Five differences between a day of classes in Spain and the U.S.

Miranda Lipton is a student at Ohio State University. She is an ISA Featured Blogger and is studying abroad with ISA in Barcelona, Spain.

  1. Classes in Spain are two hours — about 40 minutes longer than typical American ones.

By the last class of my three back-to-back class-marathon, the 10-minute break we are given always seems to present itself as an ideal opportunity for a power nap! All classes are broken up with a break halfway through. Students use this time to grab a snack (can you really expect us to go more than two hours without food?), a drink, or in desperate times to catch a few Zzz’s.

  1. Two minutes early to class makes you the first one there (even before the professor!)

Two months into my program, I still haven’t adjusted to this culture shock. My stomach still drops when I walk into my 13:00 class at 12:57 to find myself in an empty classroom. I’ve gone to the wrong class and misread the field trip schedule too many times to trust that people will eventually show up. Instead, I’ve “gotten used to” anxiously waiting until five-minutes past start time until another student comes in; confirming that I’m in the right place at the right time. And the professor in Spain is almost always the last one to show. If a professor in the U.S. showed up when the ones here do, the whole class would have long since dispersed!

  1. All European students dress up — sweatshirts and leggings can be found on page one of the: Standing Out as An American manual.

You can’t necessarily tell who on campus is international, but you can always tell who’s American! The “roll out of bed in sweatpants and a hoodie” look that American students survive on does not blend with the platform heels, dresses, skirts and blazers that the rest of the campus is rocking.

  1. It’s more of a social scene – everyone hangs out on campus before, during and after class.

This shouldn’t exactly be surprising given the way I’ve presented a typical class day so far. The combination of: late professors, 10-minute breaks during class, fancy clothes, and alcohol/tobacco being not only legal for all students (above 18) but actually sold at the vending machines and IN the school cafeteria, makes school as good a place to hang out as anywhere else.

  1. It’s much harder to get an A (and not just because I’m writing this during a semester abroad)

The grading scale in Spain makes receiving outstanding grades a more difficult undertaking than it is back home. A’s are impressive grades no matter where in the world you are; but in Spain getting an A is a rare feat. Grades are on a 10-point scale rather than a 100-point one. Without all the “in-between” numbers, a professor can translate what would otherwise be a 76, into a seven. Those six points that would otherwise be represented are lost here, making each value significantly more of an accomplishment!

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