Ok, let me explain my university. I live in Barcelona, the center of Catalonia, where they speak Catalan but use Castellano (what most people call Spanish and what I studied in school for ages) to communicate with Spaniards from outside of Catalonia and people studying Spanish.
At a meeting welcoming exchange students, we were told that during Franco's time people were not allowed to teach in Catalan. Now, that this oppressive rule is over, professors have the right to choose whichever language of instruction they want. Hence, it is a highly political issue and the language they choose to teach with is not listed for the students anywhere. Now the only problem is when foreigners and Spainards outside of Catalonia try to take classes in Catalonia, well they might have to take them in Catalan.
Now, how often in life are you going to the first day of class and you not know what LANGUAGE the class will be taught in UNTIL the professor opens their mouth for the first time? Well, that has been my life the last 2 weeks as I and other exchange students have been shopping around not necessarily basing our descisions on subject content or liking the professor but merely is the class in Castellano or Catalan.
I studied Spanish for ages in middle school, high school, and college and now I might be taking classes in Catalan!
Background: Catalan is basically another miniority latin/romantic language that is spoken only by about 7 million people in the world. It, coming from the region between France and Spain, looks a lot like a mix between........French and Spanish. Therefore, whatever French I remember from my year (4 years ago) in Belgium and the Spanish I have studied for ages, is being mixed with this beautiful thing called Catalan. :) Now, the blessing is that I can usually read the Catalan I see and have been able to pick up about 30-40% of spoken Catalan in a class, but the problem is that I am forgetting how to spell things in Castellano and I don't remember which language I am reading or writing at some times.
So, basically, I am convinced that the only reason a person that wants to improve their Spanish would come to Barcelona is to live in a fun, exciting international city on the beach. I think the beach must be on almost all exchange students minds when they choose this city. Or else, no one really realizes that Catalan is a language and that they speak it here! :) I might be a little harsh but I am just enjoying writing out my thoughts about this peculiar situation.
My first class I sat in was in castillano and I was sooooo happy. But then I realized it was over the environment and I had thought the Catalan title .......medi meant that the course was about population and movement but then I realized medi was Catalan for medio ambiente in Spanish. Therefore, even though I found a class in Spanish.......it wasn't about a topic I was planning or intersted in studying.
Good news though, after some class shopping and exchange student networking, I have set up a nice little schedule where I only have classes on Monday for 1 hour, and then all day Tuesday and Thursday. This means I do not have classes on Wednesday and Friday! Which is really wonderful because it is a 50 min commute to my university so I just camp out and make the trips worth it on Tues and Thurs. Plus, I use the lunch time to catch up on lunch with friends and doing computer work.
I was really stressed on my first day of classes on Tuesday, Sept 28th but now after 2 weeks, I am pretty happy with how it all worked out. Plus I have classes with people I like and we help each other catch all the notes from the professor.
Yeah, happy ending to my university adventures!