Indiana University Overseas Study

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A Belated Adios

Nicole Warren

I’m going to be honest here, I have been purposefully putting off writing this last abroad post because it meant that my study abroad experience had officially ended. Anything that I could do to put off the inevitable closing of this chapter of my life was taken with great stride: pouring over album photos, selecting moments to frame, and organizing souvenirs sporadically across my bedroom. Wow, it’s really over.

To say that I learned a lot while gallivanting about Spain’s many barrios is the ultimate understatement of the century. Days were never wasted when one is in Barcelona because to waste a day is this cultural mecca of beauty was a missed chance at enjoying another Spanish cappuccino that had way too much espresso or a moment to capture a piece of Gaudi architecture with the perfect amount of sunlight. I have long appreciated the effect of an exceptional quote, especially when it has particular application to my current toils and troubles. A plethora of clichés exists with the intention of inspiring some small spark of living in the moment. Although those phrases didn’t resonate too deeply within my abroad conscious, I stumbled upon a quote that, in as many as 17 words, swept me.

“It has long been an axiom of mine that the little things are infinitely the most important”- Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Simple, yet effective.  The practicality of this transferred to all of my weekly endeavors and weekend jaunts.

The little things:

  • The flakiest morning chocolate croissant
  • Cheap last minute flights from RyanAir or Vueling
  • Nightly dinner conversations with my House family
  • The strength of Spanish café con leches
  • My friend Sophie’s detailed itineraries
  • Bilbao’s giant dog sculpture made entirely of real flowers
  • Madrid’s oldest restaurant in the entire world: Sobrino de Botin
  • Kapital
  • Toledo’s hole in the wall store for “American” food options
  • The usual dependency of the metro system
  • Bargaining games for the lowest price on fresh market fruit and smoothies
  • Chipotle reunion in London
  • Hungarian baths
  • Prague’s street performers
  • Wednesday’s at Sutton or Otto Zutz
  • Swiss chocolate truffles
  • Interlaken’s gorgeous, scenic hikes
  • Churros dipped in hot chocolate
  • Madrid’s Prado Museum and the “Las Meninas” painting
  • Tuscany’s dedication to the art of wine and olive oil
  • Tours of Florence from my best friend
  • Barcelona beach’s “Papas Fritas” stall
  • My house mom’s croquettes & tortillas españolas
  • 6:00 am sunsets
  • Cheap country to country train tickets
  • Spanish class field trips
  • Sunday brunch with the girls at Brunch & Cake
  • Vallcarca neighborhood’s running route
  • Sporadic placement of Gaudi architecture
  • ESCI’s café: how everyone survives our one 3-hour class
  • Barcelona’s lack of rain
  • Spanish pay-as-you-go flip phones
  • Fast and strong friendships
  • People and places that I will never forget

Having seen the sun set and the moon shine on another side of the world, I am not the same. Many doubt this and question how this past adventure could have changed me so much. Let me enlighten you a little bit: I have lived as a welcomed member of a Spanish family, drank from a hidden Swiss waterfall, soaked leisurely in the Hungarian baths of Budapest, and tasted the delicacies of centuries of culinary adaptation. I am not the same. But, in many ways I am the same. Same values, morals, and head on my shoulders. But I have gained a profound perspective only accessible by seeing the world and forcing yourself to be independent.

I would like to take a moment to thank my greatest supporters and people I adore more than anything: my parents. Their generosity and appreciation for the necessity of traveling and seeing the world has allowed me to study abroad and gain an irreplaceable experience that I will never forget. Mom and Dad, you have given me the greatest gift that I can never repay you for. But, I will spend the rest of my life trying :).   Again, thank you for letting me study, live, and assume temporary local status in one of the greatest cities in the world: Barcelona, Spain.

barcelona students

Hiking trip to Tibidabo

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A Spanish Sunday

Nicole Warren

Sundays are especially wonderful in Barcelona because many shops close and the Gothic neighborhood is teeming with dancing, pop up markets, and music.  As my week is typically filled with educational requirements or tourism checklists and my Fridays and Saturdays are spent enjoying the nightlife of Spain, I relish in the slow pace of Sunday.  

In the United States, my time would be spent usually cramming facts in for a quiz or checking off tasks on a massive to do list for the week of classes.  My GPS personal dot would almost always be found in the Herman B. Wells library on IU’s campus.  For me, all of the assignments seemed to creep up on me all week and then just avalanche onto my already stressed mind.

In Spain, my life is much different.  Sure, I have some assignments to think about for the week to come but it’s nothing as all-consuming as my time at IU.  In Barcelona, nights of the week are spent meeting for study breaks at local cafés; this makes an effective combination of experiencing the food culture and finishing work.  Students in Barcelona are more inclined to commit to meeting to do homework at a local spot such as Marti for unreal Tomato Focaccia or Café Francesco for one of the flakiest and fluffiest croissants that you have ever tasted.  It’s quite an interesting dynamic.  When Sunday creeps up into the schedule, my friends and I have time to unwind and walk around the different Spanish neighborhoods.  Stall after stall line up on the Barceloneta stretch that dead ends into the beach.  I am usually always pushing to make the venture towards the beach because I personally enjoy the salty air whipping my hair and popping in for a big burger at Maka Maka.  The last time I went there I had a burger topped with buffalo mozzarella, fried eggplant, and peppers and it was a taste bud sensation!  Additionally, we tried the banana chocolate milkshakes that were equally exquisite.

spanish milkshakes

So, these milkshakes only look a LITTLE good. Ha ha.

awesome burger

My awesome burger

I have spent many a times on the Barceloneta beach, due to its essential mix of sand, sun, and amazing food.

Barcelona beach

Barcelona beach

Classes this semester have been challenging but also manageable.  The hardest part of studying for finals is that you have to exit the tough mindset that you are on vacation and buckle down for achieving your grade goal.  The end of the semester is always the hardest because its very similar to the grind of a typical college campus: assignments pile up, inevitable goodbyes to close (or new, in study abroad’s case) friends, and making sure you have done everything you wanted to do in that particular city before returning home.

I have missed many aspects of the U.S. but I will treasure these times in Barcelona for a lifetime.  I am not finished here but this city has already changed me, perspectively, for the better.  I hope to convince anyone who will listen to go to Barcelona!

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Bopping around in Barca

Nicole Warren

Whew! What a whirlwind it has been acclimating to the beautiful city of Barcelona. Still can’t decide if this place is actually real.

Barcelona Cacti

Is this real or… ?

I have finally sat down for long enough to ponder the couple weeks I have spent here without exhaustedly falling asleep with my laptop still open.  From walking through parks to wandering the impressive architecture of La Sagrada Familia, I have been in a constant state of motion.  The study abroad program started off with a week of museum and culture tours, geographic acclimation, and new friendships.  Since I am naturally challenged at following street directions, it has taken a little bit longer than a week to feel comfortable with the several streets surrounding where classes take place.

La Sagrada Familia

La Sagrada Familia by the famed Antoni Gaudi

The classes I am taking are far more interesting than I ever had imagined.  The Spanish don’t abide by the same grading system as the United States and instead of the A,B,C,D,F grades, they give you a number score in the range of 1-10.  It’s a little strange for me because I am so used to letter scoring but it’s not that difficult to adapt to.  In order to receive a required culture credit, students can choose among an array of classes or apply for an internship at a local Barcelona company.  Not only did my mom subtly (but not so subtly) suggest that I do an internship, but I also saw it as an opportunity to experience international business (hello to my second major) firsthand.  I was placed in a small Spanish company that offers online/software assistance to other local companies and they needed me to help them with graphic design. As I have been working with them the past two weeks I have taken note of drastic changes in the work environment culture as opposed to the United States.  Some of the most interesting ones include:

  1. Bringing your kids to work
  2. Taking a middle of the day “siesta” or mental break that can last for 2 hours
  3. Wanting to get to know your personal life before doing business
  4. Fostering a relationship with each coworker, which breaks any company hierarchy

I am still getting used to the informal work environment!

Now, don’t get me wrong, it hasn’t been all work and no play for my first three weeks of Barca.  I have probably consumed enough carbohydrates to shock Betty Crocker, and I have regretted nothing.  The only thing stopping me from roly-polying my way out of Barcelona is my necessity to walk everywhere I want to go.  There is a fantastic metro system that comes every 3 minutes but all of the classes, restaurants, and sites I have attended are a solid 5 blocks or more away from the nearest metro stop.  I’m not complaining, because it’s a fabulous way to work out and people watch.

It’s safe to say Barcelona and I are getting along just nicely.

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Barcelona, are you ready for me?

Nicole Warren

A two-hour layover from Chicago to Barcelona, Spain is not passing by as quickly as I hoped it would be.  I guess the combination of uncomfortable leather seats, stark and fabricated smells wafting through the vents, and this venti skinny mocha coffee from Starbucks aren’t exactly helping my case.  But getting the venti coffee was necessary, and ever since college the concept of a small caffeinated beverage instead of a large is as foreign to me as the city I will be arriving in after this flight. (more…)

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