Monday, February 25, 2013

Arina T. - Barcelona, Spain - Spring 2013

Hi everyone back in the States!
It has been about a month since I arrived in Barcelona and I can’t believe how time flies! It seems like just yesterday I was throwing my suitcase together and panicking about the slightest detail. Was I wearing boots or gym shoes on the flight over? Did I want to bring 2 small books on the flight or just one long one? What seemed to be the critical problems of that moment are nothing more than a vague memory today.
I’m sure there are some key answers you are looking for if you are reading this blog. I’ll try and incorporate a few I thought I needed before I left but please do not hesitate to ask questions if there is something you’d like to know!
I chose to study abroad in Barcelona because I was told that it was a beautiful city and a perfect location for additional travel. The word ‘beautiful’ does little justice for this magnificent place. Vibrant and welcoming, Barcelona houses some of the most unique and welcoming people I have ever met. I have little to no Spanish experience and therefore came prepared to be confused in most situations.  It’s not fair to expect Spaniards to speak English (you are in fact in Spain), but you also can’t help but hope that someone will know a word or two. I have to say that even with my limited (and I mean VERY limited) Spanish skills, I have survived every miscommunication and possibly even came out a better person.  There’s no better way to learn a language than to just dive right into in!
Ok so let’s cover some of the basics:
Over Packing: truth or tale??
Yes, over packing can become an issue (especially for girls)! Remember that you are coming to a foreign country where fashion styles may be different. I guarantee that at some point you will want to buy a shirt here or a pair of shoes there… In the end, you’ll wish you hadn’t brought so many American things because your local buys are starting to add up. Oh and if you still think you need 2 or 3 suitcases, let me just tell you that not all apartments have elevators! You don’t want to be the person who has to lug a 50 pound suitcase up 5 flights of stairs!  Please also be aware that UNDER PACKING can be problematic as well.  I happen to be one of the few people that packed too light and now I wish I had more clothing to accommodate the strangely cold weather here.
Social Outings: friend or foe??
Barcelona is very well known for its party atmosphere for people of all ages! Bars and clubs are open pretty much every night and it is very common to seen college students go out in the middle of the week. With this in mind, it is very important to remember that a balance of school and partying is very necessary. Showing up to class as a zombie will not impress your professors and your grades are sure to suffer. We all want to have a good time but as I have seen in the last couple of weeks, people in the program are already falling behind because drinking and clubbing are taking priority over education.
Money: budget balance
Money can be a tricky topic when it comes to planning for an abroad trip. Barcelona happens to be one of the most expensive cities in all of Spain and therefore rates may be higher than Granada or Seville.  I like to think that I’m being smart about my money but there are definitely times when I choose to splurge on certain activities. Hey, I’m in Spain and you only live once! I would recommend that everyone does some research about international credit card rates and international transaction rates of bank cards. It is also very important to NOT come with only one method of payment. Very early in the term my roommate stopped at an ATM to withdraw cash and had her card swallowed. It was her only card and access to money… It took a while and the issue was resolved but she was forced to get a new card and live without money for a week or two.  The stresses of situations like this can be easily avoided if proper preparations are done before departure!
Every day I spend in Barcelona, I seem to find new and amazing things to do in the city. From parks to shops to bars, getting lost in the city has become more of a habit than an annoyance.
I have to run to class now but if you have additional questions feel free to contact me via blog or email which you can get from Alice.


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