By Josh Mucci, Murray State University
Custom Program- Murray State University
Hello fellow Americans! Week two has passed by so fast that I literally forgot what day it was until T-Minus an hour ago. Literally so much stuff is happening this week and so many new things learned about Barcelona and the world that I don’t know when I’m ever going to hit that cutoff where I get my “I know everything and am a local” card. I wish they put a set date on those things because as of right now everyone I call to ask about becoming a local say things like “why are you calling me” and “sir this is a Pizza Hut.” Oh well. Eventually I’ll get to the point where hopefully I can start giving tour guides here because honestly after spending this time here and constantly discovering new and exciting places I feel like I learned enough about Barcelona and Study Abroad in general to give people some advice. So that’s what I’m going to do first.
Tips on Barcelona and Study Abroad in General:
1. Do NOT buy beer from people off the street here:
Not only is it illegal to have a container on the street in Barcelona, there is a much more important reason for keeping away from people trying to tempt you with a can or six pack of beer on the streets. My friends were walking down the street at night a few nights ago when they saw a man walk up to a manhole and open it only to pull out a six pack of beer that he had been storing in there. Apparently the vendors on the street here tend to keep their stashes of beer in the sewers and then attempt to sell said beer to unsuspecting tourists. So if you come to Spain and don’t enjoy the taste of the sewer, stay as far away as possible. However, if the sewer is your thing, I’m pretty sure I can get you a discount.
2. DO become a regular at a coffee shop in the city you are staying in.
Becoming a regular at a coffee shop (or bar or other equally social place) is a must for when you’re staying in a city for longer than a month in my opinion. I personally have been consistently going to a coffee shop to get my daily fix of crack aka Cafe con Leche and it has seriously been a great experience. The owner/main worker at said coffee shop’s name is Ismael and he is super cool and speaks English better than like fifty percent of Americans I know. Like all the time I try to speak to him in Spanish only to get a response in near perfect English. Three days ago he was quoting random movies to me. Ismael’s a crazy dude. But the reason it’s so great is because the more you go the more you begin to feel like you belong in the place you’re in, rather than simply a visitor. I hate consistency at any cost but having this one consistent thing has helped me feel more at ease and at home than anything else that I have done.
3. Getting lost leads to the best adventures.
A question I hear constantly here and when I go on vacations is “where are we going?” When a person is on vacation this question is really important. This question determines schedule, helps with time constraints, and keeps everyone on board with what the plan is. I feel that the difference with study abroad is that you already ARE where you were going. Your plan was to go to Barcelona, or London, or Prague or wherever you’re studying abroad. Once you are in the city the best thing to do is to step out of your comfort zone. Go ahead and plan places you want to go. Go to the Sagrada Familia, climb the mountain, go to that restaurant, but on your way back, don’t be afraid to explore an interesting side street or even just like flip a coin and walk left or right based on the side of the coin. All the coolest things that have happened to me (okay not all but it sounds more like I know what I’m talking about if I use absolutes) have happened when I have just got up and explored. I have a lot of stories and examples of this but I don’t want to say them yet so you guys are forced to read the rest of this giant blog post to find out. Sucks. Make sure to search for where it comes full circle.
4. Apparently there are classes?
I’m sorry but I didn’t read the part of the brochure saying that classes were a thing while studying abroad. Maybe because I just looked at the pictures and was already ready to go. I was hoping that maybe they would just let me go wild and explore all of Europe and then give me twelve hours of credit as a prize or something. Like a “thank you for seeing the world here is twelve credit hours to make your life even better” kind of deal. However apparently that is not a thing here in Spain. There are classes. Luckily at my school they’re pretty awesome. Like in my history class our homework consists of the professor giving us a picture and a clue which we then use to search the city for the specific spot shown in the pictures. In my Architecture class we spend about half the classes not actually in a classroom but instead wandering around specific parts of the city while our teacher tells us about the art and architecture in that area. The way the classes are set up are really cool, but also I lucked out because my classes are classes in subjects that I wanted to take. When you go study abroad, even if it’s not in your major, make SURE you take classes that interest you and not just classes that sound interesting. Despite it being less time than classes taken in the US, you’re still in class for a significant portion of the week and taking ones that aren’t in subjects you want to know about will eventually drive you insane.
This whole theme of this trip so far has been firsts for me. First time in Europe. First time clubbing. First legal beer. First time in a building older than four hundred years old. It has been a time of experience, of going out even when you are so tired and have walked more than ten miles in a day. The entire time here I have done more, seen more and ate more new things than I have ever done in the history of ever in such a short period of time. It’s crazy, wild, and awesome and it’s sad that you guys will never see me again because I am never leaving this city again. So thanks and nice knowing you! Oh! And since again I’m bad at fitting all the crazy things I’ve done into paragraphs, if it’s okay with you guys I’m going to make a list of all the awesome things I’ve done this week.
Things I have done this week:
1. Found an awesome Plaza and Mall during a lunch break.
WARNING: FULL CIRCLE ALERT Each Monday and Wednesday I have a period of a couple hours between classes which this Monday my friend Brian and I used to explore the city a bit. We picked a direction and walked from our school. After about six blocks we came across the most beautiful plaza and a mall that looked like a giant football arena of some sort. Well we found out we could get on the roof of the mall. We went to the top and saw an extremely beautiful view and gorgeous buildings in every direction. It was a moment of getting lost and discovering a new place was crazy cool. Oh! And it turns out that the mall we had found used to be an old bull fighting arena which was converted into a mall. It was really freaking cool.
2. Tried a drink created by the Angels themselves.
Okay. Take a seat. Imagine the taste of brownie batter. Now imagine it as a liquid. Now imagine it as a HOT liquid. Now imagine it’s real. Now imagine it’s in Barcelona. Now imagine it’s served with churros in Barcelona and tastes like Jesus himself created it. Finally imagine that I had it and loved it and want to fill a swimming pool with it.
3. Walked through ruins of a place that hasn’t existed for thousands of years
Holy cow. Back in the day the Romans controlled Barcelona as a walled city (legend has it that it was founded by Hercules). As time passed and the city became part of Spain, the ruins of the city were never destroyed. Instead they were built on top of and currently reside underneath the current buildings in the old neighborhoods, impossible to get to without destroying other buildings. Well a museum in Barcelona managed to excavate an area of the city underground without doing damage to the other buildings and unearthed a bunch of ancient Roman ruins. As an Architecture class we took a trip to these ruins and were able to walk through them and see the city as it was layed out more than 1500 years ago, which is INSANE. America has been around for less than THREE HUNDRED. I just can’t believe how old and historic these stones and pots we saw were.
4. Saw the Olympic Stadium and the gorgeous view that entails
HISTORY TIME: In 1992 Barcelona was the holder of the olympics. Before this time the city was not a tourism titan and was actually a relatively small city on the ocean. However, the hosting of the Olympics allowed for the city to show the world how genuinely beautiful and interesting it is and led to it being added to every cruise’s “must go” list and creating a massive boom in the tourism sector of the city, leading to it being as well known and economically successful as it is today. All the stuff from the Olympics is still standing and is all as beautiful (albeit pretty empty) as it was when it was first erected. On another day of exploring and after walking approximately fifty billion stairs (and maybe saying “ADRIAN” a few times) my friend and I managed to get to see these buildings and it was awesome as heck.
5. Explored a Graveyard of Jews
In Barcelona there is a mountain called Montjuic (if you want to know why just ask me). This means mountain of Jews and a chunk of it is a cemetery that has what looks like more than ten thousand dead jewish people. So obviously despite it having a creepy vibe we went to it and it was both cool and uneasy at the same time. Cool because it’s set up with the graves stacked up on top of each other and the amount of spiritual energy there. Creepy because we saw at least two graves BUSTED OPEN and a black cat FOLLOWED US FOR LIKE A MILE. I don’t know I thought it was cool but legitimately confirmed my belief in ghosts so if anyone knows the ghostbusters number I think I’m haunted after that visit and would love to have it.
6. Climbed a mountain
So being the explorers we are, Brian and I decided we wanted to get to the very top of Montjuic in order to see the sunset and simply to explore. We finally did and it was GORGEOUS. At the top there’s a giant medieval looking castle that we haven’t gone into yet but will eventually and just a beautiful view of the city. Despite being dead from all the walking and frozen solid from the freezing wind we managed to successfully wander to the top, met two people from South Korea and Australia, and finally watch another amazing sunset (this is where my time lapse video came from if you saw that on my facebook feed).
7. Tour the Sagrada Familia for free (which made it even better)
Because a lot of people back home don’t seem to know, the Sagrada Familia is THE tourist attraction of Barcelona. It’s the centerpiece of the city and has currently been in construction for over a hundred years (it’s still around ten years from being finished). Designed by Gaudí this building was one of the most breathtaking places I have ever been to. Seriously. As in I walked in and it literally took my breath away. Like, I am so skeptical of people saying crap like that because it just sounds super overdramatic in my opinion. But this situation requires overdrama because I was just in awe of how absolutely amazing the inside of this Basilica was. Just see for yourself even though the picture doesn’t do that place ANY justice. If any of you want to come to Barcelona ASAP I will more than happily take you to it.
8. Saw the Arch de Triomf and some awesome street performers
The Arch de Triomf is a giant arch that symbolizes triumph. It was huge and awesome. But the even cooler things were all the street performers near it which included: Spanish Michael Jackson, Two guys doing tricks on roller skates, and a still man who looked like he was floating. It was so cool and the entire area of the Arch de Triomf had the best people watching of anywhere I’ve seen in Barcelona so far (which is saying something because there’s a lot of great people watching here).
9. Explored the Parc de la Ciutadella aka the most beautiful park
Holy crap the parks in this town literally seem to compete against each other for which one is the most beautiful place in the city. This one is definitely a strong competitor for that award because literally there’s beautiful modern artwork, statues of elephants, and even a giant fountain with statues depicting the birth of Aphrodite and a giant gold chariot on top. The whole park has museums, ponds, and even a zoo. I’m probably going to end up bringing a book and going back to relax there or run there because the whole park was so peaceful and nice.
10. Took place in a beer festival with Barcelonan hipsters
This week is the festival of Saint Antony in Barcelona. There is a street named after this saint which has a huge festival filled with music and activities here throughout the week. Well yesterday (Saturday) was supposed to be a reggae festival which was occurring for very cheap in the neighborhood. Wanting to go, a few of my friends and I hopped on the metro and went to the neighborhood. Only once we were there we had NO idea where we were supposed to go. We aimlessly wandered until we heard some music playing in the distance. Turning the corner of the street, we saw a ton of tents set up and hundreds of people milling about. As we got closer we realized the music was AC/DC and not reggae (not sure how we mixed those up but oh well) and that the street was a microbrew festival with a ton of vendors selling their microbrewed (and great tasting) beers for two euros a pop. The first one cost four euros but it came with this awesome glass cup which has an outline of the skyline of Barcelona on one side and the name of the festival with a logo on the other. It was incredibly crazy and cool and another great example of how getting lost leads to the best adventures. I got a souvenir, tried tasty beers, and the coolest part was it didn’t seem like there was another foreigner in sight. All the people there were speaking fluent Spanish and seemed like locals so it was really cool to find something that wasn’t simply a thing that tourists did!
Okay guys that’s all for this week! Again thanks for putting up with my rough writing and shoddy grammar. Hopefully you were entertained and updated and I really am glad that you all are reading this! I hope you all enjoyed it. See you next week!