Studying Abroad in Barcelona- First Impressions

As I sit here in the living room of my new apartment listening to the busy streets of downtown Barcelona from open windows, I can’t help but be inspired by the Spanish guitar I hear from the square down below, the young skateboarders who whip through the stone streets, and the chit-chat that rings like a beautiful song in my ears at all times of the day- languages and people from all over the world.

I wish I was out there with them, but I only have one European power adapter which was just charging my phone, so my laptop had to wait. My roommates are taking naps, either still adjusting to the 6 hour time difference or just exhausted from the hustle bustle here (I swear I could sleep forever here), but nonetheless they are doing a great job at dealing with all the noise outside through open windows.

This is my 4th day in Barcelona, Spain.

And I still can’t believe I’m here. I already seem to have adjusted well, but it hasn’t yet hit me that I’m thousands of miles away from home in a city that I’ve never been before, living with people I just met, and completely surrounded by a culture and lifestyle that I’ve never known. I just know this will be the best two months of my life.

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Why am I here?

I am participating in a program called Performing Arts Abroad. It is a company that offers international internships, volunteer programs, and study abroad disciplines to students in countries such as Brazil, Costa Rica, England, Italy, South Africa, and of course, Spain.

I chose this program because I always wanted to study abroad, but never felt that doing so was in the cards for me while in college- I didn’t want to leave school for an entire semester because I felt like I was learning so much, making great friends, and on a steady track that I didn’t want to interfere with. It also seemed like the perfect program for me to explore my creative and musical side, while both working and traveling.

What I am doing in Barcelona

I had never been to Barcelona before this, but I always wanted to. My reason is embarrassing but I’ll share a secret with you- it’s because of none other than the Cheetah Girls 2 Movie. Even “10-year-old me” knew she wanted to go to Barcelona one day, and here I am!

My Flight

Arriving at the airport, I was not nervous at all. I was all packed and as ready as I thought I’d ever be. It wasn’t until the security line picked up and I found myself moving very quickly away from my parents and closer toward very unfamiliar territory.

I had a brief panic going through security. My eyes started tearing up and I was having trouble breathing, getting more anxiety wondering if people were staring.

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Once I got my cool, I realized this is it- there was no more turning back, but I was ready.

When I boarded the plane, I was delighted to see that I had a window seat! And even luckier, the seat directly next to me remained unoccupied, so the nice man who sat across from me and I had a wonderful flight with plenty of room. He was the first person I met on my trip in Barcelona- his name was Steve, he was on business, and he told me of some of the wonderful things I should do in Barcelona. This eased my nerves quite a bit.

My First Day

When I arrived at the airport after a 7.5 hour flight, I was disappointed to see that nobody from my program was there to pick me up yet. So, I waited around for about half an hour until I began seeing students convene together at the Jamaica Cafe in Barcelona- El Prat, with a sign saying “Performing Arts Abroad.” Once again, I got scared, so I called my mom until it was time for us to leave the airport.

In the cab, I met my roommates and my first two friends here in Barcelona. We were introduced to our new apartment right in the center of Ciutat Vella, the Gothic Neighborhood. We met 6 other girls who lived in our building and we would end up spending all our time together.

First Day of Internship

I am so lucky to be working at the famous Casa Batlló, one of Antoni Gaudí’s most famous architectural masterpieces of whose art sweeps the Barcelona streets. The first day of my internship, I was introduced to the office and sat down with my supervisors, who described my tasks for the summer and what the marketing department is all about. Everybody was very nice and welcoming, and luckily most of them speak English as well as Spanish and Catalan. This week, I even got to tour the house with a friend of mine to really get the full history behind the house that hundreds of people visit every day and that I have the pleasure of working at.

Things to Get Used To

I’m already embracing the culture here, but some things might take longer than others:

Living Arrangements
Small kitchen (hence, going out for food at least once a day)
onfusing neighborhood (Barrio Gotico is just asking to get lost. Don’t be alone at night)
oise (It’s a busy city, what do you expect?)


The Catalan Sleep Schedule
I swear I have no idea how the locals do it with full-time jobs. Going out at 2AM and getting home at sunrise, then having to work the next day??? Here, this is the norm. I’m lucky my job is only part time…

The lack of a CVS / Walgreens

Pharmacies here sell higher-end products and are sold to you by real pharmacists. If you want to find the more inexpensive brands that you recognize, you need to go to the supermarket or a department store.
The lack of frozen food


I prefer supermarket shopping because I am used to it and often the outdoor markets are crowded with tourists, but even at the supermarket I often can’t find the perfect mix of frozen vegetables that I know and love. In the US, we love options. Options, options, options for everything


! Here, you settle for what’s available. And I’m sorry, you will not be able to choose from 15 different flavo

rs of Cheerios- two if you’re lucky. It’s all part of the experience…

Spanish vs Catalan
If you don’t know Spanish, it’s often difficult to distinguish between Spanish and Catalan. The locals here in Barcelona can speak both, and often English too. And they say that often times, they don’t even realize when they’re speaking one and not the other.

All I heard before I departed for Barcelona were warnings of pick-pocketers. While I know they exist here, I’ve realized that as long as you are not stupid, you will be fine! This means no open bags, no getting distracted, not being too trustworthy, not looking like a typical tourist, etc.

A tempting abundance of clubs and parties every night
Again, relating back to my previous comments on the time scheduling here. People don’t go out to the clubs or bars often until 2AM! It’s tempting being an abroad student here with all the invites for free and VIP admission to clubs on Facebook, etc. Luckily, I am very responsible. Everything in moderation 🙂

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Being Without a Car
I love working out. I was terrified of coming to Barcelona, given the surprising lack of gyms and my low budget, about how I would be able to get in my daily exercise and keep my muscle mass. However, with all the walking I do, I certainly have not a lack of exercise here. I miss weight training, but walking is a great way to see the city. The streets are beautiful, there are great trails to hike, and the weather is almost always perfect. The metros are hot, crowded, and often times take longer than simply walking. I miss my car, but I can get used to this.

It’s been 3 weeks here in Barcelona and this is my first opportunity I’ve had to blog. I’d say it’s going pretty well 🙂

`–*xo Gabrielle

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