It’s been just over two weeks here in Barcelona, Spain and I am pleasantly surprised to say it feels like I’ve lived here for months. While I have had to make some big adjustments to better adapt to this Spanish (or should I say Catalan) culture, everyday I’m surprised at the amount of similarities I find that remind me of my lifestyle back home. Coming from a suburban Indiana neighborhood, this move to a busy city street bustling with people (and dogs!) 24/7 has been exciting, different, and LOUD, to say the least. The street we live on is called Plaça de Joaquim Folguera (it took the full two weeks to pronounce it correctly), and our neighborhood area is known as El Putxet (a Catalan name). El Putxet is just twenty minutes away from the 1,680 foot mountain, Tibidabo, and from our street we can see the castle atop the mountain, which is best illuminated at night.
Sidenote: Catalan refers to the independent region of Spain that Barcelona, Geida, Lleida, and Tarragona make up. These four cities refer to themselves as Catalonians, speak Catalan alongside Spanish, and have immense pride in their independence from the other regions of Spain.
Besides getting lost post-taxi drop off fresh from the airport and lugging our four 50+ pound suitcases uphill for 45 minutes (we were two minutes away from home), my roommates & I have been amazed at the ease that we have been able to communicate and do things here. Our ‘school’ IES (it looks just like every other sky-high building on the street) is located in a sprawling plaza that acts as a central location for all things in Barcelona, Plaça de Catalunya. To try to explain the vast entity that Plaça Catalunya is, I would say that “New York City on steroids” is the best description. To get here, we take the subway right outside our apartment and then have about a ten minute walk to our school building from the metro stop. When we aren’t in class, Plaça Catalunya gives us endless shopping and dining opportunities as well as all kinds of people watching, something extremely entertaining to do here when have a break between classes.
With two weeks in, I’m already certain that my study abroad experience will be unlike most others. This is due to the fact that there are not only ten, 20, or 30 other IU students here alongside me, but over 50, and that is just in my specific program. There are at least three other programs with IU students here as well. Somehow, I was oblivious to the fact that a mass group of fellow Hoosier students would be joining me. It wasn’t until the first day of class that I began to realize having at least five other IU kids in each of my classes would be a normal thing. At first, I panicked and had a negative attitude about being surrounded by so many semi-familiar faces. However, after a few days I realized that I only knew a select few of the 50+. As I keep meeting more and more of these fellow Hoosiers, I’m getting extremely excited by the fact that not only will we be making memories in Barcelona this semester, but our journey together will continue on to our senior year in Bloomington as well.
This coming weekend will be our first trip to Madrid. My roommates and I are very eager to explore Spain’s biggest city and see how it compares to Barcelona, the second largest. We will be traveling in a group of about 200 other students in the IES program. We will be going on a guided ‘tapas tour’, where we will sample different tapas, or appetizers, which are an integral part of daily Spanish cuisine. We will also be touring the Las Ventas bullring, one of the most famous bull fighting arenas in the world, known as the mecca of bull fighting.