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You have decided to move to Barcelona to study from abroad. It is your fist time but some of your friends have been there before and they have given you recommedations. Deciding where to live is key to make the most out of your semester or year abroad and it´s important to inform yourself about the different areas (do you prefer to be near the beach? do you prefer to live with other students? Would you prefer to be in building with all students?

Barcelona is divided into 10 "districts". The most popular areas for student accomodations are: 

  1. The City Centre: we find the actual old quarter called Ciutat Vella. Surrounding this quarter are two very popular residential areas called Eixample Dreta (Right Eixample) and Eixample Esquerre (Left eixample). The majority of students stay in this areas. 
  2. University Area:  Eixample esquerre is were many universities (UAB, UB, ESADE, etc) are located. There are also two districts which are popular for students: Corts and Gracia.


Ciutat Vella

Well, let’s start from the beginning… Ciutat Vella (Old City) is comprised of four different neighborhoods (Barri GoticEl Raval, Barceloneta, El Born). It is one of the most beautiful and charming areas of the city. If you have ever visited the city before, you probably felt in love with this area and you decided that this was where you wanted to live one day!

This area is jammed with bars, music venues, restaurants, etc. so it might be noisy in some parts, especially in Barri Gotic, where pedestrian streets are quite narrow. If you like to be in the middle of the action you just found your area!
However, when you choose your apartment just make sure that there is not a bar or restaurant terrace below.

This is a very touristy area and, as a consequence, the cost of living might be more expensive, especially for grocery stores and restaurants. In terms of rent, it is an affordable area. The average rent for a two bedroom apartment goes from 500 to 700 € per month.

In general the Old City has great transport connections with the rest of the city. The Gothic Quarter, Raval and El Born are connected with the University Area by the tube Lines 1 and 3. Barceloneta’s connections are not as good, only the tube Line 4 reaches there.


This large area named Eixample is located beyond Plaça Catalunya and is divided in two parts, ‘Eixample Dreta’ and ‘Eixample Esquerra’ by Passeig de Gràcia. In this area the buildings are built in an easily recognizable grid shape designed by the architect Ildefons Cerdà.

Eixample Dreta

Eixample Dreta is one of Barcelona’s most exclusive neighborhoods. It has a great location as you can walk to Plaça Catalunya and Sagrada Familia. You are also close to Passeig the Gracia which is an exclusive shopping area and to the Gothic Quarter where you can enjoy Barcelona’s nightlife. It also has great tube connections as L1, L2, L3, L4 and L5 stop in this neighborhood.

Rent in this neighborhood is generally quite high, still you can find some nice apartments with an affordable rent. Conversely, Eixample Esquerrais a student area.

Eixample Esquerra & Corts

Eixample Esquerra and Corts neighborhood form the University Area (Zona Universitaria), where the majority of students live, since many universities are based there, for instance ‘Universidad de Barcelona’, ‘Universidad Politécnica de Cataluña’ or ESADE.

Corts is also the financial neighborhood of the city, where many international companies, businesses and hotels are located. Nightlife in this area is quiet since the majority of professionals don’t live here and students tend to head towards Eixample, especially around Plaça de la Universitat. In this area there is also the Barcelona FC’s stadium Camp Nou, so if you are a Barça fan you just found your neighborhood!

Transport connections are also great. The tube lines L1 and L3 can take you to ‘Ciutat Vella’ in less than 20 minutes.


Gracia is the new hip upcoming neighborhood which used to be a town until 1897, when it got incorporated to the city. It still maintains its bohemian style, with large squares where bars set up their terraces, local markets and independent stores. It has the famous Parc Guell from Gaudi.

Many students are moving to this neighborhood because of its trendy scene. Moreover, it has great connections to the University area by the tube line 3 and to ‘Ciutat Vella’ and Barceloneta beach by line 4. It is also possible to cycle but there is quite a stip hill.

Check these websites for accommodation in BCN




Airplane ear. Flying with a cold or an ear infection.

The stress exerted on your eardrum and other middle ear tissues when there is a difference of pressure between your ear and the environment (e.g. when flying) may damage your ears. You may experience airplane ear at the beginning of a flight when the airplane is climbing or at the end of a flight when the airplane is descending. These fast changes in altitude cause air pressure changes and can trigger airplane ear.

Usually self-care steps — such as yawning, swallowing or chewing gum — can prevent or correct the differences in air pressure and improve airplane ear symptoms. However, a severe case of airplane ear may need to be treated by a doctor.


Airplane ear can occur in one or both ears. Airplane ear signs and symptoms may include:

  • Moderate discomfort or pain in your ear
  • Feeling of fullness or stuffiness in your ear
  • Muffled hearing or slight to moderate hearing loss

If airplane ear is severe or lasts more than a few hours, you may experience:

  • Severe pain
  • Pressure in your ear similar to being underwater
  • Moderate to severe hearing loss
  • Ringing in your ear (tinnitus)
  • Spinning sensation (vertigo)
  • Vomiting resulting from vertigo
  • Bleeding from your ear

When to see a doctor

Usually you can do things on your own to treat airplane ear. If discomfort, fullness or muffled hearing lasts more than a few hours or if you experience any severe signs or symptoms, call your doctor.

Request an appointment with Dr. Victoria Howe


Airplane ear occurs when an imbalance in the air pressure in the middle ear and air pressure in the environment prevents your eardrum (tympanic membrane) from vibrating as it should. Air pressure regulation is the work of a narrow passage called the eustachian tube. One end is connected to the middle ear. The other end has a tiny opening where the back of the nasal cavity and the top of the throat meet (nasopharynx).

When an airplane climbs or descends, the air pressure in the environment changes rapidly, and your eustachian tube often doesn't react quickly enough. Swallowing or yawning activates muscles that open the eustachian tube and allow the middle ear to replenish its air supply, often eliminating the symptoms of airplane ear.

Ear barotrauma also may be caused by:

  • Scuba diving
  • Hyperbaric oxygen chambers
  • Explosions nearby

You may also experience a minor case of barotrauma while riding an elevator in a tall building or driving in the mountains.

Risk factors

Any condition that blocks the eustachian tube or limits its function can increase the risk of airplane ear. Common risk factors include:

  • A small eustachian tube, especially in infants and toddlers
  • The common cold
  • Sinus infection
  • Hay fever (allergic rhinitis)
  • Middle ear infection (otitis media)
  • Sleeping on an airplane during ascent and descent

Frequent or severe airplane ear may damage the tissues of the inner ear or eustachian tube, which increases your chances of experiencing the problem again.


Airplane ear usually isn't serious and responds to self-care. Long-term complications may occur when the condition is serious or prolonged or if there's damage to middle or inner ear structures.

Rare complications may include:

  • Permanent hearing loss
  • Ongoing (chronic) tinnitus


Follow these tips to avoid airplane ear:

  • Yawn and swallow during ascent and descent. Yawning and swallowing activate the muscles that open your eustachian tubes. You can suck on candy or chew gum to help you swallow.
  • Use the Valsalva maneuver during ascent and descent. Gently blow, as if blowing your nose, while pinching your nostrils and keeping your mouth closed. Repeat several times, especially during descent, to equalize the pressure between your ears and the airplane cabin.
  • Don't sleep during takeoffs and landings. If you're awake during ascents and descents, you can do the necessary self-care techniques when you feel pressure on your ears.
  • Reconsider travel plans. If possible, don't fly when you have a cold, sinus infection, nasal congestion or ear infection. If you've recently had ear surgery, talk to your doctor about when it's safe to travel.
  • Use filtered earplugs. These earplugs slowly equalize the pressure against your eardrum during ascents and descents. You can purchase these at drugstores, airport gift shops or your local hearing clinic.
  • Use an over-the-counter decongestant nasal spray. If you have nasal congestion, use a nasal decongestant about 30 minutes to an hour before takeoff and landing. Avoid overuse, however, because nasal decongestants taken over several days can increase congestion.
  • Use oral decongestant pills cautiously. Oral decongestants may be helpful if taken 30 minutes to an hour before an airplane flight. However, if you have heart disease, a heart rhythm disorder or high blood pressure, or if you've experienced possible medication interactions, avoid taking an oral decongestant unless your doctor approves. If you're a man older than age 50, you may experience serious side effects after taking decongestants containing pseudoephedrine (Actifed, Sudafed) such as urinary retention, especially if you have an enlarged prostate. If you're pregnant, talk to your doctor before taking oral decongestants.
  • Take allergy medication. If you have allergies, take your medication about an hour before your flight.

If you're prone to severe airplane ear and must fly often, your doctor may surgically place tubes in your eardrums to aid fluid drainage, ventilate your middle ear, and equalize the pressure between your outer ear and middle ear.

Helping children prevent airplane ear

These additional tips can help young children avoid airplane ear:

  • Encourage swallowing. Give a baby or toddler a beverage during ascents and descents to encourage frequent swallowing. A pacifier also may help. Have the child sit up while drinking. Children older than age 4 can try chewing gum, drinking through a straw or blowing bubbles through a straw.
  • Consider eardrops. Talk to your child's doctor about prescribing your child eardrops that contain a pain reliever and numbing agent for the flight.
  • Avoid decongestants. Decongestants aren't recommended for young children.




"When researchers studied several groups of young adults and looked at the extent to which high cholesterol in early adulthood is linked to later development of heart disease, they found that high levels of LDL ("bad") cholesterol were 5.5 times as likely to have a buildup of calcium in their coronary arteries (an early indicator of heart disease) than those who had optimal levels.

Most of the time, high cholesterol in young adults occurs for the same reasons it does in older people: obesity, lack of physical exercise and a diet that includes too much sugar and too many junk foods and fast foods.

On the positive side, lifestyle and dietary changes can often help bring cholesterol levels under control. I suggest starting by eliminating processed foods, sugary drinks and quick digesting carbohydrates. That means avoiding manufactured food that contains trans fatty acids (TFAs), which increase total cholesterol, raise LDL and lower HDL ("good") cholesterol. 

The real cause of our high rates of cardiovascular disease could be sugar, rather than saturated fat. We whoudl not only be eating less foods that can increase cholesterol levels, we just also be increasing vegetables and olive oil to our daily diet. 

Losing weight may also help you lower your cholesterol – even modest weight loss can do the trick. Regular exercise is important; it can increase HDL ("good") cholesterol levels. If you smoke, quit. And since emotional stress may prompt the body to release fat into the bloodstream (raising cholesterol), we should also be addressin stress issues.

Victoria Howe, MD. Andrew Weil, MD.

Mark Pletcher et al, "Associations of retrospective and concurrent lipid levels with subclinical atherosclerosis prediction after 20 years of follow-up: the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) study," Annals of Epidemiology, doi: 10.1016/j.annepidem.2013.06.003.

English speaking doctors in Barcelona


Docteur anglais à Barcelone

Both private and public healthcare in Barcelona is of a high quality and has a good reputation worldwide. International patients have noticed the country’s fantastic treatment, and a high amount of foreigners travel to the city as medical tourists.

During your stay in the city (whether it is short or long term), you might have the need for medical assistance and you may probably feel more comfortable in an english speaking environment. If you need to see a doctor, you can contact Dr. Victoria Howe, who provides general medicine and surgery consultations. She works with an extensive network of english-speaking specialists for her referrals together with an english speaking lab. 

Our English speaking doctors are all internationally trained and are registered both in the Spanish General Council (COMB) and their home country council. For instance, our Cardiologist is american board-certified, our Women´s  health specialist is a member of the GMC (UK) and our Psychologist is a member of the London Therapy Society. 

If you need to be admitted to hospital, we will cater for all your needs and help you throughout the process. We collaborate with Quirón group hospitals ( for admissions and surgeries.

If you need to contact our doctor, please call us on 0034 672299222. 

Other emergency numbers are:

Ambulance: 061
Police: 088
EU Emergencies: 112
Fire: 080, 085
National Police 091


Influenza activity continued to increase in the temperate zone of the northern hemisphere while in the temperate zone of the southern hemisphere activity was at inter-seasonal levels. Worldwide, influenza A(H3N2) and B viruses accounted for the majority of influenza detections although influenza A(H1N1)pdm09 viruses were predominant in some countries.

  • In Europe, influenza activity increased above baseline levels in most countries in Northern and Southwestern Europe with sharp increases in respiratory illness indicators in some countries. Activity remained low in countries in Eastern Europe. Influenza B virus detections remained frequent and the subtype of the influenza A viruses detected varied depending on the country and the surveillance system (outpatient or inpatient systems). Please contact our doctor if symptoms persist more than 2-3 days and you experience a high fever, wheezing, acute tiredness, intense headaches or difficulty breathing.
  • In North America, overall influenza activity continued to increase in the region, with detections of predominantly influenza A(H3N2) viruses.
  • In Western Asia, increasing influenza activity was reported in Israel and Jordan with predominantly influenza B and A(H1N1)pdm09 virus detections, respectively.
  • In Central Asia, low to no influenza activity was reported.
  • In East Asia, influenza activity continued to increase in recent weeks. In both Northern and Southern China, ILI and influenza activity continued to increase, with influenza B Yamagata-lineage viruses predominantly detected followed by influenza A(H3N2) viruses. Increasing detections of influenza B and A(H3N2) viruses were reported in the Republic of Korea.
  • In South East Asia, low levels of influenza activity were reported.
  • In Southern Asia, increased influenza activity was reported in Iran with detection of all seasonal subtypes.
  • In Northern Africa, influenza activity was predominantly due to influenza A(H1N1)pdm09 virus detections. Activity increased in Egypt and Morocco; and Tunisia reported sharp increases in activity.
  • In Western Africa, influenza activity continued at lower levels compared to previous weeks. Detections of predominantly influenza A(H1N1)pdm09 viruses were reported from Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana and Togo. In Middle Africa, Cameroon reported activity with influenza A and B viruses and the Democratic Republic of Congo reported detections of influenza A(H1N1)pdm09 viruses. In Eastern Africa, sporadic influenza detections were reported in Madagascar, Mozambique, and the United Republic of Tanzania.
  • In the Caribbean and Central American countries, low to no influenza activity was reported.
  • In the tropical countries of South America, low to no influenza activity was reported.
  • In the temperate zone of the Southern Hemisphere, influenza activity decreased overall to inter-seasonal levels.

Interview with Barcelona-based English-speaking women’s health specialist Dr Victoria Howe

You have a specific health programme for women’s health consisting of different diagnostics and prevention packs. Can you explain a bit about what it comprises?

In our Women’s Health Division, we are now offering very specific programmes that are targeting the most relevant women’s health medical issues, such as the menopause, stress management, digestive health, pregnancy support, cardiovascular risk etc. We have created a variety of ‘packs’, adapted to each patient’s needs, following a concierge medical pattern. This means we have an initial medical consultation with the patient and then we assess their needs and create a personalised program for them. The majority of programmes include a medical assessment, a physical examination, an ECG and blood tests.

What is the price for the assessment and are clients able to claim the cost back from insurance companies?

The price can vary depending on the consultation. I am the General Practitioner for women and their families. If the patient is looking for a women’s health consultation or would like to enroll in one of my programmes then this is also available. This will be included in the pack if the patient decides to go ahead with it. Insurance companies (there is a list on our website) reimburse the majority of our fees.

What services does a Women’s Health Specialist offer and what is your philosophy?

My philosophy is that the patient has to be approached as a whole, through education and counselling. The patient should be well-informed and able to participate in their own care. In the past number of decades, doctors have sub-specialised so much that we have forgotten to see the body as a whole and the patient as an individual. Instead, modern medicine has mistakenly treated patients as numbers and statistics that need to be cured. I believe that we need to take care of each person with time, communication, excellent care and a more nurturing approach. A Women’s Health Specialist does exactly this. Medicine is based not only on treating patients but also in preventing health conditions through lifestyle medicine.

What kind of impact does stress have on a women’s health?

Society is starting to be become more conscious of the importance of well-being and our mental state. Until now, stress has been overlooked and has not become an issue until we started to study the evidence and the impact it has on our health. Stress has been related to a number of medical pathologies including cardiovascular disease, mental disease, hormonal imbalance etc. I also believe that managing stress physically, emotionally and psychologically can also lead to a more productive life, improving our social skills, our personal relationships with family and friends and our levels of satisfaction with ourselves.

What advice would you give to someone who is suffering from stress and finding difficulty controlling it?

Stress is constantly in our lives. It can show itself as frustration while waiting in a traffic jam or a confrontation with someone, but it is your decision how you manage it and how you want it to affect your life. We have to learn to cope with the stressful elements that we encounter daily at work and at home and this is where we can help. We provide strategies, techniques and procedures to help you manage these stressful situations. It basically helps you change the way you look at things and identify the warning signs of stress. We restructure the processing of decisions and help the patient change any factors that are harmful in their lives.

Many women may suffer from hormonal imbalance and not be aware of it. What are the signs?

There are many signs that your body is not adjusting to changes in your hormone levels but we have to assess them carefully as they could be signs of some other pathology.

The main signs are:

  • Unexplained increase in weight and hunger
  • Loss of libido / vaginal dryness
  • Mood swings
  • Sleep disorder
  • Fatigue
  • Cycle related spots
  • Breast changes
  • Blood pressure changes
  • Night sweats

How do hormones change in a women’s body once you approach perimenopause?

Basically, when approaching the menopausal transition, estrogen and testosterone start to decrease. This could happen either progressively, abruptly or even continuously, which would explain the different degrees and severity of symptoms in women. It is important to pay attention to these hormones as well as other relevant hormones in your body to rule out other conditions.

Do you think that there is enough information available for women approaching the menopause or do you think there is still a stigma surrounding it?

Nowadays information for menopause / perimenopause is available for everyone and our scientific evidence for the reactions and physiology of this period of our lives is well documented. But it is certainly true that many women, especially those under 50, which is the average age for menopause, feel embarrassed, worry or are even scared at the prospect of starting menopause. We still feel young and fertile so the idea of the menopause sounds incredibly daunting. It is important to remember that every woman will encounter this process and it is essential to feel at ease with our bodies no matter what moment in life you are in.

Do you advise a combination of both conventional and alternative medicine for women who are suffering negative effects from the menopause?

Standard medical management is very useful for women with relatively serious symptoms that affect their daily lives. Many women, though, reject the risks associated with hormone replacement therapy which treat their menopause symptoms and instead seek relief from alternative sources. Although researchers are still studying and looking into many of these therapies so as to determine their safety and effectiveness, there is a series of well-known evidence-based alternatives that are recommended for patients suffering from the menopause / perimenopause. I am completely in favour of using either conventional or alternative therapies as long as my patients are aware that even natural substances have real physiologic effects, including potential adverse effects and drug interaction, which need to be supervised by a doctor.

What specialist care do you offer pregnant women that they may not find in the public system?

Our maternal / pregnancy programmes are focused on offering women who are trying to conceive, who are pregnant or new mothers, a ‘concierge’ doctor who will provide them with the medical advice they need. It is an innovative programme that provides support (together with their obstetrician / gynaecologist) based on personalised care and service. It combines a holistic maternity care with a ‘concierge-level service to ensure healthy and happy women throughout their journey. This type of medical care, quite popular in the USA, caught my interest after being pregnant and finding that many other mothers-to-be were finding themselves isolated or desperate for medical advice and guidance, especially those who were living abroad. Pregnant women find themselves asking the question “is this normal?” many times and resorting to the internet for answers. This is the reason I created this maternal programme for any woman who needs my help.

Do you think there are enough birth choices available to women in Catalonia?

I believe Catalonia has one of the best health systems, both private and public. I agree that sometimes women’s choices are not listened to and that some birth options are not that common here. The most important and key element in being pregnant is feeling confident with your birth plan and with the doctor / gynaecologist in charge of your birth. We need to create an environment with our health professionals in which there is respect and trust both ways.

How daunting can it be for a pregnant women whose doctor does not speak their language?

It can certainly be very daunting for any woman to experience birth in a foreign country. We are trying to create a secure and friendly clinic for all patients so they can feel at ease with us. We are becoming a reference clinic for expats, tourists and, more importantly, for any patient who wishes to receive a more personalised medical care.

You have also trained as a Digestive Surgeon and you have created a division of digestive health. To whom is it directed and what can you offer them?

The Digestive Health programmes that we offer target women who are suffering from very common and often overlooked issues, such as abdominal bloating, gas, constipation, heartburn and other gut imbalances. These symptoms are caused by conditions such as esophageal reflux, IBS, colitis etc but could also be related to the health of our digestive system and the chronic inflammation of its components. This could end up affecting other areas of your body, such as your skin, your immune system, your liver, your heart etc and we should try to find the ‘closest to perfect’ balance in our bodies so we can prevent and manage these cases. I offer patients a number of programmes that take care of the needs of each individual, while also studying their nutrition and digestive health profiling.