Anything is Possible.

I think that as a first generation college hispanic student it’s important to share my experiences about studying abroad as reference for similar potential study abroad students.

My situation is a tricky one. Not only if I am a first generation student, but I come from a single mom, therefore the resources were not just available with one parent. In addition, I am a double major, Spanish and Chemistry, with a pre-med track. Given my situation, I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to study abroad. I didn’t have the time, money, or other resources… but I realize that there is no good time to do things and anything is possible if you work for it. For me studying abroad was something I wanted to do that I didn’t let my obstacles get in my way.

In terms of money, there are many scholarship opportunities. I think it’s important to talk to the international program. They gave me various opportunities and paths to take given my situation. On top of that, I did my research as well. My program offered various scholarships that helped me accumulate money to be able to go. There is always opportunities, it just requires effort to find them.

Also I thought I wouldn’t be able to go because of my heavy schedule. As a pre-med I didn’t know if was an option. I was concerned that I wouldn’t have time finish both majors, especially since I didn’t have any chemistry class on my schedule abroad (this was due to the fact that most university courses in Barcelona are in catalán). Even then, I was able to do it. Abroad I am completing most of my spanish major (except one class) and most of my gen-eds. Everyone is different, but it’s definitely possible to study abroad as a double major.

In terms of my experience while studying abroad I think I can say it was fun and different. I have hispanic backgrounds and it was definitely a different experience abroad. I find hard to explain my experience here so far, but if I could sum it up it consisted a lot of people thinking I was from here and then realizing I wasn’t. Funny thing is I even made it a game to see how far I could make it somewhere until someone realized I wasn’t from Barcelona… most of the time it was little words that gave it away. Like saying adios instead of adeo (catalán version). I think that my experience was different because not only do they speak castellano (spanish), but also catalán. Therefore, I had a challenge to understand the heavier accents and different use of words for different things.

I enjoyed having catalán. There was a new perspective of a new language. I was learning new words for things I would call differently. I was using vosotros, which is not something I typically use in my spanish. I was very lost various times trying to understand a conversation in catalán, but I was learning. I just really enjoyed having the mixture of the languages.

Studying abroad in Barcelona was not easy for me, but that’s why I chose particularly to go here. The culture and language is so different and I was able to be challenged. I liked coming to Barcelona with my backgrounds because not only did it help, but I was able to take my culture and learn a different culture within the hispanohablantes countries.

I didn’t know what type of pictures to add. These pictures might seem random, but they are some I have taken recently.

MNAC Museum
MNAC Museum

This place has such good cupcakes/pastries. It’s called Chök.

Picture Collage #2

Dublin: Cliffs of Moher
Cadaqués: Dalí House
Barcelona: MNAC (Represents Fredrico Garcia Lorca’s Death)

Cadaqués: Dalí House
Paris: Louvre Museum (Couldn’t go to Paris without seeing the Mona Lisa)
Madrid: Reina Sofía Museum (I fell in love with Dalí Surrealistic paintings)
Madrid: Cool Candy Shop I found
Madrid: Royal Palace

F.R.I.E.N.D.S

Making friends always seems so difficult, but a simple conversation can build friendships. I definitely was terrified that I was not going to make any friends, especially since I wouldn’t consider myself an extrovert. I can say that I was very wrong. I’ve enjoyed connecting with people. I’ve learned so much about peoples’ backgrounds and experiences, especially as college students. 

I was lucky enough to have a smaller program that has a maximum 35-40 students, so we were all able to become familiar with one another. I have even traveled with some of them. Having people who not only are doing the same thing I am, but can relate to my feelings has definitely helped my anxiety about studying abroad. 

Travels:

I’ve made UB (University of Barcelona) friends too! I was so excited to meet and talk to actual UB students. At first I found it difficult to form friendships with them, especially since I didn’t know how they felt about international students. It sounds so corny, but I was interested in learning about their lives in Barcelona as college students. I’ve just had some of my best conversations with them. As a bonus, they have given me various recommendations for things to do or see. I definitely wouldn’t have found many of them on my own. It’s just nice to see another perspective of someone who is like me, but not… if that makes sense. 

Anyways I think that once you cross the barrier of speaking, friendships are easy to make. I think it’s important to take advantage of meeting so many new people. You’ll learn so much about them and relate to others on a personal level. It was definitely scary to leave my comfort, but I am so glad I’ve gotten to create new experiences with new people.

Stressed backwards is Desserts.

Studying abroad was a big decision for me. I had never been away from my mom nor home. When I first arrive, I was very homesick and even started a countdown of the days I had left. Though at the same time I was happy to be in Europe. It was such an exciting time and experience for me. I was “Happy, free, confused… in the best way.” If you know my reference, then you know. 

Anyways, there has been multiple coping mechanisms that have eased the stress of studying abroad. Like I previously mentioned in one of my other blogs whenever I feel stress I head to La Nena for a chocolate crepe. There’s just something about chocolate that makes me feel 10x better. Besides eating my stress away with chocolate, I found walking or enjoying the outdoors has truly helped. I typically take strolls in Gràcia or la Barceloneta. They are very relaxing and the weather for the most part is always nice. 

On one of my Barceloneta walks I took a picture of the Arc de Triomf.
I am lucky to live like 5 minutes from Park Güell, so I like to take walks here too.

Even though I am abroad I communicate with my mom daily. This has really helped my mental health. She has always been the rock that holds me together and talking to her has made it easier. We are very close and I feared that studying abroad would create distance, but it hasn’t… thankfully. I definitely look forward to 3pm and 10pm when I am able to chat with her about my day. 

I have never been a “journal girl,” but journaling has helped abroad. I have found myself reaching for it when I feel any type of emotion, whether that is positive or negative. Journaling has helped me eases my mind. Once I write it down, my mind stops circulating the same thoughts over and over again. 

My journal… it’s so pretty I am obsessed.

Oddly enough, being abroad has gotten me into mediation. After a stressful day, I like to get on the Headspace app and just follow a guided meditation. There are different options based on your emotions, so whether I am feeling stress, sad, or unmotivated there is always a guided mediation to help. 

In general I think it is important to keep in mind that it’s a learning experience. A lot of things are going to be different, but it’s okay. I think it’s important to always remind yourself why you chose to study abroad and the significance behind it. Some days will be great and others will be not so great, but in the end memories like these will never be forgotten. 

Picture Collage #1

On the stairs of the MNAC (Barcelona)
Sitges
Sitges
Sitges

La Sagrada Familia

Casa Batlló (It was decorated with roses because of the holiday Sant Jordi)
Casa Milà (La Pedrera)

A New World of Academics

Being accustom to the same way of academics my whole life it was very shocking to adjust to a new way. I find that adjusting academically was the hardest thing i’ve have done while being here. I don’t mean it to be frightening because I learn to adjust, but the school system is very different in Barcelona.

I am currently taking five classes. Three of the five are at CIEE and two are with the University of Barcelona. My courses revolve around my Spanish major and my gen-ed requirements. I am currently taking the following:

  1. Spanish Heritage Learners
  2. Contemporary Spain
  3. Spain’s Literature and Cinema
  4. Sociology: Conflicts and Social Problems
  5. Theater: Spanish Theater in the Golden Age

Both Images are from the University of Barcelona historical building, which is the Philology department. I take my theater class here.

This building is the Economics and Business department. I take my sociology class here.

Like I previously mentioned the structure is very different. To beginning with, classes meet twice a week for an hour and a half to two hours. Also, instead of focusing on completing assignments and learning outside of class, most of the learning is done in class. This took time to get used. I felt the classes were so long and that I had too much free time in my hands outside of class.

Also, the student-professor relationship is different. It felt weird referring to the professor by their first name. The students treat the professor so causally. I couldn’t bring myself to do that. In class learning is centered on listening to the professor speak. I am used to interactive learning as a Spanish and Chemistry major so I struggled. I thought I wasn’t going to be able to do it, but the professors at the university were understanding and helpful.

The class size was different, but I already was aware of this. The classes felt so impersonal and I felt it was harder to connect with the professors like at Wofford. My university classes range from 40-90 people, so I understood that it couldn’t be as interactive as Wofford. Although, the college/university structure was very different, I was able to experience another atmosphere different from mine. In the beginning it seemed impossible to deal with a different “reality,” but it’s definitely manageable.

“Oh, the Places You’ll Go!”

There are so many places I would recommend going to in Barcelona, but my top 3 are the following:

  1. La Nena
  2. Bunkers del Carmel
  3. Barceloneta

La Nena:

Carrer de Ramón y Cajal, 36, 08012 Barcelona (In Gràcia)

I would recommend this place to anyone who wants to bring out the inner child in them. The theme of the little restaurant/coffee shop is youth/child-like. I don’t mean this in bad way whatsoever. They are delicious pastries and small meals. I would definitely recommend trying anything chocolate. Their crepes are so delicious. I typically go for a chocolate crepe with vanilla ice cream. They have a variety of foods and desserts. Their churros and chocolate is a must. The place is packed on weekends. I go on weekdays because sometimes you are stress and all you want is chocolate to make you feel 10x better.

Bunkers del Carmel:

The view. That’s all I have to say.

It is located on a mountain. During the Spanish Civil War it served as a a place to protect Barcelona from aerial attacks. The Bunkers are a landmark, but people are welcomed to visit at no cost. You can see all of Barcelona from the Bunkers and it is absolutely beautiful. I don’t know why I waited such a long time to visit the Bunkers. It’s so peaceful… well when it’s not packed with people. For me this is a must and its free so that’s a plus.

Barceloneta:

La Barceloneta is the area near the beach. I would recommend because well to begin with the beach is right there. I enjoyed taking walks by the water and enjoying the view. Also there is so many restaurants and ice cream shops nearby. You can take a cable car from Barceloneta to Montjuïc. Sometimes there will have carnivals/fairs. There is many monuments/landmarks nearby as well, such as Parc de la Ciudadela, Columbus Monument, Arc de Triomf, etc. La Barceloneta is a place I consistently go to and I always find something new each time.

My Typically Day

My days vary by day. Typically, Monday and Wednesday are the same for the most part. The same goes for Tuesday and Thursday. I don’t have class Fridays, so it’s nice to have a longer weekend.

On Mondays and Wednesdays I wake up around 8 am. I get ready and have breakfast at home. Around 9 am I get ready to leave for my 10 am class. One of the biggest differences between the University of Barcelona and Wofford is that each department is located at different locations. Sadly, my 10 am is a 35-40 minute commute. Classes are longer as well. Each class varies from 1 hour and half to 2 hours. I have my Sociology class from 10 to 12. After my sociology class I head to my Heritage Class offered at CIEE. My program requires us to take 3 classes with CIEE and 2 with the University of Barcelona. I have my heritage class from 12:30 to 2pm. After class, I typically have lunch in the perimeter of my neighborhood. There is so much great food in Gràcia (where I live). I am always trying new restaurants. Currently my favorite restaurant called “Quinoa Bar.” It’s such a good vegan restaurant. After lunch, I typically head home and complete assignments for all my classes, since Tuesdays/Thursday taken up by class. Depending on my schedule on my lighter days I like to go explore Gràcia. I have dinner around 9pm and end my day around 11pm.

Tuesday and Thursdays have me running around. First of all I have a 8 am. It was so painful at first, but it’s gotten somewhat better. I wake up around 6:30 am to get ready. Thankfully, my theater class is in a department that is 15 mins away when commuting in metro. I have my theater class from 8 to 10. After class, I’ll either go home to take a “nap” or explore the different coffee shops in the center of the city. I like to get work done during this time as well. Then I head to my Contemporary Spain (history class), that is from 12:30 to 2pm at CIEE. After that depending on my appetite I grab lunch somewhere in the city center or go home. Shortly after that I have another class at CIEE. My Cinema and Literature class runs from 4:00 to 5:30 pm. By the time I get home I am drained.

Although class time is longer, I feel that I have been a little more relieved in Barcelona. Since I came here to complete my Spanish major, I’ve had a break on my chemistry classes. Which I was relieved, but I cannot lie I do miss it. I definitely do move a lot more than what I do back home. On my long weekends I either take time to explore places I’ve yet to see or travel. Traveling has definitely been so fun. I’ve gotten to meet new people all around who are studying abroad just like me. I definitely feel that I’ve learned to relax more than what I am used to. I struggled so much with the concept of relaxing, but I’ve learned to enjoy it.

Pictures of places I’ve visited 🙂

Dublin
Sitges

Paris

Culture Shock!

The culture varies much more than I expected in Barcelona. To begin with, people don’t typically live in houses. Instead many people rent apartments. The apartments are narrow with high ceilings. The lifestyle is very different too. One of the biggest surprises was that they don’t have dryers. Most people hang their clothes outside so they can dry. Recycling is very important here. Anything that can be recycled is usually recycled. In fact, they have big bins in the streets that are color coded based on material. For example, they have a bins for plastic, paper, glass, etc. These bins are out in the streets for people to dispose of their trash. Instead of driving to a dumpster, you only have to walk a few minutes to dispose of it.

The food is very different as well. They have “Tapas” that are small appetizers/snacks. There are restaurants dedicated to tapas. Tapas consist of tortilla española, croquetas, patatas bravas, calamares, olives etc. Since being here, I have fallen in love with patatas bravas. They are so delicious. I could eat them everyday if I could. Bakeries/panaderías are located everywhere. They sell delicious bread and pasteries for such a cheap price. Of course, paella is a common dish found. The food has been delicious and I never get tired of trying new things.

Patatas Bravas

The culture in Barcelona is highly associated with language. As Barcelona is part of Cataluña, Catalan (language) plays a big part of the culture. Many of the menus in restaurants are in Catalan. I had to get used to this. As someone who doesn’t understand or read Catalan, it was difficult in the beginning. The language is highly regarded here. Most classes at the University of Barcelona are given in Catalan. People still speak Castellaño/Spanish, but they value the Catalan language.

People walk everywhere. Barcelona is a smaller city and everything is typically walking distances. There are still people with cars, but that is reserved for bigger roads. In neighborhoods, people use scooters, mopeds, or motorcycles. The streets are filled with mopeds parked on the side of the streets.

Like I mentioned before, everything is walking distance. Grocery stores are in every street. They definitely are smaller than the ones back home, but it’s nice to just walk maybe 2 minutes for something so snack on or buy. With that being said, since groceries stores are close people buy less food than back home. Stores like Costco do not exist here. The quantities are smaller. People typically buy only what they need each week.

In general, life is calmer here. Sometimes I really enjoy it, but sometimes I miss the fast paced life at home. One thing I’ve really enjoyed while being here is the easy access to the beach and mountains. Barcelona has the mountains on one end and the beach to the other. It has been fun being able to have options to exploring the city. There is culture everywhere. Barcelona always has something to see or do. You could never get bored of exploring.

Adjusting to the fact I won’t have Iced Coffee.

In regards to my first thoughts when I landed and settled in… I was tired. It had been such a long flight that all I wanted to do was shower and sleep. At the same time, I was excited and nervous. I selected to live in a homestay and I just kept asking myself questions like:

How are they going to be? Will they like me? Am I going to be comfortable enough to spend the next 4 months with them?

I remember thinking how warm it was too. Just before I left, it had been snowing in South Carolina and when I arrived in Barcelona it was rather warm. After arriving, students like me were picked up and taken to a brief orientation. I was so tired that I don’t fully recall what happened in that one hour. Eventually, I was picked up by my host mom who took us to her apartment. I was amazed at the buildings, the streets, and the whole atmosphere that I had never seen before. I was happy to arrive, but was so anxious about settling in.

A picture of the neighborhood where I am located

The transition to Barcelona was nerve-racking. To begin with, I felt weird having dinner at 9pm. I was excited to try new foods, but the dinner time was so much later than my usual. The first night I was introduced to pan con tomate y aceite de oliva. I have never been a big fan of tomatoes, but I enjoyed it.

Another shock to me was how late people started and ended their days. In Barcelona most people start their days at 9am or 10am and end them around 11 pm or 12am. As a college student I could relate to the times, but it was different. Also public transportation took time getting use to. I had never been on metro, bus, or train that took me to one place to another. I can admit that I got lost the first time I used the metro. It was a nightmare, but I still made it home.

When I first walked the streets of Barcelona, I noticed how many people walk everywhere. Things like grocery stores, retail stores, bakeries, etc. are relatively close in neighborhoods, people walk. Also there is so many pharmacies and groceries markets on each street. I always found a pharmacy or grocery store every so often.

In the first few days, it took adjusting to the fact that iced coffee isn’t available here. Well it is, but if you drink it people automatically know you aren’t from Barcelona. I had to get use to drink warm coffee, which is completely fine because the coffee is great… but I sure miss iced coffee. In general, drinks aren’t served over ice unless they are soft drinks.

These are some of my most shocking transitions. I could on and on about more, but it would take pages. My first few days were dedicated to learning and adjusting to the new culture. It’s obviously become easier as days past, but eventually I’ll get so used to the customs here that I will feel so weird when I go back home. Although there has been so many times, I’ve been happy to learn and adjust. I just cannot believe they don’t do iced coffee.