What to Consider Before Getting an International Education

From finding the right program to the right accommodation, deciding where to study in Valencia requires careful planning.

Valencia is popular among students who are moving home for the first time and want to become fluent in Spanish or who simply want to experience a different culture. Its first-world status and idyllic setting are nonthreatening to first-time overseas travelers. And because classroom texts typically use Castilian Spanish, it provides language learners a sense of familiarity.

But choosing where to study is only the first hurdle. Finding the right program is just as daunting. There are several things to consider, and the best fit relies heavily on the student.

While the majority of Valencia residents speak Castilian Spanish, some citizens prefer to speak only Valencian. This means street signs, restaurant menus and government documents are often in Valencian (though Castilian is usually provided upon request).

A Summer, Semester or Year Abroad

The biggest factor in deciding term length is cost. Tuition varies with each institution and program, and prospective students must contact them directly to get exact figures. Without factoring in plane tickets and entertainment expenses (assuming food and housing are included), programs normally cost several thousands of dollars. It’s best to consult university officials to learn about scholarships and loans.

Costs aside, the study abroad experience, especially for summer and semester-long programs, is heavily influenced by the time of year. Summer is Valencia’s busiest season, with tourists from all over the world flocking to the beaches. Students will have to deal with crowded streets and venues, and be especially wary of pickpockets who multiply when tourists do. Students should also note when major Valencian festivals occur to be able to take advantage and make sure you are in the city to experience Valencian culture.

A Student-Exchange or an Independent Study Abroad Program

Several universities partner with Valencian schools to operate student-exchange programs. Such programs are usually dependent on the amount of students from each country signed up to study abroad, and can be quite competitive. Academic achievement and language proficiency are typically taken into account, and slots and placement to the students’ chosen universities are not guaranteed. Independently run study abroad programs, in many cases, are less competitive with less rigorous admission guidelines.

Not only do the varying programs determine the classwork students encounter, but they also determine the classroom demographic. Student-exchange programs typically place students in classes with international and university students, giving them the opportunity to interact with locals. Many independent study-abroad programs, meanwhile, place international students with other international students, providing them little to no interaction with local students. This may prove a disadvantage to serious language learners, as they may have a harder time meeting native speakers.

The best way to learn about student placement is by asking university and program advisers. Students who seek candid perspectives should ask their programs and universities of interest for former students’ contact information.

A Homestay or an Apartment

Homestays offer students an invaluable opportunity to live with Spanish families and experience day-to-day activities, such as grocery shopping, cooking and dining. Language learners can expect to improve their language skills dramatically.

Landing a hospitable family relies on luck however, and homestays may be undesirable for those who seek an experience independent from family-like ties. In such cases, students can scour listings for apartment rentals occupied by other international students or locals. Students may also opt to live in dorms, if it is offered. While both alternatives may be great socially, it might limit immersion in everyday Valencian culture.

About The Author

Born in the UK to an English mother and Spanish father, Amancay relocated to her father's home town of Alboraya in 2010. She moved to the centre of Valencia in 2012, where she works as a real estate agent selling properties to expats from the Northern European countries.

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