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Q & A: Sabrina Starke, CEA Student Service Advisor

 Sabrina Starke, CEA Student Services Advisor,
helps students immerse into Catalan culture
and explore their new home.

Get to know Sabrina, CEA study abroad Barcelona student services advisor:


  1. The best part of Barcelona is….: Its "live life to the fullest" mentality, its open minded and accepting people, and its love for being outdoors. Living in Barcelona has definitely taught me how to appreciate diverse perspectives on life, as well as eat healthy and be physically active all year round.
 There is arguably no better place to feel the sense of
community in Barcelona than at Camp Nou,
the historic home of FC Barcelona.

2. Do I need to learn Catalan to survive here?: You do not need to learn Catalan to survive but you do need to learn it if you want to stay long term. Locals love it if you can say a few words in Catalan and it shows you care about their language and culture.

3. Do you have any advice on how to better interact with the local community?: First of all, I would encourage students to spend more weekends in Barcelona. Local people usually only have time to hang out on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays as they are studying or working during the week. Second, to get to know locals, you need to get involved in a group or organization. I encourage students to think of their hobbies or interests and look for groups to join like language exchanges, non competitive athletic teams, castellers, music groups, churches, or classes at civic centers. I also think it is easier to meet people if you are not always in a big group of Americans.

4. What’s with all the banging pots every night?: Citizens of Barcelona who support the right to vote about independence from Spain are protesting against the suspension of the referendum and general obstacles by the Spanish government. People are tired of hearing they cannot vote and that it is "illegal" (goes against the Constitution).

 On November 9, 2014, over 2.3 million
Catalonians voted in an unofficial independence
poll where 80 percent voted to split from Spain

5. What is local cuisine? Paella and tapas all day, everyday?: Local cuisine is very Mediterranean which means lots of vegetables, fruit, legumes, fish, and meat. Paella and tapas are not native to Catalunya although you can eat some good ones in Barcelona but most of them are for tourists. (Paella comes from Valencia and tapas are more typical in the south of Spain and Madrid.) For me the local cuisine is amazing and usually very healthy!

6. What area of Barcelona do you think most students miss out on?: I think students spend most of their time in the city center, Eixample neighborhood or down by the beach for two reasons. One because their classes are in this part of the city and two, it is the most internationally well known. I would encourage students to spend more time in the Poble Sec, Gràcia, and Sants neighborhoods as they have a more local feel to them (not to mention cheaper prices)!

Now, a few quick "rapid-fire" questions:

  • If you could live in any neighborhood in Barcelona? Where would you live? Gràcia
  • Placa Catalunya or Placa Espanya? Placa Catalunya
 Placa Catalunya is often considered the center of
Barcelona and also the location of various festivals,
protests, and concerts.

  • What is the best place for a quick weekend getaway? Costa Brava
  • Assuming money isn't a factor, what is the best place to eat?: Botafumiero
  • What is the best museum in Barcelona? MNAC (Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya)
 The MNAC (Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya) is
housed in Palau Nacional, one of the most beautiful
buildings in Barcelona.

  • Gothico or Raval? Raval
  • What do you miss most about America? The positive “can-do” attitude
  • What do you miss the least about America? Little to no vacation days
  • Picasso or Dalí? Dalí

Dillon Patel is the Fall 2014 CEA MOJO in Barcelona, Spain. He is currently a junior at Duke University.

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