Welcome back for the next installment in Adventure Awaits: Traveling the World with Alex and Ani! This week, Rachel discusses her initial experiences living in Spain, adjusting to school and a new grading system, and taking a weekend excursion that took her breath away.
My first few weeks in Spain can be described as a blur! There was so much to learn and take in about the city of Barcelona. For the first three days, we stayed in a hotel and had a quick orientation with our program director. There were meetings about our classes, how to adjust to living with a host family, and how to take the Barcelona Metro. Our director also filled us in on several Spanish traditions and customs.
I moved into an apartment about three blocks away from Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia, a stunning church, with a single host mom. During my first week, I went to a FC Barcelona futbol match with my new friends. My host mom was lovely and right from the start we got along perfectly. I couldn’t be happier as to where I was placed to live. Spanish was only spoken in the apartment and I gradually began to understand her better and better.
During my first week of living in Barcelona, I got hopelessly lost one night in the city. I was supposed to meet a few girls for a glass of sangria at a bar. I managed to successfully navigate the metro by myself at night, but then got terribly lost as I started to wander down the wrong streets. I remember having to go into different restaurants and bars and asking for directions. “Excuse me, I’m lost, can you tell me where this place is?” I whispered out in broken Spanish.
Even after asking several people for directions and having one nice woman draw me a map, I still was lost. There was no way to get in touch with my friends to know if they were still at the bar because I didn’t have a Spanish phone yet. Instead, I had to pay 10 euros to take a cab back to my apartment by myself. The whole situation put me entirely on edge and I felt so uncomfortable. I almost called my mom on the spot to tell her that I wanted to come home and for her to change my flight.
But with anything new, you have to learn how give it time and know that mistakes like that happen. I talked to some of my friends from home, who comforted me by telling me that I had to give myself time to adjust to the city. I kept repeating their words in my head. Things like getting lost and heading down a wrong street would happen. I didn’t know the city yet. I knew that after one experience like that, I couldn’t quit.
After three weeks of three different pre-semester courses, our program group went on a weekend excursion to La Costa Brava and parts of Northern Cataluña. We visited towns such as Gerona and Empúries, and saw both ancient Greek and Roman ruins as well as the Salvador Dali museum.
Overlooking La Costa Brava and the blue Mediterranean Sea after visiting El Monasterio Sant Pere de Rodes. We were actually 10 kilometers away from France from where I was standing when I took this photograph. It was then when I realized how hungry I was to travel to other countries!
Inside the metro station.
The metro was something else that I had to adapt to. I took the metro to and from class every single day, sometimes riding it up to 6 times during the same day. Cramped spaces and limited room was something I got used to quickly. I had to learn how to hold my bag in front of me and keep an eye on my belongings in case there was anyone ever trying to pickpocket me. I also became skilled at being able to stand up with nothing to hold onto!
The metro was quite the contrast from walking the five minutes to class that I was once used to. Instead, I would sometimes travel 35 minutes and had to change from the red or blue line to the green line that would take me to the other campus. When abroad, I took classes at two different university campuses. Two of my classes were with my program and the other two were with regular Spanish students from Barcelona. I took all but one of my classes in Spanish. It was very interesting to see the differences from the English school systems to the Spanish. The grading system is quite different and is usually just based off of a midterm and a final without any homework!
Excited to see where Rachel’s journey takes her? Be sure to check back next week for more Adventure Awaits: Traveling the World with Alex and Ani!