Study Abroad in
En los últimos meses, como la mayoría de mis amigos americanos ya se han marchado de Barcelona, he pasado bastante tiempo con amigas de aquí o con mis compañeros del piso. Y esto quiere decir que ha sido imposible evitar las situaciones graciosas/difíciles que conlleva el choque de lenguas y culturas.
Parte I: El Piso
Desde principios de enero vivo en un piso compartido. Somos 5: una francesa que estudia baile, un italiano que estudia biología (y el arte de dormir a todas horas del día), un español del País Vasco quien trabaja como profesor, un franco-mexicano que hace una mezcla de trabajar y estudiar negocios y yo. Tenemos horarios bastante apretados y por eso no nos vemos mucho. Cuando tenemos algo que anunciar a los otros lo escribimos sobre la pared en la cocina. No sobre un papel colgado de la pared, sino en la propia pared. (Pero no pasa nada, el rotulador se borra). Llegué la otra noche de un viaje a Valencia y había escrito lo siguiente:
LA NEVERA FUNCIONA MUY MAL. ¿QUÉ PODEMOS HACER?
OPCIÓN 1: REZAR
OPCIÓN 2: AVISAR A MR. BRUNO (dueño del piso)
OPCIÓN 3: HACER UNA OFRENDA A LOS DIOSES
Después de opción 3, alguien había escrito “cerveza.” Sí, tenemos un montón de alcohol. Desafortunadamente no tenemos leche, yogures, huevos, queso, carne y verduras porque todo eso necesita frío.
La noche siguiente, llegué a casa y encontré 3 de mis compañeros sentados en la sala de estar, quejándose sobre el fastidio de situación que tenemos ahora mismo—tenemos que pelear con la lavadora para que funcione, la nevera está rota, el italiano está a punto de llorar porque no tiene queso para poner en su pasta, y además sólo es lunes. Luego llegó el quinto compañero y pasamos una hora allí tomando vino y discutiendo en una mezcla de francés, español, e inglés sobre cuántos habitantes hay en Italia y España y otros asuntos importantes.
Aquí os muestro unos ejemplos de mi castellano impecable. A pesar de haber pasado 6 meses aquí en Barcelona, todavía me encuentro haciendo unas equivocaciones fatales en el habla. Y lo peor es que repito siempre los mismos errores. He dicho innumerables veces que iba a “depilar” la naranja. (‘wax the orange’) A veces me acerco más a la palabra correcta y digo que voy a “pelear” la naranja. (‘fight the orange’) Y a veces digo la palabra correcta, que sería “pelar” la naranja. (‘peel the orange’)
Aún más vergonzoso (y muy confuso para mi amiga) fue otra equivocación. Un día le estaba contando algo que tenía que ver con la Biblia, y dije la frase “la tierra de las judías.” (‘Land of the green beans.’) No sé por qué los judíos y las judías tienen que ser palabras tan parecidas… no entiendo la semejanza entre un legumbre verde y una persona que practica el judaísmo, pero así es el español.
La tercera equivocación acabó en una oportunidad. Estaba planeando un día turístico por Barcelona con una amiga catalana, y cuando intenté decir que tendríamos que ir a la playa antes de que se vaya el sol (por la noche), dije que tendríamos que ir a la playa antes de que salga el sol (la madrugada). Resulta que eso quiere decir la aurora. Mi amiga me miró con una cara extraña, pero dijo que estuvo de acuerdo. Y fue por eso que nos levantamos a las 6 de la mañana para ver la salida del sol…y valió la pena.
When in Barcelona, most CIEE students travel a time or two. Most, if not all, need to get to the nearby airport “El Prat”. Maybe that sounds easy, but I found it to be one of the most challenging experiences of my semester thus far.
My adventure began in the wee hours of Friday January, 28. El 28 de enero, in these parts. Actually 28 de gener if we’re gonna be real Catalan. Anyway, the adventure starts in Plaza de Espanya. Barcelona is in the process of building a metro line that terminates at the airport but in the meantime us chumps who aren’t willing to pay for a taxi have two options: pay five euro for the Aerobús, or use your public transportation pass for the TMB 46.
Map showing the plans for the L9 metro line (which will run to the airport). Currently under construction and set to open sometime in 2012 it will be the longest metro line in Europe.
Initially, I had my heart set on the TMB 46, which is a public bus. I was flying to Portugal and I wanted to keep my transportation costs as low as possible. TMB 46 is a bus that shuttles back and forth between Plaza Espanya and El Prat. After hours you have to take the Nitbús, which is another can of worms we can discuss at a later date.
At 6 am, I emerged from the Plaza Espanya metro station and proceeded to wander for the next 40 minutes in search of the TMB 46. Along the way I met a Portuguese American girl named Sammi who was also studying with CIEE and headed for the airport. After asking a bus driver, a street cleaner, and a grandma for directions we decided to give up and pay the extra money for the Aerobús.
The Aerobús was a little easier to find since it rolls into Plaza Espanya every 15 minutes. We chased one around the plaza, jumped on, paid, and arrived at El Prat in 20 minutes. In the future, I will be an exclusive patron of the Aerobús.
But ten cuidado, there are separate buses for Terminal 1 and Terminal 2. Find out which terminal your airline uses by visiting the airline directory of El Prat’s sometimes useful website. If you’re flying RyanAir, you’ll need counters B44-B49 which are in Terminal 2B. Also, when flying internationally, no matter what the tonta at the baggage counter says, you need to get your boarding pass stamped at the window opposite the baggage check in.
My final gift to you, dear readers of CIEE’s best and most beloved blog, is the official Aerobús website. This is top secret stuff, so don’t tell anybody where you got it. Good luck in all your travels and may your adventures be somewhat less hectic than mine.
On Friday we had our Language & Culture seminar where we were exploring different barrios of Barcelona, my group was going through Gracia (one of my favorite areas!). Gracia is a really relaxed barrio where there are some cool bars, good restaurants, and a eco-friendly movement. There are also a lot of families and even more alternative people. I can’t really explain it but my friend Irene is from California and she said it reminds her a lot of Berkley. I’m really glad we got to be there since it really helped me orient myself and I also learned things about the plazas and the streets that I had walked before without really noticing. We got to go to an underground shelter that the people of Gracia had built during the Spanish Civil War. It got turned into a parking garage now, but walking all the way down to the "refugio" was really impressive since it was the neighbors of Gracia that literally dug all the way down there, and it was pretty far down. It was kind of creepy though and strange to imagine having to run down there and spend hours waiting for the fighting to pass. I also realized that there’s a street of a bunch of different ethnic restaurants like Egyptian, Lebanese, any type you could imagine. There’s also this one store/cafe with a beautiful garden in the back that you wouldn’t know from the front.
Our professora told us that a lot of the streets in Gracia are named after precious stones like diamante, rubi, and perla. Our last stop was Plaza del Diamante which is where the book The Time of the Dove, that is about the Spanish Civil War, is set. They turned it into a movie that in spanish is called Plaza del Diamante. Here’s a picture of the statue that commemorates what happened in the movie/real life.
Our professora told us to go up to someone in the plaza and ask them about what their favorite and least favorite parts of living in Gracia are. It was a sunny day and Gracia is the type of place where people are always outside so I scoped out the area and noticed a cute old man. At first I thought he was going to be mean and grumpy but as soon as he figured out what we were doing and understood our questions he was SO FRIENDLY.He has lived in Gracia almost his entire life and loves it so much because it’s very family oriented, his least favorite part is the noise since there are a lot of young people who go out loud at night. But it’s worth it to him because Gracia is perfect and thats part of it since it's such a lively area too. He had the cutest dog with him and when his wife walked up the dog freaked out with his paws out waiting for her. She was also really friendly and said she grew up in Gracia and said it was perfect for when they were raising their family.
We kept talking to him and found out that he had actually lived through the Spanish Civil War. He was really young then but he said that him and his brother, along with a bunch of other kids were sent to France to these compounds - basically places for the kids to stay be fed, and be safe during the war. He was there for a couple years. “Coming back was so strange since I barely knew my parents,” he said. He was the nicest, and it reminded me that you can never really know all the things that people have lived through, especially older people.
No matter how gray the weather, nor the mood that I am in, the last minute of my work commute, which takes me through a quaint and charming alleyway to the CIEE offices, always and instantly brighten and calm my mood. The amount of “greenage” found along there, consisting of mainly trees and shrubs, is wonderfully abundant, given that this short street is located in the middle of Barcelona’s bustling downtown center. As can be expected, blossoms of all colors mainly come to their full splendor during the milder three seasons. But the fragrance of lemon trees can also be enjoyed now, as they flourish during these winter months.
These flashes of nature have inspired me to write several “haiku-like” poems, which I have the privileged to share with you here.
Overflowing paper-thin flowers
Ever-reaching skyward daily
There is no denying
The weight of your persistence
A mere glimpse of these
Divine, white, bell shapes
Brings to mind Donne´s piece
Your beauty tolls for me
Hello everyone! I thought I'd share with you the most culinary experience of my life to date. What does that mean, you ask? Well here it goes.
CIEE had been hyping this thing called the “Cook & Taste” for a long time. When we applied to the program, photos from previous Cook & Tastes were all over the website so we knew it had to be a landmark night. It’s basically an all-night ordeal where you and a group prepare a four-course traditional Spanish meal from scratch. Luckily, you have a professional chef there to aid you and make fun of you when necessary.
I didn’t know what to expect – would they actually make me do a lot? Please don’t make me tell you when the chicken’s ready or scare me with words like “mince,” “garnish,” or “zest,” I thought. Alright, well maybe those words aren’t too bad.
So a group of 20 of us showed up to this kitchen that looks like it’s straight out of Ratatouille. We broke up into groups of ten each, and I ended up at a table of 8 girls and 2 guys, while the other table had about 6 guys and 4 girls. I’m not into gender profiling, but I admit that I was confident I was at the right table.
We had an all-star menu lined up – starting off with a cold tomato Gespacho soup, followed by the Spanish Tortilla, then by an authentic Seafood Paella, and finally a Crema de Catalunya (crème bruleé, but “better since it’s Catalán”) to top things off.
Two at a time, we stepped up to the plate donning aprons to make our humble contribution. Megan’s part was to “zest” the lemon (she knew what to do) and mix the custard for the Crema de Catalunya. It was pretty monotonous and lacked awesomeness, but she did well nonetheless.
Mine, on the other hand, was to skin the potatoes and dice the onions for the Spanish Tortilla (not to be confused with a Mexican tortilla – Google it). I enjoyed using a large sharp knife to cut the onions, and I learned from our bearded, relaxed chef how to do so efficiently. Pealing the potatoes was interesting - it felt like I was using a dull razor on a heavily bearded man, like our chef.
For the rest of the night, my stomach turned as I watched the others cut up squid and shrimp for the Paella and cook it on a big family pot. I passed the time and ignored the hunger by talking to one of the Spanish guardian angels, Fran, for a while. It was one of the first times I've gotten to have a long conversation in Spanish here.
At around 10 PM, we finally got to dig in on our creation. We ate the tomato soup first, but I was disappointed that it was served as a small “chupito” – Spanish for ‘shot.’ Other people at the table were disappointed that it wasn’t a chupito of something else. All in all, it was muy bueno! It was the first time I had eaten a real, gourmet Paella since I’ve been here. Now I’m looking forward to the next one.
The night was topped off by some real excitement. The chef needed someone to torch the Crema de Catalunya so they’d have the hard layer of sugar on top. A mini-flamethrower? On sugar? I’m there. Megan did it with me and we had a good, albeit tense time.
At the end of the night, we bid adieu to the bearded, Galician wonder-chef and went to sleep filled with a superb Spanish dinner. It was all the more fulfilling knowing that you played a small part. It was definitely one of my best nights in Barcelona!
For more of Chris' blog (and the following fantastic video of Chris and Megan's trip to Santiago de la compestella), click here.
CIEE Barcelona Program: Business & Culture
Semester: Spring 2011
Home School: Babson College
Deciding to study abroad for a whole year was probably the best decision I’ve ever made in college. I spent my first semester doing a program specifically designed for my school, Babson BRIC, and that covered Russia, China, and India.
I am spending the rest of this year in Barcelona, España with close access to all of Western Europe. It’s been about three full weeks that I’ve been in Barcelona, and I’ve loved every single moment of it. Sitting here at my little desk in Residencia Onix, I can’t think of a single day I’ve spent bored or without anything to do. But then again, they say you’re only bored if you’re boring! I live about a five minute walk from the Arc de Triomf which also has a metro station that connects me to all of Barcelona.
The amazing part about Barcelona is that everything is in walking distance. On a normal day, I would say I walk about 3 miles whether its to and from class, to the gym, or to stop somewhere for a cafe con leche. There are so many little cafes, markets, restaurants/bars, shops, and boutiques along every little alley here, its impossible not to get distracted wandering around.
The culture here is something I can definitely get used to. Though there is no official siesta (a time where everyone closes shop and rests) in Barcelona, you’ll find that a few places close up for a few hours during the day to return and open up later on in the evening. It’s also a lot smarter to get all your shopping done during the week or on Saturday, because everything except a few main restaurants and bars are closed on Sunday. All the stores, grocery stores, and clothing stores have their gates down. In the states, or in any other country I’ve visited for that matter, any business owner will optimize their opportunity to make money and stay open every day of the week.
Another thing I LOVE is that tips do not exist here. Cabs, dining, drinks at the bar… you aren’t expected to pay anything more than the cost of what you consumed. A cab from my school in Boston to the airport would cost about $60-70, but with tip, it would easily skyrocket to $80. People also do not consume things in mass quantity like they do in America. Costco? Foreign concept. SUVs? Meet SMART cars and motorbikes. People go shopping twice or three times a week just to pick up what they need, because everything is so fresh. It’s also so much easier to move around though public transit that it’s almost pointless to have a car.
One of the coolest things I’ve done so far that I definitely want to do again is going to a FCBarcelona game. My friends and I went to the Barca vs Almeria game (where we won 5-0), and it was an amazing experience. Despite the fact that we got ripped off by a guy selling tickets outside the stadium, it was a great lesson learned. Next time, I will definitely go prepared in Barca gear, maybe some face paint, and a local who knows all the cheers.
*For more from Stacey, check out her blog here.
Being a second semester student means that the first few weeks of this semester have been rather different than the first few weeks of last semester. No hours walking around lost. No more ordering “huevos”. No calling every single person “usted” trying to be respectful. No looking at a 3 oz cafe Americanos and wondering where I would find the remaining 29 oz for my daily fix (now I wonder in milliliters).
Being a second semester student also means new students usually ask for some bit of advice, or at least for a bar recommendation. I can never remember bar names or where they’re located, so I opt for giving some advice. “Just do what you always do,” I say. Now that might sound like the worst advice ever, but bear with me. I’m not saying you should speak English and keep listening to that Rick Astley album on repeat. What I’m saying is that you should find a way to do what you love doing in Spain. Shoot hoops? Join a basketball team. Like doing good? Volunteer in Barcelona.
As a rock climber I immediately joined a local climbing gym and have been fortunate to climb with a group of dedicated locals nearly every weekend. In addition to strengthening my fingers, weeknights in the gym gave me the chance to pick up the Spanish climbing lingo and learn how to properly swear when I fall. Weekends started at 9am in Plaza Espanya where a good friend would pick me up and together we would head off to one of the numerous world class climbing areas surrounding Barcelona. I originally hoped that climbing would give me the chance to improve my Spanish and my climbing skills, and it has, but I have come to realize that more importantly climbing has introduced me to incredible friends and has allowed me to experience Spain as few do.
9 am Plaza Espanya, and I’m still not sure where we’re going. Borja pulls up exactly ten minutes late, which is on time in Spain. I find out we’re off to Montgrony, a limestone cliff above Gombrén, about an hour and a half away. We chatted about climbing, Spain, the US, and anything else that came to mind. Somewhere along the way we stopped at a bakery to pick up some food for the weekend. Later on, Borja offered me some morcilla pizza, which looked like a dark sausage pizza. Not one to reject food, I took a bite and loved it. Borja then informed me that it was a traditional Spanish sausage made of pig’s blood, rice, and onion. Apparently it was good fuel too because I ended up climbing really well that day. That night introduced me to another local tradition: mushroom picking. Actually, I didn’t see the mushroom picking, but I did experience the pre-mushroom picking party. After climbing we went to a hermita, a small abandoned church, to cook dinner and camp. The local wine supplemented dinner, and finally with aching backs and stiff forearms we were off to sleep, or so we thought. That’s when the mushroom picking crew showed up. Just after midnight I was getting into my sleeping bag, thinking about how happy I was to be sleeping inside instead of outside in the mist and rain. Two large thuds signaled the arrival of the mushroom pickers, one thud from the rack of beer for the adults and one thud from the rack of cola for the kids. Who knew that the tradition of mushroom picking begins with a family party until late the next morning? I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and assume it was a planned effort to sleep in until noon, the prime mushroom picking time. Here’s another fun fact I learned that weekend: the average Spanish picnic table, given several hours of rain, will leak onto the poor soul trying to sleep beneath it at a frequency similar to Wikipedia’s definition of Chinese water torture. Needless to say I didn’t sleep much that night, but how else can one discover the local passion for mushroom picking?
Oddly enough I enjoy those kinds of experiences, and they tend to be the memories that stand out. Several weeks later, while camping outside of Chulilla, a small town near Valencia, I had one of my shoes stolen by a dog in the night. Luckily the next morning a local man, after a hearty laugh at my predicament, invited me into his house and gave me a pair of his son’s shoes. Throughout my travels in Cataluña and Spain, I have always found myself surrounded by a group of kind locals. Unknowingly I have also had some of the best olive oil, almonds, and wine that Spain has to offer. I have experienced rugged and beautiful landscapes. But more that anything, I have been welcomed into a team of fanatical climbing friends. I have climbed a lot of incredible rock too, but I expected that. So like I said, just do what you always do, and the results will be anything but routine.
For more on Chris' climbing adventures, his blog is here.
So far my first week of class has been great!
I started Spanish and International Trade. The walk to my classes is only about 15 minutes away from Marina and we pass the Arc de Triomf on the way! I can't really complain about walking to class when I have this to look at...
Both classes are very small with only about 15 students. It is a nice change compared to the huge lecture halls at IU! My Spanish professor speaks very fast so I have to really pay attention and I can understand about 80% of what he is saying. Hopefully by the end of the semester I will understand EVERYTHING he says! In my International Trade class it is mostly Americans and Canadians, and mostly finance majors. I really like my professor, he was a businessman Norway for a long time so he seems very knowledgeable about business. At the end of January I will start my 2 other classes, Spain Today: Politics and Society and International Management.
Today I went in for my interview for my internship at Yahoo! Barcelona. The office was incredible!!!!! Everything was VERY modern and colorful! I can't believe that I will actually be working there! There is a huge lounge with colorful seating, big white walls with colorful paint splashed on them, a ping-pong table, and they even have a WII! The way my internship works is that I go in twice a week for 4 hours, I get to set these hours wherever it fits in my schedule. I have my own desk and laptop and will work in a team of 10 people. The lady that interviewed me said I would be doing a lot with Excel which I was happy to hear since I have a lot of experience with it. I start next week so I will post next week about how my first day at Yahoo!
I had a great first week here in Barcelona and am excited for what's yet to come!
*For more on Bridget's time in Spain, check out her blog!