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5 Thoughts on Barcelona

Here are my first thoughts upon arriving at my study abroad program in Barcelona. Hopefully after reading this, your questions will be answered!

How am I ever going to learn my way around?

Barcelona was one of the biggest European cities I had ever been to. When I arrived it was dark and I could not actually see how widely the city expanded. I came to understand that I lived pretty much as far away from the ocean as they could have placed me. But with Barcelona’s amazing transportation systems, it was really no trouble at all getting around and eventually learning my way. Toward the end of the semester it was almost comical that I once was so overwhelmed by the expansiveness of the place.

 View from Bunkers del Carmel

Where am I going to buy groceries?

Obviously this was a major concern. The first month I was pretty content with eating out almost every meal because I was just so excited to be there and be eating so much amazing food. But once that wore off, I realized I needed to start shopping for myself. Finding the grocery store was not the hard part. It was 1) wandering up and down the aisles for 30 minutes trying to figure out if the food I thought they were selling was the same food I wanted to buy and 2) communicating with the employees.The people in Barcelona are some of the nicest I met abroad and besides sometimes chuckling at your American flaws, they really do want to help you, so don’t be afraid to ask and test out your Spanish - or Catalan!

Where is everyone?

When I first arrived in January, the streets were deserted. At least where I lived in Gracia. Apparently that is their cold time of the year and most of them stay inside and literally hibernate until the place warms up a bit. Toward the last couple of months you will soon realize why Barcelona is considered one of the most lively places. Just wait it out, it will be worth it.

 Walking home from class one day

How do I get my phone to work?

Being without a functioning phone the first couple of days can be difficult but also super rewarding to be off the grid and figure out your way around the old fashioned way. Just explore around your where you’re living and take in your new world. There will always be a cafe to pop into to grab their wifi when you need to find your way back. But when that gets old head over to one of the local providers to see the best way to get service if you didn’t figure it out before leaving. My suggestion would be to get a SIM card and reload it when you need to.

 Random graffiti I stumbled upon while exploring Gracia

Why didn't anyone tell me they spoke Catalan?!

This may only have been a me problem, but really I didn’t understand the major differences between Spanish and Catalan until actually getting there. It did not end up being a major problem however because a majority of the citizens speak at least some English and they all speak Spanish so for me, there was definitely a mix of languages going on when I needed to communicate. Again don’t be intimidated to practice your Spanish! THe citizens would rather have you at least attempt Spanish or Catalan than constantly speaking English at them and expecting them to accommodate to you.

Katie Ortiz is a CEA Alumni Ambassador. She studied abroad in Barcelona in the Spring of 2017 and is currently a senior at the University of Michigan.

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