15 Things Every Exchange Student Should Do After Arriving in Barcelona
Traveling to a new city can seem rather intimidating at times, especially if this is the first time living outside of your country. When an exchange student arrives in Barcelona, they might find themselves uncertain as to how they can tap into the culture of the city.
Barcelona has high spirited people, strong traditions, and a tight community that takes time and effort to feel truly connected to. At first connecting with the people, the land, and the traditions might seem like daunting to many, but as a former exchange student, I can relate to your hesitations. And I am here to help you, I have selected fifteen different activities that you and your future roommates can try as soon as you arrive in Barcelona.
After much thought, I feel that every exchange student should:
1.Read The Shadow of the Wind or Homage to Catalonia. Whether you decide on a mystery or a political read, either of these choices will surely enhance your stay in Barcelona.
2. Find a postcard of your favorite architectural building and send it to your family. Every new exchange student should visit Casa Batlló, or at least the Sagrada Familia during their stay in Barcelona. As you become more accustomed to the city layout, you’ll see more breathtaking architecture and discover more places to share with those closest to you—your roommates.
3. Participate in a correfoc with other exchange students. The correfoc is a local celebration, where people dance, play the drums, and shoot fireworks close-range throughout the Gothic Quarter. Just don’t forget bring a jacket, a scarf, and a camera because sparks will fly everywhere.
4. Play foosball or eat popcorn (palomitas) with friends at L’ovella Negra. This bar is a great melting pot for both study abroad and local students; it’s a place where anyone can relax after a long week of school.
5. Spend a day hiking with their roommates to the top of the Montserrat. If you haven’t heard of it already, Montserrat is an ancient Monastery Complex, which is only accessible by foot after a few hours of travel by train and cable car.
6. Visit the Fundació Joan Miró with your flatmates. Not many know this, but to experience the most out of the exhibition, listen to the audio tour (complete with interviews of the artist and music tracks that inspired paintings). Exchange students should always show their student IDs because, depending on the day, you might receive a discounted ticket price.
7. Bring a blanket to the Barceloneta beach on St. Joan’s to watch locals set off fireworks with your flatmates. Eat coca de St. Joan—a festival delicacy—from your local bakery (pandería).
8. Go to a restaurant where you can make your own pa amb tomàquet. Many restaurants make this national recipe for you, but truly knowledgeable exchange students will know that the good stuff is made moments before it’s eaten.
9. Ride the cable car (teleférico) to Tibidabo. As you continue to explore Barcelona with your roommates; you’ll start to wonder about the castle on the hill (Tibidabo), and you’ll be happy to learn that the castle is a theme park. Take some time off from your studies and go ride the Ferris wheel and other attractions, or even just to take in the spectacular view of the city from above.
10. Taste Ratafía (a Catalan spirit) on the rocks. The standard liquor has light notes of anise, green walnuts, cinnamon and dried fruits; but at one point, every family had their own recipe for Ratafía.
11. Walk through the rose-filled streets and past the book stands on April the 23rd and experience Diada St Jordi firsthand. This is the perfect holiday to share love with your fellow exchange students. It’s traditional for the men to give women roses and for the ladies to give them books in return. There will be many types of roses and even more types of books on the street, which will you choose?
12. Dip charcoal roasted calçots into romesco sauce (generally a blend of tomatoes, olive oil, hazelnuts and almonds) at a traditional Catalan restaurant. This spring seasonal delight is a must try with your roommates, as the calçots are often served on a giant platter and taste even better when shared.
13. Talk to a Catalan about their National Identity. It is hard to grasp the different social and political issues that the Catalan people face, until you talk to some of the locals. Create a discussion between the locals and your like-minded roommates.
14. Sign up for a city-wide 10 kilometer run. A popular 10 kilometer run that spans through the city is called “Cursa de Bombers de Barcelona.” This ten kilometer run was created to honor the local firefighters of Barcelona, but it is more than just running, it is about a diverse community coming together for a common purpose.
15. In another article, I’ll cover 11 new Catalan phrases for you to practice with flatmates and locals. Exchange students tend to meet more people when they go outside of their comfort zones and try something new. So here’s a bonus phrase that you can practice before you look at our other nine phrases: “Benvingut,” which roughly translates to welcome.
I hope that you’re feeling very motivated now to try more things in the grand city of Barcelona. There are many activities that exchange students can take part in, but which ones will you decide to try first? And who do you want to share these experiences with? Experiencing Barcelona to its fullest, requires one to step out of their comfort zone, so go ask your roommate now to join you on an adventure to complete an item from our list!
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