For further study abroad tips and travel advice, check out our blog posts below.
When visiting Europe, many look for discounts and deals that may help them save money along the way. For students traveling internationally, whether within Europe or outside the continent, an International Student Identification Card (ISIC) can be very useful. Here are the top ways an ISIC card comes in handy in Europe.
The ISIC card is available within 133 countries across the globe. Whether in Europe or any other continent, you need to be a full-time student and older than 12, with proof of both. That’s all that’s required to apply for the ISIC card and obtain one online. If you’re thinking of going back to school or studying abroad, such as in Europe, this is a great time to apply. You’re qualified if you sign up for at least 12 hours of credit per week for at least 12 weeks.
Using the ISIC card is easy, as it’s globally accepted and there’s an endless list of places to use one in Europe. You can use it for daily living, such as grocery shopping or going to see a show for less than 50 euros. Opportunities to explore culture, food, and attractions in Europe suddenly become easier and less expensive. Use the discount finder tool on the official website to search options. You could even score a deal you might not have known about by showing your ISIC card at an attraction site such as;
There’s now an estimated total of 160,000 discounts the ISIC card provides across the globe. Some of the best discounts offered are for admission to attractions, museums, modes of transportation, and budget hotels. Visit the Louvre Museum for free, save several euros on the entrance to the Catacombe di Napoli in Italy, and enjoy city tours for a lower price than the general public pays. Save a sizable percentage on your cross-country European trip whether traveling by rail, bus, or airplane. Take the bus across Europe for 15 percent off, or island-hop between the Greek Islands with 50 percent off ferry tickets.
Travelers get free basic travel insurance included with the ISIC card. If by some chance you’re in medical need in Europe or get into an accident while touring, up to $2,000 of your bill will be automatically covered. If a venue, such as a hostel in a rural area or a theater out of the city center, doesn’t accept your ISIC card, then you’ll be reimbursed for the extra money you paid. If you have a booked ticket with an airline flying through European countries and it goes bankrupt during your travels, you’ll receive a 100 percent refund.
Getting an ISIC card provides many benefits to a student and can make the difference when planning a trip to Europe. Even if you don’t have any plans to go to Europe at the moment, an ISIC card will still prove to be useful in other cities.
It’s a tough call deciding where to spend a semester abroad. Although our minds may wander to thought’s of spending a college term in romantic Europe, when it boils down to it, not every European city is best-suited to college students.
If you’re looking for the perfect mix of nightlife, history, culture, academia and location, then take a look at the 10 best places to study abroad!
Amsterdam best places to study
Amsterdam is arguably the ultimate exchange city. Though it’s incredibly international, it still retains a cosy community feel – just cycling around 9 straatjes neighborhood you’ll be greeted by a stream of familiar faces.
Brimming with boutique cafes, local markets, underground clubs and canal-side terraces, Amsterdam has endless great hangouts spots.
Universities: The biggest colleges taking exchange students are the UvA (University of Amsterdam), the VU (Free University) and the AUC (Amsterdam University College).
Accommodation: All exchange students are offered a room in student dorms which are over in the Science Park in the east or near Westerpark in the west. These are usually studio apartments kitted out with their own kitchen and bathroom.
Cost of living: Try to budget around 800-1000 Euro a month.
Language: Dutch is pretty tough to learn in just 6-12 months though with some knowledge of German you should be able to pick bits up. The Dutch, however, have impeccable English so no need to stress about it.
Travel: Just about anywhere in The Netherlands is a short train journey away from Amsterdam, so you can easily fit in plenty of day trips to Rotterdam, Haarlem, Utrecht or Maastricht. And it’s almost just as easy to pop over to the UK, Germany and Belgium.
Head to: Roest city beach for chilled people, creative events and a cool industrial atmosphere.
Montpellier best places to study
During term time, Montpellier is abuzz with student activity and southern French flair. A bustling university, shed-load of cultural events, reasonable rents and endless summers are a pull for students far and wide.
Universities: There are 3 successor universities to the University of Montpellier, each one specialising in a different field.
Accommodation: Rooms in halls of residence are somewhat limited so get in touch with the Montpellier CROUS as soon as possible. Rent prices are reasonable, coming in around 450 Euro a month.Cost of living: Ideally, budget something like 900 Euro for the entire month.
Language: You’ll best experience the city with a decent level of French, but there are plenty of tandem programmes to bring your French up to speed.
Travel: It’s pretty easy to travel around in the South of France, with Marseille, Toulouse and Nice a short journey away. You could even nip over to Barcelona or Northern Italy which are only a few hours away along the coast. Head to: The Place Jean-Jaurès district for student hangouts, live music and weekend brunch.
Nestled in the south of Spain, Córdoba draws students in with its glorious weather, friendly people and delicious food. After the afternoon heat passes, people spill out onto the streets to wander together through the squares, enjoying tapas, beer and flamenco guitars until the early hours.
Universities: Opening only in the 70s, the University of Córdoba is still a fairly young establishment, though it has a developing Erasmus scheme and welcomes some 600 exchange students each year.
Accommodation: You’ll have the option of renting a shared flat with other students or living in halls of residence through the university (note: you may even get a swimming pool).
Cost of living: The cost of living is generally much cheaper in the south of Spain. Expect to pay between 400 and 600 Euro monthly.
Language: Expect a strong southern Spanish accent, though most young people speak decent English and are happy to make the effort.
Travel: Seville and Málaga are all in close proximity and easy to access. For heading further afield, hop on the high-speed AVE train across to Portugal or even a 40-minute ferry over to the North African coast!
Head to: Bar Santos for tasty tortilla de patata, cold beer and great outdoor ambience.
Find out more about studying in Spain below
Undertaking a study abroad program in Europe, also known as an Erasmus program, can be nerve-racking regardless of the country in which you’re studying. The world may be slowly transforming into one global village, but national and local customs still govern the daily lives of many populations. Spain is a very popular for Americans due to the sunshine, language and culture.
You may assume that some sun, sangria and maybe even a siesta will be part of your studies, but what else can an exchange student expect The Land of the Setting Sun to have in store?
First up, before even setting off to Spain it is often advised that you have a basic language level before touching down. Although it may not be entirely necessary, especially if you’re studying in larger cities or more tourist-friendly areas, Spanish people are by and large quite a proud nation who will not appreciate somebody coming to their country and not making the effort to speak the lingo. Some exchange programs advise this level should intermediate, even be up to B1 according the standard European framework, but of course this can be lower if your classes will still be in English. However not only will you be rewarded with a more immersive experience if your ability to communicate is up to speed; in Spain particularly there are many stories of exchange students being held in higher favor by locals due to their dedication to learning and speaking the language.
Check the language skill you will be expected to have for your program. Some courses will require proof of your knowledge before and during enrollment. Be aware also that not all cities prioritize Spanish as a first language. Catalan, Galician and Basque are predominantly spoken in some regions.
Not speaking the language should only really be an issue if you intend on finding a job throughout your studies. If you feel a lack of knowledge could be a hinderance, look into if your University provides free or discounted language courses. Although there are many online language classes which are inexpensive, or even free in the case of DuoLingo, most learners see quicker results from being in a classroom setting.
2. Be Organized
Start planning for your study abroad placement well ahead of its start date, and compile as much information as possible about the University you’ll be studying at. This can be done via your home university or a direct contact with the Spanish university. Addresses, local bus routes, the number of campuses, and course start dates will all be important. It’s wise to try and keep all info together in an organized and easy to access way. Additionally, most universities will send out information and fact sheets to new students.
Aim to submit your application at least 6 months before the beginning of a course, and deadlines are usually at least two months before a course starts. If you need to get a Student Visa for your studies remember that processing this can sometimes takes up to 4 months.
Ensure your passport is valid for the entire period of study.
3. Living Expenses and Costs
Next, research information on living, transport, and likely accommodation costs (more info on each below). Conveniently, the cost of accommodation is the only big factor that varies between cities and neighborhoods. The costs of food and other amenities are largely the same across the country, which helps when calculating living expenses. Most students estimate the cost of living to be between 300 – 400 Euros monthly.
Ensure you take into account all the things you will need to pay for on arrival, such as bedding, groceries and transport costs.
Spain is a well-connected country, with all major cities boasting public transport. Journeys to smaller destinations may need to be planned ahead of time – especially to remote locations during the weekends where limited bus services may run. Otherwise transport in more built up areas is frequent and relatively inexpensive.
For local connections buses and trains operate within and between cities and towns. Night bus services are offered in larger inner city areas and many built up locations also offer a metro service. Monthly and seasonal tickets can be purchased for the largely integrated fare system, meaning they work on all forms of transport. These increase in prices depending on how many zones you intend to travel within. Cheaper tickets are also offered, usually for people under 21 years of age, but schemes vary from place to place. Plenty of taxis are available in more built up areas, with a reduced chance of fraud due to fitted meters or an agreed travel cost before setting off.
A couple of cities, including Barcelona and Valencia, offer tram service within the suburban areas outside of the city.
For inter-city connections buses is usually cheaper than trains, however numerous high-speed services, such as AVE High Speed Trains, mean you can reach destinations in next to no time. The main operators within the country are Renfe, who operate train connections, and Movelia who deal with buses. Several ferry companies offer passenger services from the mainland to the Canary Islands and the Baleares.
If you’re into biking beware that much of the country is not well adapted to bikes, even in more built up areas. Like many places in the US, car drivers may take a less-than-enthusiastic view of your taking up space on the road.
Like many European countries, living in cities is more expensive than elsewhere, and you will always find more and less pricey neighborhoods. However, accommodation costs in Spain are usually regarded as reasonable compared to London or other north European locations. Recent reports show inner-city one bedroom apartments priced at around 530 Euros/month, and suburban accommodation at around 410 Euros/month. These costs can vary largely from city to city.
Use Google and Google Maps to research neighborhoods (barrios) that you would be happy to live in. The latter can – to some degree – help you get a feel for the an area before even visiting.
You can sometimes find accommodation through University schemes and help desks, however if not, websites such as LoQUo and Idealista are trusted and widely used. Always remain cautious when using the internet to find accommodation. Follow universal rules for this practice (such as not transferring any money ahead of signing a contract) and check out our tips below:
Sometimes Skype chats can be arranged with people advertising a room, but your best bet is to arrange for some short term accommodation (a friend’s sofa, an Airbnb apartment or even a hostel) and look more thoroughly once you’re in the city. Use these terms and abbreviations to help find your perfect pad. Apply to every advertisement in which you’re interested. Especially at the beginning of the semester, you are up against a deluge of other students hoping to find accommodation. Apply to as many places as possible to maximize your chances of getting a foot in the door.
As mentioned in the above section on language, if the ad is in Spanish, respond in Spanish. The effort will be appreciated even if it isn’t perfect. Be friendly and tell them something about yourself. The person you’re contacting is likely to receive a high volume of applications. Try and stand out by bringing your personality to the table.
Usually you will be required to pay 1 – 2 months rent as a deposit. Use caution if the figure is higher than this. Landlords in Spain have little legal protection so are likely to ask for extra guarantees, but not much more than this in the form of cash. You may have to provide them with proof of your student status, and something to show you have a form of income, even if this is only your scholarship or grant. Make sure all amounts are paid and the conditions for getting this cash back are agreed in writing.
Agencies are also available to help with searching, but bear in mind that their fees shouldn’t be extortionate. Anything more than 1 – 2 months rent, again, avoid!
If you’re searching in summer, rents may be a little higher, especially if you are in an extremely touristy city.
Typically searching for accommodation will take students between 7 – 10 days, so don’t feel disheartened if nothing seems suitable in your first week. And of course don’t forget to use the all-powerful channel of social media and your new found friends and classmates to spread the word that you are looking for somewhere.
This varies from university to university, however is extremely straightforward. Your university will send you information depending on what you might need to take along on the day and many documents will have been scanned and sent to your university during the application process. This may include a student visa (usually arranged through your host university), a proof of language skill (if applicable), an acceptance letter from the institute, proof of health insurance, 2 passport sized photos and some form of ID.
7. Student Buddy Programs
As part of inductions, many universities offer Buddy Programs, which means a locally-savvy student will accompany new students to help them acclimatize. Your university will let you know if this is available.
Opening a bank account may not be necessary, but if so, check with your university if they provide the means of opening a student bank account. If so, it saves on a lot of work for you.
Opening a bank account is simple but requires much of the documentation. The process is quick and painless, and once complete you’ll be given a “libreta”, a small deposit book which acts as a temporary way to make cash withdrawals until your debit card is delivered in the post. The temporary withdrawals can only take place at designated, special ATMs, so have a staff member show you which ones and maybe demonstrate how to take money out, if necessary.
Typical bank opening times are Monday – Friday 9:00 a.m – 2:00 p.m.
9. Buying SIM/Mobile Phone
Many students end up opting for a cheap Pay-As-You-Go SIM to put into an unlocked phone. This makes the most sense as contracts are usually longer than the study period a student has committed to, and often require a documentation for a bank account that has been open for longer than 3 months in order to take out a contract. Pay-As-You-Go SIMs often take into account a fair amount of internet usage should you be using a smartphone. There are a plethora of phone providers across Spain including Movistar, Happy Móvil, Orange, Vodafone, Yoigo, which each offer unique draws, such as cheap European calls or free net. It may take a while, but do a little research ahead of time to ensure you get the best deal suitable for you. SIM card prices begin as low as 5 Euros.
10. Work – Internship and Part-time Work
Internships are usually arranged with the help of your home university. Depending on the amount earned, you may get taxed any income during your placement.
In order to work contractual hours in a part-time job, a working contract must not be for over 20 hours a week whilst studying and working hours must not interfere with school hours. Full-time contracts can only run for three months and should not overlap with the semester.
Something you should definitely have is European health insurance while studying in Spain. Travelers get free basic travel insurance included with the ISIC card. If by some chance you’re in medical need in Europe or get into an accident while touring, up to $2,000 of your bill will be automatically covered.
If you find yourself needing medical attention whilst in Spain, the first place you should visit will be a Centro de Atención Primaria, or CAP. These are Primary Care Centers and your university should be able to advise on where the closest one is to either the campus or your accommodation. It is not unusual to have to pay a percentage of any prescription from a state-funded healthcare provider, usually around 40%.
For emergencies go straight to a Public Hospital or Urgencias. Again, your university will know your local one and you will probably be alerted to its whereabouts during some form of induction.
12. Personal Safety
Hopefully you never find yourself in a situation where you may have to call the emergency services. Of course this section isn’t here to scare you out of the idea of studying in Spain, but as a precaution it is better to be fully prepared should you find yourself in a bad situation.
As a general rule of thumb across the world, cities have higher crime rates than suburbs. Every region has the areas you know to avoid, and this is no different in Spain. Stay wise, and avoid looking like too much of a tourist in known pick-pocket areas. Use extra caution when on public transport, especially at metro stations or stops, and try not to stand near the doors if possible.
On the streets, be wise to the numerous tactics employed by pickpockets. Keep your wallet or purse on you at all times, and preferably out of sight. Make sure bags have a strap you can put around yourself, and remain aware of your environment. Street performers make excellent distractions where pickpockets can move quickly through an enthralled crowd.
If you need to attract attention to yourself, shout “¡Socorro!” (soh-koh-rroh) or “¡Auxilio!” (ahoo-ksee-leeoh), both interchangeable as “help!”.
Make a note of the following numbers just in case they are needed:
112 – Used when in need of urgent police or medical attention, or when you need the fire brigade. The person on the other end of the line is unlikely to speak English, so speak in the best Spanish you can muster in a slow and clear voice.
+34 915 87 22 00 – The U.S. Embassy in Madrid
Have a look at the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation’s page for a complete list of foreign embassies in Spain.
13. Culture Shocks and Misconceptions
We’ve covered numerous legal issues above, however something to bear in mind is Spain’s governing structure, which is known to frustrate even Spaniards themselves. The country is split into 17 political regions, with each having a large amount of autonomy. This can lead to large variations in law and bureaucracy across regions. Thankfully, the issues these affect are only touched upon once-in-a-while, and hopefully not at all during your study time.
Spanish people are viewed as very friendly, and this can be seen into many aspects of daily life. Personal space is judged differently, and in some cases an American may feel like it doesn’t exist at all. Public displays of affection are more more common in Spain also.
Americans overuse “please” and “thank yous” from a Spanish point of view. There’s a certain directness spaniards use to communicate with that you should mimic. When you’re in a bar, simply looking attentive and expecting to get served may not work. To get served quickly, shout “¡Oye!” just like a local would. Keep your tone friendly and smile to ensure it’s received in the correct way.
Some towns and cities practically close in August, so expect doing anything to take a long time. Likewise, Sundays can be extremely quiet, depending on where you are in the country.
Time for a little bit of myth busting – The majority of Spaniards are against bullfighting, and Flamenco dancing only really takes part in the south of the country.
Many places in the Iberian Peninsula, and more remote areas across the country, still observe siestas. Expect everything to be closed between 2-5 p.m. when employees head home or enjoy an afternoon nap.
The daily schedule differs from that in the US. In the evening, everything tends to take place much later. Meals will be late at around 9-10 p.m., and a night out clubbing will mean not arriving at the club until around 1 to 3 a.m.
Located along the river Neckar, nestled amidst the woody hills of Königstuhl and Heiligenberg, Heidelberg is a gorgeous little German town. It’s been drawing artists and intellectuals from far and wide over the years and, as a result, has become one of Germany’s most popular student cities.
Universities: Heidelberg is home to a real range of universities from the Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg (Germany’s oldest university) to the Hochschule für Jüdische Studien Heidelberg (Jewish religion and culture).
Accommodation:Rent can be quite pricey, particularly in the city centre. International students tend to have priority getting university housing – these are usually shared apartments or dorms of 12 people. Many German students live in private apartments in the nearby towns of Eppelheim or Dossenheim.
Cost of living: Factor an overall budget of something like 750 Euro a month.
Language: For Ruprecht-Karls-Universität, you’ll need sufficient language skills (ideally B2 level), though the SRH Hochschule Heidelberg offers more and more courses taught in English.
Travel: Large German cities like Frankfurt am Main, Stuttgart and Munich can be reached in 1-3 hours. The French border is just an hour away. Head to: the Neckarwiese for BBQ gatherings, amazing views and chilled summer evenings.
Boasting the youngest population of all major UK cities, Nottingham’s reputation as a dynamic hub of culture precedes it, making it a popular choice among students from both home and away. A succession of cool bars, shops and restaurants have sprung up around the emerging Lace Market district, a quarter mile square that was once at the forefront of the lace industry.
Universities: Home to 2 of the UK’s top universities – the University of Nottingham and Nottingham Trent University. Both have great Erasmus schemes and loads of partner unis.
Accommodation: Rooms in student halls are usually offered on a first come first served basis. It’s not uncommon that these contracts only cover term time and exclude holidays.
Cost of living: Public transport and going out prices are all pretty affordable on a student budget. You can reckon with anything from £200-£270 a month for a room to around £450+ per month for a house.
Language: It’s a fairly neutral Midlands accent, with a few Northern pronunciations on words like ‘laugh’ (say it: ‘laff’).
Travel: Right in the heart of England, it’s well connected to the rest of the country, with major cities like Sheffield, Leeds, Liverpool and Manchester all just round the corner, and London only a 2-hour train journey south.
Head to: Spanky Van Dykes for vintage records, cheap burgers and indie vibes.
Leuven is a small but true student city, with just under half its population comprising students! The university is dotted with parks, bars and cafes, leaving you with almost unlimited student hangout spots. And with each faculty boasting its own student-run “Fak Bar”, cheap beers and impromptu get-togethers are never far off.
Universities: The Katholieke Universiteit Leuven is the oldest, largest and most prominent university in all of Belgium. Its campus fosters a great community, and there’s a large, integrated international student population.
Accommodation: Rent for your average student room will cost something like 250-350 Euro. It’s definitely worth finding a place in the main ring (Heverlee) if you can.
Cost of living: The K.U.Leuven estimates a budget of around 800 Euro.
Language: Belgians are pretty open to different languages (given Belgium has 3 official languages: Dutch, French and German) and their English is generally very good, particularly among students.
Travel: Leuven is more or lessat the centre of the urban triangle that connects Paris, Amsterdam and Cologne, making for plenty of opportunities for weekend trips.
Head to: STUK for smooth jazz, experimental cinema at student rates.
The capital of Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region, Bologna is a city of two halves; loved for its fine dining and brick terracotta roofs on the one hand, and its thriving nightlife and graffiti-embellished piazzas. The ESN and AEGEE student organization ensure a packed calendar of events and activities, fostering a close-knit student community.
Universities: Founded back in 1088, the University of Bologna is one of Europe’s oldest. It currently offers around 18 English language courses.
Accommodation: Unlike much of the rest of Europe, students in Italy are generally expected to organize their own accommodation. EasyStanza and Bakeca Bologna should be your first port of call for flat hunting, and check the Bologna Erasmus Facebook groups regularly for people advertising free rooms.
Cost of living: As one of Italy’s most prosperous cities, living costs can be quite high. Try to avoid eating out as this is where your budget will really feel it.
Language: Not too difficult to get the gist if you’ve got some knowledge of Spanish or English. The university offers free Italian courses but these fill up quickly so sign up as soon as you can! Alternatively, look into Madrelingua, a course that offers Erasmus students a 30% discount.
Travel: Bologna’s just a 1-hour train journey to Florence and Parma, and there are new high-speed services on to Milan.
Head to: Piazza Verdi for cobbled pavements, student-filled cafes and buzzing energy.
While it may not boast the biggest student population in Austria, Innsbruck is a popular choice among Erasmus students for its location in the heart of Europe and easy access to nature.
Universities: Innsbruck is home to 2 widely respected universities: the University of Innsbruck and the Innsbruck Medical University. Both are centrally located within the city and welcome hundreds of exchange students each year.
Accommodation: There are several options when it comes to getting a student dorm, but for around the same budget it’s quite possible to find yourself a shared flat off campus.
Cost of living: Around 800 Euro should cover all your costs. If you’re planning on hitting your fair share of slopes, it would be worth investing in a Tirol ski pass that’ll get you access all across the region for the whole season.
Language: Be prepared for the Tyrolian accent which can lead you to believe that you’ve entirely lost your ability to understand German – the round vowels and “chs” sounds can take a bit of adjusting to.
Travel: Innsbruck enjoys a fantastic location in the heart of the Austrian mountains, opening up heaps of opportunities for Alpine exploration – hiking, snowboarding, kayaking, you name it, it’s never far off.
Head to: Weekender Club for student nights, alternative music and live DJs.
The student life and culture in Coimbra is second to none. In fact, the entire city gravitates around the university and its students, making it incredibly easy to feel at home. The city is dotted with picturesque parks and plazas that make for great hangouts on a nice summer afternoon.
Universities: Referred to as the “City of Knowledge”, Coimbra’s home to one of the oldest and most prestigious universities in Europe, the University of Coimbra.
Accommodation: It can be tricky to find a good shared flat but even a place in the centre shouldn’t cost much more than 400 Euro.
Cost of living: Living costs in Portugal are generally very affordable, and 600 Euro a month should be enough to get by.
Language: There are a small number of courses offered in English and exchange students can make arrangements with lecturers to do exams and assignments in English. International students are also advised to take an Intensive Language Preparation Course before the start of term – some knowledge of a Latin language will definitely help you pick up some Portuguese.
Travel: Right in the middle of Portugal, you’ve got the major cities of Porto to the north and Lisbon to the south. Just hop on a train and you’ll be in Spain in a couple of hours.
Head to: the Praça da República for tree-lined paths, low-key bars and student buzz.
A hub of culture that boasts countless museums, galleries, cinemas, bars and clubs, Prague has become an increasingly popular spot for exchange students. It’s easy to assimilate yourself into Prague’s student community, with various orientation schemes and organization helping new students find their feet.
Universities: Charles University is the oldest university in Eastern Europe.
Accommodation: There are several dorm options, the most famous ones being the Kolej Hostivars and Strahov. Though they’re a bit further outside the city centre, they’ve got a great international vibe and frequently host parties.
Cost of living: A room in student halls can range between 100-300 Euro and general outgoings are pretty low if you avoid the tourist hotspots.
Language: Czech is certainly one of Europe’s more complicated languages, particularly when it comes to pronunciation. Fortunately, most locals speak a good level of English to help you get by.
Travel: Straddling Eastern and Central Europe, Prague makes for a great base to explore a whole number of neighboring countries like Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Austria, Germany and Slovenia, all of which are a few hours away.
Head to: Café Prádelna for charming furniture, homemade ice cream and great coffee.