Hola from Barcelona, Spain! I’m sorry for missing last Tuesday’s post, but moving to a new country and getting acclimated to a new city has resulted in very little down time. This past week has been amazing. Everything about Barcelona from the architecture to the people to the food to the wine has exceeded my expectations. Sometimes I feel like I’ve been here for 3 months, and other times it seems like I arrived 3 hours ago. Either way, it’s crazy how much I’ve done since I moved here just 2 short weeks ago. But before I get into the places I’ve been (expect a post next week describing all of my amazing Spanish excursions), here’s a short briefing on what life in Barcelona has been like.
Before I came to Spain, I was quite worried about where I would be living and whom I would be living with. Luckily, my housing situation turned out to be great. Although I am situated a bit inconveniently far (40min-1hour by metro) from both my university and the most popular social spots, I’ve loved my flat in the Les Corts neighborhood (near Camp Nou) since the beginning. I’m living with Allie and Eliza, two of my Vanderbilt friends, and a native Catalonian – Carla. Saying that we are obsessed with Carla is an understatement. Carla has really given us the perfect introduction to Barcelona by graciously taking us on tours of the city, bringing us out for tapas at local restaurants, and providing us with an authentic Catalonian perspective. Without Carla, we’d be so much more of a mess than we already are.
When people think of study abroad, most consider the abroad part and completely forget about the study part. In most cases, this is true because usually study abroad is considered to be a college student’s easiest semester. Unfortunately, my peers and I in the CIEE: Advanced Liberal Arts program are facing a different situation. Each of my 5 classes in Barcelona are taught 100% in Spanish. At the CIEE study abroad institute, my classes are with other Americans. However, at Universitat de Barcelona (UB), I will be one of the only Americans in a class of native Catalonians. Although this is an exciting opportunity to really learn Spanish and integrate more fully into Barcelona society, I am slightly terrified. Vanderbilt does not allow students to take abroad classes pass/fail, so every grade I receive in Barcelona will count toward my GPA. The U.S. is notorious for inflating grades, whereas in Europe an 8/10 is considered an extremely good mark. Here’s to hoping that my semester in Spain isn’t my worst GPA…
Anyway, classes started yesterday and so I haven’t actually attended all of them quite yet. Thus far, the study abroad program that I am in Barcelona with (CIEE) has been amazing. Apart from helping us coordinate classes at CIEE and at UB, CIEE has offered numerous fabulous weekend excursions to beautiful cities outside of Barcelona including Sitges, Girona, and Tossa del Mar. They’re extremely open to our requests and genuinely want everyone to enjoy their time in Barcelona. The classes I’m currently enrolled in it at CIEE include a mandatory intensive writing class, as well as two classes that will count as electives for my Spanish minor: Literatura y Cine & España Contemporánea. Thus far, both classes seem quite interesting and will most likely provide me with an even better understanding of Spain and Barcelona. As for my UB classes, they don’t seem to be quite as wonderful. For starters, one of the classes (Literatura Española de Siglo XX) starts at 8:00am and the other class (Ilustración española: literatura y pensamiento) is from 6:30-8:30pm. Having early morning and late evening classes is not exactly ideal, but I think I’ll survive!
In the past 2 weeks, I’d say I’ve spent the majority of my time eating my way through Barcelona. Between CIEE events, touring the city with Carla, and meeting up with other Americans in Barcelona, I’ve had too many tapas (and glasses of cava…) to count. Apart from the typical patatas bravas, croquetas, and tortillas, we’ve eaten some interesting dishes including grilled squid (that were inking on us) and octopus. We also have roughly ten small market-type shops between our metro stop and our flat, which allows us to enjoy some fabulous meals and snacks at home. Thus far, we’ve cooked turkey burgers, fajitas, and eggs. Don’t worry, I have faith that we’ll get better in the cooking department…
Before arriving in Barcelona, I knew that the city was part of the Catalonia province, but I didn’t realize what that actually meant. Barcelona may technically be in Spain, but almost every Catalonian I’ve asked considers themselves to be Catalan first and Spanish second. Catalan is a culture in itself with its own language, customs, and people. Although I still don’t have an opinion on whether or not Catalonia should separate from Spain, I understand that the region is different from other parts of Spain in their economy, ideologies, and general history. Overall, I’m pleased to be learning increasingly more about the concept of Catalonian independence each day and I’m hoping that by the end of this adventure I’m able to form a more informed opinion about Catalonia’s greatest debate.
Overall, Barcelona is absolutely spectacular. Sometimes, I can’t believe that my route to school includes passing the same breathtaking Gaudí buildings that I used to study in my high school Spanish classes. The city is filled with incredible architecture, stylish people, and unbelievable views that haven’t yet ceased to amaze me. The director of my program has continuously reminded us that we aren’t tourists, we’re students (something I love to say to the locals we meet). And although when I say it I’m halfway kidding, it’s true. This semester, Barcelona is my home. To think that I am living in one of the most beautiful cities in the world is something that I’ve yet to process. Stay tuned for more thoughts and more stories about my adventures in Barcelona!