Barcelona Here I Come!
Pompeu Fabra Universitat, Spain
Wow, it is strange to write about my trip to Spain...I can’t believe it is already over! Deciding to go to Spain was one of the easiest decisions that I have ever made in my life, though the experience itself turned out to be one of the biggest life changing. Being from New Mexico, I have been raised in an area where the Spanish language is everywhere, it is mandatory to take Spanish in school; even cities, streets, and last names are in Spanish 90% of the time; however none of these things could have prepared me for Spain. I arrived in Spain assuming it would be something like Mexico; warm and welcoming...and using the type of Spanish I was used to. Spain was not what I expected, yet it exceeded my expectations by far. I stayed in Spain for eight months, the first half living with a host family in Barcelona and the next half living with a friend in an apartment; both experiences were different and wonderful.
Barcelona is an international city. If there is any advice that I can offer students who are considering studying abroad it would be: a) Do It and b) Research, research, research! Make sure the location you choose offers what it is you are looking for. My main goal was to learn Spanish, and had I taken my own advice, I would have researched Barcelona and discovered that though it is in Spain, it is also an extremely international city, highly educated in English, as well as the capital of Cataluña, who’s language is Catalan (a mixture of Spanish and French). Needless to say, I didn’t quite get the “immersion” into the Spanish language that I had hoped for. As soon as any of the natives recognized that Spanish was not my first language they switched to English, and all street signs and menus were in Catalan. However, the university (Pompeu Fabra Universitat) that I attended was wonderful and the Spanish teachers were amazing! The teaching methods were very hands on, the teachers used music, games, even interaction with actual Spanish students in order to help us learn.
The city of Barcelona was enchanting. It is a city of artists and architects, thus Barcelona itself is a blend of the old and the new, modern and classic. Public transportation was a must, so I got very accustomed to using the Metro, trams, and taxis. I could not have asked for a better host family, though both the husband and wife spoke a bit of English, they insisted that I practice my Spanish. Almost every evening we would all sit down together at 9:30 pm for dinner (in Spain dinner is served between nine and ten in the evening), and on Tuesday and Wednesday nights we would watch Dr. House and Grey’s Anatomy (in Spanish of course). The night life in Barcelona is possibly one of the best in Europe. There is something going on Monday through Sunday, and clubs do not close until five or six in the morning.
Spain is ideally situated for cheap travel throughout Europe. One may either purchase a Eurorail pass and travel by train, or fly on one of the cheap airlines, such as, Brianair, Rumboair, or Clickair. During my eight month stay in Spain I was able to travel to London, Venice, Ireland, Rome, Berlin, Switzerland, Andorra, Greece, the Canary Islands, even Morocco, not to mention the numerous areas of Spain that I visited. Of course I had my ups and downs while studying abroad. I was robbed twice, something which is very common in Europe and especially in Spain, but all you have to do is be very aware of your belongings at all times. I missed home, I missed American culture, and I missed being able to ask a sales person for help without spending ten minutes prior figuring out how exactly I was going to ask, to put it simply, I missed English. Nevertheless, the positives of Spain far outweighed the negatives. The experience I gained, the friendships I made, and the fears that I conquered will stay with me for the rest of my life.