It’s crazy that I have now been in Barcelona for about 5 weeks! I am already starting to feel like one of the locals and I’m learning my way around. My roommate and I have are now regulars at a coffee shop near us. We go in almost every morning and the barista knows to start getting our café con leches for us. The city of Barcelona is filled with so much art, character, things to do, and beautiful buildings. It’s been fun to walk outside, decide if I want to go left or right on the street, and see what all I can find. I could go on and on about all the things I have already discovered!
There are so many narrow streets that wind throughout Barcelona with several different restaurants, gelato places, and boutique-style shops. Every time I turn a corner there is another new thing to try! There’s so much life and excitement in Barcelona, from people playing instruments, blowing soap bubbles almost as big as I am, or people taking their dogs with them everywhere. I have also realized how easy transportation is around here. I walk most places, for example, the university I go to here, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, is about a 15-minute walk from my flat. The metro is also an easy, inexpensive way to get around. I try to use the metro when I can simply because we do not have anything like it back in Texas.
When I first got to the University (UPF), I join an organization called Erasmus, or ESN. It was around 30 euros to join and I’m so thankful I did it! I’ve met people from all over the world including, Australia, Finland, the Netherlands, Canada, the UK, and many more. Hearing about different cultures is something I absolutely love and am always curious to know more about. ESN had welcome day activities the first 10 days of classes where every day there was something different to do. Some days were touristy, learning more about Barcelona’s history and seeing some absolutely beautiful buildings. Other days were more hangouts, with speed-friending, dinners, meeting at bars, and going to a few clubs. I’ve been able to make such close friends already through ESN and classes and I still have another 2 months of being here!
Classes at UPF are much different from what I’m used to at Texas A&M. It is more challenging here in the sense that I’m in class longer than what I’m used to, I’m required to take 5 classes when only 4 is the maximum amount recommended, and I want to travel as much as I can while I’m here, which brings my motivation to study way down. Thankfully all of my professors speak English very well and they understand that many international students are in their classes. With all the friends I’ve been making, I’m able to get study groups together or work on group projects with people from ESN. There are also local people from Spain in my classes, so it has also been interesting talking to them and getting recommendations on places I should visit while I’m here.
So far, other than Barcelona, I’ve been to Girona and Madrid. I plan on going to Amsterdam, Brussels, Paris, Switzerland, and several other places. Flights from Barcelona are relatively cheap and I want to take advantage of this opportunity of being in Europe to see more of the world. I’m probably most excited to take a few weekends to see more of Barcelona, what else is in this gorgeous city, and take in the Spanish and Catalan culture around me. I’m already so thankful for this experience and how open my eyes have become to the world outside the United States.
There are a few things to be prepared for in advanced if you are interesting in living in or visiting Barcelona:
- Understand that you have to walk almost everywhere. I was not used to walking much in the States and was easily worn out after a day of seeing the city. It will definitely get you in shape being here and walking will get easier, but if possible, start walking around where you are now.
- Be cautious of your surroundings. Keep your belongings zipped up if possible and keep your phone in your bag or purse when you can. I did have someone try and take my phone out of my pocket as I was heading to the metro one day. Thankfully he didn’t take it, but he was seconds away from having a new phone. I now keep everything in my purse or backpack just to be safe. But don’t worry! My biggest tip is every once in a while, look around you and notice the people near you. Make eye contact with people so they know you notice them. As long as you’re aware, you will have no problem!
- If there are multiple people studying abroad from your home university, live with them, even if you don’t know them well going into it. I am living with one other girl from A&M, we didn’t know each other before the study abroad orientations but we knew it would be a good decision to live with each other. We were right! I know I have someone to relate to when I’m homesick and we eat together almost every day.
- Look into student housing immediately! The spots fill up and the locations of the student housing are great. I took too long to start looking into it and sadly couldn’t get in. Thankfully, I found a place through Air BnB at a decent price and a great location. I’ve heard of some people having to take about 20-30 minutes on the metro just to get to campus. My recommendation is to start looking into housing right when you know you’re going to Barcelona to study!
- Have fun and keep an open mind. Cultures around the world are so different compared to the United States. So far, I’ve noticed that Barcelona has smaller personal space bubbles, a less friendly attitude towards strangers, but a loyalty to friends once you meet people. Don’t be shocked when people kiss both of your cheeks when saying hello and stand close to you when they’re talking to you. I was not used to this at all and the first time was not sure how to react. It’s less strange now and I admire the closeness that people have with each other. However, if you try to talk to a random person, even to say “bless you” when they sneeze, they think you’re the odd one, because that is just not normal to talk to random people.
I’m excited for the next 2 months of being here and learning more about what the world has for me. I love this city already!