Can you introduce yourself?
Manon: I am a third-year student at EM Normandie. I did my first year on the Oxford campus. In the second year, I was in Paris for the first semester during the lockdown and then I spent my second semester in Barcelona. In terms of student associations, I joined the community managers' team three years ago.
I am currently in the design school "Bau" located in Barcelona which is attached to the University of Vic (located about an hour from Barcelona). The campus is located in the city centre at 10 minutes from the beach. The premises are really beautiful.
Was it your first choice?
Manon: Yes, I always wanted to go to Barcelona. I worked hard to get good results and to be able to choose my expatriation. By going to Spain, I would also be able to learn a second language after having spent a year in Oxford. The proximity of the seaside, the living environment, and the weather also convinced me! I am returning to France in mid-December to join the Paris campus.
What courses are you taking?
Manon: There are about ten courses to choose from. Each semester, we have to choose 5 subjects that are similar to those at EM Normandie with a strong focus on digital and sustainable development. For example, we have courses in digital business, start-up creation, design thinking, psychology... They are all taught in English.
The teaching methods are different from those practiced in France. The courses are in the form of exchanges and case studies, even if there are presentation slides. The classes are very lively and the teachers are great, I like that! They all are Spanish but we speak English all the time.
How do you spend your free time?
Manon: Barcelona is close to the sea and offers all kinds of water sports like paddle or surfing. Usually, after school we go to the beach, play volleyball or go to different bars. There are lots of things to do.
We also take a tour of the city, which is incredible, with all the monuments designed by Gaudi. It's really beautiful!
How was the Covid period in Spain?
Manon: We didn't have any distance learning classes. We could go to the campus every day. Wearing a mask was already compulsory but the conditions for going out were more flexible than in Paris because the curfew was at 10 pm. All the bars and restaurants were open until 5 pm so we could go out for lunch or coffee.
How was your integration into the country?
Manon: Everyone is friendly, both the locals and the students at the university. Catalans are a bit different from Castilians. For example, in Madrid you are welcomed everywhere as a friend, which is less the case in Barcelona. Nevertheless, you are welcomed wherever you go and you integrate without any problems.
Did you find your accommodation easily?
Manon: I went through Airbnb, it's quite easy. Some of my friends went through real estate agencies. Both systems are quite easy.
Accommodation is much cheaper than in Paris, even though it's one of the most expensive cities in Spain. You can easily find very nice accommodation in many areas. I started sharing a flat in September with two friends. We only booked our accommodation a month before we arrived. You can even find it a week before.
What is the cost of living?
Manon: Food is much cheaper than in France. You need about 200 euros a month to buy groceries. As for accommodation, you can find a 25 m² flat for 500 euros, depending on the area. If you want to go out, you need to plan a little because there is a lot of going out in Barcelona! All in all, you should count on 1,000 euros while enjoying life to the full.
How is the Spanish food?
Manon: I was a bit scared before I left because I wasn't a fan of tapas. But once I got there, I loved it! You have to be careful when you order in a restaurant because the budget can go up quickly. There are many bars and restaurants that are excellent and quite cheap.
What are the best places to visit?
Manon: In Barcelona, you have to see Gaudi's structures, including Parc Guëll, Casa Batllò, Casa Vicens, La Pedrerà and Sagrada Familia. You can do a lot of walking in Barcelona. I regularly go to Sitges, a town near Barcelona with a beautiful church.
You can also visit the whole Costa Brava coast which is beautiful. In the first half of the year, we travelled the whole coast in a van with some friends. When you come to Barcelona, you have to move around and see what's around.
Should you come earlier to make the most of your expat?
Manon: During your expat stay in Barcelona, you don't have holidays but only one-to-two-day public holidays. You can easily organise long weekends to go on excursions. You don't necessarily have to arrive beforehand, you can enjoy yourself during your expat stay.
What do you plan to do next year?
Manon: I'm going to do a work-study programme for two years in Paris. I've found a start-up that I'm really interested in. I will join the company after my end-of-year internship.
My job will be to assist the founder of the start-up, which is in the digital field and is going to release a mobile application. I will be in charge of either the marketing and communication part or the finance part. My internship will allow me to determine the field in which I feel most comfortable.
What is your best memory?
Manon: We organised a one-week trip with my whole class during which we rented a house. A memorable activity during this trip was skydiving, it was incredible!
Are you comfortable in English?
Manon: I have improved my English a lot since high school, even though I already had a decent level as you have to pass a test before going to Oxford. In the space of one or two months in Oxford, I became comfortable in English by following the courses and communicating with everyone in this language.
Do you mix with students of different nationalities?
Manon: Of course, we have quite diverse groups. In the evenings, we mix with students from all over the world. You hear all the languages spoken, it's great!
You come back transformed from your expatriation, it's very formative. You meet a lot of people. One of my friends found his internship by talking to someone at a party.
Is student life in Spain different from France?
Manon: Yes, quite a lot. They work less in Spain and they have one or two days a week without classes. As expats, we have classes every day. The schedule is well enough to allow us to organise our work and go out on the side.
Would you recommend this expatriation?
Manon: Yes, 100%. Both for the city and for the university and the quality of its courses. I have a real crush on this university, especially because the teachers are great.
Do you have any advice for students wishing to go abroad?
Manon: You have to go for it and not be afraid to leave your country.