Exchange report - Student at KI
View over Barcelona
Home university: Universitat de Barcelona
Study programme: Biomedicine (Master's)
Exchange programme: Erasmus
Semester: Autumn semester 2017/2018
Name: Barbara Dzino
Email address:


I was excited to spend my winter semester in a warmer country while at the same time advancing on my spanish language skills. Barcelona seemed like a great option, with great courses and projects to choose from. The course websites were mostly in spanish and catalan, but the correspondance with the Erasmus Coordinator was surprisingly fast. After choosing the Neuroscience Masters program, I asked for a list of courses in English that would be held in the winter semester. This information turned out to be WRONG!

Two of the courses I choose were mostly in english (depending on the lecturer) and 2 of the other courses were held exclusively in spanish/catalan!

Finding a project in Barcelona turned out to be a lot trickier. Only a very small number of PIs even replied and then it took me months of correspondance to get the paperwork done and get the final confirmation!

Arrival and registration

The actual application took some time. It was quite hard to find information for the application to get nominated by KI to apply to an Erasmus. After that it was pretty tricky to find out about all the documents you need before the departure and who and when you need signitures. It took me quite some time to figure out which courses are in english on a masters level at the faculty of biology (the Erasmus is very specific where you are allowed to apply).

The semester in Barcelona starts with the initiation weeks in the beginning of september. During this period there were many informative events and I met all the other Erasmus students from the Faculty of Biology. The first weeks were filled with Erasmus and 'getting-to-know oneanother' events, which helped built a strong community amongst students. The Erasmus community in Barcelona is VERY well organised, with heaps of events, trips etc. but also support with housing!

I started my project in the lab in this first period, where I got to know my fellow lab mates and learned all about my project. The courses I had chosen did not start until the end of october/early november and gave me plenty of time to work in the lab and exploring Barcelona.

Universidad de Barcelona


  • Housing is the most expensive at 300-400€ a month and I would highly suggest to look for an appartment AFTER arrival, otherwise you pay a lot more for the agency flats and typical student accommodations (500-900€ a month).
  • Food is fairly cheap, a weekly shop would cost me around 30€. Eating at restaurants is around 10-20€ per meal, with tapas being cheaper. You can reduce costs by pre-cooking meals and having dinner parties at friends houses. Also Erasmus has a lot of 'free food', 'free booze' and 'free club entry' events which can save you a lot of money!
  • The metro in Barcelona is amazing and takes you everwhere! Costs about 40€ per month and you get a student discount.
  • The spanish language course cost 165€ (10weeks), but I would highly recommend it!
  • Travelling and exploring is always an extra cost, but you can reduce costs by using the offers from the Erasmus organization, student disounts or even 'meet-up' groups.
  • The European Health Insurence card covers health care expenses all over Europe. However KI was so kind to give me an extra insurance for dental and the time spend in the lab.


Due to the high number of tourists there is a bit of a housing crisis in Barcelona. The prices are always on the rise and people who are only staying for a short duration are generally ripped off. However, I came to share a cheap apartment with other students in the district of El Raval, which is a pretty dangerous district and I would NOT recommended. I found that appartment over facebook groups.

I later moved to another appartment in Eixample, which was much nicer, but took some time to find. It is not hard to find an apartment if you are willing to make compromises. I found that appartment again over facebook groups and idealista (

I always had to share the appartment with other people/students and sometimes dogs. You won't get a proper contract (especially not for short term 4-6months) unless you go with an agency. Both appartments were well located.

Studies in general

The courses were pretty good and the classes were filled with 15-50 people depending on the class. The professors used powerpoint slide, images, patient data, up to date papers etc. for their talks, but encouraged discussions and were always open for questions. The grade is composed of attandance, participation, written exam and usually a written essay. The really enjoyed the classes and the students were very active and helped me as a non native spanish speaker a lot! The teaching style was pretty similar to the one at KI, however the some classes turned out to be in spanish.

The internship was pretty demanding. I have learned a lot of new techniques in a completely new field. It took some time to become familiar with the practices, but my collegues were very helpful and approachable. However, most of the protocols were in spanish or catalan which did not make it easier. The language was definitely something to get used to in the lab and took some extra effort and concentration. I had very good training from a competent PostDoc, who gave me a lot of time and patience to translate catalan protocols and familiarize me with the Experiments. I am very happy that I got to work independently, but always had somebody I could ask for help, who was familiar with the project. I think it was a great balance of independent work and team effort. I had regular meetings with my PostDoc to keep him up to date with the experiments that I was doing, but I only did one final presentation for the whole lab. In the end of my laboratory practice I made a poster presentation containing the results of my laboratory experience.

Courses during the exchange period

Courses corresponding to semester 3 at KI

Bases of Cognitive Neuroscience (3 credits)

Was the only class fully in english with different experts on each topic - very good course! The final exam was a multiple choice test.

Cellular and molecular bases of learning and plasticity (2.5 credits)

Also a good course with many different experts giving the talk (mainly in english, depending on the teacher). Here we even had a short lab practice in Reus. This elective course was graded by a multiple choice test and a written report as well as attendance.

Neurobiology of addiction (2.5 credits)

This course was held in mainly in Spanish, with some slides/materials in English! The lecturers were pretty good with and explained a lot of the clinical impact, which I found interesting. This elective course was graded by a multiple choice test and a written report as well as attendance.

Neurobiology of pain (2.5 credits)

This course was held completely in Spanish and Catalan! The lectures were moderately good with - maybe because I did not understand as much. However, the course leader was very friendly and recommended english materials for studies. This elective course was graded by a multiple choice test and a (very long!!) written report as well as attendance.

Language and Culture

Eventhough I have only signed up for supposedly English classes, most of my lectures were held in Spanish. In the beginning it was a bit hard, because I had only basic knowledge of Spanish, but I improved quite quickly. I also attended a 10 week spanish course (which had to be paid extra) that also helped me a lot. The lab was very considerate and started with english lab meetings (this was just because of me, because I was the only non spanish speaker). However, most of the protocols and general chats in the lab were in Spanish or Catalan.

In both the lab and the masters class people were incredibly friendly and supported a lot with translations and taking their time to explain or even sharing notes! It can get chaotic, but spanish people are extremely welcoming and easy going. I actually was surprised by the warmth I was welcomed into their lives and how easy it was to integrate. I felt a strong sense of community and commeraderie not only in the lab, but also socialy.

Leisure time and social activities

Barcelona, the capital of Catalunya is known for it's great culture, good food and beautiful beaches. The city is very vibrant and quite touristy, however if you go to more residential districts you can find the local culture and amazing tapas. Barcelona is filled with vibrant passionate people, it was nowhere nearly as imminent as when they voted for the referendum on the 1st of October 2017. Before my exchange I was not aware of the struggles between catalunya and spain. I came to very exciting political times and every day something new happened. The city is pretty cheap (if you know where to go), but there are so many tourists in the city center that it can get quite hard to get food or hotels for reasonable prices.

The Erasmus organisation in Barcelona is extremely well established. The event calendar is always full, with many parties and trips etc. It has never been this easy making friends in a new country, after only a couple of weeks everyone felt part of the big Erasmus family. The University of Barcelona had fewer events, but they put a lot of effort into cultivating a good environment for exchange students. There were plenty of social events throughout the semester, with only our small group of the faculty of biology (70people). They even organised small trips to the surrounding vineyards and mountains.

The lab was also very friendly and I felt very integrated with my collegues as well. They were quick to ask me to join them for social activities, which made Barcelona seem even more friendly.

I think I can safely say that I have never been bored in Barcelona and I feel that all the institutions have made their best efforts to integrate me. I still feel very connected to the people I've met in Barcelona!

Hiking trip to the Pyrenees


I would highly recommend Barcelona for an Erasmus placement. It can get chaotic, but spanish people are extremely welcoming and easy going. I actually was surprised by the warmth I was welcomed into their lives and how easy it was to integrate. I felt a strong sense of community and commeraderie not only in the lab, but also socialy. Further it was a great opportunity to learn spanish and experience the amazing food, beaches and social life of Barcelona.

Furthermore I have learned a lot from my fellow students and collegues not only about what it's like to live in spain, but also about the jobmarket. I could try myself in new areas and got the opportunity to talk to a lot of people, which I think really brought me a step closer on what to do after studying.

Parc Güell