Barcelona SAE’s First Year Foundations (FYF) is a customized fall semester for your first year students and tailored to your university. Barcelona SAE will partner with you to ensure seamless integration of academic coursework, comprehensive support, and experiential learning that allows your first year students to embark on a transformative first semester in one of Europe’s most vibrant and diverse cities.


Education abroad is a research-proven, high impact practice that nurtures academic success, cultural fluency, sense of belonging, and personal growth. Students who study abroad are much more likely to be successful and persist to degree completion. This is especially true for students who are traditionally underserved and underrepresented in education abroad enrollment. Recognizing the immense value of education abroad, universities are actively developing global opportunities for first year students to not only ensure their academic success, but to give their students a competitive advantage.

Through a blend of structured learning and real-world application, First Year Foundations combines first year academic coursework with what we do best: Immersive cultural experiences and comprehensive student support. Students will develop essential transferable skills, gain a global perspective, and establish those important friendships that will serve them through their campus experience and beyond graduation. 



Barcelona’s stunning architecture and vibrant city life make it the perfect living classroom for first year students, and the city's diverse and inclusive community appeals to a broad range of academic interests. 


Efficient and affordable public transportation, world famous gastronomy, and lively neighborhoods make daily life in Barcelona both convenient and ideal living environment for first year students. 


Barcelona is our passion and only focus, so we pride ourselves in being the Barcelona specialists. Our expertise means your students will get the best academic and cultural experience with highly personalized support.


Barcelona is an international hub that plays host to a variety of cultural activities, festivals, and events. Students can improve Spanish language skills while exploring Barcelona’s cultural fusion of rich history and modern lifestyle.



We partner with you to develop a first year experience that goes beyond textbooks and lectures. We believe first year programming is about creating a foundation for academic excellence, cultural understanding, and personal growth from day one. We want your first year students to have a connection to your university throughout their Barcelona experience, preparing them for a seamless and successful transition to your college campus.


A first year program should pique curiosity and ignite passion for lifelong learning. Our academic courses are centered on experiential learning with a cross-cultural perspective. In other words, we use the city as the classroom to bring the real world application students need to be successful beyond graduation. We also use los cinco sentidos (the five senses) to discover the exciting sights, sounds, smells, tastes and textures that help us perceive the complex world around us. 


A first year program should pique curiosity and ignite passion for lifelong learning. Our academic courses are centered on experiential learning with a cross-cultural perspective. In other words, we use the city as the classroom to bring the real world application students need to be successful beyond graduation. We also use los cinco sentidos (the five senses) to discover the exciting sights, sounds, smells, tastes and textures that help us perceive the complex world around us. 


In Catalonia, the Castellers, or Human Towers, are a wonder to behold. This ancient sport involves teams working together to use their own bodies to build human towers as high as 10 (people) stories! This feat can only be accomplished through teamwork to reach greater heights. The structure is called the pinya, and that's what we aim to instill in our students: teaching them to work together, support each other, and form bonds that allow everyone to reach greater heights. 

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Barcelona SAE’s award-winning Diversity, Equity and Inclusion commitment helps drive the First Year Foundations program including inclusive Academic and Cultural programming, intercultural training and more. You can learn more about TODOS here.


Academic Success

Course Examples

Here is a sample of the classes to be offered to First Year Foundation students: 

  • Building Cultural Competence and Preparing for College Success
  • Spanish Language and Culture (Various Levels)
  • Academic Writing: Foundations in a Global Context
  • Introduction to Peoples of Spain - Cultural Diversity, Past and Present
  • Introduction to Sports and Society in Spain and Catalonia
The Barcelona School for International Studies (SIS)

Students will attend classes at the Barcelona SAE Academic Study Center at the Barcelona School for International Studies (SIS), which is a Spanish institution with U.S. accreditation through Jacksonville University (JU). The courses offered at SIS are taught by local and international faculty who have significant experience teaching U.S. students. Class sizes are purposely small to provide a personalized learning experience and includes a variety of hands-on experiential learning through field studies, museum and industry visits, and guided reflection. 

Barcelona SAE’s office and staff are housed in the same space as the SIS classrooms and are available for appointments and walk-ins. Next to the office, students also have a designated gathering space to study and meet. WiFi is available throughout the office and classrooms.

Cultural Competence

Barcelona SAE provides the support that students need to step out of their comfort zone and learn from the world around them, leaving behind what they know to embrace a new way of life. 

The cultural activities, day trips and excursions included in the program are aimed at gaining a deeper appreciation for the culture of Barcelona, Catalonia, and Spain as well as getting a better understanding of their own culture.

Activities & Excursions

Students on the First Year Foundations program will join the Barcelona SAE staff and local students to explore Barcelona and beyond. Activities include immersive, guided tours around Barcelona’s barrios (neighborhoods), visits to important historical sites and museums, a Catalan cooking class, and more. 

With our tailor-made Barcelona Student Guide, Weekly Cultural Agendas, and the Barcelona SAE Bucket List, there is no excuse NOT to get to know Barcelona better than a local by the time the term ends.

Finding Community

The First Year Foundations program provides a community in Barcelona where students develop lifelong connections with their peers, their host culture, and your college campus. 


Barcelona SAE offers our students a variety of housing options, which means that we have the perfect place in Barcelona for you to call your home away from home. We have carefully selected safe and adequate housing for each student but each living arrangement is different.

Students on the First Year Foundations program can choose from two different housing options and are able to rank their preference between:

  • Shared Homestay with one of our carefully-vetted local families, receiving breakfast and dinner daily. 
  • Student Residence Hall with our local live-in Resident Assistant. 

Please click here to learn more about our housing options (and note that Shared Apartments are not available for First Year Foundations students).

Please note that housing in Barcelona is extremely competitive and participants will be placed based on availability. While we make every effort to provide students with their preferred form of housing, we cannot guarantee that students will get their first choice due to space limitations.

Cultural Mentor Program

Every First Year Foundations student will be paired up with a Cultural Mentor during their program - a member of our team who provides individualized support in Barcelona from start to finish.

Personal Growth

Fostering a supportive learning environment will help students develop additional skills such as resilience, self-awareness, adaptability, success mindset, and perseverance.

Comprehensive Support

Year after year, Barcelona SAE students rate “interaction with the staff” as one of the highlights of their Barcelona experience. Our passion for international education, our commitment to individualized service to our students, and our expertise in Barcelona facilitates the strongest combination of cultural, academic, and professional experiences for our students. 

Please click here to learn more about the Barcelona SAE team that will be supporting your first year students.

Pre-Departure Support:

Prior to the program, First Year Foundations students will receive:

  • Customized information sessions and pre-departure orientations for first year students and their families. 
  • A customized application process - geared towards incoming freshmen.
  • Personalize advising for first year students and their families from our experienced team.
Onsite Support

Barcelona SAE’s office and staff are located in the same space where students will be attending their SIS classes. As part of the program, we provide:

  • A 24/7 emergency phone handled by bilingual Barcelona SAE staff. 
  • An expert Health & Safety team dedicated to managing both minor and major incidents, training onsite staff, and overseeing Barcelona SAE’s comprehensive Risk Management Plan
  • English-speaking mental health professionals that have vast experience working with international students. Under the CISI comprehensive insurance package, students have 10 therapy sessions free of cost.


September 15 - December 12, 2025

Please note these dates are tentative and will be confirmed closer to the program start date.

IMPORTANT: Since this program is less than 90 days, US passport holders who plan to stay just for the dates of our program, do NOT need a visa. If a student plans to travel within the Schengen Zone anytime before or after the program, please contact a Barcelona SAE advisor for more information.


Partnering with Barcelona SAE means you’ll have the opportunity to create a customized first year experience that aligns your university’s campus brand with a transformative education abroad experience in one of the world’s most dynamic cities.

Please contact to start the conversation!

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I think Barcelona SAE helps students truly understand their place in the world, as I got to see so many cultures and ideologies that I would have never been exposed to otherwise. My time abroad and this program helped me become more independent and more pro-active - both as a student and as an individual."

Katherine Bennert | University of Michigan

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