My experience so far in Barcelona has been full of fun, excitement, exhaustion, frustration, adventure and many many surprises! First off, my flight here was not bad at all. After an emotional goodbye with my family, it was basically smooth sailing. Beatriz and I flew Turkish Airlines and it was very nice. We got meals on both our flights, had access to movies, and the seats were relatively comfortable. We asked for a seat between us so we had a little wiggle room (highly recommended). The only not so fun part was the time it took to get here. I’m easily entertained by nature and all its beauty, so looking out the window in amazement was a good time passer for me, as well as sleeping. Once we landed in Barcelona, our host mom picked us up from the airport (This was so nice since we didn’t have to worry about taking public transportation at 11:30pm). We had no idea what to expect since we hadn’t met her before and hadn’t seen a picture or anything. Honestly, I was freaking out that she wasn’t even a real person, just some hacker who ran off with my deposit. But thank God she was real. She was waiting in the terminal with a little sign that had our names on it (just like in the movies). It was great. I speak very little Spanish so initial communication was extremely awkward since she hardly speaks English. That has improved with time though. Our apartment is in a more family oriented neighborhood of Barcelona, which I really like. Quiet at night, but not too far from the lively parts of the city. We both have our own rooms to retreat to at night, and the whole family shares one bathroom (not as bad as I was anticipating). We get breakfast and dinner every day, which is absolutely amazing! Homemade authentic food and we have the luxury of not having to figure out what to eat for dinner. I would seriously be starving if I wouldn’t have done a homestay. The grocery stores are completely different and so confusing! She has made us Spanish Tortilla, Paella, African chicken, cous cous, hummus, fried fish, pork, chicken, soups, salads, and a few desserts. All so so yummy! Side note, back in the US I refused to eat tomatoes. Here, I eat them all the time and LOVE them! Also, gaspacho is like my new favorite thing. Its a cold tomato soup. Sounds a little strange but SO YUMMY! To anyone who is trying to figure out where to live when they study abroad, look into a homestay! I get food, housing, linens, towels, and laundry washed every week. It is very reasonably priced! All the other students we have met are paying either the same price or more to live in normal apartments and they don’t get all the perks we do.
My first week here, I did lots of errand type things like getting a Spanish SIM card, opening a Spanish bank account, buying groceries, and figuring out my way around Barcelona. It is important to know that if you want to open a foreign bank account, you have to have a local phone number, I learned this the hard way and wasted sooooo much time. I am also very directionally challenged, so I am still getting the hang of navigating myself around town. I just have to go out into the city not afraid to get lost and not afraid to ask for directions. For the most part, people are nice and willing to help you. During our first week here, we took a Barcelona City Tour, which was a little pricy, but it helped us become more knowledgable about the city and its history, as well as provide us with a little layout of the city. We saw La Sagrada Familia, Tibidabo mountain, Park Guell, many Gaudi buildings, the beach, the Gotic quarter, and so much more. It was a nice investment.
Our first Sunday here was the first Sunday of the month, which means FREE MUSEUMS. We took this opportunity to go to the Picasso museum. I thoroughly enjoyed our time there. It walked your through his life of painting and the exhibits were beautiful.
Our Second week here, we took our first trip out of the city. We went to Madrid and Toledo, Spain. Madrid was a lot of fun. We did a few touristy things and had the chance to meet up with a fellow Mays Exchange student who is studying there. My favorite restaurant there was called d’Norte, absolutely delicious. The city literally never sleeps! They stay up all night long if they go out. We got an early train out of the city at like 8am, and people were just starting to go home. It was insane. My favorite part of Madrid was the Royal Palace. HOLY COW!! So beautiful. the whole place was insanely ornate. Tapestries, porcelain, silver, gold, statues, murals, from floor to ceiling. Each room had a description plack that said what the room was used for. One of them said that the room was where “the king performed his daily changing ceremony”. haha. Basically his closet. Unfortunately we weren’t allowed to take pictures inside, but it was so amazing, no picture would have done it justice. After Madrid, we went to Toledo which is a little town in a valley. SO CUTE! The streets were crazy narrow. Half the time I thought I was going to get ran over by the cars zipping through these little alley ways. I seriously don’t know how they were driving, the streets were so small. We enjoyed going to little shops, buying mazapan cookies, and taking a nature walk along the outside of the town near the river.
Since returning to Barcelona, We have had student orientation (less than impressive) and welcome week with the ESN (Erasmus Student Network). We have made lots of friends from all over the world, experienced La Merce (Barcelona’s big week long fiesta) and started school(biggest headache EVER). This past weekend we went to Tossa de Mar which is an adorable town along Costa Brava beach. Absolutely beautiful! Seriously felt like I was living in a calender. We went to a little beach that was kinda hidden so there weren’t as many people. There were cliffs on either side, the water was crystal clear and astonishingly blue, and there were really cool rocks to climb on and jump off. It was a little freaky being able to see big bright fish swimming beneath you, but a completely surreal experience. I loved it so much!
Now school is getting started and the chaos has officially set in. Classes are so difficult to get into, and the university is crazy unorganized. I’m sure in the end it will all work out, but I would be lying if I said I haven’t thought about just giving up at times. I’m not going to lie, its been hard. I miss my family, friends, and fiance. My class schedule is a mess and getting a complete makeover. My sleep schedule is still needing adjustments. I still get lost walking around town, and learning a new language is really difficult. But the “goods” truly outweigh the bad. I know I am growing through this whole experience, even though I feel like crawling into a whole sometimes. I have found a Church community here called ICB (International Church of Barcelona) and I can’t tell you how comforting it is as a Christian to have that support. God is the only thing that has remained constant through all of this and I am learning to rely on Him so much more. Getting connected at a church has provided me with so much peace, and helped my make even more friends, both local and international. If you are used to having a church community at home, I HIGHLY recommend getting connected to one abroad. Even if you don’t get super involved, its nice to have Sunday mornings feel like they do at home.
So as of right now, Barcelona is amazing and I’m slowly realizing how much it has to offer. Classes are crazy disorganized but getting simpler by the minute. Slowly but surely I’m establishing a community of friends from all over the world that are so much fun to be with! I can’t wait to see how my time here progresses and changes. Oh, I’m also planning on visiting some distantly related family that live in Italy within the next month so that will be what I write about next. I’m so excited! 🙂