Natalie Santa-Pinter is a junior Biochemistry major studying abroad in Barcelona, Spain for the spring. We’ll be following her adventures throughout the semester!
I can’t believe it. I did it! I’m here – in beautiful Barcelona, Spain!!! While the hop across the pond was essentially uneventful, since then there have been a handful of instances where I’ve had my Spanish language, culture, and understanding tested. I have had an amazing time attending Flamenco workshops, Mediterranean walks, city bike tours, Las Ramblas, beautiful masses at basilicas, shopping malls, aquariums, museums, local markets, (deep breath!) FC Barcelona matches, bus tours, wine tastings, mountain hikes, city fun runs with my professor and other students, and SO many other fun and exciting activities! However, along with these thrilling adventures comes an entire set of communication errors, living adjustments, transportation mishaps, and a variety of other mistakes that have made this journey a very educational, enriching, and sometimes embarrassing experience.
The first morning, as I was struggling to get out of bed (still exhausted from the jet lag), I rose from my sore-giving bed and “WHACK!” hit my head on the slanted, low-built ceiling… I then made my way to the bathroom equivalent to the size of my closet back home, which is shared by myself and two roommates. The unusually small size of the living accommodations in Barcelona is definitely one of the biggest challenges I have faced. It beats late cenar (dinner) at 9pm, the 30-minute commute to school, and the look of horror on my host mom’s face if I forget to wear slippers around the apartment. After brushing my teeth, grabbing my bocadillo (sandwich) that my house mom made, and rushing to catch the metro, I was off to my first day of classes, which involved Spanish for Global Health and another general Spanish language course. I walked into my Independent Abroad I class happy and confident, but then began to feel a little uneasy with the level of dialogue spoken. I looked over to the guy sitting next to me and asked how many Spanish classes he had taken in college and he just looked at me and said, “Well, both my parents are Mexican…” I knew right then and there I was in the wrong course. I immediately switched into EMERGING Independent Abroad I, and I now feel a lot better.
In Spain, nothing can compare to some hot tea or un café con leche (coffee with milk) that can be found every 15 steps along the narrow aceras (sidewalks) of Barcelona. Me ENCANTA café, however I realized that this could quickly turn into a purse-pincher as I am on a college student’s budget. Therefore I decided I would try to make my own café each morning (that was my first mistake). I asked my host mom for the necessary supplies, and she directed me to a very old, dirty, and filterless coffee machine which I attempted to clean and use with the questionable supply of ground coffee beans she possessed. The coffee turned out tasteless, bitter, and disgusting. So I tried again with homemade filters, but the result was similarly disappointing. I then went as far as purchasing instant coffee (I know – this was a new low) so that I could still enjoy the small caffeine boost in the morning without spending the cash. The results were, unsurprisingly, even worse. Eventually I gave up and just decide the heck with it! I am in SPAIN!! I can afford to dish out the 1.60 euros each morning for a cup of delicious, hot, freshly brewed espresso from one of the local cafés. This, my friends, was probably one of the best decisions I made.
To be continued!