Transitioning to university life in Spain is a challenging process for many students. One must open a bank account, get health insurance, apply for your NIE, and get a Spanish cell phone number. Loads of documents are to be procured by every student, some of which need to be translated, notarized, or homologated. And mixed into the equation is a Spanish bureaucracy that will make even the most organized student pull their hair in confusion. People may view this as an over-exaggeration but, the bottom line is that starting a new life in a foreign country is a long process. Luckily, IE University aims to help students in this transition with its Student Services department.
According to IE University’s website, the Student Services’ mission “is to make your transition to Spain as smooth as possible. Our team is here to support you with immigration and relocation processes so that you can focus on your studies and enjoy the university experience.” Student Services helps students start a bank account, get health insurance but most importantly, get their NIE.
I asked a second-year friend what their experience was like with Student Services during their NIE Process: “They weren’t super helpful. They told us there were no NIE appointments available, and no updates about the issue followed. It’s not that they gave up, but it seemed like they panicked and told students to book their appointments. So many students would check the immigration website multiple times a day to search for an appointment. It looked like I wouldn’t be able to go back home for holidays until Student Services gave me an appointment with only five days’ notice. I heard that there was another possibility to get an ‘authorization to return’, but Student Services said this wasn’t possible. Later I went to the immigration office and got my ‘authorization to return’ sorted within a day. It appears to me that Student Services was understaffed and overwhelmed with the number of students they had to help.”
I asked my friend if she felt as if Student Services was gambling with her chances of going home, she said, “Yes, but I cut them some slack considering the circumstances with COVID at the time.”
I asked another one of my friends, and she explained to me that she had a better experience with Student Services: “It was pretty good! Last year they were very clear about how I got all of my documents and laid out all the required steps to take. Even though the process took longer than I expected, it was relatively straightforward. This year they didn’t provide much guidance on how to renew my NIE but, I got the process started myself and reached out, Student Services was able to give me all the documents I needed to submit to the government.”
It shows that Student Services is somewhat inconsistent in the eyes of students. While inconsistency is probably a common trait across university administrations around the world, when dealing with matters of immigration, IE students must be given the same attention and services across the board. Most importantly, Student Services should increase their capacity and personnel to deal with the increase in foreign students coming to IE.