus, or you want to register a complaint, you can contact the TMB customer service. The offices are located in the following metro stations: Diagonal, Universitat, Sants Estacio, Sagrada Familia and Sagrera.
Visiting the rest of Spain
Now that you are here, if you are interested in travelling within Spain, Barcelona is a good starting point. There are many trains and buses that will take you to visit the different regions in a safe and inexpensive way.
If you don’t have the EYCA (European Youth Card) card yet, now is time to get it. Sometimes your student card is not enough to qualify for a discount on trains or buses; that’s why the EYCA card would be a good acquisition and you can get it for FREE! Find the nearest place to get it at www.eyca.org.
Some of the benefits of having the card are as follows:
- ALSA (Spanish buses company): 10% off
- RENFE (trains): 20% off the AVE train, including long and short distances.
Back at home
Keep in touch with all the people you’ve met
After completing an exchange program in another country you have probably made so many friends from around the world. Nowadays is not so difficult to keep in touch with people from other countries thanks to the internet and social networks. Add all of them to your contacts because the friends you have made during this time could be a valuable connection for you with other cultures and perhaps with some employment in the future.
Get in contact with students who were also abroad
Coming back home does not mean your international experience has ended; it is rather the first step to become a very international person. We suggest you that when you go back home, to look for one of those groups / communities where members talk about their experiences and help other students who are also interested in going abroad (some colleges or programs have already created these groups). This is a good way to keep in touch with a large network of foreign students who have lived or will live experiences similar to those that you have already lived.
Another possibility is to become a member of the ESN family in your home university, and coordinate the events, trips, etc. for foreign students who come to your city and need advises and meet new people.
When you return home we suggest you to get in contact with the responsible of the university exchanges program so you can verify which documents you must submit to validate the credits you’ve done in Barcelona.