As the fall 2021 semester comes to a close, our community of study abroad students in Europe reflects on their semester, the lessons they’ve learned, and the places they’ve traveled.
In our next interview in our series, Joe tells us about his experiences studying in Barcelona and traveling around Europe.
1. Let’s start with something interesting you’ve learned about the city where you’re studying.
When you go to open air markets here, they don’t necessarily wait in line. You have to ask who’s in the end of the queue. I know that’s oddly specific, but I remember I went to one and not everyone was waiting in line, everyone was kind of intermingling. You have to know who is the last person and who you’re behind, and you have to tell people when you’re the last person. Very random and different from America.
2. What was a major culture shock for you coming over from the U.S?
I knew that in Barcelona they speak Catalan, but I figured a lot more people would be speaking it. I’ve only had, maybe, single digit interactions with the language. That’s mainly from people on the floor of my apartment or a handful in passing. So I was very surprised by that. I just expected there would be more.
3. What is your favorite part about living in Europe and the lifestyle in Barcelona?
Where to begin? It’s awesome. Specifically about Barcelona, the entire energy is just so different than the Northeast United States. It’s very open and accepting to quite literally anything. I go to school at Boston College, and I feel like if you have, for instance, blue hair, you’d be kinda judged there. But here it’s the complete opposite. It’s very welcoming, and people wear what they want. They can just be them and there’s no criticism.
4. What’s your major, and how does it relate to what you’re learning in your city?
I study Finance and Entrepreneurship at Boston College. I don’t think the classes I take here relate to that, but I’m a senior, and I’ve luckily been able to get ahead so I don’t have to take any major classes. So I’ve been taking Spanish classes for three years, and I just wanted to learn more about the culture. I take 75% of my classes here in Spanish. It’s definitely accelerated my language comprehension and I’m speaking a ton.
5. Give me your top bars or clubs you’ve been to in Europe that you’d recommend for other students.
Razzmatazz is number one. It’s just the best, it’s so unique. Opium is another good one. And then there’s an area near where I live in Marina that’s just full of all local bars. One is called D9, another is called Coyote – they’re all essentially the same vibe. Just local people, foosball tables, cheap drinks, everyone standing together and intermingling. I highly recommend going to that area.
6. What is a food or drink you’re glad you tried?
I would say sangria. There are so many good sangria spots in Barcelona. It’s amazing. We ordered paella here as well, which I would highly recommend. I also don’t think I ever tried escargot before going to Paris, and that was phenomenal.
7. What is the main difference you’ve noticed between your home university and abroad university?
How work is structured in the classes. There’s almost no busy work, it’s very heavily centered on a few things it seems, like attendance, participation, the final projects and maybe a midterm.
8. Tell us one destination that surprised you and why.
I went to Amsterdam this past weekend and I had no idea how beautiful it would be. Probably one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. I always thought of Amsterdam as the red light district, coffee shops, truffles, clubbing. Just those indulgences, which is not the best reputation, but it’s the picture that was painted in my mind. When I went there, they had the lockdown at 8pm, so we didn’t participate in any of the bars or clubs. I think that made it so much better. I just spent three full days just enjoying the beauty of Amsterdam. All of the parks, the canals, the neighborhoods and how each is so different – it’s like multiple cities in one.
9. What has been your favorite experience you’ve had while studying abroad & traveling so far?
A couple of friends and I went to Positano, on the Amalfi Coast. We rented a boat and just drove all the way past Amalfi. There’s nothing really I’ve seen in my life that compares to looking at that and exploring the little towns for the entire day. It’s very difficult to describe, it was just very naturally beautiful. And it was the perfect sunny day, 70 degrees, the sun hitting the water. It’s something I don’t think I’ll ever forget.
10. Something you wish you knew before studying abroad that would’ve helped you prepare?
I think the one thing I missed out on was knowing when to go to different cities. Mainly just understanding when to should go to different destinations and planning that in advance. For instance, it seems that Ibiza, Mallorca, Santorini, Mykonos, those destinations are a lot better to visit during the summer months, because everything is open. In the fall and winter, all the boat tours and everything start to shut down. Meanwhile, you can go to Berlin in August or you can go in December – but there’s Christmas markets in December. So you’d probably want to buy tickets there well in advance so the prices don’t rise, and get that set in stone. I’d just be more aware of stuff like that.
If you’re currently studying abroad and would like to share your insights on your semester with us, or if you’re planning on or thinking about studying abroad in the future and have some questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to us!