Diversity in Barcelona
CIEE wants all our students to feel welcomed, supported, and empowered to succeed while studying abroad. On this page, local CIEE staff have provided details about conditions and cultural attitudes that students with specific identities might encounter at their location.
The information below is just a broad overview so if you have specific questions or concerns not covered here, please email email@example.com. We would be glad to have local staff share their perspectives, talk with you about accommodations, connect you with resources, and/or put you in touch with a program alum who could speak about their experiences navigating a program in this location.
No matter where you choose to study abroad with CIEE, our staff—all of whom receive regular and comprehensive training in diversity, equity, and inclusion—will be on hand throughout your program to provide advice, resources, and support regarding these issues.
Weight, height, hair style and body image are common daily topics among Spaniards. Sometimes people use adjectives referring to body image to refer to someone, in most cases as a compliment, for example, the blond one, the tall one, the skinny one, fatty (gordita), etc. While this may seem rude, these nicknames are not meant to be insulting but rather as an expression of tenderness and familiarity.
Healthy living, concentrated on exercising but specially on healthy eating habits, is very important in Spain. Therefore, some people might see overweight as unhealthy and related to low social-economic status. At the same time, social life goes all around food in Spain and host mothers tend to encourage students to finish everything on the plate and eat more out of hospitality.
Gender and Gender Identity
Some students have found that gender roles in Spain are quite different than what they are used to in the United States. Although diverse modes of behaviour are becoming more commonly accepted, students may still encounter challenges surrounding the interactions between men and women in Spain.
Female students, for example, may find that they attract a great deal of unwanted attention from Spanish men in the form of the piropo –whistling or inappropriate comments. Attitudes regarding the piropo are changing in Spain, but the practice is still quite common. During orientation and throughout your program, CIEE staff are on hand to provide advice and support regarding these issues.
X Gender Marker
Spain has introduced new legislations to support the rights of different gender denominations in terms of recognition. However, that recognition has not reached passports yet. CIEE Barcelona staff can connect students to local organizations that can provide support and advocacy..
American heritage learning students in Spain may occasionally run into friction in classes or homestays if there are misplaced expectations about the student’s language mastery or if students use different vocabulary than is common in Spain. However, each form of language is correct and accepted as a variant of Spanish, and CIEE staff have experience supporting heritage learners as they work to gain a local perspective, improve their language skills, discover their cultural heritage and traditions, and reinforce their identity.
CIEE’s Advanced Liberal Arts (ALA) program not only helps students reflect on their personal journey and development, but it also offers a track for heritage learners who might be under pressure from their family or are challenged by their socioeconomic status. Students with a native or high level of Spanish can direct-enroll in areas of disciplines associated with their majors, something previously unavailable while studying abroad.
Racial and Ethnic Identity
While people in Spain don’t generally think in racist terms, there doesn’t yet exist consciousness about the damage that stereotypes can do in the day-to-day life of people of ethnic minority communities.
Members of African American, Middle Eastern, Latin American, and Asian ethnic groups may experience comments based on racial stereotypes or quickly find themselves confronted with images that they strongly perceive as socially unacceptable. For example, African Americans might be alarmed to see characterizations that ridicule the African aesthetic, or a black-face King Balthazar in the Three Kings Parade, or even cone-shaped hooded groups parading through the streets in Easter processions during Semana Santa.
Asians in Spain are commonly referred to as “chinos,” the Spanish word for Chinese, regardless of their country of ethnic origin. General stores that they typically own are also often referred to as “chinos”. Many convenience stores are run by natives of Pakistan, or those from South Asia. These then are called “pakis,” a diminutive form referring to Pakistanis in Spanish.
It is important to keep in mind that many of the stereotypes and prejudiced attitudes which emanate from some Spaniards are a result of their lack of exposure to other racial and ethnic groups, and the theme of discrimination is certainly not exclusive to Spain. Although Alcalá is a smaller city, Madrid, being the Capital of Spain, has always attracted people from all over the world both for pleasure and to work, making it even more multicultural and special. It is the people living here, with their different backgrounds, perspectives, and languages, who make it so cosmopolitan, diverse, and intercultural.
Fortunately, there are organizations in Spain that are committed to combating prejudice and these resources will be available to you, as necessary, once you are in Spain.
Spain is an officially secular country since 1978. However, 84% of population declare themselves as believers. 80% of the country´s population practices Christianity, so it is the religion most followed by Spanish population. 4% of the population declare themselves Muslims, and 1% Jews. Historically, the Spanish culture has been influenced by Islamism, Judaism, and Christianity. In fact, there was a time when the three religions coexisted in full harmony (late Middle Ages).
During Franco´s dictatorship, Christianity was one of the bases of power, subduing society under the more orthodox laws of Christian doctrine. With the arrival of democracy, the policies and Spanish society demonstrated tolerance and mental openness to adopt secular laws that would strip the country of an official religion, allowing each citizen to choose and exercise the religion they like.
Since Christianity was the most practiced religion over centuries, folklore and celebrations are typically connected to Christianity. Today, this folklore is still very present in some areas, such as the South of Spain, where "Semana Santa" is very popular and lived with a great devotion.
Sexual diversity has been a cultural reference in Spanish society for the last 20 years and gives an idea of the tolerant character of Spaniards in general. Spain was the third country in the world, after Belgium and the Netherlands, to formalize in 2005 equal marriage between people of the same sex with the same rights as heterosexual marriage. There are historical associations that have helped and promoted the normalization of the sexual orientation from the LGTB community. Spaniards' way of life rooted in the family and the neighbourhood has been one of the determining factors for the normalization of LGBT community.
Despite being known as an expensive city, Barcelona can easily be done on a student budget. Many places of interest are free to visit and staying with a host family can save you money on meals.
Barcelona is a walking city and a great way to discover it without spending a penny is to simply stroll around enjoying the architecture, squares, parks, fresh markets, and the 9 UNESCO World Heritage sites that it has to offer! The integrated public transport system is relatively inexpensive, too – unlimited rides for three months, 80€.
The average monthly cost for shopping per person (food and hygiene) is usually around 80€ for the most careful spenders or double for an average spender. So, it’s safer to assume that you’ll spend around 100€ per month when going to the most reasonably priced supermarkets such as Mercadona, Lidl, and Consum.
When eating out, many local restaurants have a set “menú del día” that costs around 10-15€ or a half menu for about 6€. Great places for cheap meals are bars/cafés and tapas or pintxos restaurants. There are also places that have pre-packaged meals that you can reheat in the moment or take to-go. Lastly, know that wherever there are universities, you can usually find plenty of cheap restaurants nearby. The best thing to do is to stay away from the busy tourist streets. Find places to eat in less crowded neighborhoods. The prices will be lower there and probably even taste better!
For cultural activities, take advantage of the first Sunday of each month to visit the museums for free. The city organizes its own calendar of events, some of which are free or at a discounted rate. The CIEE center organizes a wide range of activities during the semester as well – these are already included in the program fee so there’s no extra expense to you!
Programs in Barcelona
Live from Barcelona
Stroll through the city and observe 2,000 years of architectural history - from Roman remains to a network of narrow streets in the Old Town - contrasting with the ultramodern showpieces that continue to redesign its skyline. Learn more about programs in Barcelona
For the last two weekends, students have had the opportunity to visit Empuries, the site of ancient Greek and Roman ruins. On the same day, they spent some time kayaking... keep reading