Discovering Barcelona: Part 1

Hi, my name is Mikhael and I am a third-year student at ITMO University. Six months after my return from academic exchange in Barcelona, the memories are still vivid and alive. Academic exchange is a unique opportunity to try to get a feel of education in another country and get acquainted with its traditions. However, I don’t want to write this article as a typical success story, there’s enough of it on the web. I will try, in addition to cultural features, to focus on some of the difficulties that I had to face so that future students would be a little more prepared. Let’s go!

Before the trip, the main association with Barcelona was the famous football club. Photo courtesy of the author

It's warmer there

"What inconvenient sites!" I complained to my sister, studying the web pages of partner universities for academic mobility. There were a huge number of them: from a Japanese university to a Cuban one, and I couldn’t choose anything. In each of them, I had to find a program similar to mine (in my case, Information Security) or at least one that had similar subjects. There was a day left until the end of the application period, and I had to hurry.

Advice: Don't leave applications for the last day. To fill an explanatory note, you need to not only find a university, but also carefully study the subjects it offers, as well as calculate their ECTS.

After several hours of searching and analyzing, I came up with a list of universities by priority: a university in Brandenburg (Germany), a university in Barcelona (Spain), and a university in the Czech Republic, I forgot which city. At the last moment, Zhenya, my sister, said: "Maybe better make Barcelona your first priority? At least it’s warmer there…" I did and, as it turned out, it was worth it…

Hello, it is Mikhael! I need help!

It just so happened that when I was informed that I had passed the selection, many universities suspended the admission of students from Russia, so I had little faith in the success of the entire exchange. However, in July, I received a message from Pompeu Fabra University (UPF for short; Barcelona) that enrollment was starting. At that time, I was working at a summer camp and had to choose the subjects I would be studying at 3 o'clock in the morning. As it turned out later, not all the subjects that I chose were taught in the trimester I was going to spend there. That was why, in Spain, I had to urgently change my subjects.

Advice: at UPF, the academic year is divided into trimesters. The first trimester is equal to the fall semester at ITMO, and the second and third trimesters are equal to the spring semester. Therefore, you should pay attention to the trimester in which the necessary subjects are taught. You can choose not only the courses you listed in your explanatory note, but also those offered by other faculties. The main thing to remember is that lectures can take place in different buildings (UPF has several of them) and you have to take into account the travel time between these buildings. Each course has a limited number of places.

Sagrada Familia. Photo courtesy of the author
Sagrada Familia. Photo courtesy of the author

Also, in addition to the basic subjects, there are free and paid language courses.

While I was still in the camp, I ran into another problem. The email mailbox, which I indicated as the main one, turned out to be full, and new emails did not reach it. Afraid that I did not receive letters from UPF, I did not think of anything better than to call them on the mobile.

"Hello, my name is Mikhael, I need help!" I shouted to the poor employee of the university’s call center. My confident B2 turned into English of Danila Bagrov from Brother 2 (and this character has notoriously poor English).

Inside Sagrada Familia. Photo courtesy of the author
Inside Sagrada Familia. Photo courtesy of the author

On the other end of the line, they were clearly shocked and began to ask some questions, but due to the Spanish accent and poor connection, I practically did not hear them. I continued to yell the main message, hoping that they would understand me: "I changed my email address, please send everything there." Curiously enough, after a couple of days, I began to receive letters to the right mailbox.

Advice: At UPF, the international students department works quite quickly. Don't be afraid to email them ( for details.

Learn what happened next in Part 2 of the story!

Bachelor's student, Information Security Technologies