Hello! My name is Leah Mendes, and I am spending the semester studying at Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona, a city in the Catalonia region of Spain. Through this REEP Program, I have the opportunity to take classes in International Business and Marketing, practice some Spanish that I never typically speak at home, and earn a Certificate in International Business through Mays. Barcelona is absolutely wonderful, and I’ve been busy getting to know the city- this has to be one of the most beautiful places in the world, and nothing I see fails to amaze me. I know that these three months are going to fly by so quickly, and I’m going to soak up as much of it as possible.
I have been so excited about my classes so far, and even though they haven’t been too demanding yet I know I’m learning a lot. I was able to take classes I would normally enroll in at A&M without falling behind, and they cover a lot of similar concepts but everything is taught from a global perspective. I am enrolled in two marketing management classes, a consumer behavior class, and an operations management class, all with excellent professors. Registration was a little bit frustrating, because a majority of the exchange students didn’t get the classes we requested (I got two out of four of mine, but they’re scheduled at the same time.) However, after the add/drop session I was able to get all four that I needed. I feel like I’ve finally gotten into a routine for school, so I’ve been able to venture out to more sites and have a bucket list I’m working on. Even when I’m not intending to go somewhere cool, I find myself stumbling upon breathtaking places- it seems like everywhere I turn, there’s another beautiful cathedral, monument, port, or quaint street filled with little cafes and shops. Not a bad place to live. Additionally, we’ve been able to see quite a few of the typical “touristy” sites- La Sagrada Familia, Montjuic, Barceloneta Beach, Parc Guell, etc. My roommates and I (who are also from A&M and studying at UPF) made a trip to Paris a few weekends ago, and attended a retreat in the Spanish countryside with the other exchange students from the university. We have a few more trips planned in the coming months. I can’t wait to explore more of Europe!
Using Spanish has been humbling to say the least, but also really exciting. I am a Spanish minor, so that was one of my main motivations for choosing this country for my study abroad experience. I had heard mixed things about learning it in Barcelona because this region of Spain speaks Catalan in addition to Spanish, but I’ve been able to use it everywhere we’ve gone and have had some great conversations with people, so I think I’m making progress. Disregard the times when I’ve used the wrong word or the person has replied in English. I signed up for a non-credit Spanish class at UPF that is helping tremendously, and I have a wonderful conversation partner I found through a program at the university. I am also in a group project for one of my classes with all Spanish students, which has allowed me to practice more business-related terms. Barcelona is such an international city that most people speak at least a tiny bit of English too, but I’ve been trying not to use it with locals unless I have to. That being said, a majority of our friends here are exchange students from all over the world, and English is the predominant language spoken among that group. We have met people from about 30 different countries, and all of them spoke at least two languages. Talk about motivation! I absolutely love how many different kinds of people there are here though and have enjoyed being able to talk to them about their countries and cultures.
A few observations about the Spaniards- first of all, their whole pace of life is at about 50% of what it is in the US. I guess when you live somewhere this beautiful you want to stop to take it all in, because they walk. so. slowly. It sometimes rivals a crawl. They take much more time eating meals, have multiple courses, and start dinner around 10pm. It’s also really rare to see “to go” anything. They have siestas in the middle of the day when everything closes around this city so that people can rest. In general, people just seem less tense. I have so much respect for how fully present they can be, and that they take time to appreciate and really experience everything. I’m learning to become better at this, and am thankful to not be constantly rushing, especially when I’m surrounded by so many incredible things. Thank you for reading about my experiences, and I will keep everyone updated as the semester continues!
Categories: 2014, Reciprocal Exchange, Spain