UWhen I first visited Barcelona during 2 months Euro-trip in the summer of 2014, I told myself: I shall be back to this amazing city one day. Little did I know, my dream would be realized less than 2 years later—with the UTS Global Exchange program.
Now 3 months on as an exchange student, I still can say the same thing about Barcelona and Spain: Cada dia en España es una fiesta! (“Everyday in Spain is a festival!”). Here is what I have been up to:
- Carnival in Sitges
Only 15 km away from Barcelona, Sitges has a large LGBT community and every year from late February during carnival time, the town is filled with tourists, party-goers, music, dances and specular parade floats! No matter where you are from, old or young, gay or straight, everyone is having a blast at this huge fiesta!
- Skiing in Andorra
My exchange university UPF has an intensive Erasmus organization and once you joined it they organize all sorts of activities for exchange students so we can meet new people, explore the country and exchange the cultures. Late January, I went with them for a fun ski weekend in Andorra, a tiny country a few hours away from Barcelona by bus. The snow was so slushy!
- Las Fallas in Valencia
It was last minute decision to go to Las Fallas in Valencia before my exam weeks and I did not regret it at all. This huge traditional celebration starts from mid March in Valencia with larger-than-life monuments like this:
Again the streets are full of people singing, dancing, drinking and playing with firework and firecrackers. It was such a great experience to know how locals celebrated Las Fallas, thanks to my friendly Couch surfing host!
There are many more fiestas coming, such “San Juan” in Barceloneta. But you would be probably curious about how I managed the study and life balance in Spain. The answer is not easy. To be able to get enough credits in my exchange university, I need to study 4 subjects in each semester and classes are on from Monday to Friday. Luckily, there is support from the university for exchange students, for example, buddy program where they match you with a local student to help you with study and life balance here and free language exchange programs.
Even my professor once said: here we plan our life around the fiestas so we could still enjoy life despite of busy work or study schedules.
I believe this is so far, what I learnt the most from this city— stop and stare; slow down and enjoy the moment, just like those people chilling at the coolest park in Barcelona—Ciutadella Park.
- Most stuff is much cheaper in Spain so you could probably pack light in Australia and enjoy the shopping fun in Spain!
- Pickpockets are quite common in touristic areas and you need be very aware of the surroundings when you go out alone, especially late night—unfortunately, last month I had experienced the snatch-and-run ordeal here and lost my beloved iPhone 6S at midnight, so be very careful.
- Learning a bit basic Spanish will come along handy but the locals here are very keen to do language exchange!
Yi Chen (Chancy) 12403933 Public Communication, Pompeu Fabra University, Barcelona Spain