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!

 

 

Categories: 2017, Reciprocal Exchange, Spain

Howdy!

I have been in Spain for close to a month and I can honestly say this has been the best month of my life. I have met many students that are in the same situation as me, figuring out the city of Madrid and making many mistakes along the way (and learning from them, of course). I was lucky enough to come with four other aggies on this amazing journey, and even though we did not know each other before we came, it feels like we have been friends for a long time because of the experiences we have had here.

From my first few weeks I can say that my only regret was not getting my apartment sooner. I have family here in Madrid so they allowed me to stay with them for a couple of weeks until I found a place to stay. By the time I got here most apartments were already booked so finding a good place to stay was hard for me and really stressing. If I could do something all over again about this trip would be getting a place to stay a couple of months before.

Now, after getting the negative out of the way, let me get to the good stuff. Madrid has a lot of different things to discover, and I am still just starting to do that. There are many museums to which we get access for free for being students, including El Palacio Real, which is a castle where the Spanish Royalty used to live and is still used for special events. Another great thing here is the public transportation, students get a monthly pass for 20 Euros with access to all public transportation in the city. This has given me the chance to go around the city without worrying about having to pay anything else for transportation.

As for our school, UC3M has a great environment. There are many international students in the same position as me, they are looking to meet new people and travel around Spain and Europe. Classes are very different here, there are 2 meetings per week. One consists of a big lecture with around 60 students and the other one is a small group class with around 25 students, in this class most professors give small projects for the semester. School will definitely challenge me this semester but I hope to find a good balance between school work and getting to know Madrid.

Categories: 2017, Reciprocal Exchange, Spain

I have been studying abroad in Madrid, Spain for the past 2 weeks and everything has been one great whirlwind of an adventure. I had been abroad before in a Spanish-speaking country, so coming to Spain was not as big of an adjustment for me. Before arriving in Spain, I wanted to set some goals for myself, such as try to use Spanish as much as I can, meet new international people, and just enjoy every minute I have here.

Ever since I landed in Madrid, I have been involved in a flurry of activities, trips, and adventures. I live in a 14-student apartment in the center of Madrid, and commute to school every day by train. My roommates come from other countries, such as the UK and France. At Universidad de Carlos III, which is where I study, there is an international student program that allows students to meet other international students and get to know Madrid better. I have met students from all over Europe, and we’ve been able to do so many fun events throughout Madrid, such as a tour of the old part of Madrid, karaoke, going to a Flamenco show, having a tapas night, and exploring the night life of Madrid. I feel like I already have seen so much of Madrid just in 2 weeks.

Madrid itself is such a beautiful, fascinating city, and all I can describe it as is the New York of Spain. There are beautiful sights such as the Royal Palace, Retiro Park, Prado Museum, Temple of Debod, and all its great plazas. The streets are always filled with life and noise, and there is always something to do. The food is unbelievable here, and we most of the time get tapas before meals, which are like small Spanish appetizers or snacks. Overall, my time here so far has been incredible and I’m excited to see what lies in store for the rest of the semester.

Alexis Locascio

Categories: 2017, Reciprocal Exchange, Spain

Barcelona is special. Ever since I stepped foot in Barcelona, I knew that amazing memories were going to be made. So far I have had so much fun and met amazing people. I find myself falling in love with the city more and more as the days pass by. It definitely does not bother me to walk to class everyday. I live in the city center in a section in Barcelona called Gracia. It is a section full of life during the day and night. About two weeks ago I attended a FC Barcelona football game. It was such an amazing experience and definitely a dream come true.

Soccer game!

On the other side, school has been a bit confusing. It is definitely not like Texas A&M University at UPF. They are not as organized and signing up for classes was a bit more difficult. At UPF we have seminars, therefore, we had to plan accordingly because they overlapped with classes. Thankfully, I am now three weeks in my classes. I have had an immense amount of fun and learned many things as well.

One of my favorite parts so far is meeting people from all over the world. I am shy, therefore, starting conversations at first it was uncomfortable. It took a huge amount of courage from me to just say hello. I am happy with my progress. This studying abroad experience has really brought the best in me.

img_0436

Barcelona never stops surprising me. I been visiting all the touristic and local places, and there is still a huge amount of things to do left. I can truly imagine myself living here. Before coming, I knew that I was going to like this amazing city, but I never expected for me to fall in love with it so quickly. I am beyond excited to see what the remaining of this trimester holds!

Categories: 2016, Reciprocal Exchange, Spain

Madrid Ayuntamiento

It has been a month since I arrived in Madrid and the experience could not be better. Whether is the food, people, architecture, culture or all of the above, Madrid has been extremely welcoming.

I am currently attending Universidad Carlos III located in Getafe, which is a small town about 30 minutes by train from the center of Madrid. Every year, the university hosts around 1000 international students from all over the world. Most of these students prefer to live in Madrid and commute to Getafe because they find more things to do in Madrid, which I completely agree with. Professors at the university are very helpful and most will work with international students to accommodate assignment dates if notified in advanced.

It is also worth mentioning that there are various interesting places around Madrid that make great one-day excursions such as Toledo and Aranjuez. I plan to travel around Spain and really immerse myself in its culture, and I’m excited to see what the next few months have in store for me.

 

Categories: 2016, Reciprocal Exchange, Spain

Where do I even start! This month has been filled with its ups and downs. Having to cope with the fact that there is less than a month left in my study abroad experience is just crazy! It is really hard to explain how I feel about leaving. It really is bitter sweet!

Skyping with the Best

Skyping with the Best

I am looking forward to having a cell phone again!! Only being able to contact people while on Wi-Fi has been pure torture. Most of all, I am looking forward to being able to talk with friends and family whenever I want and not just when Skype has decent Internet connection. Another thing that I miss most about being in the States is driving, specifically in Texas! Nothing compares to driving through Texas with nothing but the Big Open Sky from Keller down to College Station.

Along with all of the things I miss from Texas while in Spain, there are a lot of things that I will miss about Spain while back in Texas. Surely what I will miss most about Spain will be all of the friendships. Over the past semester I have grown closer to a great group of friends and I cannot wait until the day we are all able to reunite in Retiro Park.

Enjoying cafe con leche in my favorite museum!

Enjoying cafe con leche in my favorite museum!

I will miss life living in a big city! Living in Madrid has been great because there is always something to do. Whether it’s going to free museums on the weekends, fireworks (or pillow fights) in Retiro Park, hanging out at rooftops with friends, or shopping on Fuencarral. There is always something to do!

Rooftops of Madrid

Rooftops of Madrid

Lastly, I will miss being able to take spontaneous trips traveling through Europe! I will never forget the day I walked into our bedroom and Jenny asked, “Do you want to go to Portugal?”

Only four finals, four papers, and three more presentations separate me from being done with school!

I hope I can make it… hasta luego!

Categories: 2015, Reciprocal Exchange, Spain

Where has the time gone! I am wayyyy past the halfway mark in my study abroad experience and this is not okay. I keep telling myself to just enjoy the time that I have left and that I will be ready to return home once it becomes time to go back to the States. In the back of my mind I know that I will not really be ready to leave the city that has captured my heart. I fear how little time I have left but I smile at all of the wonderful memories that I have made and will continue to make!

Here are a few of my favorite memories so far:

  1. Meeting so many new people through the Erasmus Student Network! There are so many friendly faces I have met through various events put on for ESN members. I now have friends from all over the world!

    Picknicking in Retiro

    Picnicking in Retiro Park

  2. Picnicking in Retiro Park. Now that the weather is getting nicer we thought it would be great to soak up some sun on Wednesdays when and most of us don’t have class and are still in town. We make it a potluck picnic, spread out a blanket, and spend practically the entire day in the park with great company!
  3. Traveling all over Spain. I have been able to travel to the historical city of Toledo with ESN by bus, Sevilla and Cadiz in the south of Spain with Jenny and two of our Italian friends from ESN by car, Barcelona with Jenny by flight to visit another Aggie, Abbye Blakeslee (Whoop!!), Tarragona and Sitges with Jenny, Abbye, and a friendly Peruvian family where we enjoyed a traditional Catalonian meal, and lastly, Alicante where I spent spring break relaxing on the beach. All together, that is 7 cities with over 4 different methods of transportation!! That just goes to show how easy is to get out of Madrid and see the rest of Spain.

    My Travel Buddy!

    My Travel Buddy!

  4. Zumba!!! I know, I know… this technically isn’t unique to either Spain or Madrid but let me explain. A close friend of mine, Anna, invited me to zumba and it is just about the coolest thing ever! We have our special studio we go to and even became good friends with the zumba instructor, Grace. We even had a couple of zumba sessions in Retiro Park – it was a great time filled with dancing and plenty of laughing!
  5. Becoming a local and finally knowing my way around the city! People stop me on the street to ask for directions, that’s right, ME! This chica is no longer perdida! Hallelujah!!

With over a month left in my study abroad I know that plenty more memories are to be made.

Until then… hasta luego!

Categories: 2015, Reciprocal Exchange, Spain

Finals have started and sadly, they´re a lot harder than I was anticipating. I have my final two tests next week. While I´m excited to be done with school and start my summer vacation, I´m also dreading the end of finals because that also means that I will be leaving to come back to Texas. I´m in a little bit of denial that I am leaving Barcelona in 9 days. I feel as though I am about to leave another home.

school

Universitat Pompeu Fabra

Things I´m Going To Miss

  • The culture– I´m going to miss the way everyone in Barcelona greets each other, with one kiss on each cheek. I´m going to miss the way people invite you into their homes so warmly, and have hearts oozing with generosity. I´m going to miss being around the Spanish and Catalan language. I´m going to miss the random protests. The protests were always friendly, but I found them amusing. At one point during this month I wasn´t able to go to class because all the students decided to ¨protest¨and not go. I was not complaining about that.
  • The food– I am looking forward to having Mexican and junk food again, but I am going to miss tapas, paella, sangria, and churros and chocolate.
  • The scenery– I love going on random strolls and finding myself gazing at random buildings. The architecture here is breathtaking, I´m going to miss seeing Gaudi´s work everywhere. I will also miss the beach. The beach quickly became my favorite place to go, and I am going to miss constantly making up excuses to spend hours there. Even the most boring alleyways had interesting stories to tell, and I am going to miss constantly being surrounded by the mixture of modern and antiquated buildings throughout this city.
  •  The activities– It is impossible to be bored in Barcelona, and I am going to miss constantly finding new things to do. I was able to climb the mountain with the breathtaking view, Montserrat, this month. Hopefully I´m able to hike up the other mountain, Tibidabo, at some point before I leave. There are many museums to go inside of, many cute little markets to walk around in, and many events constantly taking place. This month I also went to carnival, which is the equivalent to Mardi Gras. That was a night I will never forget.

tapas2 churros and chocolate beach

Tapas and Sangria, Churros and Chocolate, Beach 

bubbles  gaudi  montserrat

Bubbles, Gaudi´s Casa Batllo, Montserrat

carnival Parc de la ciutadella

Carnival, Parc de la Ciutadella

Things I´m Not Going to Miss

  • The general feeling of unsafety– I can´t express how excited I am to be back in Texas where I don´t have to assume that every person around me is waiting for a chance to rob me.
  • My apartment– While the apartment I stayed in during my time here is considered quite nice and roomy compared to others found in Europe, I can´t wait to be back in Texas where I have a dishwasher, a dryer, air conditioning, and more storage space.
  • The expenses– I´m ready to go to a restaurant back home where water is free. Here, water more often than not costs more than alcohol. I can´t wait to no longer be thirsty while eating my meal because I´m worried about conserving my water.
  • Street Performers– I know this is a random one to put, but people dressing up as statues freaks me out personally. My roommate thought they were funny so I think I might be alone in this distaste.

Overall

Overall, I cannot put into words how much this experience has meant to me. I discovered a lot about the world, but perhaps most importantly, I learned a lot about myself. I´m capable of being independent and I can´t wait until the day comes when I can greet this sense of independence again. So, rather than say adios to Europe, I intend on saying hasta luego. I may never get the opportunity to spend 3 months in Europe again, but I will return one of these days. I look forward for that day to come.

Categories: 2015, Reciprocal Exchange, Spain

Approaching the halfway mark in my study abroad experience means things are starting to really pick up! So in other words, this post is going to concentrate on the “studying” part of studying abroad. In my pervious post I held off on talking about school at Universidad Carlos III de Madrid a.k.a. Carlos Tercero a.k.a. UC3M because everything was still all so new to me. Now that I have been enrolled at UC3M for a few weeks, I feel like I have a better understanding of how things are done here vs. how things are done in the States based on my experience at UC3M so far.

An Aggie in Spain

An Aggie in Spain

My classes consist of two electives Art History II and Contemporary History of Spain and two business courses Marketing Management and Marketing Research.

Building at UC3M

Building at UC3M

With that said, here are a few things that have stood out:

  1. Navigating Aula Global (the online website, or Howdy Portal equivalent) can be tricky. Signing up for classes on your own and just a few days before classes start on a completely new website was beyond frustrating. Luckily, I got all the classes I wanted, so I must have been doing something right!
  2. Grades consist of few a projects, presentations, and exams. This was not really that new to me but I still would say that this is a bit different than how things are done at A&M. For example, in Art History II our final grade consists of a presentation, a paper, and the final – all of which was completed in the second half of the semester. In Contemporary History of Spain, our final grade consists of two 5-page papers and one 25-page group paper.
  3. Grades are put in basically… whenever! This was completely new to me!! At A&M I was used to turning in an assignment or completing an exam and having my grade available within days, and sometimes even hours! We are midway through the semester and I have yet to have a single grade uploaded in at least two of my courses. This completely baffles me! How can students go through an entire semester and just barely be figuring out their grades towards the end of the semester!
  4. Many teachers just read off their PowerPoint slides in lectures. Two out of four of my teachers have fallen into this trap and many of my friends have said the same about their teachers. In my opinion, paraphrasing PowerPoint slides would make lectures more interesting and engaging but when a teacher just stands at the back of the class and reads off of their PowerPoint print out then lectures start to blur together.
  5. Working in a group projects is a must. All of my courses have a least one major presentation or paper completed in a group. Staying on top of group projects while trying to accommodate for everyone’s busy traveling schedule is really difficult to do. I will say that the neat thing about group projects is that you get to get close to your classmates easier when forced to work in a group. I have met some of the coolest people through working in my group projects!
Train Station in Getafe

Train Station in Getafe

Lastly, if you are planning on studying at UC3M try to not live in Getafe. This is strictly my opinion, but let me explain why I think you should stay away form living on campus (or near campus). Getafe is a beautiful small time city but there is not much to do there compared to living in the city center of Madrid. If you live in the city center then I think you feel more inclined to do fun sightseeing, eating, or exploring in Madrid.

I hope this helps… hasta luego!

Categories: 2015, Reciprocal Exchange, Spain

How is it almost March?! Time flies!

My second month here in Barcelona has been all about adjustment. My daily tasks have been pretty similar to a typical semester at A&M as school has picked up- I go to class everyday, do my homework in the evenings, I’ve even been able to keep up with The Bachelor still! But on the weekends there’s always something new to do. My roommate and I are always discovering some new activity to partake in at Barcelona, and our to-do list is still lengthy, despite having conquered items continuously over the span of two months.

sagrada familia inside sagra

Above are photos of Sagrada Familia- the main attraction of Barcelona. It´s the cathedral designed by Gaudi that has been under construction for 130 years. It is due to be complete in 12 years.

Madrid

erasmus

Above is a picture of our Erasmus group on our last day in Madrid.

I haven´t been able to travel around Europe due to financial reasons, however, the program my roommate and I are involved in offers very affordable trips for some weekends. We went on a trip with our program at the beginning of the month to the country´s capital, Madrid. That was a ton of fun and we were able to bond with a lot of the other international students during that weekend. Also, it was nice being surrounded by the Spanish language in Madrid instead of Catalan. I was surprised at how much easier it was to understand people, and I was able to notice how much my Spanish has improved. In Spain, there’s a sense of rivalry between Madrid and Barcelona. A typical question asked is “Do you like Barcelona or Madrid better?” I loved Madrid, the environment was so different from Barcelona. However, it’s crazy how after just a short amount of time in Spain, I’ve developed partiality to Barcelona. Upon our return on Sunday, it felt like we were coming home.

catalonia

Above is a picture of the Catalonia flag that protests for their independence from the rest of Spain. This flag can be found all over Barcelona which is the most influential city within the Catalonia region of Spain. It was refreshing to see this flag again upon our return! I love Catalonia!

Somethings

Something that has shocked me during my time here has been the constant realization of how much influence the United States has on the rest of the world. Our new international friends  have asked us a lot of questions about our life back in America. I felt weird answering so many questions when from my perspective- my peers come from much more interesting environments.

Something I’ve come to appreciate about my life in Barcelona is the ability to always be surrounded by beauty in nature. One day, I wanted to relax and simply read a book. My roommate and I walked to the beach and read alongside the shore. One day, I felt like being more active so my roommate and I went to Montserrat which is a mountain near Barcelona that is a short train ride away. After our navigation skills went terribly wrong, we ended up not on the mountain but on a trail alongside it. Even though we ended up not where we had planned, we were still immersed in beauty incomparable to any in College Station.

beachblog photo 2park guell

Something I’ve valued during this trip is the company of others. I am so thankful for Erasmus (our student network) for helping me meet friends during this journey. Another “trip” we’ve taken during this month was to Manresa, which is kind of like a suburb right outside of Barcelona. It was interesting to see a non-city part of Spain, but the trip was cold, the guided tour was long, and we were hungry. We ditched the tour to go eat, and the restaurant had terrible service. We were in the restaurant for three hours, but during that time we were able to learn about eachother’s cultures from our home countries and simply laugh about how weird the day trip had been. It ended up being a trip with a ton of mishaps, but thanks to the company of the other international students, it also ended up being a trip with a ton of fond memories. My roommate is from A&M as well, and it’s been nice being able to talk to somebody that misses the exact same things I do, and understands the hardships that come with coming here.

Missing Home

My dad came to visit me this past Friday. I didn’t think I missed home, but whenever he came I realized I missed my family more than I thought. I miss junk food, and not having to worry about getting robbed everywhere I go. I should probably mention my phone was stolen AGAIN while I was in the library at my school.

I still appreciate and value this experience, I know this experience is something I am going to reflect on for the rest of my life. I don’t want to take for granted a single moment during my last month in this amazing city. But this experience has also shown me a new sense of appreciation for College Station, for Texas, and for America in general. I miss feeling safe and cared for everywhere I go. I miss living a faster paced lifestyle antithetical to that of a typical Barcelona native. I miss stores being open on Sunday. But I also know I’m going to miss Barcelona, and I’m not ready to leave just yet.

Categories: 2015, Reciprocal Exchange, Spain