- What types of classes did you take abroad and how did they compare to UCSB? I took law courses alongside local Catalan and European exchange students who were getting ready to be lawyers. My course load was all in Spanish. I got to interact with local students, professors, and learn about the Spanish and European legal system. Law-related courses at UCSB are very limited, so having the opportunity to learn about these subjects I would have never discussed at UCSB was a great experience. It presented me with a new academic challenge from which I gained a personal growth and confidence in my Spanish language skills.
- What was your favorite class abroad? My favorite class was the film course I took with my study center. I learned about Spanish films and culture. It was great to learn about Spanish filmmakers and then go to local cinemas and see more of their films.
- How would you describe your host institution? The University of Barcelona holds great historical importance to Catalan and Spanish history. During the dictatorship, it was the center for student activism that actively opposed Franco rule. The culture of activism is well continued today. There were various school strikes during my term as a student. The main campus is mesmerizing and located in the center of the city. Other campuses are spread all around, and cater to specific departments. The Law faculty where I took courses for my major was a 30 min metro ride from the main campus and had a great patio where students would hang out during class breaks.
- Are there student clubs/organizations that UC students can join?I’m sure there is but I did not join any. One of the few regrets I have is not having gotten more involved with student and non profit organizations in the city.
- Describe your housing situation. For the first three weeks of my program I lived in a home stay with 4 other students from the U.S. We ate dinner everyday with our host dad and ate local homemade Spanish food! It was a great way to learn more about Catalan culture and current events in the country. For the remainder of my time, I lived in an apartment (piso) in a central location of the city. I lived a walking distance form our main campus, great local restaurants, the metro, and historical sites of the city! I lived with older people who had lived in Barcelona for several years. My single room was not the biggest, but I had my own privacy for the first time in my life! Housing in Barcelona was extremely more affordable than housing in Isla Vista, which had been one of my concerns before I arrived.
- Where did you eat most of your meals? I actually found a great local restaurant near my place where I would eat almost everyday! I became friends with the owners and waitresses, it was my home away from home. I also would go to chuerrias ALL THE TIME (too much if you ask my friends lol). I also loved the cafeteria on campus!! I would buy lunch and some cafe con leche during my class breaks.
- How much was an average meal? Do you have any budgeting tips for future students? A cafe con leche and a bocadillo were about 3 euros as the school cafeteria . Groceries are at an affordable price, just make sure to go to discounted places like LIDL or Mercadona!
- Would it be difficult for vegetarians/vegans and others with strict dietary restrictions to find meals? No, not that I am aware. There’s lots of great vegan restaurants in Barcelona and non vegan restaurants tended to be accommodating.
- Describe your most memorable dining experience abroad. Eating churros con chocolate at Xurreria Laietanna for the first time.
- What local food or drink do you miss most now that you are back? Churros con Chocolate, bocadillos, fuet, pan con tomate, fricando, patas bravas, cola de toro…. so much great food.
- Describe your host city. Barcelona is a magical city full of art, history, and progressive social movements. There is always something to do whether going to a museum, a special film screening, or just sitting in one of its beautiful parks and plazas, you’ll find something for you.
- Was it easy to get around? Yes! It was so easy! The transportation systems in Barcelona are amazing! You can get anywhere in less than 20 minutes usually.
- Did you feel safe in your host city? Do you have any safety tips for future students? I felt incredibly safe at Barcelona. I was never scared walking around the city. The only concern I had was getting pick pocketed, but as long as you pay attention to your surroundings and keep your bags/purses close to you at all times, you’ll be fine!
- What were some interesting/fun things that you did in your host city? I got to attend the Vaga Feminista on Women’s day which was an incredible experience. I marched alongside feminists of the city and learned more about the current political and social situation for women in Spain. There were women from all over the world which really spoke about the city’s diversity! I also got to go to one of the biggest European music festivals, Primavera Sound! With the great friends I made abroad, I saw Solange, Rosalia, Kali Uchis, and many other artists! It was my first music festival and I’m grateful I got to experience it in Barcelona.
- Describe any cultural differences you experienced while abroad. A huge difference I experienced was when explaining my ethnic background an identity, some could not understand who I was considered to both Mexican and from the United States. Immigration identities are still evolving in Spain, with movements trying to push an understanding of social conditions after the current immigration boom the city is undergoing.
- How did you handle culture shock?
- What is your favorite aspect of your host culture?
- Tell us your favorite travel story from your time abroad. For Spring Break, I planned out a week-long trip across the south of Spain. It was an amazing experience to visit during holy week. I got to see the famous festivities and learn more about Andalucian culture. From hiking through the mountains of Granada, eating churros in Seville, walking around the historic gardens of Cordoba, it was the best week of my life and I got to experience it with my host sister who became my best friend.
- What was your biggest fear about studying abroad that turned out to be no big deal? I was scared to be on my own and take on this opportunity without knowing anyone else in the program. As soon as I arrived, I realized how friendly everyone was! I got to form lasting friendships with local students as well as students from California who I would have never met otherwise.
- What was your biggest challenge abroad?
- How have you changed as a result of your time abroad? I like to believe I have. I have learned the importance of living more in the present and enjoying wherever I am, the friends I have, and the support of my family. I came back with a new want to show my appreciation for my loved ones more than I ever have. I also returned from Barcelona with a new perspective on global issues. Now, I attempt to keep up more with what current events that are going on in other regions of the world, giving me an international outlook on social issues.
- What is your advice to prospective UCSB EAP students?Make the most of your time abroad! Try to spend the majority of your term exploring your city and country! I know it’s tempting to try to visit other countries every weekend, but I believe you get a more immersive experience if you’re there to attend local events, festivities, and discover great places in the city you live! Also, don’t spend the majority of your time indoors face time friends from home. It’s easy to get caught up trying to communicate all the time with loved ones at home so try to keep it at a moderate level , and actually go out and explore! I like to think of it like this: You are only in your host city for a limited time, enjoy it as best you can before you return and regret not doing things you wish you had.